West Ham United fans will be heading to Greece over the next two days ahead of the Europa League game against Olympiacos. Greece attracts thousands of British tourists every year because of its hot weather and beaches, but its ancient history also has a big appeal.
Athens is one of the world’s oldest cities, with over 3,000 years of history embedded within its urban area. The Greek, Roman and Ottoman Empires have all occupied both the country and the city, and each culture has influenced the Athenian architecture. It is also the birthplace of the Summer Olympic Games, and the city hosted the occasion in 2004.
This guide will give you a run-down of Athens’ main attractions (you will have definitely heard of some) and public transit system. Alternatively, you can message Konstantinos Mavropanos OR Ex-Hammer Arthur Masuaku on Instagram to ask for advice. They might reply to you!
QUICK FACTS – GREECE
Name in Official Language Ελλάδα/Ελληνική Δημοκρατία (Elláda/Ellinikí Dimokratía)
Dialling Code +30
WHERE IS ATHENS?
Athens (Greek: Αθήνα/Athina) is in the South-East of Greece. It is presently the economic and political epicentre of the country, and it was the capital of Ancient Greece. Although it is often associated with Greek civilization, it is believed to have been occupied as early as 1400 BC. The Romans took some control of the city during the fourth century.
The Ottoman Empire seized control of Athens in 1458. The Ottomans decreased the city’s political value, instead using it for military purposes and converting churches into mosques. Greece finally seized full power and overthrew the Ottoman Empire in 1821, establishing the Greek Kingdom and reinstating Athens as a capital city.
The kingdom was demolished in 1924, but it was established again in 1935. It was officially abolished in 1967 following a military dictatorship coming to power. Modern-day Athens is now modernized, but it still contains historic elements from its former occupiers.
WHAT CAN I DO THERE?
You will have heard of this site, mainly for two reasons: it is the most notable landmark in Athens, and it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is located 150 metres (490 feet) above sea level, overlooking the city from its viewpoints.
The citadel is home to the Parthenon (Greek: Παρθενώνας), the former home of the Ancient Greek treasury. The Ottomans used the building as a mosque, and the building was partially destroyed in a bombing during a siege in the late 19th century. Restoration work has been undertaken for the last 50 years to preserve this building’s heritage.
Zappeion (Ζάππειον Μέγαρο)
The Zappeion is one of the more modern landmarks in Athens. Built in the 1880s, it was used as a fencing hall during the 1896 Olympic Games. Today, it is a conference hall.
The building contains several statues to commemorate Greek cultural figures. The head of Evangelos Zappas, a famous Greek philanthropist and businessman, is supposedly “buried” inside the building’s walls.
Old Royal Palace (Παλαιά Ανάκτορα)
The Greek monarchy lived in the Old Royal Palace from 1843 until 1924, the year the Greek Kingdom was dissolved in a referendum. It was subsequently refurbished to become the permanent headquarters of the Greek parliament.
It was used as a hospital during the Second World War and a shelter for Asian refugees.
WHAT IS THE STADIUM LIKE?
Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium (Στάδιο Γεώργιος Καραϊσκάκης)
Karaiskakis Stadium has been the home of Olympiacos since 1896. Originally built for the Olympics Games of that same year, it is named after Georgios Karaiskakis. Karaiskakis was a general during the Greek War of Independence and is considered a national hero.
The stadium was demolished and completely rebuilt from scratch in 2004, a project which took 14 months. It became a 32,000 all-seater stadium, and it is currently the largest football-only stadium in the world. Greece’s success in Euro 2004 led to the stadium being the home of the Greek national team, but this was switched to Crete in 2008.
HOW TO GET THERE
By Metro The nearest station is Neo Faliro (Νέο Φάληρο), located on the Green Line (Line 1). The stadium is a five-minute walk away.
By Tram The stadium has its own tram stop, named Karaiskakis Stadium. It connects to the above-mentioned metro station.
WHAT SHOULD I KNOW BEFORE I GO?
It’s Not All Picture Perfect
It may be illegal to photograph certain buildings and monuments. There are restrictions on photographing schools, monasteries, harbours and churches. Ask if you can take a photo before you do so, or avoid taking pictures if you have any doubts.
Greece’s heritage and culture laws do not allow visitors to touch or film archaeological sites unless stated otherwise. There are very strict laws which prohibit photographing and filming certain sites for commercial use. Moreover, walking away from designated areas and picking up rocks on the sites could be considered vandalism.
Who You Gonna Call?
The Greek police has a unit dedicated to helping tourists. If you are in trouble or need to contact the tourism police for assistance, dial 1571. An interpreter will be linked to the call if need be.
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