Athens' National Archeological Museum

Athens’ National Archeological Museum, one of the most relevant in the world, showcases the best collection of Greek antiquities and artifacts you’ll ever be able to find. Finely carved sculptures, vases, jewelry and frescos are some of the pieces in display inside, along with other priceless value from all over Greece ranging from the Neolithic to the Classic Age. The museum, an imposing 8000 square meter neo-classical building on Patision avenue, hosts more than 11,000 pieces on two floors that are divided into sections: prehistory, sculpture, bronzes, vases and minor arts. The Egyptian collection and Cypriot collection are the main ones; there is an area dedicated to temporary exhibitions as well. As always in very large and section-rich museums, the advice is to read about the collections first so that you can easily identify the sections or exhibits you don't want to miss and manage to enjoy them calmly. In the next paragraphs you’ll find information on some of the art works as well as some other tips to visit Athens’ National Archeological Museum.

As you enter the museum, you’ll find the prehistoric section with many important exhibits of Mycenean art and Cycladic art, most of them made from pure gold. The Mycenean collection definitely steals the show from the start, as the first thing you come across is the legendary Mask of Agamemnon, found by Heinrich Schliemann in Mycenae along with other copper and golden artifacts, such as daggers and swords, neatly displayed just some steps ahead. The Vaphio’s golden cups deserve a stop as well; these are enriched by drawings of men trying to tame wild animals and are considered to be the best examples of Mycenean art we have so far discovered. In this first section you’ll also be able to look at the findings from the Cyclades islands, some simple yet brilliant creations made more than 3000 years ago which worked as inspiration for countless artists throughout history. The galleries at the left-hand side of the entrance host the most ancient and most relevant elements of the sculpture collection, the kouroi, human figure statues dating back to the 7th century B.C. The colossal one you’ll find in room 8, once stood in front of the Poseidon Temple in Sounio, south of Athens. Statues and sculptures constantly catch the eyes of the visitors in the Archeological Museum of Athens: the statue of the young jockey, in gallery 21, is an outstanding work which was luckily found offshore the island of Evia after a shipwreck; the statue of Zeus or Poseidon, also found on the bottom of the sea in front of Evia, is a dominating copper figure, his arms are outstretched as if he was about to cast a thunderbolt. The vase collection on the first floor is something to check out in the museum too: it tells the story of the development of the vase-making craft from the copper age to the creation of the iconic red and black ceramics.  

The advice is to visit this massive museum in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the crowds, plus keep in mind that the dimensions of it are huge so you might need a second visit or a very organized first one. It is important to know that the entrance to the museum is free for some categories of visitors: among these are children under 18, EU students (with a University Card) and journalists. There are also free admission days for all on the first Sunday of the month in the period between November 1st and March 31st.

Picture Credits © Wikimedia/Tilemahos Efthimiadis

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