Syntagma Square
Syntagma Square

Syntagma Square, officially Plateia Syntagmatos, or Constitution Square, is perhaps the emotional home of modern Athens. It is dominated by the imposing facade of the Parliament building, or Vouli, which was built as the new royal palace following independence, officially opened in 1836. The use of Pentelic marble on the facade with a Doric-style prolylaia above street level echoes use and form in the ancient city. In front of the building, the Memorial of the Unknown Soldier commemorates all Greeks who have fallen in war. Decorated with a modern carved relief of a Classical theme, the marble is inscribed with the words of an oration by Pericles, to honour the dead of the wars of the Peloponnese. It is said that the tombs of these ancient soldiers lie under this very spot. The tomb is guarded day and night by the Evzones, traditionally dressed soldiers who became Royal Guards, and then presidential guards following the War of Independence. The formal changing of the guard takes place every Sunday at I0:45am, however the members of the Evzones have a duty switch every hour during the day, when two new guards take the place of the old. This is one activity that you shouldn't miss on your trip to Athens.

Numerous major thoroughfares converge on Syntagma, so it's always busy with traffic. The new Metro station also brings a steady stream of people. Still there is shade and a flower garden in the middle of the square where locals and visitors alike rendezvous for lunch or dinner dates.

The Grande Bretagne Hotel, on a nearby comer of the square, was built in 1842 and has become an Athens institution during its lifetime.

Behind the Parliament building are the verdant land-scaped grounds of the National Gardens. These gardens were formerly for exclusive use of the Royal Palace but now form an oasis within the city with formal gardens, water features and a children's playground. In the south of the garden you will find the Zappion Hall, an imposing Neo-Classical building that was designed by architect Hansen, as a National Exhibition Centre in 1888. It now houses a modem conference centre.
Back to the top
A five-minute stroll from Syntagma down Avenue Amalias (or through the National Gardens) brings you to another ancient site. At the confluence of Avenues Amalias, Syngrou and Vas. Olgas is Hadrian's Gate, built as a triumphal arch in AD 131, to mark the divide between the ancient city and his New Athens. To the east of the gate is the Olympieion, site of the largest temple ever built on Greek soil.

The Temple of Olympian Zeus is dedicated to Zeus, the king of the Greek gods. It was imperative that his temple should be fitting for his position, and its dimensions, 250 m long and 130 m wide, with columns of over 17 m in height, are truly majestic. The temple took 700 years to complete and it was emperor Hadrian who finished the task in the 2nd century AD. Originally 108 columns surrounded an inner sanctum that protected a gold and ivory statue of Zeus. Today only 15 are still standing, but their Corinthian capitals have a wonderful form and elegance. In ancient times, the temple sat close to the banks of the River Ilissos thus creating an even more beautiful vista. Today the river still flows, but its path lies beneath the city.

Nearby, along Vas.Olgas, is the impressive Panathenean Stadium, sitting in the lea of Ardhitos Hill. The stadium was constructed for the ancient Panathenaic Games, when each of the surrounding city-states sent delegations to compete. During Roman times, beast-baiting also took place here. Dating from the 3rd century BC, the complex was refurbished for the games of AD 144 but was disused and left to decay after the fall of the empire. When the modern Olympic Games were convened in 1896, the stadium was refurbished as the flagship arena, and today it stands as a symbol of the global athletic movement. Witness the heroic statues that stand in the entranceway, Athens hosted the Olympic Games in 2004.
Back to the top

To the west of the bare sheer rock of the Akropolis is a rival hill-the verdant pine-clad Lycabettus, which makes an inviting diversion from the archaeological sites of the city. Here you'1I be able to sit in the shade and listen to the birds. The hill was never settled in ancient times because there was no water supply. You can reach the upper slopes by funicular. When you reach the top station, walk to the small chapels of Aghios Isidoros and Aghios Georgios, centre of the Easter celebrations for the city, a modern amphitheatre for summer performances and wonderful views across Athens where major attractions are pointed out on marble panoramas. Though there are fixed telescopes here, having your own binoculars is a boon to really take in the detail.


Surrounding the lower slopes of Lycabettus on the south and west sides is Kolonaki, perhaps the most fashionable district of central Athens. Apartments and houses here are much sought after as they sit among chic boutiques, designer stores as well as trendy restaurants and bars. It is one of the best parts of the city to eat out in the evening with a range of good international eateries in addition to traditional Greek tavernas.

Back to the top
Syntagma Photo Album Syntagma Square Syntagma Square