While our International Ground Guide is undergoing some maintenance, we thought we'd provide our usual service of advice and information for travelling supporters in brief blog form.
Once up and running again our ground guide will cover all manner of information from travel options to hotel advice, eating and drinking suggestions to practical tips on getting around, along with safety and security advice and anything else we think will be of use to travelling supporters.
In the meantime, while the below might not necessarily have all the information you'll be after if you're heading out to Greece, we're always available to help - just drop us an email if you have any questions.
We'll do our best to find out what you need to know, either from our own vast experience in covering England and Wales games abroad, or from our friends at Football Supporters Europe.
About the Stadium
Initially built in the 19th century, the Karaiskakis was used during the 1896 Olympics, but was significantly renovated in the 1960s before being completely demolished and rebuilt in 2004 for the Athens Olympics.
The Karaiskakis is a 33,000+ all seater stadium, and is rated as one of UEFA's 4 star stadia (meaning it can host UEFA Cup Finals).
In 1981 the stadium was the scene of the famous 'Gate 7' disaster, when crushing during a match with AEK Athens led to 21 supporters losing their lives. Outside the new stadium there is a permanent monument to those who lost their lives, as well as a small section of seats coloured black (rather than the red/white of the rest of the ground) indicating a number 7.
The ground is located in the Neo Faliro area of Pireaus, Athens. It is approximately 20 minutes from the city centre, and easily reached by Metro by alighting at Faliro metro station.
About the City
Welcome to Athens, a city named after Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom. Looking around a lot of the city, with its “it’ll be nice when it’s finished” look, it’s hard to imagine that it’s a city with a great and glorious past.
Athens is a busy, chaotic and sometimes messy city that is trying to hard to marry its ancient monuments into a massive plan of regeneration that's dragging it kicking and screaming to become one of the most modern cities in Europe, despite it being the continent's oldest city.
Olympiakos are actually based in the area of Pireaus, around 10km to the southwest of the main city of Athens, but still part of the Athens urban area. Pireaus is one of the busiest ports in Europe, and the 3rd busiest passenger port in the world. Naturally its landmarks and museums are largely on a maritime theme.
If you do find yourself with some spare time on your hands, then without doubt the biggest attraction in Athens is the Acropolis, a limestone plateau supporting the Parthenon, the all-marble temple dedicated to the goddess Athena.
For the best view of Athens, take the funicular railway to the top of Ploutarchou Street in Kolonaki and see the whole city, the port of Piraeus and the island of Aegina from the top of Lycavittos Hill. It’s a good excuse to stop and have a drink or two at the café there and pay a visit to the Chapel of St George.
Chances are you’ll also find yourself in Syntagma Square at some point, which is home to the Greek Parliament. It’s worth stopping to take in the changing of the guard every hour if only for the comedy value of the uniforms and marching style.
Although Athens is a huge sprawling city, nearly everything of interest to travellers lies within a small area bounded by Omonia Square (Plateia Omonias) to the north, Monastiraki (Plateia Monastirakiou) to the west, Syntagma Square (Syntagmatos) to the east and Plaka to the south, which makes finding your way round on foot or by public transport somewhat easier.
Athenian taxis are yellow. The meter will always start at 1 euro and there is an additional surcharge of 0.60 from ports, train and bus stations, as well as a 1.18 surcharge from the airport. After that, the day rate (tariff 1 on the meter) is 0.23 / km. The rate doubles between midnight and 5am (tariff 2 on the meter). Baggage is charged at 0.30 euros per item heavier than 10kg. The minimum fare is 2.65 euros.
Taxi fare fraud is not as widespread as it used to be, but it does still exist, so make sure the rate is correct. If you think you’ve been overcharged, ask for a receipt (they are legally obliged to give you one) and take the plate number, then phone the tourist police on 171 to report it. Or, what worked for us was suggesting calling the police to arbitrate before we paid – the driver didn’t seem too keen on that and drove off without being paid at all.
Eating and Drinking
Most peoples' experiences of Greek food will be as a fast food in the UK - hopefully you'll be pleasantly surprised by the Greek cuisine when you get to Athens. Of course there's the gyros (kebabs), and souvlaki (the Greek answer to a burger - skewered meat that's ideal to be eaten on the hoof when served in a pitta) but try some of the local lamb or fish dishes to get a true taste of Greek cuisine.
You'll find that tavernas are the more relaxed, friendly eating establishments as opposed to estiatorion, which are more formal restaurants. Central Athens is packed with small restaurants, cafés and eateries, and our general rule of thumb is that if the place you're stood outside is populated with Greeks that it can't be all that bad. A lot of the restaurants around Plaka are aimed at tourists, but there are some genuine local places to be found and enjoyed.
If you're looking for the local tipple, try some Retsina, Ouzo or Metaxa, and you're sure to have a good night (but possibly a painful morning!)
Main Drinking Areas
Because we’re a hard working and dedicated lot at the FSF we took it upon ourselves to do some extensive research about where to go eating and drinking whilst in Athens. A tough job, but somebody had to do it.
There are many squares with plenty of bars in and around the centre of Athens. The Psyri area (Monastiraki or Thisseio stops, Metro Lines 1 and 3), just north of Plaka has a number of smart bars and restaurants which line the streets between Ermou Street, Athinas Street and Monastiraki.
Most evening bars are open from 7pm right through to the early hours of the morning and there are also bars that are open from midday through to 8 / 9pm.
A word of warning: if you are a single male, beware of friendly strangers approaching and starting conversations. You might be led to a pub where an outrageously expensive bill will be presented. This kind of pub scam has been happening for years, but the police can do little to help you if you’ve already paid. Two places to avoid are “Pub Love” and “New York Pub”, both on the same street in Plaka.
There are a couple of “Irish” (in the loosest sense of the word) pubs, including Mike’s Irish Bar at 6 Sinopis Street, Ambelokipi, which is reached by taking the metro to Megaro Mousikis station, followed by a 200 metre walk towards Athens Tower.
A more authentic Irish pub run and staffed by Irish folk is Molly Malone’s on Yannitsopoulou 8, Glyfada, a southern suburb of Athens famous for being the playground of the rich and famous, which is full of bars and restaurants, including the Brown Bear, the Sussex Inn and the Bayern Bierhaus. The area is linked to Athens city centre by the two main streets of Posidonos and Vouliagmenis and by the T2 tram which runs from Syntagma to Glyfada. You’ll need to go around 30 stops, but it will only cost you E0.60 each way.