Piraeus with its three natural bays, Kantharos, Zea (Pasalimani) and Mounichia (Tourkolimano), has always played a central role in Greek life. General Themistocles was the first to appreciate the value of the port for the city of Athens and built walls in the 5th century BC that survive to this day.

After Greece’s liberation from the Ottoman Empire, Piraeus proved crucial for the establishment of the modern Greek state. In the 1830s, architects Stamatis Kleanthis and Eduard Schaubert drew up the plans for a modern Piraeus, adopting a grid system. After the mid-19th century, Piraeus experienced significant growth and gradually became Greece’s main maritime and commercial hub.

Since the early 20th century, the daily life of many Athenians and residents of other Greek cities and islands, has been closely linked to Piraeus and its activities. The destruction of large parts of both the city and the port during World War II, as well as the disorderly post-war reconstruction, have significantly altered Piraeus’ cityscape.

During the 1960s and the 1970s, Piraeus was transformed into an international shipping hub, with the erection of numerous imposing office buildings along the port and the relocation of dozens of Greek shipping companies from abroad.

Thanks to its close proximity to the Suez Canal and its connection to the Greek and the European rail network, Piraeus has evolved into a gateway of Asian imports into Europe, while in the past few years, it also ranks among the world’s fastest growing commercial ports.

This section presents the evolution of the city and the port of Piraeus during the 20th century.