Syntagma Square (Greek: Πλατεία Συντάγματος, pronounced [platia sindaɣmatos], “Constitution Square”) is the central square of Athens. The square is named after the Constitution that Otto, the first King of Greece, was forced to grant after a popular and military uprising on 3 September 1843. It is located in front of the 19th century Old Royal Palace, housing the Greek Parliament since 1934 Syntagma Square is the most important square of modern Athens from both historical and social point of view, at the heart of commercial activity and Greek politics. The name Syntagma (Greek: Σύνταγμα) alone also refers to the neighborhood surrounding the square.
The square is bordered by Amalia Avenue to the east, Otto Street to the south and King George I Street to the north. The street bordering the square to the west, connecting Stadiou Street with Fillelinon Street, is simply named “Syntagma Square”. The eastern side of the square is higher than the western, and dominated by a set of marble steps leading to Amalias Avenue; beneath these lies the Syntagma metro station. The stairs emerge below the pair of outdoor cafes, and are a popular city-center gathering place. Syntagma also includes two green areas to the north and south, planted with shade trees, while in the center of the square there is a large mid-19th century water fountain.
The Old Royal Palace neoclassical building, housing the Greek Parliament since 1934, is immediately across Amalias Avenue to the east, and surrounded by the extensive National Gardens, which are open to the public; the Parliament itself is not open to the public, even when not in session. Every hour, the changing of the guard ceremony, performed by the Presidential Guard, is conducted in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the area between the Syntagma Square and Parliament building. On certain days, a ceremonial changing of the guard occurs with an army band and the majority of the 120 Evzones present at 11 am.
The Square was designed and constructed in the early 19th century, shortly after King Otto moved the capital of the newly-born Greek Kingdom from Nafplio to Athens in 1834. It was designed as one of the two central squares of modern Athens, situated to what were the eastern boundaries of the city. The second square was Omonoia Square, to the north of the city. Even though King Otto’s Royal Palace was first planned to be erected on Omonia Square, the location overlooking the eastern square was considered a better option. Thus, the square’s first name was “Palace Square”. Work for the construction of the Old Palace to the north of the Square, started in 1836 and lasted until 1843.
Soldiers under Dimitrios Kallergis gathered in front of the Palace and asked for the granting of constitution. King Otto was then forced to grant the first Constitution of Greece. In memory of the event, the Palace square was renamed to Constitution Square or Syntagma Square in Greek.
Between 2010 and 2012, the Square was the site of mass protests, including an occupation of the square with tents and other provisions due to the worsening economic situation during the Greek government-debt crisis. Some of the demonstrations amassed crowds of the order of 10,000 people, according to police reports; or 50,000 according to other sources. Since the inception of the “Unity Government”, the occupation has been removed from the Square and demonstrations are less frequent.