A central fashionable and popular area in Athens today is Syntagma Square which is an area that lies just below the area where the Old Royal Palace was. There are many important buildings, samples of architecture and parks created just before or during the Greek nationalization period. Syntagma Square means Constitution Square and it was named in honor of the constitution granted by Othon the first on September 3rd 1843.
Parliament Sits in the Old Royal Palace
Since 1935 the Old Royal Palace has housed parliament was once designed by King Othon, and was used as his residence. The building was designed by the Bavarian architect Friedrich Garther and finished in 1842.
You will notice as you walk into the Old Palace that there is a large square surrounded on three sides by large walls, this was done in honor of the ancient custom where the victors hung their shields in the temple. These shields are joined by the names of the victories won by the Hellenistic population since the National Independence. In the center of the square is a retaining wall which is also the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The relieve was done by the sculptors Constantinos Demetriades and Phokion Rok and unveiled on September 3rd 1843.
Further south you will see the Leophoros Amalias which was named after King Othon’s consort who established the retreat that adjoins the palace. Today we know this area as the National garden which opens every day from sunrise to sunset and the shade offered by the various trees offers a peaceful oasis within the city.
To the east of the Garden you will see the busts of Kapodistrias and Jean Gabriel Eynard. This Swiss man donated a large amount of money to helping the Greeks gain their independence. The sculptor of the busts was Ioannis Kossos a Pelopennesian. You will also note other busts of Greek 19th century poets, Dionysius Solomos, Aristotle Valaoritis, and Jean Moreas.
Important Athens Parks in the Area
Next to the National garden sits a large park called Zappeion and this is named after the brothers Evangelos and Constantinos Zappas of Epirus. These two gentlemen donated the exhibition hall to the nation. You will see their statues sitting on either side of the entrance. You can see many statues by famous sculptors like that of the one of Ioannis Varvakis sculpted by Leonidas Drossis. Varvakis was the founder of a very well known boys school called the Lykeion Varvakeion.
Leaving Syntagma Square, you will see Panepistimiou avenue which was inspired by teh italian renaisscance. This is now the Numismatic Museum that contains a nice collection of Greek, Roman and Byzantine coins, jewelry, and seals. This building was constructed by teh architect Erst Ziller in 1878 and at one time was the residence of Archaeologist Henry Schliemann.
If you continue on this side of the street you will see a five story building on the corner, intersecting with Odhos Omirou. This is where the Archaeological society sits. The building is made entirely of marble and made in a classical style. This society was founded in 1837 and now has excavation sites all over the country.
Next to the Archaeological Society you cant help but notice the Roman Catholic Cathedral. This cathedral was started in 1853 and finished in 1887. It was dedicated to St. Dionysius Areopagite and is a three naved basilica. The designer was Leo Von Kleze, a Bavarian Court architect who had big plans for modern Athens.
Additional Article: Athens Syntagma Square – Athens City Center