Syntagma Square is the central hub of the city 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. It accumulates the flows of people coming here from different parts of the city using various kinds of public transportation. 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.
The eastern side of Syntagma 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.
Syntagma is one of the best places to start exploring Athens. Most of the remarkable parts of the city can be easily reached from there by foot.
One of the attractions located on Syntagma Square is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It 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 the 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 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.
Syntagma Metro Station Athens
One of the busiest stations of the Athens metro is located right on Syntagma Square. Generally speaking Athens has a very clean and modern metro system.
All trains are new and air-conditioned which is very nice especially in summer.
It has just 3 lines and all signs are translated into English. You won’t have any problems figuring out what way to go.
The tickets are sold in the main lobby and cost 1.20 Euros.
This is the cheapest type of tickets that allows to use metro and buses for 70 minutes. Make sure to validate your ticket at one of the terminals in the main lobby to avoid any fines. Syntagma Metro Station has a museum section with many historic artifacts found during the construction. They were carefully placed behind the glass for everyone to observe.
Syntagma Metro to Airport
As I have mentioned before, a lot of public transportation traffic arrives to and from Syntagma Square. I would like to share with you some of the routes that I use most often. The first one is the route that connects Syntagma Metro Station and the Athens International Airport. It is very convenient and allows to eliminate any delays related to congested traffic. It takes about 40 minutes and costs 8 Euros to reach either way in an air conditioned environment.
How to Get to the Beach from Athens
In summer it is very nice to get out of the city for a nice swim in Athenian Riviera. I used to pay about 30 Euros to get to the coastal town called Varkiza by taxi and use one of its beautiful beaches. Lucky for me I was advised to take advantage of public transportation at some point. That saved me a lot of money! Use the metro’s red line to ride 10 stations from Syntagma Square to Elliniko that will take you about 20 minutes.
Then after exiting the Elliniko station go to the bus stop located right near the station’s exit. From there you can take the following buses:
- Bus number 171 (ΣΤ. ΜΕΤΡΟ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΟ – ΒΑΡΚΙΖΑ) that will take you from the Elliniko Metro Station directly to the final destination located on Varkiza coastline. The whole route is about 40 minutes and it passes through the Vouliagmenis highway.
- Bus number 122 ΣΤ. (ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΟ – ΣΑΡΩΝΙΔΑ) that will pass through another beautiful seaside town called Vouliagmeni and then head towards Varkiza through the coastal highway.
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.