The 13 Best Museums in Athens
Opened in 2009, the Acropolis Museum is one of the newest and very best museums in Athens. An airy showcase for archaeological finds sourced from the Acropolis complex right next door, the museum itself is also an archaeological site, sitting directly above an ancient Athenian neighborhood, with glass floors through which to see the excavation work below. There are three floors of permanent collections, video presentations, and archaeologists on hand to answer visitors’ questions. Also an excellent gift shop and a restaurant/cafe with an outdoor terrace in the shadow of the Parthenon. Ideally paired with a visit to the adjacent Acropolis archaeological site, visitors should allow one to three hours to tour the museum. Doing a guided tour of the Acropolis and Acropolis Museum will save time, as your tour guide will have skip-the-line tickets to both attractions.
Open daily, with reduced hours and admissions prices from November through March. • Map
The first, best, and largest archaeological museum in Greece, displaying a permanent collection of more than 11,000 exhibits of Ancient Greek art and artifacts from the Neolithic period to late antiquity. Museum lovers, history buffs, and Grecophiles could easily spend a day here, with a stop to refuel at the cafe/restaurant that’s located right outside the main entrance. A private tour guide can help save time and enhance the experience by quickly locating the top exhibits and explaining the history. Located in the Exarcheia area in central Athens next to the Athens Polytechnic University, the Archaeological Museum is one of the few top attractions in Athens that isn’t very near the Plaka/Acropolis area, so visitors will need to take a taxi (5 minutes), metro (10 minutes, red or green line exiting at Omonia station), or walk about 25 minutes from Plaka or Syntagma Square. Open daily, with reduced hours and admissions prices from November through March. • Map
Excellent Greek art museum established in 1930 within the neoclassical family mansion of Antonis Benaki, the art collector and benefactor who donated over 35,000 pieces of his own collection. Greek artwork from ancient to modern is displayed in the mansion’s many four beautiful levels, with one devoted to traveling exhibitions. Located in central Athens near Syntagma Square and the National Garden, the Benaki also has satellite galleries scattered throughout Athens, including the Museum of Islamic Art, The Ghika Gallery, and the Toy Museum. Closed Tuesdays. • Map
Opened to the public in 1975, this military-run museum honors all those who fought for Greece and its freedom, a must-see for history, military, and aviation buffs. Arranged over two floors, exhibits lead you through the history of Greek wars from ancient to modern times, coming to life through personal letters and memorabilia, photographs, full uniforms, weapons and armor. Engaging documentary films explain the nature of the conflicts, and outside the museum, courtyards display aircraft and large artillery pieces. Located about 900 meters east of Syntagma Square, a trip to the War Museum would be well-paired with a viewing of the changing of the guard at the Hellenic Parliament. Closed Mondays. • Map
Founded in 1882, the National Historical Museum in Athens’ permanent collection tells the story of Greek culture throughout the ages via personal belongings and memorabilia from famous historical personalities, classical paintings, authentic manuscripts, and a large collection of traditional Greek costumes and jewelry from various regions of Greece. It’s all located within the majestic building that housed the Greek Parliament from 1875 to 1932, one block northwest of Syntagma Square. Closed Mondays. • Map
Small but lovely museum comprising two 19th-century Neo-classical aristocratic homes that once blonged to the Vouros and Eftaxias families. The older of the two mansions is also known as the Old Palace; between 1836 and 1842 it housed the first royal family of Greece, King Otto and Queen Amalia, until they moved into their new palace in the present day Parliament building. Furnishings and personal belongings, as well as interactive digital exhibits, tell the story of high-living Athens in the 1800’s, when the city became Greece’s capital after the War of Independence. Audio tours are available by request. Located near the National Historical Museum, a 10-minute walk northwest of Syntagma Square. Closed Tuesdays. • Map
Founded in 1914 and housed in a Florentine-style palace, this museum is home to the largest collection of Byzantine art from the 3rd to 21st centuries. Rare and well-preserved artifacts give a sense of the influence and legacy of the Byzantine Empire. On display are rare 13th-century icons (including a mosaic of the Virgin Mary from Constantinople), scriptures, frescoes, currency coins, and more. Located next to the Athens War Museum, about 900 meters east of Syntagma Square, with a cafe/restaurant and museum shop on site. Closed Tuesdays. • Map
Excellent and kid-friendly museum that is home to one of the most complete private collections of Cycladic and Ancient Greek art in the world, once belonging to the Greek shipping family of Dolly and Nikolaos Goulandris. The permanent collection is displayed over four floors within a beautiful 1895 Neo-classical mansion and includes Cycladic, Ancient Greek, and Cypriot Art, as well as video exhibits depicting the daily life of Ancient Greeks (weddings, birth of a baby, education, physical training, and more). Impressive temporary exhibits are also hosted, and there’s a great gift shop and restaurant/cafe on site. Located near Syntagma Square, closed Tuesdays. • Map
Impressive private collection of antique art and artifacts, donated to the Greek state by Pavlos and Alexandra Kanellopoulou, wealthy art collectors and industrialists of the early to mid-20th century. Objects in the permanent collection include items from the Prehistoric to the Modern era: figurines, busts, jewelery, weapons, coins, inscriptions, stone and clay vases and more – all ranging from 3000-1200 BC to the 18th and 19th centuries AD. Located in an 1864 neoclassical mansion in Plaka, near the Monastiraki metro station. Closed Tuesdays. • Map
An annex of the Museum of Modern Greek Culture that displays pre-industrial tools and products of traditional labor and depicts the working life of Greeks, mostly after the war of independence to the mid 1900’s. It’s a little museum, located in Plaka, that’s worth a quick visit; through personal collections and interactive exhibits, visitors gain a sense of what day to day life might have been like and how much the industrial world has evolved. Closed Tuesdays. • Map
Annex of the Museum of Modern Greek Culture, also known as the Hammam of Abid Efendi, this traditional bath house was built during the Ottoman Empire (1453-1669) and operational until 1956. It is the only remaining public bath house in Athens. Public bath houses like this were an integral part of daily life in Greece during the Ottoman Era. In addition to cleanliness, bath houses also offered a place for social gathering as well as meditation, relaxation and an escape from daily routine. These were the only places women were allowed to go outside the family home. Located in Plaka, with an excellent audio guide available on request. • Map
The Benizelos Mansion is the oldest surviving house in Athens, built between the 16th and 17th centuries. Originally occupied by Angelos Benizelos and his wife Syrigi Palaiologina, a visit to this 2-story house gives a sense of the lifestyle and traditions of Athenian aristocrats in the time before the Greek revolution. The couple’s daughter, Revoula, was a prominent philanthropist who also fought for the freedom of Greek women enslaved into harems by the Ottomans. She was later canonized as “Saint Philothei,” and the Benizelos Mansion is sometimes referred to as the House of Saint Philothei in her honor. The mansion is located in Plaka, with the relics of Saint Philothei entombed in the nearby Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens. The Benizelos Mansion is open limited hours (check website for details); entrance fee is by donation and goes to charity.
Located in Kifisia, a northeastern suburb of Athens, the Goulandris Museum was the first natural history museum in Greece. Initially a Botanical Museum, founded for the purposes of researching and studying Greek flora, in 1977 it expanded to include zoology, paleontology and geology. Their permanent display includes animals from Africa, North America, and Greece; insects, mammals, birds, reptiles, shells, rocks, minerals, and fossils. Temporary exhibits are also hosted here. Very family-friendly, with a gift shop and café on site. Open daily to mid-afternoon; the closest metro station is Kifisia (green line or line 1), about an 800-meter-walk away. • Map