National Museum of Athens

Travel Guide at a Glance
Destination best for: museum, family vacation
Visitors rating:

About the museum

The National Archaeological museum of Athens houses some of the most important artifacts from a variety of archaeological locations around Greece, and it's a must-see for anyone who visits Athens.

Just like a good movie that reveals more of its secrets the second and third time it is viewed, so the ancient statues present themselves in new light with every visit. While many of the artifacts have been reproduced in all media at infinitum, no photograph can replace the magic of standing in front of Zeus' presence.

The art work of ancient Greece materializes the foundation of western thought as it developed in the ancient Greek cities, and its formal and stylistic development traces the growth of man as an independent entity on earth.

The concept of humanity's importance as a living organism on this earth, and hence the importance of man as an individual, grew out of ancient Greek culture and was externalized in both abstract concepts such as Democracy, Philosophy, and Logic, and concrete forms of art that transcend eons.

These forms of ancient Greek sculpture, along with ceramics art, gold-smithing, metal-smithing, and painting are exhibited throughout the halls of the National museum of Athens. They are silent vehicles for passenger willing to travel back in time through art to touch the origins of self-awareness and self-importance

Overview of the art

For more thorough information visit the links on the left, and view the virtual tour of the National Museum.

Through the exhibitions the National Museum one can trace the development of the Art of Greece from the prehistoric days to the golden age of Greek thought, and all the way to the Roman times. The extensive Ancient Mycenaean art collection along with the Archaic sculptures represents a period during which ancient Greece accepted and assimilated external aesthetic influence while it grew secure in its own beliefs. On a similar path, the Cycladic Art collection refer to a culture that was exuberant and self-reliant, and the artifacts of the national museum complement the exhibit of the National Museum of Cycladic Art which can be seen also in Athens.

The sculptures of the Classical period bear witness to the unique vision of ancient Greece which emphasized Reason and centered its attention on the human body. Classical sculpture realizes the importance of humans as living organisms, and treats the world as an entity which can be observed and explained in rational ways for the first time in the history of humanity. Classical Greek Art worships reason almost as if it were a metaphysical entity, and it remains highly idealistic despite the strong current towards naturalism.

The ideals of the Classical world of Greece find their logical conclusion in the highly expressive statues of the Hellenistic period, and reach the end in the realism and pragmatism of Roman art and architecture.

It was this art of Greece that influenced in later times a rebirth of the Greek ideals, and the shift of focus towards the world and mankind during the Italian Renaissance.

In the museum's upper floor visitors can enjoy the superlative bronze age frescoes from Akrotiri (Thera or Santorini), and the extensive collection of ceramic artifacts! In particular, the frescoes from Santorini should not be missed.

Visiting the Museum

Athens Archaeological Museum froor plan with the main exhibitions marked
National Museum floor plan (map)
Click for larger view

The museum is a ten-minute walk from the nearest Metro station, Victoria see it on the map. Handicap accessibility is on Vasileos Irakleiou street, (the street to your left as you look at the front entrance).

A visit can take anywhere from half-hour to two hours, depending how involved you get with the artifacts, and how much of the museum you would like to see.

Despite it's importance, the museum is open limited hours (Museum Hours and ticket prices) so check before you go. Plan to be there at least two hours before closing time because the staff begins closing rooms and channeling visitors toward the exit about an hour before it closes.

There is a museum shop and a restaurant at the basement next to a pleasant open-air garden that's adorned with ancient statues.

Recommended Walking Tour of the Museum

The National Archaeological Museum of Athens is the largest museum of Greece. It can take a while to visit all its rooms in one visit, so we recommend two visits for a thorough view of it's exhibitions.

However, often time is limited, so if you want to see only the highlights in a visit that would take about one hour we have developed this handy walking tour of the Athens National Archaeological Museum. It is designed to give you a good perspective of the depth of time the artifacts cover, as well as to view the most important pieces of art included in the museum's collection...


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