The Acropolis Museum in Athens is a beautifully designed exhibition of Athens’ greatest archaeological finds, magnificently displayed at the foot of the Acropolis itself. It is certainly not to be missed. However, what many visitors do not get the chance to discover, are a good number of other museums in Athens, each with their own fascinating collections, often housed in architecturally opulent buildings. In our on-going quest to help you discover Athens like a local, here are 3 + 1 museums we believe are absolutely worth taking the time to explore.
Whatever your interest, I can say with almost certainty, that there is a museum in Athens for you. From art to eras of history to technology and innovation to sculptures displaying extraordinary craftsmanship; a stroll around the neighborhoods of Athens will offer a museum that catches your attention. For now, let’s focus on 3+1 that you may not have thought to add to your itinerary but deserve to have their case heard.
The Epigraphic and Numismatic Museum
Iliou Melathron - credits: gtp.gr
The Epigraphic and Numismatic Museum is housed at Iliou Melathron (The Palace of Troy); an architectural fusion of Renaissance Revival and Neo Classical with a duck egg yellow exterior and rooms resplendent with mosaics and murals. It was understandably once revered as the most magnificent private resident in Athens and was built for the archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in 1880.
Its collection contains around 500,000 objects and these are by in large coins, medals, weights and lead stamps. Beginning from the 6th century BC with coins from the Greek city-states (poleis) and continuing to Hellenistic and Roman periods, the exhibition is arranged in such a way that it takes you through a journey in time, demonstrating how coinage has developed over the centuries. In addition, there are pieces from the Byzantine and Medieval era from across Europe and the Ottoman Empire. The museum also has a considerable collection of books on the disciplines of numismatics, archaeology and it also houses extensive archives. The walls are adorned with iconography, art and murals, many of which are copies of Pompeian themes and scenes of Troy and Mycenae.
As well as functioning as a public museum it regularly hosts symposiums, lectures and international collaborations. It remains to this day a centre for study and research, giving its patrons truly inspiring surroundings in which to work. The museum has a café open to the public within its grounds and boasts a beautiful garden, complete with replicas of ancient Greek statues. There is also a shop where copies of artifacts can be bought along with memorabilia, cards, notebooks and games.
Whether you are fascinated by numismatics, a lover of Renaissance revival or simply searching for an afternoon of intrigue and wonder, the Numismatic Museum is a must see.
Address: Iliou Melathron, El.Venizelou (Panepistimioustr.) 12, 10671 Athens
Telephone: + 30 210-3632057
Tickets:Standard: € 6, Reduced: € 3
Single Ticket (multi access): € 15, Reduced: € 8
(Valid for National Archaeological Museum, Byzantine & Christian Museum, and Numismatic Museum)
Tuesday to Sunday 08.30 - 15.30
Closed on public holidays:1 January, 25 March, Sunday Easter Orthodox, 1 May, 25 & 26 December
Closest metro station-Syntagma
Misc: There is disabled access via a lift.
Museum of the City of Athens
Royal room at the City of Athens Museum - credits: www.davestravelpages.com
The Museum of the City of Athens: Vouros- Eutaxias Foundation, was founded in 1973 by Lambros Eutaxias and his uncle Alexandros Vouros. It is housed in the former royal palace of King Otto and Queen Amalia of Greece and as well as pieces from antiquity, sculptures and many works of art from the Byzantine and Renaissance period, it also displays furniture arranged in such a way as to replicate typical rooms of the Athenian aristocracy of the 19th century.
An art lover’s heaven, the museum has many large oil paintings of Jaques Carrey and interestingly shows a painting of the Parthenon as it was before 1687 when it was tragically damaged by a barrage of cannon fire from Venetian forces attacking the city. Amongst the plethora of interesting pieces is a portrait of Lord Byron, perhaps most famous of the philhellene’s and so loved by the Greeks for his part in their emancipation from the Ottoman empire that a town, Vyronas, was named in his honour, a hand-written copy of the 1844 constitution of Greece used by King Otto himself and an extensive exhibition of work by some of the most talented Greek painters.
Sumptuously furnished with chandeliers, period pieces and exquisite paintings, the Museum of the City of Athens is an experience that leaves you with an appreciation for the ambitious ideals of Renaissance Athens. Take a turn around the same drawing room as King Otto once did and discover a time of revival, opulence and resurgent philhellenism. Afterwards, indulge in a little decadence yourself at the museum’s bistrot, the Black Duck Garden, located in the garden of the 1836 mansion with an atmosphere fit for royalty.
Telephone: +30 210-3246164
Tickets: Standard €5 Reduced (pupils, students, seniors & groups over 4 people) €3, disabled persons, free
Opening Hours: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday: 09:00-16:00
Saturday, Sunday: 10:00-15:00
Closed on public holidays: Jan 1, Dec 25 &26, Easter Sunday& Monday.
Closest metro station- Panepistimio
By car: underground private parking space in Klavthmono sq. Charges apply.
The National Historical Museum
The National Historical Museum - credits: http://www.greece-is.com
Like many of Athens’ museums, the National Historical Museum is housed in an impressive building, the Old Parliament Building in Kolokotronis Square. What is most striking, however, is the imposing bronze statue of Theodoros Kolokotronis himself, a Greek general and pre-eminent leader of the Greek War of Independence (1821-1829) against the Ottoman Empire. Astride his horse, Kolokotronis turns his head towards Parliament House whilst pointing his hand in the other direction to where the royal stables once stood. This became a local joke that he was implying that the Parliamentarians ought to be housed in the stables due to their subservience to the King.
The collection is that of the Historical & Ethnological Society of Greece and focuses mainly on the emergence of the modern Greek state with pieces from the Greek War of Independence. As well as weaponry, costumes and memorabilia from celebrated figures in Greek history, there is also a large collection of paintings, manuscripts and pieces from as far back as the capture of Constantinople in 1453 by the Ottomans. Lord Byron’s helmet and sword are also to be found here.
The museum also frequently displays temporary exhibitions which range from topics such as art to theatre to music and displays dedicated to different regions of Greece. Lectures, workshops, book fairs and educational programs are also held here frequently throughout the year.
Address: Old Parliament Building, 13 Stadiou Str. Athens
Telephone: +30 210 3237617
Tickets: Full admission: € 3, Reduced admission: € 1.50. Free admission: Every Sunday, the International Museum Day (May 18th) and the following holidays:March 25th, October 28th
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 8:30-14:30
Closed on Mondays
Closest metro: Panepistimio
The National Archaeological Museum
The National Archaeological Museum - credits: Lefteris Papaulakis/Shutterstock.com
Regarded as one of the greatest museums in the world for its rich collection of artifacts from Greek antiquity, the National Archaeological Museum is situated in Exarchia in an imposing neo classical building painted a vibrant yellow and red. Displaying pieces from the Neolithic era, Cycladic art, Mycenean period, Egyptian art, post-Byzantine era and jewels from the Hellenistic period, the museum has an extensive collection that is sure to leave an impression.
The museum undoubtedly holds some of the most iconic pieces known worldwide such as the Jockey of Artemision; a beautiful, striking bronze statue that is placed and lit perfectly in the halls of the museum; a personal favourite (!) There is also the famous Mask of Agamemnon which has since been proven not to have actually belonged to him but of a dead king who most probably died three centuries before Agamemnon. It is nevertheless an extraordinary piece of craftsmanship.
Gold not being in short supply at the museum, another intriguing piece is Theseus’ ring. A golden signet ring depicting a bull leaping scene (a Minoan sport frequently shown in paintings) with a lion to one side. Although its authenticity was once questioned, it has since had its origins confirmed back to the 15th Century BC.
The museum is also home to a 118-year-old library with 20,000 volumes, many of which are extremely rare works on art, science and philosophy. As well as the permanent exhibitions, there are visiting exhibitions and a large number of lectures on archaeology are held here throughout the year.
The museum also has two cafés; one located outside on the edge of the square, with a tranquil atmosphere that offers a wonderful opportunity to sit back with a coffee and admire the architecture of the building. The second is situated in the heart of the museum in the interior atrium and is close to the museum shop which has a wide array of memorabilia, paintings and glassware.
Address: 44 Patission Street, Athens 10682
Telephone: +30 213 214 4800
Tickets: Full admission: € 10, Reduced admission: € 5. Free admission: 6th March, 18th April, 18th May, the last weekend of September, every Sunday, the International Museum Day (May 18th) and the following holidays:March 25th, October 28th , the first Sunday of the month for the period between 1 November and 31 March.
Opening Hours: Monday 13:00-20:00, Tuesday- Sunday 08:00-20:00
Closest metro: Viktoria Station
These four museums are only a sample of what Athens has to offer to the lovers of history, culture, art and discovery. With so many hidden treasures, tales and legends, it would be an absolute calamity to ignore these wonderful exhibitions. What better way to spend an afternoon than marvelling at centuries of craftsmanship and ambition whilst learning about the momentous moments in history that this mythic city has endured? To truly understand the importance of the pieces that you admire let one of our deeply knowledgeable, expert guides take you on a journey through the ages and show you the city in all her timeless grandeur.