First-Time Visitors To Athens Should Consider Staying In Syntagma Square

If you're a first-time visitor to the Greek capital of Athens, you're assuredly going to visit the Acropolis ruins, making sure to get a selfie in front of the Parthenon. You'll also probably walk by Hadrian's Arch on your way to the Temple of Olympian Zeus. There's one great neighborhood smack-dab in the middle of these tourist attractions that offers visitors a glimpse at old and new Athens.

The area around Syntagma Square and the neighborhood of Plaka are all within a 20-minute walk of the most popular destinations in Athens and are excellent bases for your travels in the city. Syntagma Square in particular is great because it's a hub for local transit. There are numerous subway and bus lines surrounding the square. The neighborhoods are also packed with plenty of hotels to choose from, plus a slew of highly-rated restaurants, niche galleries like the Museum of Greek Children's Art, and all types of shops.

The historic Syntagma Square

Syntagma Square (also known as Constitution Square) is located in the heart of Athens and is a significant historical area, perhaps in part to its unique place in history. It was here in 1843 that Athens citizens first Athenians demanded a new constitution, rebuking the rule of King Otto.

While the square itself is historically and culturally significant, so too are the surrounding buildings. One is the Hellenic Parliament, which was completed in 1842 as the Royal Palace for King Otto. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier sits in front of the Parliament and is continuously watched over by presidential guards.

Another building surrounding Syntagma Square is the 5-star Hotel Grande Bretagne. Coincidentally, this building was also completed in 1842, though it wasn't transformed into a hotel until 1874. Grande Bretagne surely makes a luxurious stay in the capital city. A less expensive 5-star hotel, the King George, is right next door.

Plaka, the gateway to Acropolis

On your way from Syntagma Square to the Acropolis, you'll walk through Plaka. The neighborhood is quieter than the bustling square, and features narrow winding streets with caf├ęs, hotels, and shops tucked into the historic buildings.

Known as the "Neighborhood of the Gods" due to its proximity to Acropolis, Plaka also has many pedestrian-only streets, says the Greek Reporter, allowing visitors to take their time on the cobblestone streets to imagine what Athens must have been like 2,000-plus years ago. The area has been continuously inhabited since the days of ancient Greece and it's the city's oldest active neighborhood. It also has Adrianou and Tripodon streets, the oldest in Athens still in use. In fact, the layout of the parallel-running streets is exactly how it was in ancient times. Plaka also has a number of ancient churches, many below street level, that date all the way back to the 11th century.