Early on, Piraeus was an islet, its name derived from the ancient Greek verb “περαιώ” which means “tranship”, “ferry”, “cross over by boat”. So, the ancient Greek name of the city “Πειραιεύς» meant the “ferryman”, “the shipper”, “the one who carried people and goods on to the other side”.
As the years went by, this geographical channel changed into a piece of land. The gap between Piraeus and the Attica land was covered by the deposited silt of the nearby rivers. Gradually, it turned from a deep sea point into a marsh and then into a muddy location.
At this time, Themistocles, a perceptive man, predicted the military importance of Piraeus and he convinced the Athenians to take great care of this location. Finally, Themistocles saw to the construction of Piraeus fortification.
In 461 B.C. Kimon began to have the Long Walls built (a fortification connecting Piraeus to Athens) by constructing the Northern Falirean Wall. Pericles completed this construction by having the Southern or Intermediate Wall built; this was later on demolished by the Romans. The large Attican port reached its peak in modern times when the Piraeus Municipality was established in 1835 after the National Liberation from the Turks. The port was put on the list of a Public Building Construction Programme.
The industrial development of the area occurred in the 1860 – 70’s when the railway connection of Piraeus to Athens and the opening up of the canal of Corinth in 1893 brought Piraeus to the focal point of economic activities.
At that time, in the late 1890’s the city of the area with a population of 50,000 people. Many years later, when the population exchange took place – after the destruction of Smyrni on the coast of Minor Asia in 1922 – approximately 100,000 refugees (the Greek population of Smyrni) settled down in Piraeus. The small fishing village of Porto Leone, as Piraeus was called in the Middle Ages, no longer existed.
Nowadays, Piraeus is a beautiful city inhabited by 800,000 people, along with the population of its suburbs. In modern time, the city of Piraeus is a major tourist attraction for every visitor who seeks for something both old, traditional and new, modern. It abounds in archaeological sites, beautiful neoclassic buildings, picturesque open – markets and museums (the Archaeological Museum, the Marine Museum and many more), all these harmoniously wedded to the aspect of the big port.
A stroll around the city will lead you to the Korais square, the Moutsopoulou coast and Pasalimani (Marina Zea) a picturesque, little port which is fitted to cater sailing boats and yachts in a small bay. The other port of Piraeus, the Marine transport centre of the city, is located in the diametrically opposite area of the Kondylis, Kallimasiotis, Poseidon and Miaoulis coasts.
Last but not least, if you move along the eastern coast, towards Faliron, you will come across Katella, one of the most beautiful neighborhoods of Piraeus. Pubs and cafes align with the Kastella coast while a little further down you will reach Mikrolimanon or Tourkolimanon, the ancient harbor of Munichia. This area is renowned for its fish taverns and the numerous bars and cafes which invite the Athenian Youth on Saturday nights and holiday mornings for an unforgettable entertainment.