Most people simply pass through Piraeus, Greece's largest port city, to board cruise ships or hydrofoils to the islands.

On its surface, Piraeus can seem congested and chaotic, and there is no denying that sections of its industrial waterfront are an eyesore. But there is another side to this fascinating place. It has its fair share of charming eateries and often overlooked attractions.

The pretty fishing harbor of Mikrolimano Bay is a good place for a cool evening outing or dining in a seafood restaurant. You can spend the evening in an open-air cafe or in one of the area's lively nightclubs.

Piraeus also has a few other attractions, including the Hellenic Maritime Museum and an archeological museum.

Piraeus may not have the cosmopolitan cachet and renown of Athens, but for those seeking a slice of genuine, informal Greek atmosphere, it is well worth exploring. And for ship aficionados, Piraeus is practically paradise.

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