The heart of the centre of Athens is Syntagma Square, (also known as Constitution Square). It is the nerve centre of the city, and the roads around the square are lined with hotels, cafes, banks, airline companies, travel agencies and fast-food outlets. It is an ideal starting place for visitors to Athens, with most buses making stops or passing through, as well as the Syntagma Metro station, which is the easiest way of arriving here.
With the Parliamentary building overlooking the square, there is an air of openness in this otherwise crowded city, and with the small fountains and shady trees, it is an ideal place for a meeting point, as well as finding some shade from the hot summer sun. As with most parts of Athens, there is a history, and Syntagma Square is no different. In ancient times, the site that is today the square was the “Garden of Muses”, where the famous Lyceum, founded in the 6th Century BC, was founded. Aristotle lectured to his many scholars here.
When the redesign of the square was set about a hundred or so years ago, the area was little more than a wheat field. The architects that set about the redesign of the square were commissioned by Otto I. On one side of the square, you will today see the “Grande Britagne Hotel”. This dominating structure was actually built in the 1840s by Theophil Hansen, and was used as a home for Dimitrios, the Trieste businessman. This beautiful building was known as the “Megaron Dimitriou”.
During the new design of Syntagma Square, the first building to be constructed was the Royal Palace, today used as the Parliamentary building. The classical style building was completed in 1842 by the architect Friendrich von Gartner. There was also a plan put forward by the Prussian architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel to actually build the Royal Palace on the top of the Acropolis rock, roughly where the Acropolis museum is found today. These plans however were rejected in favour of it's current position.
On completion of the Palace, Otto and his wife Amalia where then able to move into a residence that was worthy of figures of their status. Previously the square was known as the “Muses Square”, named after it's glorious past. However, the name was then changed to Constitution Square in 1849, after Otto proclaimed the first Greek constitution from the balcony of the Palace.
The “Megaron Dimitriou” (Grande Britagne Hotel) was also used for several years as the guest wing for the Royal Palace. In 1910, the Royal Palace was initially left empty after a fire destroyed parts of the building. After the 1922 problems in Asia Minor, the Palace was used to temporarily house thousands of Greek refugees. Since 1935, it has been used as the Parliament Building, and continues so today.
The “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” was built into the eastern wall of the building in the 1930s. The relief that can be seen today was actually a copy of a dying Greek soldier that was found on a pediment at the Temple of Aphaia on the nearby island of Aegina. The tomb is watched over by Greek soldiers, known as “Evzones”, who guard the tomb wearing their traditional uniforms. The changing of the guard is one of the most popular tourist attrations, and many people head there to watch the dramatic routine take place.
The “Megaron Dimitriou” mansion was used for some time between 1856 and 1874 as the French Archaeological Institute. Afterwards, it was converted into a hotel, and has been operating as one since then.
There have been many famous people who have stayed at the “Grande Britagne Hotel”, such as Elizabeth Taylor and Sir Winston Churchill. During the Second World War, the hotel was used as headquarters for Greek, then German and finally British troops. Sir Winston Churchill was almost the victim of a bomb attack on the hotel, when he stayed here in 1944. Today, the “Grande Britagne Hotel” is still the finest hotel in Athens, and though, it may be out of the price range for many visitors to the city, it is worth seeing when you are in Syntagma Square. You can take a look from the outside into the stunning hall on the ground floor.
During the Christmas holidays, the square is beautifully decorated and is a very popular place to visit for both locals and visitors to the city.
Over the past several years, Syntagma Square has been like a miniature construction site. When the Athens Metro system was being constructed, there were a great deal of work taking place in the square, and for long periods of time, the square was actually out of bounds.
During the construction of the Syntagma Square Metro station, there were many archaeological findings, some too important to move. Instead of possibly damaging these stunning finds, through transport to a museum, a small museum and exhibition hall were actually built inside the Metro station itself. You can take a walk around inside and have a look at the findings on this site, and easily find yourself forgetting that you are actually inside a Metro station.
At some point during your visit to Athens, you will almost certainly find yourself in Sytagma Square. With close access to many of the cities sights and places of interest, such as the “National Gardens”, the “Temple of Olympian Zeus”, and the Plaka, Monastiraki and Kolonaki districts, you will find this square a very useful location from which to plan your excursions around the city. There are also a selection of banks, a Post Office, and the Greek National Tourism Office (GNTO) located around the square, which you might find of use during your time in the city.
Access to Syntagma Sqaure is available all the time
Entrance Fee / Prices:
No Admission Fee
It is located in the heart of Athens, next to the Parliament Building.
Top Sights in Athens
- Ancient Agora
- Areopagus (Hill of Ares)
- Filopappou Hill
- First Cemetery of Athens
- Hadrian's Arch
- Hadrian's Library
- Hill of the Nymphs
- Kerameikos Cemetery
- Lycabettus Hill
- Lysicrates Monument
- National Gardens
- Panathenaic Stadium
- Roman Agora
- Syntagma Square
- Temple of Olympian Zeus
- Tower of the Winds