During our stay in the capital, Syntagma Square is always on our route – and is always our point of reference. The numbering of the city’s streets (with the even numbers always on the right), and the distance in kilometers to any other point in the country also start from here. Since 1932, Syntagma has been the home of the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, with inscriptions from Pericles’ Funeral Oration (via Thucydides) as well as the names of the sites of major battles fought by the Greek forces during four great wars: The Balkan Wars, the two World Wars and the Asia Minor Campaign.
The upper side of Syntagma, on what is called Boubounistra Hill, was selected as the site for King Otto’s Palace following a proposal by Friedrich von Gärtner, architect to the Bavarian court. This small hill, cool and safe, faces the Acropolis and the other hilltops of Athens and was considered the most appropriate location for the home of the young nation’s first king. Following its construction, Queen Amalia oversaw the creation of the Royal Gardens (now the National Park) just behind the Palace.
On this square unfolded the nation’s history
On September 3rd, 1843 in the open courtyard in front of the Palace (it only became a public square after 1870), Ioannis Makryiannis, the army and a mass of citizens gathered to demand that King Otto accept the creation of a constitution – which signaled Greece’s transformation into a Constitutional Monarchy, hence the later renaming of the site as “Constitution Square” (“Syntagma” in Greek).In November 1929, it was decided to move the Parliament and Senate into the Royal Palace. The transformation of the Palace into a Parliament building, with all the necessary reconfigurations and changes, was done according to plans by the architect Andreas Kriezis and took six years to complete, with the official inauguration taking place in 1935.
On this Square, from the balcony of the Pallis Mansion at the corner of Karageorgis Servias Street on 18 October 1944, the Prime Minister of Greece, George Papandreou, declared the country’s liberation. Two months later, one of the darkest chapters in the nation’s modern history unfolded on the same spot with the events later referred to as the “Dekemvriana” in which dozens of demonstrators were killed.
While appearances change, traditions remain
Greeks have always gathered at Syntagma Square – and still do so today – whenever they want to draw attention to their causes or demands, with marches, parades and mass demonstrations. Greece’s two major organized processions, the student parade on the 28th of October and the military parade on the 25th of March, both pass through the Square, while the leaders of the nation’s largest political parties regularly use the Square for their speeches and pre-election rallies. Hundreds of pigeons also gather here, especially in front of the Parliament building, where, on some genetic or instinctual level, they know that they will be fed by a steady stream of passing tourists and residents alike. And here you absolutely must stop to observe the changing of the Presidential Guard in front of the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Shopping for gifts is an inseparable part of travelling. Before leaving a place, almost every tourist goes looking for special gifts or souvenirs for themselves and their loved ones. Both the centre of Athens and its suburbs offer nearly limitless opportunities to find all kinds of gifts – edibles, jewelry, clothes, accessories and items both decorative and useful for the home.
The Varvakeios Market for traditional foods – ouzo, tsipouro (raki), traditional cheeses, mastic, legumes from the smaller islands of the Cyclades, “loukoumi” (Greek delights) from Syros, herbs and spices, olive oil and honey from Crete. The gastronomy of Greece is rich and diverse, and its native products are among the most highly sought-after in the world. The Varvakeios Market is the ideal place to stock up on these specialties.
Voukourestiou Street and Plaka for the best in jewelry. Dozens of Greek designers working in gold and silver create extraordinary jewelry, real works of art which compete in beauty and price with the finest jewelers in Europe. Take a look; compare – and you will agree.
Kolonaki, Ermou, Syntagma Square, Kifissia and Glyfada for clothes and accessories – for every taste, age and budget. Famous fashion houses, Greek and foreign designers, department stores and boutiques that import and sell famous brand names – as well as small and unknown (but fantastic) shops selling unique items – you stumble across them at every turn, tempting, inviting and almost impossible to resist.
Plaka and Monastiraki for souvenirs made in Greece. Clothes, bags, cups, plates, paintings, rugs, key-chains, scarves – anything you can imagine, useful or decorative – all bearing the “Made in Greece” stamp to remind you and your friends of your stay here.
Museums for exceptional reproductions, books and more. The Acropolis Museum - The Benaki Museum - The Museum of Cycladic Art - The Byzantine Museum - The National Archaeological Museum - are just a few of the dozens of fine museums in Athens whose gift shops offer a wealth of choices of the highest aesthetic quality and a wide range of prices. Amazing items for friends, relatives and… yourselves!
The Mall for everything! At - City Link for signature items from major Greek and foreign fashion designers. At Attica department stores - in the centre at City link, Golden Hall and at The Mall Athens – for brand names in cosmetics to clothes and accessories for every taste. At Golden Hall - with 131 domestic and foreign outlets, easy access and parking and a pleasant atmosphere. At The Mall Athens and at Athens Metro Mall with 200 shops at the first and 100 shops in the second, with year-round sales and guaranteed parking. At Factory Outlet at Smart Park and at McArthur Glen Designer Outlet Athens for ongoing sales in a vast shopping space with everything you can imagine for men, women, children and for the home.
Athens has many safe and sandy beaches, with shallow, clear waters for both morning and evening swims. In the heat of August, give it a try and stay cool!
The hospitable waters of Attica
Attica is truly blessed: fully two thirds of its long coastline boast terrific clean waters and safe, sandy beaches – offering countless opportunities for cool, refreshing fun. At the height of summer, Attica’s welcoming waters are an oasis of relaxation. Since most of the capital’s residents are away on vacation, getting around is quick and easy, while distances within the city or to the beach seem hardly anything at all. And the beaches, whether organized or not, are unexpectedly quiet and enjoyable, without the crowds of early summer, and with superb service and clean beach lounge chairs and umbrellas.
Some of the many great options
From Glyfada to Sounion there are dozens of beaches with wonderful sand and blue flags:
Legraina, Thimari, Harakas, the beach by the famous “ΚΑΠΕ” sign (Centre for Renewable Resources), Limanakia, Aghia Marina, Kavouri and Mavro Lithari – not to mention the beaches around Sounion and Lavrion a little further away. These are just some of the reliable, favourite choices along Attica’s southern coast. To the north, the red and blue harbors of Rafina, Mati, Aghios Andreas, Marathon with its dozens of beaches, Grammatiko and Sesi – these beaches are generally frequented by residents of Athens’ northern suburbs – but also attract a wider following as well. To the east, the beaches of Kakia Thalassa, Erotospilia in Porto Rafti and Aghios Spiridonas are peaceful and welcoming even on an August weekend. And for those willing to travel a bit further to the Corinthian Gulf, Psatha and the small family beaches of Porto Germenos more than compensate for the extra time and distance.
August’s full moon is simply majestic. From a scientific standpoint, the main effect of the full moon are the strong tides which occur every six hours - caused by the gravitational attraction between the earth and moon. The effect of the full moon on humans, however, goes beyond the scientific and involves feeling, emotions and moods. The light of the full moon illuminates and dramatizes our nights and awakens both romance and desire.
The colour of the full moon in August
The unique thing about August’s full moon is the special colour it takes just after rising and just before setting – a phenomenon linked to its height above the horizon. At these times, the moon owes its special hue to a function of the eye, which makes its azure colour appear to us as red or crimson. And if the atmosphere is especially loaded with solid particles, the colour becomes even more intense and the moon even more majestic.
Enjoy this full moon from an archaeological site
The Acropolis, the hills of Philopappos and Lykabettos, the area around the Observatory in Thissio and the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion are five exceptional places in and near Athens where you can enjoy the full moon of August. But if you would prefer not to share this spectacle with many others, you can stand in one of the winding alleys of Anafiotika and simply look up. Somewhere between the tiny old houses you will see the moon glowing brightly in the nighttime sky.
…and from the rooftop of the Athenaeum InterContinental Athens
After your stroll and before the full moon sets – or before your stroll while the moon is rising, secure a seat at the bar or restaurant of the Première. With the Parthenon directly across from you, the moon seemingly close enough to touch and a wealth of delicious food and drinks at your command – here you will enjoy the most beautiful full moon of your life.