Syntagma Square is one of Athen’s most historic districts. Countless notable events have taken place here throughout the centuries.
While Syntagma may not be the most aesthetic part of town, it’s an area that you are sure to pass through if you spend any amount of time in the Greek capital. For most people, this is the first place they arrive when they travel to the city from Eleftherios Venizelos airport.
Syntagma boasts one of the city’s main transport hubs. From here, it is possible to take trams and metros to all parts of town. The services that depart from here also connect you to the far-reaching districts of Piraeus and Kifissia.
The blue metro line runs at regular intervals every day between Athens International Airport and Syntagma. Additionally, the X95 airport bus departs from Syntagma’s central square.
A Little History of Syntagma Square
The name “Syntagma” actually means “constitution” in Greek. As such, Syntagma Square translates to “constitution square”.
This name was awarded to the area on account of the constitution that King Otto was required to provide his people following the national uprising in 1843. However, Syntagma square predates this.
The square was commissioned in 1834 when King Otto decided to make Athens the capital of Greece instead of Nafplio. At that time it was known as “Palace Square”.
Syntagma Square Today
Syntagma is a popular rendezvous point among Athenians and tourists alike. Political demonstrations do still take place here on occasion.
At various points throughout the year, festivals and musical events are hosted here. During Christmas time in Athens, a spectacular tree is set up in the middle of the square.
Things to See and Do in and Around Syntagma Square
There are several notable points of interest in Syntagma, Athens. First and foremost, it would be impossible to miss the pastel-coloured building that stands at the top of the stairs overlooking the metro station.
This is the Athens Parliament building. It is also the former residence of the Greek royal family.
Watch the Changing of the Guards Ceremony
The pale orange parliament building that stands proudly on the north side of Syntagma square is the former residence of King Otto and Queen Amalia. It was built around 1842. However, it has served as a parliamentary office since 1934.
You will note that several elaborately dressed Greek soldiers stand guard outside the building at all hours of the day. These are “Evzones” – an elite rank of Athenian guards.
Historically, it was always considered a great honour to be asked to join the ranks of the Evzones. Their uniforms are quite unusual. They are characterised by black shoes with pom-poms affixed to the front, a red, tasseled cap (farion), and a kilt-like garment (foustanella)
Every day at 11 am, there is an elaborate changing of the guards ceremony that takes place out the front of the Parliament building and the tomb of the unmarked soldier. Watching this is a must on any Athens itinerary.
Tour the Hellenic Parliament Building
In addition to watching the changing of the guards’ ceremony, you may be interested in taking a tour of the Hellenic Parliament building interiors. Few people realise that it is in fact possible to take a tour of the inside of this structure.
The tours take place twice weekly, are free to attend, and are hosted in English. Tour schedules are subject to change. However, currently, the tours take place on Mondays and Fridays at 3 pm.
A reservation is required. Send your email inquiry to [email protected]
Have a Picnic in the National Gardens
The National Gardens are the Athenian answer to New York’s Central Park. They sit just to the right of the Parliament building and were constructed in the 1800s on the instruction of Queen Amalia.
The grounds of the National Gardens are expansive. There are flower gardens, a lake, a playground, a coffee shop, a children’s library, and a petting zoo all contained within its reach. You will also find ornate statues of notable Greek Poets, Writers, and Philosophers scattered among its grounds.
Browse Through the Artifacts at Syntagma Metro Station
One of the best free things to do in Athens is to observe the artifacts contained in the little halls of Syntagma metro station. The items displayed here were uncovered from the area at the time that the metro station was built.
They span across a range of eras – reaching all the way back to the pre-Mycenaean era. Meanwhile, the contemporary art pieces of notable Greek artists adorn the walls of the station. Syntagma is the grandest of all of the Athenian metro stops.
Enjoy Cocktails with a View at the Hotel Grande Bretagne Rooftop
The Hotel Grande Bretagne is one of the most elegant five-star hotels in Athens. However, even if you do not opt to stay here, you can enjoy a slice of glamour by opting to have evening drinks at the hotel’s rooftop bar.
The GB Roof Garden & Bar is one of the best rooftop bars in Athens. From up here, you have unparalleled views of the Acropolis by night as it is illuminated by dozens of twinkling lights. You can also look across the Filopappou monument and Mount Lycabettus.
Embark on a Walking Tour of the City
Various tour companies offer complimentary walking tours of Athens. Furthermore, many of these tours start in Syntagma square.
If you consider yourself something of a foodie, you may wish to book yourself a place on an Athens food tour. Athens food tours lead you down Ermou street, and onto an exploration of the districts of Syntagma, Monastiraki, Thissio, Plaka, and Psiri.
Pick up a fresh-baked koulouri (the Greek answer to the American pretzel) for breakfast, have warm bougatsa at Iroon square, and then sample an array of meze dishes at a local taverna. Food tours are a great way to get your bearings at the start of your Athens itinerary.
A number of reputable Athens tours that start from Syntagma Square are detailed below for your consideration.
- Athens street food tasting tour
- Original gourmet food tour of Athens
- Athens: early morning Acropolis and Plaka guided walking tour
Admire the Frescoes Inside the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens
The vast majority of the Greek population belongs to the Orthodox faith (over 95%). With many Athenians being very religious, it should come as no surprise that there are a plethora of beautiful, ornate churches to be found across the city.
In fact, there are 9792 registered churches in Athens. 9,146 belong to parishes and 646 to monasteries.
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens is one of the grandest religious structures in the city. It sits in Mitropoleos Square – midway between Syntagma and Monastiraki.
Construction on the cathedral began way back in 1842. It was King Otto and Queen Amalia that laid the very first stone – a cornerstone piece.
This church, also known as the “Mētrópolis”, is the official church of the city and home to the Archbishop of Athens. You are welcome to venture inside. Indeed, many beautiful frescoes adorn the walls.
Grab a Coffee and People Watch in Syntagma Square
There is a “Public” bookstore and a McDonalds located in Syntagma Square, right across from the metro station entrance. Both businesses have become something of a go-to place for locals to meet their friends before setting out to do some shopping or have a night out in Athens.
There are certainly more scenic coffee places in town than Public. However, if you want to stop for a coffee break, order yourself a Freddo espresso and sit beneath the outdoor cabanas as you admire the architecture of the square and watch the world go by.
Window shop at Ermou Street
There are three main streets that lead up from Syntagma Square towards Monastiraki. Namely, these are Ermou, Mitropoloeos, and Karagiorgi Servias.
Each of these streets is lined with retail stores, gyro places, and takeout coffee spots. Ermou is the main street to follow.
This long pedestrianised promenade is lined with the stores of notable high street brands – H&M, Zara, Sephora, etc. This is one of the best places to go shopping in Athens.
The promenade has an interesting history behind it too. Ermou has been an Athenian retail hub for as long as the city has existed.
In 1834, it was little more than a dirt trail. However, when Athens became the capital of Greece following the country’s independence from the Ottomans, Ermou quickly grew into a shopping street.
At that time, it catered to the Athenian elite. Noble Greek ladies would come here by horse and carriage to buy elegant hats and dresses.
Wander to the Nearby Attractions
Syntagma’s central location means that it is just a short walk away from many of Athens’ main attractions. Anafiotika Plaka, the quaint streets of Thissio, the Ancient Agora, and the Acropolis can all be reached within less than 10 minutes walk from here.
Hang Out at Quirky Wine Bars
Several eclectic and quirky bars are located just a stone’s throw away from Athens’ Syntagma Square. Many of these spots are beloved by both locals and tourists alike.
Tazza All Day Bar is a fun place that is practically overflowing with locals whatever day or time you stop by. In some ways, stopping for drinks here is like attending the mad hatter’s tea party.
Here, you can enjoy cocktails served in eccentric teacups, and lampshades in various colours, shapes, and sizes hang from the ceiling and exteriors. Tazza All Day Bar (Pentelis 9 &, Petraki 5) is open for drinks, lunches, snacks, and dinners.
This is just one of a great many excellent bars in the area. Kiki de Grèce is another excellent option. This gorgeous little wine bar boasts an extensive wine menu showcasing wines from across Greece and the world.
Where to Stay in Syntagma Square
Syntagma Square’s central location makes the area a convenient place to base yourself during your time in Athens. Some of the city’s most reputable and luxurious hotels are situated here.
There are accommodation options in Syntagma to suit every budget and travel style.
King George, A Luxury Collection Hotel
The luxurious King George hotel is perched right on the corner of Syntagma Square. Once upon a time, this building was a separate annex of the Royal Palace.
All corners of the hotel exude opulence: from the ceiling chandeliers to the exquisite decor. King George is more reminiscent of staying at a chateau in Versailles than it is a hotel.
You can browse the latest room rates and availability here.
Arethusa Hotel is a three-star hotel situated just outside Athens’ Syntagma Square. The property offers affordable comfort in a convenient location just a short walk away from the city’s main attractions.
The award-winning hotel features a roof garden where guests can enjoy coffee or drinks as they admire the Parthenon. An American-style breakfast is served daily in the hotel restaurant.
Do you have any additional questions about Syntagma, Athens, or about planning your visit to Greece? I’ve been living in Pagrati, Athens since early 2017. I am happy to assist with any questions that you may have.
Feel free to drop me a comment via the comments box below. Safe travels!
Geia sou! Melissa xx