Something unique to Greece is the Evzones and the Changing of the Guard at Syntagma Square, Athens, which occurs every day, every hour on every hour.
The Presidential Guards, Evzones, guard the Unknown Soldier's Tomb in front of the Hellenic Parliament 24/7.
They stand proudly in perfect stillness, motionless and expressionless, regardless of weather conditions; you are guaranteed to catch them in action whether it’s a rainy winter's night or the hottest summer day.
Evzones are an elite unit of the Greek army, and it is the highest honour for a Greek Guard to be selected as an Evzone. The guards are handpicked according to their height (they must be a minimum of 1.9 meters), in excellent physical condition, have stamina and are disciplined and proud to serve their beloved country.
The Presidential Guard is the epitome of bravery and freedom, honouring the heroes who fought and sacrificed for the land they stood on for thousands of years.
Two Evzones every hour on the hour guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in one-hour shifts around the clock, three times every two days. They work in pairs to perfectly coordinate their movements in slow motion to preserve the guard's circulation after standing completely still for one hour.
From Monday to Saturday, the Evzones dress in their khaki summer service uniform or their black winter uniform, depending on the season.
Every Sunday at 11.00 am there is a Grand Change. All the guards ceremoniously march from the barracks to the Unknown Soldier's Tomb with a marching band. The police block the street off for the procession because this is the most popular time to see the Evzones. Crowds gather in front of the Parliament building at Syntagma Square to see the official change, so it is advised that if you want to see them at this time, you should stake out your position early.
For the Grand Change on Sunday and National holidays, the Evzones are also in the “Foustanella”. The uniform includes the kilt-like fustanella which has 400 pleats, representing the number of years Greece was under Turkish occupation, Ypodetes (a white shirt with vast sleeves), Phemeli (black waistcoat embroidered with designs of tradition and folklore importance), Krossia (a blue and white fringe), black leather cartridge belt with a bayonet holder, Phareon (the red cap with the national emblem on the front) symbolising the bloodshed during the War of Independence with a long black silk tassel representing the tears shed by the Greeks during the years of Turkish occupation, two pairs of white woollen stockings, black silk tasselled knee garters and the Tsarouchia (red leather shoes with black pompons). Each uniform takes 80 days to create by specially trained craftsmen.
In official ceremonies, the Evzones also wear the traditional uniforms of Crete and Pontus to recognise the contribution these regions played in the national fights.
A few years ago the uniform «Οι Βρακοφόροι του Αιγαίου» was introduced to the Presidential Guard. The colours and decorative embroidery represent the soul of the Greek islanders.
You haven’t had a complete Athenian experience unless you have stopped by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and watched the Changing of the Guard, no matter what time of day.
It’s no secret we love seeing them when we are in Syntagma!
Changing of the Guard: every hour on the hour outside Parliament house on Leoforos Vasililisis Amalias Street. Cost: Free
Grand Change of flag: Every Sunday at 11 am at the Acropolis. You will need to buy a ticket to the Acropolis if you want to see the raising of the flag itself.