One of the highlights of the Greek capital, the Parliament Building features in most Athens city tours, whether on foot, by bike or e-bike, Segway, or car. Dramatically lit after sunset, the building is a stop on many night tours and photo tours, as well. Travelers of all ages enjoy watching the hourly spectacle of the Changing of the Guard by kilted soldiers from the evzones (presidential guard), so family-friendly tours often make a point to take it in.
The Parliament Building (Vouli) was completed in 1842 as the royal residence of Otto, the first king of the newly independent Greece. The vast and rather severe Neoclassical palace, designed by German architect Friedrich von Gärtner, was badly damaged by a fire in 1909, when the royal family decamped to the Crown Prince’s Palace nearby. It was not until 1932, eight years after the abolition of the Greek monarchy in 1924, that Parliament moved into Von Gärtner’s splendid building, from where its 300 representatives, elected for four years, have directed the country ever since.
Things to know before you go
- The hourly changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is fun to watch for adults and children alike, so be sure to stop by if visiting Athens with family.
- There is no shade outside the building, so wear a hat and sunscreen if pausing to watch the ceremony.
- The library inside is open to the public; other areas of the Parliament Building can be viewed via a guided tour. The tour is free of charge and must be booked at least five days in advance via the Parliament Building website.
- Syntagma Square outside the Parliament building is one of the most important in the city, and is ringed by restaurants and cafés for a snack or meal.
How to get there
The Parliament Building (Vouli) sits on Athen’s main Syntagma Square in the heart of the city, and can be reached via metro lines 2 and 3 (Syntagma stop). Alternatively, the building and square are an easy walk from many of the city’s main sights.
When to get there
By far the biggest draw at the Parliament Building is the changing of the guard outside the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which happens every hour, on the hour. Arrive a few minutes in advance, especially during the peak hours of midday, to snag a spot at the front of the crowd for an unobstructed view.
Athens’ Changing of the Guard
Greek’s monumental Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, located outside of the Parliament Building, was inaugurated on Greek National Day (March 25, 1932), the centenary of independence from Turkey. At the top of each hour, throngs of tourists gather to witness the theatrical Changing of the Guard by presidential guards (evzones) kitted out in a fustanella kilt and pom-pom shoes, a uniform inspired by the clothing worn by the mountain fighters during the War of Independence. A more elaborate ceremony, with a marching band and platoon parade down Vasilissis Sofias to the tomb, is held every Sunday at 11am.
- Syntagma Square (Plateia Syntagmatos)
- Syntagma Station
- Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (Mnemeíon Agnostou Stratiotou)
- Ghika Gallery (Pinakothiki Ghika)
- Numismatic Museum of Athens
- National History Museum (Ethnikó Istorikó Mouseío)
- Frissiras Museum
- Kolonaki Square (Plateia Kolonaki)
- Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens (Mitropoli)
- National Gardens of Athens (Ethnikos Kipos)
- Benaki Museum
- Dora Stratou Greek Dances Theater
- Academy of Athens (Akadimía Athinón)
- Church of Panagia Kapnikarea