Guide to the best museums in Athens: from the Acropolis to Byzantine art
You say Athens and immediately the thought turns to‘Acropolis. And it certainly does not exist in the city, and in all of Greece, a place that manages to bring together so many suggestions and such a rich historical heritage. But not only Acropolis: the Greek capital offers much more to see. And in the very first places there are the buildings that collect what has come to us from the past: so here is the guide to the best museums from Athens. Is between vases And statues you will feel that the gods and heroes deep down are still by our side.
The first must-see in our guide to the best museums in Athens takes us to the big one National archeologic museum, one of the largest collections of antiquities in the world. The museum is located in a stately neoclassical building from the end of the 19th century and the exhibits cover a very large arch of the temple, from prehistory atHellenism. The part dedicated to prehistory is the one that is first in front of the visitor and certainly deserves to be explored with care.
Statues of gods and heroes
In fact, don’t scare the term prehistory: in fact, many of the objects that have come to us from far away (over time, we are talking about about 2800 BC) are found here. Cycladic civilization with the splendid figurines and many objects of daily use but also gold jewelery and gold funerary masks. Returning back to the entrance there is the second wing dedicated to sculpture, perhaps the most representative art of the Hellenic culture ancient and the one best represented in our guide ai best museums of Athens.
Passing from one room to another, more or less enormous statues are reviewed and one can clearly see the change in style with the passage of time. In fact, it passes by Kouroi of the archaic sculpture up to the famous statue of Zeus (or Poseidon of Cape Artemisio) and arriving at the most extravagant works of Hellenism. The last rooms of this itinerary include sculptures by Roman period and the visitor can admire some portraits of the Roman emperors.
On the other side of the museum are the rooms where temporary exhibitions are held and where private collections are conserved, which often include small precious objects but also a collection of Egyptian artifacts as can be seen in the museum of Cairo.
On the second floor of the museum you can dive into the great production of vases with the usual path over the centuries passing from the oldest and roughest vases, up to those with the precious ones black and red decorations. There are also spaces dedicated to the art of antiquity Cyprus, where vases, jewels and figurines are found. A suggestion in our guide to the best museums in Athens cannot be missing: forget about seeing it all in a few hours. Its immense richness will force you to choose what to see or count on two visits.
Guide to the best museums in Athens: the treasures of the Acropolis
The Acropolis Museum it is the brightest architectural jewel of the city of Athens. His modern building with large windows it allows natural light to illuminate the works but not only. Because you can also see the remains of buildings and houses from antiquity. A glass floor indeed makes it possible to see what the excavations that have focused on have brought to light finds dated between the fifth and seventh century BC.
Alongside are the artifacts discovered on the slopes of the Acropolis including vases dating from 3000 BC to the 1st century BC with decorations that pass from the classic geometric decoration to the much later red one. On the first floor are the fragments of the figures that were once found on the Acropolis such as the archaic statues which were found outside and inside the temples with an infinite series of increasingly graceful and fascinating figures with the passage of time.
On the second floor there is a restaurant-cafea shop, a multimedia center and a terrace while the exhibition continues on the third floor, the true heart of the museum which allows us to understand what the gallery of the Parthenon. Here is a structure that reproduces the dimensions of the great monument and that supports the friezes as they were designed by the genius of Phidiasfive centuries before Christ.
Masterpieces? Yes, but they are copies
To do this, however, a trick was needed: the original pieces are found mixed with copies of those fragments that have been taken abroad and are today at the British Museum in London and al Louvre Museum from Paristhe. Therefore, the advice is to go back to the first floor to admire the other masterpieces: immersed in the blazing light of fifty skylights here are housed some of the most famous sculptures including the Caryatidsthe female figures embellishing themselves the Erechtheion, the gallery overlooking the slopes of the hill. But also statues that come from other temples such as those of Nike.
A comment is obligatory: seeing the copies of what has been brought abroad it is natural to think that it would be right for the originals to return home. The Greeks have always maintained this. But that doesn’t seem likely to happen.
Guide to the best museums in Athens: the Benaki Museum
The Benaki museum is located in a neoclassical building of 1895 and takes its name from the family who bought it in 1910. On the ground floor, the first two rooms collect the prehistoric collection of the museum formed by tools, figures and vases that date back to neolithic period (about 6,500 BC). Then continue with Cycladic vases and figures of that period to then get to the heart of the collection of classical era with vases, jewels and sculptures as well as objects of Byzantine era. Going up to the upper floors, you get closer to us: the first floor is in fact dedicated to the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
Most of the rooms keep the furnishings of the time with clothes and paintings of the Greece made by foreign visitors looking for a dive into antiquity. Some spaces allow you to see what the rooms of the houses of the gods were like in the past rich in the eighteenth century with impressive furniture and massively carved wooden walls. Finally, on the third floor there are paintings that tell the story of the Greeks’ struggle against Turkish rule. Among these are some works by Bryzakis, the first and most important painter of the new Greek state. Around there are also other paintings by Parthenis And Gyzis, two famous Greek painters of the 19th century.
Guide to the best museums in Athens: the Museum of Cycladic Art
Opened in 1986, the Museum of Cycladic Art houses the personal collection of Nikolaos And Dolly Goulandris who in the course of their lives have collected a treasure starting from what is considered the prehistoric art of Cyclades. The museum is located in two buildings connected by a glass corridor. The main building built in 1985 by the architect Ioannis Vikelas houses the permanent collections of the museum while the Stathatos Mansiona neoclassical building houses the temporary exhibitions.
Even though the museum is named after the Cycladic collection the visitor will be pleasantly surprised by the other collections. But we must still start from the main collection which represents a cross-section of the civilization that developed in these islands between 3200 and 2100 BC. During this period it was first used the bronze. But in the halls they are also found vases and the famous figures who are somewhat the symbol of the art of that period. The same ones that have inspired modern artists including picasso. In support of the exhibition there are also videos and interactive materials that allow you to better understand the evolution of ceramics and other arts. On the third floor there is also an interesting collection of artifacts arrived from Cyprus and which cover a period that reaches up to the Roman one.
The Byzantine and Cycladic works
Our guide to the best museums in Athens then leads us to discover the Byzantine and Christian Museum which brings together collections of pieces ranging from late antiquity to the Byzantine and post-Byzantine era. This rich collection makes the museum one of the most important in the city of Athens but also in Greece and its history dates back to 1914 even if its origin is linked to the previous one Christian Archaeological Society. The museum is located in one nineteenth-century villa but the exposition has recently been renewed.
Archaeologists began working in 1999 on the new museum itinerary which was partially opened in 2004, but it was in 2010 that the interventions were completed. The collection now contains approx 3,000 items ranging from 3rd century AD to 20th century. The aim of the exhibition is not only to present unique pieces of art and precious objects but to create a real path that allows you to understand the evolution of culture and traditions. So let’s start from sculptures of the third century AD and we move on to follow the change with now definitively Christian art. We then move on to deepen the evolution of the administration of the Byzantine Empire admiring rich coin collections but also figurative works that are affected by the constant wars in that period and the serious economic crisis that even influenced the art the evolution of theByzantine art.
Influences from Italy and Crete
In addition, thanks to a wide choice of icons the influences coming from theItaly later at Venetian presences as can also be seen in the sector dedicated to Crete. The last part of the museum displays the icons made in the 18th century and the decoration of the churches built by the new Greek state when the new artists abandoned the Byzantine tradition to accept the European artistic style. In short, theAcropolis remains a masterpiece. But ad Athensafter millennia of history, there is much more.