Athens: Places to Explore

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Syntagma Square to Kolonaki

From the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to Queen Amalia's National Garden, to the top of Mt. Lycabettus (three times the height of the Acropolis), this center-city sector is packed with marvels and wonders. Sooner or later, everyone passes through its heart, the spacious Syntagma Square (Constitution Square), which is surrounded by sights that span Athens's history from the days of the Roman emperors to King Otho's reign after the 1821 War of Independence. Some may have likened his palace (now the Parliament) to a barracks but they shouldn't complain: it was paid for by Otho's father, King Ludwig I of Bavaria, who luckily vetoed the plans for a royal residence atop the Acropolis itself, using one end of the Parthenon as the entrance and blowing up the rest. The palace was finished just in time for Otho to grant the constitution of 1843, which gave the name to the square. Neighboring Kolonaki—the chic shopping district and one of the most fashionable residential areas—occupies the lower slopes of Mt. Lycabettus. Besides visiting its several museums, you can spend time window-shopping and people-watching, since cafés are busy from early morning to dawn. Nursing a single coffee for hours remains not only socially acceptable—but a vital survival tactic in frequently stressful modern Greek life.

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