From the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to Queen Amalia's National Garden, to the top of Mt. Lycabettus, to a cluster of top museums, this center-city sector is packed with cultural marvels and wonders of old. Paradoxically, in crisis-hit Athens it has also blossomed into a newly stylish and popular hangout for coffee, dinner, and drinks. Sooner or later, everyone passes through the capital's heart, the spacious Syntagma (Constitution) Square, which is surrounded by remnants of Athens's history from the days of the Roman emperors to King Otto's reign after the 1821 War of Independence. Some may have likened his palace (now the Parliament) to a barracks, but things could have been much worse: Otto's father, King Ludwig I of Bavaria, vetoed plans for a royal residence atop the Acropolis itself, a plan that would have used one end of the Parthenon as the entrance and blown up the rest. The palace was finished just in time for Otto to grant the constitution of 1843, which gave the square its name. Besides culture-hopping, you can spend time window-shopping and people-watching; 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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