It was a grey cold day at the Syntagma square, but still, as every day at 11AM, the changing guard of the Parliament building went on.
This ceremony is 24 times daily but the main one takes place each Sunday at 11 am.
If you go on Sunday, make sure to be there early , cause its gets crowdie . Even though I made some photos (as everybody else) I didn’t make a video of it, and it’s a bit shame,,,
So its my small advice to you: its look better on a video then in stills.
The changing of the guard is a very popular thing to watch and i like it too because i think the guards look real funny.
I´m aware that it´s a great honor to guard the parlament building, but they do look a bit odd if you ask me.
Especially their shoes that looks like giant slippers.
It´s all taken very serious though and you better not laugh at them as these guys are huge and the clothes they is wearing is traditional greek clothing.
The changing of the guard happens every hour on the hour, so there is a good chance to catch that when you are in town.
Although the guards change hourly, there is a big ceremony once a week. These ceremonial guards, the Evzones, stand motionless at the tomb of their Unknown Soldier. They are volunteers—Getting into this unit is an honor, and they have to be over 6 ft. tall. They wear white tights, a white skirt, a white blouse with very full sleeves, an embroidered vest, red cap, and shoes with big pom-poms. The uniform is based on the clothing of the Klephts, mountain fighters who fought the Turks from the 15th Century until Greek independence in the 19th Century.
The two guards stand inside small guardhouses. Just before the ceremony they step outside it, and soldiers in regular uniforms tidy them up. We watched a guy smooth out the tassels on the guard’s sash so each thread laid flat.
At the appointed time a military band comes down the street, followed by dozens of these guards. After they reach the paved area in front of parliament, there is a lot of marching around, presenting arms, etc. Eventually, the two replacement guards go up the few steps to the booths and the other two leave.
These four guys do what looks like a ballet—They move in controlled slow motion, in perfect sync, first dragging their foot backward, then raising that leg out straight before taking each step. It takes them a while to go anywhere! Eventually the two new guards are in place, and everyone else marches off.
Sunday, 10:30 a.m. (Best view—as you face the building, go to the left side)
Head for Syntagma Square to witness this ceremony.
The two guards guarding the front of the Parliament building are replaced every hour, and you see them shout out their orders in Greek, shuffle their rifles, and head off, leaving two fresh guards in place.
They wear really quirky pom-poms on their shoes. It looks so cute and it's funny to think such tough, armed men have to wear such comical shoes.
Traditionally, men from a certain part of Grrece are chosen for this duty, and the dress is representative of that place.
We walked up to see the tomb of the unknown soilders, and suddenly we were witnessing the changing of the guards, it's a simple cermony and it last about 10 minutes. If your there and it happens stick around, but it's not worth making a special trip for this.
What are they wearing? The kilt like uniform is called a fustanella and it is part of the historic Evzones or sharp shooters of the light infantry of 1833. In 1868, one of the infantry units became Royal Guards. Today, referred to as the Proedriki Froura or Presidential Guard that stand duty at the Presidential Mansion, the Greek Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Hellenic Parliament. This elite ceremonial unit have the tallest of members with the average height of 6'3'' tall. They wear more than one outfit but the one guarding the Presidential Mansion that I have the photo of is wearing the modernised mainland summer service uniform. The others are Cretan and Pontic (ceremonial), Macedonian for winter service and traditional mainland dress. They do respond, so respect the guard.
Due to a rehearsal for the Queen's birthday, we didn't see any changing of the guard in London, but we made up for it in Athens, and I'm sure this made up for it, as it was quite a ceremony. We did not see the big ceremonial changing on Sunday, but this was still fascinating to watch.
We arrived in front of the Parliament building not even knowing when or what was going to happen, just in time to see two guards at perfect attention at their booths and LOTS of pidgeons all over the front steps. People were posing with the guards for pictures, but beware not to get too close, as there were those who decided to get a bit fresh and a loose military man was quick to jump up there and straighten them up, and not gently! My daughter thought the pompoms were a little odd, but she found the guards very intimidating and had a hard time getting herself up there to be photographed. She did it just in time, though, as just after, the guards began their changing procession. Really something to see.
In the state capital, Athens, members of the elite Evzones light infantry unit, provide a 24-hour honor guard, with an hourly guard change, at the Presidential Mansion and at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, off Syntagma Square at the foot of the Hellenic Parliament. The changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in particular has become a tourist attraction, with many people marvelling at the guards, who stand motionless for their entire shifts. Every Sunday at 11:00 a ceremonial change of guards takes place. A parade of Evzones and a military band starts from the camp of the Evzones (just behind the Parliament Building) and through Vasilissis Sofias Avenue, reaches the Tomb of the Unknown soldier where a ceremonial change of guards takes place. On this occasion all the three official uniforms of the Evzones can be seen. For the needs of the ceremonial change of guard, Vasilissis Sofias Avenue and Amalias Avenue are briefly closed to traffic from approximately 10:55 to 11:05 on Sunday mornings.
YOU MAY POSE WITH THE GAURDS FOR A PHOTO BUT NO TOUCHING!
So I went to the Syntagma square to watch the changing of the gaurd. I waited for a good 20 minutes for the clock to strike, I negotiated through the crowd, which obstructed much of the view. I watched the gaurds walk across to the other side, and I thought to myself 'did I really come out here for this'? Maybe I was still grumpy from the ticket I got while trying to use the metro (see my transportation tips as well as warning danger tips for info on that story) If your a completist come on down for dinner and a show, if your pressed for time, spend it elsewhere. Unless you enjoy seeing men with tassles on their shoes walking funny.
At the area between syntagma square and parliament lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was built in 1932 and there are always 2 guards (called Evzones of the Presidential Guard) on a 24 hour basis. They change through a small guard ceremony every hour but its better to watch it on Sunday at 11 o’clock in the morning when an army band is there and more than 120 guards parade. These guards are an elite ceremonial unit that also guard the Presidential Mansion (not far from the parliament on Herodes Atticus Street) and they are chosen for their height and strength. They also do the official raising of the flag every Sunday at the Acropolis.
What’s more the guards use to be the photo models for the tourists that want to capture their traditional uniform, which has evolved from the outfits worn by the warriors who fought the ottoman turks. Their kilt-like garment ‘fustanela’ is really funny…
Outside the tomb of the unknown soldier, in front of the parliament building, stands members of the presidential guards. Their costumes are so interesting and they stand completely still with the utmost military bearing. They change posts every hour, but the most spectacular one is at 1100 on Sunday. There is almost a huge parade with the band and marching soldiers. The soldiers trade out posts with so much skill and precision. It is really a spectacular show. I was there in the begining of May and there was a good amount of people there, so get there early. Many of us waited around the area, but the guards moved us out of the way of the "parade". Make sure you atleast get on the same side of the street at the ceremony, as I saw many people left on the other side of the street with a not-so-good view. If you keep on your toes you can get a good view.
Everyday on the hour for 24 hours a day, you can watch the ceremonial changing of guards at the Presidential Palace in front of Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The guards or Evzones are dressed in their white kilts and red clogs, but I saw the ones in khaki uniforms. The Evzones will stand at their post without budging and tourists love to take a picture beside them. It is regarded as a high honor to be selected as an Evzone. They are selected based on their physical attributes (e.g must be at least 185cm) and specially trained.
Two Evzones will stand guard at one time, and when their replacement arrives, they will perform this choreographed march between the changing guards which is quite entertaining.
Don't try touch them when they guard or else you will get a sound warning or worse.
This is likely one of the most touristy things to do, but the changing of the guard is actually quite fun. Syndagma Square and the area in front of Parliament is swamped with pigeons and tourists, so it can be a bit odd to suddenly see a few soldiers start marching. Even better is if you are walking along Leof Vassilis Sofias, say by the Benaki Museum towards Syndagma, and suddenly you see a ground of six soldiers marching down the street among businesspeople and shoppers.
If you find it to crowded and you can´t get a good shot of the whole spectacle on the main square before the Parliament building go to the back corner of the National Gardens at the crossing of the streets Vasilis Sofias and Irodou Attikou (this one leads to the old Panathinaiko-Stadium).
Here there is another official building with one guard at the entrance and they change as well at every full hour and you are very close to it.
Always worth a look...and from the busloads of crowds and tourists, everyone else agrees.
Truthfully the first thing I came for and see in Athens....simply because it was evening by the time I got out of my hotel.
It's not that difficult to locate the Greek Parliament House (formerly the Royal Palace), as it was sited in busy Syndagma and is just across Amalias Avenue to the East, and is surrounded by the extensive National Gardens, which are open to the public. Every hour, the Changing of the Guard ceremony, performed by the Presidential Guards, is conducted in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on the area between Syndagma Square and the Parliament House. Built during 1836-42, the facade of this grand building is also worth a look for its architectural beauty.
The exchanging of the guards takes place all day, every hour on the hour and lasts about 7-8 minutes so if you miss one, don't fret, stick around and the next ceremony isn't far away. On Sundays and official holidays, a more elaborate ceremonial changing of the guard takes place with an army band and the majority of the 120 Evzones present at 11am.
The guards are called evzones (as they are traditionally from the village of Evzoni in Macedonia) and their (to me, rather amusing) attire is based on the klephts, mountain fighters who fought valiantly for Greece's War of Independence.
So for 7-8 minutes, amuse yourself as the soldiers creak and clank themselves into position with rather exaggerrated steps and jerky manueveres. Not all too bad a way to orientate yourself into Athens!