Bordering the east side of Athens’ focal Syntagma Square, the Parliament Building 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 was designed by German architect Friedrich von Gärtner but 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. The Main Library is open to the public and other areas of the Parliament Building can be viewed by pre-booked guided tour.
One of Greece’s most important monuments, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which was inaugurated on Greek National Day (March 25 1932), the centenary of independence from Turkey, sits outside the Parliament Building. It attracts tourists in their throngs to witness the hourly spectacle of the Changing of the Guard by kilted soldiers from the Evzones (Presidential Guard); a more elaborate ceremony, with marching bands, is held every Sunday at 11am.
Syntagma Square, Athens. Main Library open Mon–Fri 9am–2pm, 5.30pm–8.30pm; Sat 9am–2pm. Guided tours are available Mon–Fri 9am–8pm by advance arrangement. Take Metro Lines 2 or 3 to Syntagma Square.