Thousands of Greeks lined a main central Athens avenue despite rain on Wednesday to watch the country's annual Independence Day military parade, with spectators allowed along the route for the first time in about three years.

The crowds at the parade, where tanks rolled down the street and fighter jets and military helicopters flew overhead, were in stark contrast to last year's event, which took place under heavy security. Spectators had only been allowed near the end of the route.

Authorities limited public access to national parades after protesters had heckled officials attending such events over the handling of Greece's financial crisis and austerity measures imposed in return for billions of euros in international rescue loans.

Parliamentary elections in January saw the radical left Syriza party form a coalition government with the nationalist right-wing Independent Greeks.

The two had been among the most vociferous critics of previous governments' handling of the financial crisis, and came to power on pledges of ripping up the bailout agreement which stipulated austerity measures in return for funds from other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund.

But the new government, faced with an increasingly severe credit crunch and strained relations with its European partners, has had to roll back on some of its pre-election promises.

March 25 marks the start of Greece's 1821 uprising against the Ottoman Empire. The end of Wednesday's parade was followed for the first time by traditional Greek folk dances in the street outside Parliament.