When you visit Greece, expect to be inundated with history. Museum lover or not, people who travel to Greece will surely be infatuated with the beauty of its civilization. Archaeological sites such as the Acropolis of Athens (blogged here) and Akrotiri (click for the link of the feature here) are definitely must see Greek places but most of the art that once beautified these places won’t be found in situ, but are placed under the protective roofs of numerous museums in Greece. And the largest of all these museums, and definitely the one with the most extensive collection of all is the NATIONAL ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM OF ATHENS and a visit to it is one of the top things to do when in Athens!
How to Get There and Museum Opening Hours: Arriving straight from the airport at pass 12noon at our hotel, Jill and I have agreed prior to make the most out of the remaining hours of the day by going to the museum, which was just around a 10 minute walk away. With the National Archaeological Museum of Athens opening hours, conveniently tied between 8AM to 8PM (from Tuesday to Wednesday; Saturday to Sunday), it was the best way to maximize the day in Athens: time-wise & knowledge wise. For those taking the metro, the museum can be negotiated by foot from either the Omonaia or the Victoria Metro Station. You won’t miss it as the museum grounds stands out as a green garden with the facade of the museum seen clearly from the main road.
Athens Safety: The surrounding environment seems a bit seedy, but rest assured it is quite safe – just be attentive to your belongings!
The entrance fee to the National Archaeological Museum of Athens is just a few Euros but if you plan to visit other museums in Athens, it is better and cheaper to buy the Athens Museum Pass which allows entry to the other museums (for a lesser price than buying an entry ticket for each). We got the museum pass from the ticket booth of the National Archaeological Museum of Athens as we were to visit other museums during our stay in Greece’s capital.
Photography Rules: Photography is allowed inside the museum but on a condition that no flash should be used and no tripods to be brought. SELFIES are definitely allowed! This is to ensure that the priceless treasures inside the museum won’t be accidentally damaged or knocked down by visitors while taking photos.
-What to See at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens-
The museum is composed of many sections and I believe it would be easier to share to you what to see at the National Archaeological Museum by sections as well. On the immediate left hand side of the ticket booth would be the halls dedicated to its sculpture collection which is further broken down into different categories.
National Archaeological Museum of Athens Pottery Collection
The first treasures that you’ll see once you enter the exhibition halls of the museum are its collection of pottery ranging from simple to ornate that dates back thousands of years. It’s quite perplexing knowing that unknown craftsmen made these works of art never knowing that their works will survive for millennia after they died for us to see and appreciate.
National Archaeological Museum of Athens Archaic Period Sculptures
The sculpture collection of the museum is vast but well organized, the first ones you’ll see are the earliest ones discovered in Athens and other parts of Greece. The earliest of these known free standing sculptures as know as Kouros (male statues) and Kore (female statues) which belonged to the Archaic Period of Greek History which was from the 8th century BC to the second Persian Invasion of Greece in 480 BC, made familiar to the modern world by the Zack Snyder movies 300 and 300: Rise of An Empire.
National Archaeological Museum of Athens Classical Greece Sculpture Collection
Much of what we recognize as Greek works of art belong to the Classical Period of Greece which was from the 5th or 4th century BC to the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC. These works of art just showcases the creativity and prowess of the Ancient Greeks perfectly expressed in their seemingly divine and sublime portrayal of the human form through sculptures of their Gods, Goddesses and mortals alike!
National Archaeological Museum of Athens Roman Period Sculpture Collection
As the famous saying of Horace goes,”Greece has conquered her rude conquerors.” Meaning the culture of Greece was so glorious, so sophisticated that when the Romans conquered Greek lands from the descendants of Alexander the Great’s generals, they adopted almost everything about Greek Culture and this can be seen the most in their religion and arts. The influence is obvious and for an untrained eye, it is actually difficult to distinguish which works belonged from the Classical and from the Roman Period of Greece as Romans even made copies from Greek originals. I myself am not sure if some of the photos I’ve posted were from the correct period (between the two), but I am confident that the following pictures more or less belong to the Roman Period of Greek History.
National Archaeological Museum of Athens Greek Islands Collection
The museum also houses collections of items gathered from Greeks Islands such as Crete, the Cyclades and Ionian Islands at its first floor. Unfortunately, we were trying to conserve our camera’s battery so we opted to just take a few photos of them.
National Archaeological Museum of Athens Antikythera Mechanism Exhibit
The Antikythera Mechanism is one of the biggest mysteries from the ancient world and is one that stands out of the items housed inside the National Archaeological Museum of Athens as it is the only one in existence in the whole world!
Discovered in a shipwreck of the coast of Antikythera, the island from which the item got its name, the Antikythera Mechanism is believed to be constructed between 200 to 100 BC and is known as the world’s first analogue computer!
Though experts are still debating its use, most agree that the Antikythera Machine was used to compute and predict astronomical positions and eclipses for calendar and astrological use.
However, the way it does, using tiny precision-gears and such seems to be too advanced for its age, and no other such devices has been found like it that dates from the same, earlier or even the near future from the period of its construction.
I almost forgot that the Antikythera Mechanism was in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens so you can just imagine my excitement to see it in person, having read about it since I was 12 years of age!
National Archaeological Museum of Athens TREASURES FROM TROY and the Prehistoric Collection
The most prestigious and precious of all the collections within all the priceless items within the National Archaeological Museum of Athens is located in its central chamber – the exhibit so one of a kind that an extra fee needs to be paid to see it (gladly, it was included in our Athens Museum Pass ticket): the Treasure of the Walled City of Troy!
Yes, you’ve read that right, Troy, the setting of the famed Trojan War from Homer’s Iliad! For centuries, the world thought that Troy was just another legend till a German amateur archaeologist named Heinrich Schliemann discovered the actual historic location of Troy in the western shores of Anatolia (now in the Asia Minor Part of Modern Turkey).
Same as in Greece, the City of Troy (which I’ve visited and will be blogged soon hopefully), now located in modern Turkey is barren of its treasures as they are all housed here in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. Even the remains of the weapons found in the Trojan Archaeological Site can be found within this hall of the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.
Gold! Lots of it! Fashioned in every way thinkable in the minds of the Ancient Trojans.
From their skill in metallurgy, it is quite obvious that theirs was an advanced and sophisticated civilization, perhaps more advanced and richer than their Greek contemporaries. This might actually be the reason why the Trojan War started, a war for spoils and riches rather than for the beauty of Helen, the face that launched a thousand ships!
Of all the items within the Troy Exhibition, the one that stands out is the item known as the Mask of Agamemnon – a marvelous golden death mask, assumed by Schleimann to be that of the Greek Federation’s leader, the Mycenaean King Agamemnon.
Aside from the items found from Troy, this section of the museum also houses items from the Prehistoric Period of Greece and the Minoan Civilization that mysteriously vanished suddenly from the world. It’s sudden decline is believe to be caused by the massive explosion from a super volcano that created the island we now know as Santorini (for the full Santorini blog series, click here, here, here, here , here , here , here, here and here)
Overall: The National Archaeological Museum of Athens is one of the best things to do in Athens! If ever you are planning to see Athens, you should definitely squeeze in this amazing museum in your Athens Itinerary. You’ll appreciate more of the sites you visits once you see what treasures were actually found from each one of them as most can be found within the walls of this museum!
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