A walking route you can do on your own:
Syntagma Square, in front of the Parliament House, is the main square in Athens. It’s also known as Constitution Square and around this area you’ll find the banks, airline offices, shopping centres and malls, restaurants and hotels.
This is a good starting point for a walking tour of the city, something that you can easily do on your own with the help of a street map.
We came here in search of the American Express exchange office, which we recalled as being a little office in Ermou Street off the main square. However, as the area had been totally overhauled for the Olympics, what we recollected was outdated information. The moral of the story is if you need to get to an American Express office, or any other place in particular, always check the latest address before you leave. We asked quite a few of the locals before someone was able to point us to the new location.
Catch the changing of the Guards Ceremony
In front of the Parliament House is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is watched over by two special guards called evzones and each hour on the hour, a changing of the guards ceremony takes place. This is quite an impressive ceremony and a great photo-opportunity.
The guards in their traditional uniforms (apparently there are some 400 pleats in the kilt-like skirt) and pom-pom shoes look extremely smart. In the heat of the midday sun, it must be unbearably hot in the heavy outfit, and yet these guys look very together. When taking your snaps, be careful not to get in the way of the guards as they high-kick their way away from the tomb at the end of the changeover. They will not veer from their path and you won’t want to risk a nasty kick!
Across from Syntagma is the Grande Bretagne Hotel. This grand and luxurious hotel was established in 1862 and its guests usually include foreign dignataries and the more upmarket travellers.
Behind the Parliament House is the National Gardens which we didn’t call into as we wanted to complete our walk circuit. Walking down El. Venizelou Street, you’ll see some magnificent and grand neoclassical buildings like the Academy of Arts, University and National Library. The university students are very fortunately to have their university smack in the middle of town and surrounded by other historic institutions.
Finish off your walk in the maze of shops at Monastiraki
At the end of Venizelou Street is Omonia Square and if you head southwards, you’ll be walking in the direction of Monastiraki. This is the most picturesque area of Athens with its flea market and streets that are packed with all kinds of shops. Once you hit this area, you’ll probably lose yourself in the maze of shops. And if you’re in the market for some genuine, hand-crafted sandals, the Melissinos Sandal Shop is nearby at 2 Aghias Theklas Street.