Visit the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum
Cruises to Athens use the port of Piraeus (Pireas). See below for information on the journey from Piraeus to Athens. Piraeus is not a scenic or tranquil place but if you like the hustle and bustle of a large port then a day on deck in Piraeus may suit you fine.
Most cruise ships will dock in Piraeus, allowing you to spend your day seeing the sights of nearby Athens or the surrounding area.
By far the easiest and most relaxing way to do this will be by excursion from your cruise ship. It is, however, possible to travel to Athens under your own steam and at far less expense than that of an excursion. It just requires advance research, maps, guidebooks, timetables, an early start, sun hats and comfortable walking shoes!
The main thing you need to decide on in advance is what you want to visit and how you want to spend your day.
You can find out more about what there is to see and do in Athens at the Visit Greece website.
At this site you can download maps and brochures that will help you to plan your day. Once you have decided on this you can work out the best way to get there.
Cruise ships dock at one of two terminals, which can be seen on the map below.
Piraeus to Athens Transport Options
Piraeus to Athens Sightseeing Bus
You could elect to use one of the the hop on hop off buses, including the City Sightseeing Bus. These stop near the port (see map above) and will take you into the city, allowing you to do what it says on the side….hop on and hop off at all main Athens attractions. See the City Sightseeing Bus website for the route and details of timetable and prices. As in all big cities, buses are not necessarily the quickest way to get from A to B and you may find yourself frustratingly stuck in traffic when it might be quicker to walk from one attraction to another. That said, this is a sensible medium price option, but as always, you must allow plenty of time for your return journey to the port.
There is also a little train in Piraeus which will take you round the local area for 5 euro. An ideal way to see something of the port before heading back onboard for lunch and a snooze!
Piraeus to Athens by bus
Piraeus to Athens by bus is a good option. If you wish to proceed directly to central Athens with minimal effort, there is now (since May 2014) an express bus line, X80, linking the cruise terminal in Piraeus with the Acropolis area and Syntagma square. This stops at the OLP cruise terminal gates and links with metro stations and bus stops for onward travel. The bus runs 7 days a week from 7:00 am until 21.30 pm every 30 mins and costs 4 euros return for a 24 hour ticket. The maps below (from the website of the Athens Urban Transport Organisation) show the route and bus stops in both Piraeus and central Athens. For further information and route maps see the Athens Urban Transport Organisation website.
Piraeus to Athens by train
Piraeus to Athens by train or metro is the cheapest option, as this cost 1.2 euro each way for a 70 min ticket in 2014. It is, however, a long walk to the station from the port. As with most large ports, you probably won’t find a taxi willing to take you just to the train station, although you can use local buses 843 or 859 from the port. Depending on which terminal your ship docks at (and how sprightly you are) it is about a 45 minute walk to the train station. If you dock at Terminal B get the port bus to Terminal A if possible to reduce the length of your walk. It gets very hot even early in the morning in summer so go prepared with sun hats and water.
To walk to Piraeus station from Terminal A, keep the water to your left and follow the road round the bay. After about a mile you will see a pedestrian escalator/ bridge which will take you over the road to the station (see Google map above). If closed (as in Sept 2014) you will need to cross the road at this point. The train journey is about 15 minutes. One advantage of travelling by train is that, for the price of one 70 min ticket, you will be able to exit at any metro station. Tickets are also valid on buses. Don’t forget to validate before travel.
Study a map of Athens attractions to decide where you want to go and so which station to head for.
You can find out more information on trains from Piraeus to Athens at the Athens Rail Information website.
Athens Sightseeing Options
The Acropolis is the ‘must see’ sight of Athens, but is a steep climb. The general advice is to head straight there first thing in the morning before it gets too hot or too crowded (with all those cruise passengers on excursions). Not only are the monuments, including the Parthenon, fascinating, but the views of Athens from up there are pretty good too!
Monastiraki or Thissio are the usual stations for the Acropolis.
The Acropolis Museum
You can then head for the newly built air-conditioned Acropolis Museum, which includes a very civilised café, with restrooms, wifi and outdoor terrace with excellent views of the Parthenon. The nearest metro station is Acropolis and on our last visit the entry fee was a very reasonable 5 euros.See the Acropolis Museum website for further details and to check opening hours and prices.
Don’t miss the archaeological excavations on your way in.
Another option for a one day visit to Athens is to wander the streets, including the old town or Plaka, soaking up the atmosphere, taking in the historic ruins as you meet them.
A popular sight is the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier outside the Parliament Building.
Or you could visit the Panathenaic Stadium, the home of the Modern Olympics
As with so many city attractions, if visiting on an excursion you might drive past fleetingly on a bus, but there is something very satisfying about lingering as long as you like, taking countless photos and just revelling in the lack of crowds, as you watch your fellow passengers departing on the bus after just a 5 minute stop.
So, in summary, Cruise to Athens will allow you to visit the main sites on your own. It is always important, however, to be aware of the current political situation in any country that you visit and Greece is no exception.
Your ship will advise you, but you should also keep yourself informed in advance of your cruise to Athens of any disruption or unrest.
As always, ensure that you leave enough time and have enough means with you to pay for a taxi back to the ship if you run short of time or if there should be a transport strike.