As the oldest capital in Europe and one of the world’s oldest cities, it’s no surprise that Athens is a hotspot for history, culture, mythology, and archaeology. The capital of Greece has been around for over 3,000 years and laid the foundation for the development of western civilization. If you’re looking to get an in-depth understanding of the city’s long and colorful history and rich culture, one of the best things you can do is to go museum hopping in Athens.
The city has an impressive list of top-notch museums that cover all fields and subjects – from history and archaeology to art and religion. Whatever your cup of tea, you’ll surely find an Athens museum to satisfy your curiosity and interest. The following are top picks for must-see museums in the Greek capital. (Pro tip: Most, if not all these museums do not allow large bags inside. Instead, temporarily store your items at our Sponsor’s luggage locker in the city).
Best Museums to Visit in Athens
When talking about the best museums in Athens, the Acropolis Museum is almost always on top of the list. One of the most important museums in the world and the crown jewel of the city’s cultural scene, the Acropolis Museum houses some historic and valuable artifacts from Ancient times, specifically from the time of the Mycenaean until the Early Christian era. It’s a definite must-see, especially if you’re interested in learning about the country’s history.
The National Archaeological Museum is the biggest museum in Athens and is among the most significant archaeological museums in the world. Established in 1889, the museum is housed inside a Neoclassical-style building. It has five permanent exhibitions displaying priceless archeological finds from various eras in the Greek civilization, such as the Neolithic Period, Mycenaean era, and the Bronze Age. Some items you can expect to see at the museum include frescoes from Thira, Aegean items, jewelry, weapons, and the famous Antikythera device.
This Benaki Museum of Greek Culture is actually a complex that contains different museums, each of which focuses on different subjects. Established in 1930 by Antonis Benakis, the museum’s collection is made up of over 500,000 objects and takes visitors on a journey through the long and colorful Greek history, starting from ancient times until the 20th century. Additionally, there is a library and a café housed within the building in case you want to unwind after a day of exploring.
Located in the neighborhood of Kolonaki is the Byzantine and Christian Museum, which is one of Greece’s most historic museums. Housed in a mansion known as the Villa Ilissia, which once served as the home of the Duchess of Plaisance, the museum boasts over 25,000 exhibits containing a variety of artifacts from the 3rd century until the modern times; the collection includes items such as sculptures, murals, manuscripts, textiles, ceramics and more.
One of Athens’ most interesting attractions, this museum is dedicated to studying and highlighting the ancient civilizations, particularly Cycladic art during the 3rd century. The museum, which opened in 1986, has an extensive collection of art from Ancient Greek and Cypriot art as well as various antiquities displayed across various exhibition spaces. If you want a unique souvenir to take home with you, don’t forget to stop by the museum’s impressive gift shop where you can buy replicas of the art on display.
Situated in the Kifisia neighborhood, the Goulandris Natural History Museum was built to promote interest in natural science and is one of the city’s most family-friendly attractions. Founded in 1965, the museum has a massive collection of fossils, rocks, minerals, insects, birds, and other natural wildlife found in the Greek territory. More than the exhibitions, the museum also frequently holds educational programs related to various branches of natural science.
If you are a lover of fine art, then you should not leave Athens without stopping by the Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation, situated in the Pangrati neighborhood. Named after its founders, the museum holds different works owned by the Goulandris couple, who devoted their lives to curating and collecting some of the most unique contemporary art pieces. Some of the artists whose works are displayed at the museum include Degas, Picasso, Monet, Matisse, Pollock, Warhol, and Kandinsky.
Located in the Kolokotronis Square, housed in the former House of Parliament of Greece, is the National Historical Museum. One of Athens’ most prominent institutions, the museum’s collection spans years of Greek history starting from the collapse of the Byzantine Empire in 1453. At the National Historical Museum, you can find a variety of items and artifacts such as weapons, paintings, costumes, manuscripts, and more. Don’t miss the chance to see the equestrian statue of Theodoros Kolokotronis, who is among the most important figures of the revolution.
If you want to learn more about the history and culture of the Greek capital, then you should definitely check out the Museum of the City of Athens. Established in 1973, the museum is housed in a former royal palace and contains numerous artifacts and antiquities throughout the city’s history, particularly the Byzantine and Renaissance era.
Even though it is smaller in size compared to the other museums found in the city, the Museum of the City of Athens boasts an amazing collection of artworks and other objects. Some of the most notable pieces found here include a handwritten copy of the 1844 Greek constitution and the portrait of Lord Byron.
Found in the heart of the city, a few steps away from Syntagma Square is the Numismatic Museum. Often ignored as it is a bit off the beaten path, it’s definitely worth visiting and is among the city’s most significant museums. The building where the museum is housed was the former mansion of archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann. Inside the museum, you will find a massive collection of coins from both ancient and modern times on display.
Athens is a jewel when it comes to days past. Experience the culture and history of incredible Athens as you explore the city. You’ll, no doubt, want to return again and again!
Featured photograph by Patrick
Acropolis Museum by Evan Wise