Syntagma Square is most notoriously known for its political demonstrations in front of the Parliament Building. All the major events in Greece over the past century have been mourned or celebrated here, and it's a hub of activity. Grassy areas around the square make an ideal place to sit back and people watch.
Stick around for the changing of the guards -- the (somewhat absurd) performance is worth it.
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Lovers Meet in Syntagma Square
Linger in Syntagma Square with a frappe to watch couples rendezvous. This is the point for lovers greeting and leaving, embracing at the entrance of the metro, bound for places unknown. When spending my first hot, exciting summer away from home, Syntagma Square was the axis of my time in Athens. I would head to the square to have a morning frappe. I would lounge in the square, watching the young hipsters sulk and flirt. I would wait for friends in the square, the start of evenings out in the Plaka.
Syntagma square has a duo personality; it is both the commercial centre of the city and centre for many of the protest. As a tourist there are many reasons you might want to check it out, tourist sites, shopping, and some of the best hotels in the city are located here. It is also one of the central transportation hubs for the metro, buses and tram. The problem is, all of this stops every time there is a protest.
Shopping wise Syntagma square marks the beginning of Ermou Street, a pedestrian mall with many shops both local and international. Syntagma square is also home to one of the fanciest hotels in all of Athens, the Grande Bretagne. Finally Syntagma is home to the parliament buildings, every hour on the hour the guard change is really worth seeing.
The parliament is also the reason Syntagma can occasionally be a no go zone for tourists. If you've watched the news and seen the intense protest in Athens, chances are it took place here. There are regular protests here, and even though most don't get violent, it's a good idea to stay away during a protest, just in case. Check with your hotel if you plan on visiting the square, and if you happen to stumble in, keep an eye open. If you see a protest, turn around and make alternate plans, these protests can be dangerous and not worth a snapshot.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, located in Syntagma Square immediately in front of the Greek Parliament, is guarded 24 hours a day by Greek troops dressed in traditional garb. While their attire might not be the most intimidating to the modern observer, these guys, an elite military unit known as Evzones, mean business.
While there's a daily changing of the guard (every hour on the hour), there's also a larger event on Sundays at 11 a.m.—the Grand Change—that involves a march from the barracks to the Tomb, as well as a military marching band.
Changing of the Guard: Evzones in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Every Sunday morning at 11 am, people gather in Syntagma Square to watch the official changing of the guards, the military unit whose members stand proudly in perfect stillness in front of the Hellenic Parliament. There are of course changings every hour in the day, but on Sundays it is the official ceremony with the official costums. The Evzones is a special unit of the Hellenic Army, also known as Tsoliades, who guard the Monument of the Unknown Soldier in front of the Hellenic Parliament and the Presidential Mansion. Through the historical movement of Greece, the Evzones have become symbols of bravery and courage for the Greek people. The Presidential Guard, as the unit is now called, was constituted in 1868 and has taken many names through centuries (Guard of the Flag, Royal Guard, etc). Source: www.greeka.com
If you're looking for the classic Greek sweet treat, the first place you should check out is a bakery. There are thousands of bakeries in Athens all with different levels of quality and selection. The best way to pick a great bakery is to first check the window, and secondly check behind the counter. If you find a window full of tasty treats and people in the back actually baking, you're in for a fine treat. Constantinides is a great bakery chain that never disappoints, with many locations all over Athens.
Your next best bet for a great sweet treat is to sample some of the local chocolate. The problem you'll find in Athens is finding a truly Greek chocolate shop. Most chocolate shops make chocolates in the styles of Belgian chocolatiers. This isn't a bad thing most of the time, but it isn't a true Greek experience. Max Perry, a local chain of chocolate shops has a decidedly more Greek approach to their chocolates, often blending with Greek cookies and fillings, much like the baked goods found at many of the bakeries.
While Athens itself doesn't really have one particular sweet treat to call its own, many bakeries do sell some of the specialties from other regions in Greece. The Trigona from Thessaloniki is great, and Farsala Halvas, from Farsala is really unique. There are also some great seasonal treats like the Christmas cookies, and chocolate covered Easter bread that are well worth trying.