Syntagma Square means Constitution Square in Greek and is Greece's most famous and important square. The square is quite a pleasant place with a fountain, some small gardens and plenty of kiosks, it is a popular meeting place for both Athenians and tourists. Across Amalias Avenue just opposite the square is the Vouli (Greek parliament) and probably the reason so many demonstrations are held in the square.
The square was once the front lawn of the Palace of King Otto, now the Vouli. After the uprising on September the 3rd 1843, the King handed the square over to the public, and it was named after the constitution "Syntagma" that Otto was forced to grant the Greek people.
Also on Syntagma Square is the famous Grand Bretagne Hotel, it was built as part of the Royal palace in 1862. Over the years the hotel has had some very famous guests such as Elizabeth Taylor and Winston Churchill. There was even a failed assassination attempt on Winston Churchill in the hotel during World War Two.
The Vouli and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The Vouli (parliament building) was once the palace of King Otto and Queen Amalias of Bavaria, but now it is used as the seat for the Hellenic Parliament.
In front of the parliament building is the The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier this cenotaph is to honour all Greek soldiers who have fallen.
The centre of the monument is a sculpture of a dead hoplite, either side of the sculpture are inscriptions from Perikles' funeral oration. The are also bronze shields flanking the monument listing every military event in which Greece has taken part in since independence in 1821.
The monument was first unveiled on the 25th of march 1932, which is also independence day.
Standing in front of the Tomb of the unknown soldier are two Evzones - presidential guards. These Evzones are unmistakable as they are on nearly every poster or postcard of Greece, with their white kilt, red hat and pom pom shoes. Although you may think these soldiers look silly, they have actually been hand picked from the Greek military and all must be over 1.86m tall. Originally they were taken from a specialist mountain regiment.
The Evzones stand perfectly still in front of the tomb and is accompanied by regular a regular soldier who makes sure nothing untoward happens to the Evzone, as he is not allowed to move.
The Evzones change position every 15 minutes and change guards every hour. On Sundays at 11am the whole regiment of Evzone guards and a military band march down from the guards barracks to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
To be an Evzone is a very proud thing for any Greek soldier, in January 2010 a bomb was put about 20 metres from two evzones on guard duty, when told to move by the Police the two Evzones refused. The bomb did go off but luckily no one was hurt.
In 2001 protestors threw a Molotov cocktail at the guard box setting it a blaze, the Evzone next to the box stood there without flinching until he was ordered to move my soldiers in uniform.
Information about Syntagma Square, Vouli and Tomb of the Unknown Sodier
Syntagma Square and the Vouli are one of the most popular tourist attractions in Athens. The Evzones who wear the tradional uniform guard the Vouli (parliment building), a photograph of the evzones is a must for anyone visiting Athens
Location: Leoforos Vasilissis Amalias. Next to the National Gardens.
Nearest Metro Station: Syntagma.
Tips: The metro's entrance is in the square, the Vouli and Tomb of the unknown soldier are across the busy main road, Leoforos Amalias, you can cross the road using the subway in the station. - The best time to visit the Syntagma Square is on Sundays at 11:00am when you can see the changing of the guards in front of the Vouli.