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Syntagma Square in Athens

Syntagma square in Athens is the main social and political hub of Athens, a place where history and modernity clash under the imposing shadow of the parliament building. It’s one of the most popular places in Athens due to its vivid nightlife, its robust gastronomy scene and its proximity to the most famous historical sites and the trendiest neighbourhoods. A walk around Syntagma’s busy streets is a must for those visiting the city for the first time and a safe bet for those returning.

syntagma square in athens
Photo by Tilemahos Efthimiadisfrom flickr.com

Location

Syntagma square is a true nerve center for the Greek capital city, located just in the middle of the most important attractions, iconic monuments and popular spots of Athens.

It’s right next to the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the National Garden and the Panathenaic stadium and just a breath away from Plaka, Koukaki and the Acropolis hill.

Syntagma square is also home to Ermou, one of Athens’ most lively shopping streets, that will take you on a ride from the main square on the east to Monastiraki and Thiseio on its western end.

where is syntagma sqyare located

History 

Even though it does not become immediately apparent when walking among Syntagma’s five star hotels and hip cocktail bars, it’s a place that carries a long and turbulent history.

Its construction was the result of King Otto’s decision to repudiate Nafplio and designate Athens as the new capital of Greece in the mid-19th century.

At the time there were only two main squares in the relatively small city – both famous today as Omonoia and Syntagma.

Shortly after, the latter was chosen to serve as the grounds for the King’s and Queen’s abode.

When the royal residence was finally built a few years later, the premises around the modern urban icon were appropriately named the “Palace Square”. Queen Amalia was more than eager to take charge of the beautification of the spaces surrounding the palace and her endeavours quickly bore fruit.

Soon enough, the square was adorned with a novel fountain and the area beside the palatial residence became what is known today as the National Garden.

athens national garden
Photo by Sjaak Kempe from flickr.com

Yet the square’s newly found name and identity were not destined to be long-lived.

In 1843, a massive uprising backed both by the citizens and the country’s military officials forced King Otto to authorize the formulation of a constitution for the young state that had only recently regained its independence.

Thus, the square was marked by this historical event and took the name “constitution square” or Syntagma square in Greek.

For decades to follow, Syntagma was the backdrop against which major political and historical events came to life, a place that inspired change and animated hope, a symbol of shifting paradigms.

In the early 20th century the erstwhile royal residence became home to the new Parliament and, later on, its square became the spatial symbol of the downfall of the military junta.

Today, Syntagma square remains on the same path of a long tradition of political demonstrations but at the same time it has transformed into a prized meeting point for locals and travelers who gather here to embark on pub crawls, shopping sprees and culinary explorations in downtown Athens.

history of syntagma square in Athens Greece

What to See and Do in Syntagma

Launch your itinerary by strolling around the wide square and grasping the atmosphere of one of the most historical spots in Athens city.

Right in front of the parliament building you’ll find the Monument of the Unknown Soldier that is guarded by the acclaimed “Evzones”.

Similar to the British Queen’s Guards, the Evzones are officers of the presidential guard, bearing firearms and wearing the traditional uniforms that have been internationally popularized and widely celebrated in Greek culture.

At precisely fifteen minutes of standing absolutely still, the guards swap places by meticulously executing an impressive choreography, while every hour you can witness the procession of the changing of the guard. 

What to See and Do in Syntagma

After the ritual is over, explore the urban oasis that comprises of the National Garden, the zoo and the botanical gardens that are adjacent to the Parliament and next to the neoclassical Zappeion Hall.

Then head over to the start of the always busy Ermou street for a dive into the multicultural aura of Athens.

The narrow alleys that branch out at every length of the main pedestrian street are filled with quaint cafes, street food stalls, cozy bars, high-end restaurants and all kinds of shops, providing ideal opportunities to get in touch with Athenian culture and mingling with locals.

What to See and what to Do in Syntagma

How to Get to Syntagma

Ideally situated in the heart of the city, Syntagma is a major transportation hub with one of the largest metro stations in Athens.

The metro station’s exit is right on the square and you can take both the red and blue metro lines to get there.

You can also reach Syntagma square via the tram that connects Athens downtown to the southern suburbs and goes all the way down to the seafront.

 

Syntagma is undeniably one of the most fascinating places to visit in AthensIts location makes it perfect for a resting spot in between sightseeing the numerous sites of Athens.

Whether you wish to go for a long shopping session, a cocktail at a rooftop garden or an ambrosial dinner, Syntagma will undoubtedly provide the perfect scenery for your travel to Athens.

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