Syntagma Square is the central hub of Athens with expensive hotels, restaurants, adjacent shopping areas and a number of administrative buildings. The name of the square is translated as Constitution that was ratified in 1822.
Thousands of people arrive here from other parts of the city using all kinds of public and personal transport. It is the central point of Athens where people gather to celebrate Christmas, protest against austerity measures or just relax sitting at one of the benches facing the fountains.
Whats’ the main building located on Syntagma Square?
The Eastern side of the square is overlooked by the Hellenic Parliament (Greek Parliament). In fact this building is a former Royal Palace constructed in the 19th century by King Otto. Most of the funds for the project were provided by his father – Ludwig I of Bavaria.
Talking about architecture, most of the public buildings in the central part of the city resemble the so called neo-classical style. It was originated in Greece and later re-imported from Europe along with some improvements made by local architects.
At the top of Syntagma Square to the right (if you are facing Parliament building) you’ll find Athens Coastal Tram station that can take you all the way down to the coastal town called Glyfada.
At the bottom of Syntagma there is McDonalds and the beginning of the famous Ermou Street.
Why Syntagma square is the best place to start exploring Athens?
Most of the remarkable parts of the city can be easily reached from there by foot from here. You can start with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier!
The Tomb is guarded by the elite group of soldiers called Evzones that are famous for their height. Their traditional uniform includes sarouchi shoes with pom-poms and the foustanela skirt. This uniform was worn by local soldiers during the revolution in 1821.
Changing of the Guard Time Table
Changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (located below the Hellenic Parliament outside Syntagma Square) is held hourly. There is also official sentry change ceremony held every Sunday at 11:00 that is more tourist oriented and has marching bands along with a greater number of soldiers.
|Day of the Week||Sentry Change Time||Official Ceremony|
My trip to Greece took place in December. I decided to take a small vacation and enjoy Athens climate in the middle of winter.
I guess that the lack of excessive humidity is its main advantage.
In general lowered humidity makes extreme temperatures feel less uncomfortable.
Typical winter months can be quite mild in Athens especially when the sun starts to shine.
The weather was beautiful during most of my stay at the end of December. The temperatures were reaching 77°F (25 degrees Celsius) during the day time.
I had to leave my jacket at the hotel most of the days and walk around the city wearing nothing on top of my sweatshirt. The sun was very bright so I had to wear sunglasses.
My jacket came in handy closer to evenings though.
The streets around the Constitution Square were full of people and everyone was enjoying the weather sitting at the open verandahs having their drinks or meals. By the way, Athenians consider March as the coldest month of the year due to its less stable weather conditions.
Syntagma Square Hotels
I chose to stay at Hotel Grande Bretagne that faces Syntagma and located near the Hellenic Parliament. I could actually watch the changing of the Evzone guards right from my balcony!
Grande Bretagne was built in 1862, so you’ll fall in love with this place if you are interested in history and culture. For example, during World War Two the hotel was fully occupied by the military. During the Nazi occupation it was used by Hitler and other officials to stay during their visits to Athens.
Today the hotel remains to be one of the fanciest places to stay in the city. In addition to the central location it has a very nice rooftop restaurant with excellent views of the Acropolis and Constitution Square.
There was a beautiful Christmas tree standing in the main lobby setting a festive holiday mood throughout the hotel.
There is another hotel called King George located right next to Grand Bretagne and is similar class but slightly less expensive. Athens Plaza is the third and most affordable of these three hotels that overlook Syntagma.
One of the main tourist pedestrian streets that starts from Syntagma Square is called Ermou. It used to be one of the most expensive commercial streets in the world before the economic conditions have worsened.
I googled Ermou Street on the Internet and saw a number of results showing abandoned buildings and graffiti all of over the place.
It doesn’t look bad in reality.
It is filled with all these mass market brands like H&M, Pandora and Swatch. Well, I could see that some buildings were not occupied but they didn’t look ugly.
In fact this street looks like other European streets of similar class.
The economy of Greece has shrunk dramatically over the past years. This means that the consumption has decreased to the lowest levels. The number of businesses had to decrease as well to be in line with the new conditions.
What seems to thrive despite the economic turbulence are the numerous cafes and restaurants that are filled with people. The food is good, made of quality products and non-expensive.
Most of the vegetables, fish and meat dishes are made from local products and that says it all.
People in Greece like to go out and socialize no matter what.
These were some of the general things I wanted to highlight in regards to Syntagma Square and some of its surroundings. In the next several posts I am going to focus on two of my favorite districts of Athens called Plaka and Kolonaki.