It is, together with Omonia Square, one of the two points of reference of the city. So, do not be surprised if you keep hearing the word Syntagma (which means Constitution), when you ask for directions in Athens. Plaka, the Acropolis, the Cathedral of Athens, the National Garden , the Byzantine church of Kapnikarea, Ermou Street ( one of the main commercial streets of the city), even Kolonaki Square, are all near Syntagma. The House of Parliament and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where the spectacular changing of the guard takes place every hour, are actually in it.
Syntagma Square is the centre of all activity. The buildings surrounding the square itself house hotels, Greek and foreign banks, ministries and airline offices. Some of the trendiest bars and night clubs, which are open only during wintertime, are to be found here too. The square never sleeps. In its kiosks, you will find all manner of things, ranging from aspirin to Greek souvenirs, as well as the major foreign newspapers and magazines.
It overlooks Syntagma Square and was originally built as a palace for King Otto, the first King of Greece and Queen Amalia.
Its construction took six years, from 1836 - 1842. The second King of Greece, King Georgios, also lived in this palace. But during his reign two serious fires destroyed the building to the extend that it was judged unfit for royal occupation. It was 1924 that the government decided to house the Greek Parliament in the building.
Renovation work finished in 1934. The interior of the building was redesigned by the architect A. Kriezis. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, in the front of the building, was built in 1929 - 1930.
This monument where Greek officials and visiting dignitaries lay wreaths on major holidays, is guarded day and night by a pair of elite soldiers called Evzones. The changing of the guard every hour offers onlookers a very spectacular event. You can visit the Parliament House, which keeps precious national treasures like the First Greek Constitution and many valuable paintings. Also worth visiting is the Parliament's large library.
One of the things you must do when you are in Athens is have a cup of coffee in one of the coffee shops in Kolonaki Square. To have spent a few hours eating, drinking and just chatting in one of this square's coffee shops, is a prerequisite for trendy Athenians and foreign visitors alike. Kolonaki also offers some of the best shopping in town, some of the best organised and biggest kiosks (periptera) in the city and some very interesting walks around its busy streets.
This is the square that prides itself in being "open" 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Unlike Syntagma, which acquired the habit of late nightlife in recent years, Omonia has remained wide awake for as far back as Athenians can remember. It has been going on for so long that by now it has become a tradition. On Saturday nights Athenians buy their Sunday papers from the square's stands and kiosks, before going home to sleep.
Omonia Is the oldest central square of the modern city of Athens. One cannot claim to have been to the Greek capital if one has not visited Omonia even once, to get a glimpse of its life, its crowds and its ...noise. Today you will find all the major fast food shops here too and all the foreign press you may care to buy in the square's kiosks. Stadiou, Patision, Panepistimiou, Tritis Septemvriou, Piraeos, Athenas and Ayiou Konstantinou Streets end in or start from Omonia. When you decide to go to or leave Omonia, do not forget the railway. You will find the station right under the Square, and it is the quickest means of transport.
This is the main square in Monastiraki, the heart and soul of this seemingly eternal bazaar. This is the place where you can find everything, quite literally. You will often hear Athenians, who are looking for some rare object or antique, say: "I shall surely find it in Monastiraki". In its shops one can find rare antique pieces of furniture and very nice copies of antiques, as well as all kinds of second-hand objects. Old wardrobes, bookcases, picture frames, mirrors, roll-top cabinets, tables, gramophone records, musical instruments.
If you intend to buy you had better come early in the morning, but if you only want to look around, noon is a better time. You can sit for a glass Of Greek wine or ouzo accompanied by a Greek dish or mezedes, in one of the square's little wine-bars and watch the goings on in the bazaar.