The Benaki Museum is considered to be one of the best museums in Athens. It has a diverse collection of artefacts and exhibits, all laid out in chronological order. For visitors spending just a few days in Athens, it is the perfect place to soak up some Greek history and culture. Read on to find out more.
About The Benaki Museum
Ask anyone in Athens where the Benaki Museum is, and they will point you in the direction of the building on 1 Koumbari St. & Vas. Sofias Ave. This is known as the Main Building, and for most people, this IS the Benaki Museum. That is not entirely accurate though. The Benaki Museum is actually a foundation. This foundation has 9 buildings, three of which are classed as museums and are open to the public. I will write a fuller blog post about the individual museums and the foundation at some point in the future. For the sake of simplicity however, I will refer to the Main Building as The Benaki Museum for this blog post.
The Benaki Museum – Main Building
The Main Building of the Benaki Museum is housed in a neo-classical building, near the Museum of Cycladic Art. It has undergone several renovations and extensions since the core of the building was built in 1895. The museum as we see it today was officially re-opened in the year 2000. There are a mix of permanent and temporary exhibitions laid out over four floors. These are laid out in an approximate chronological order, and each room is well numbered. Finding your way around the Benaki Museum is easy. Start at Room 1, and work your way through and up until you reach Room 36.
The Benaki Museum – Ground Floor
The ground floor of the Benaki Museum was to me the most interesting. It covered the period of history from the Neolithic right through to the 17th century.
This triple vase is incredibly sophisticated, considering it dates back to 2300 BC.
Having been to a few museums in Athens now, it was quite easy for me to see the development of Greek culture and history as I walked through.
It also made me think, that the Benaki Museum is actually like a condensed version of many of the other museums I have visited in Athens so far. This has its good and bad points, which I will write more about in a conclusion of my visit at the bottom of this article.
The Benaki Museum – First Floor
The first floor of the Benaki Museum continues with the late post-Byzantine era. The concept of this floor, is to present exhibits created and used under “foreign domination”. Whilst this of course means Ottoman rule, there was really very little background information to this period in history.
The Benaki Museum – Second Floor
The second floor of the Benaki Museum is smaller than the others, mainly because this is where the cafeteria/restaurant is located. This has some great views, and I highly recommend sitting down for a coffee to break up the tour of the museum. The rest of the floor focuses on paintings and other objects from just prior to the Greek War of Independence. There is also a room here which acts as a temporary exhibition space.
The Benaki Museum – Third Floor
The final floor of the Benaki Museum focuses largely on the Greek War of Independence. There are numerous paintings of scenes from the struggle for liberty from the Ottoman Empire, as well as portraits of revolution heroes.
There is also a small section dedicated to Eleftherios Venizelos, arguably the most influential politician and architect of the modern Greek state. Just on from that, a tiny cabinet on World War 1, and at that point, this journey through Greek history ends.
The Benaki Museum provides a great insight into Greek history, and the development of Greek culture through the centuries. It does an excellent job of condensing this into one museum, which takes between 1 and 2 hours to walk around. This makes it an ideal place for people to visit if they only have limited time in Athens. If anyone is in Athens for longer though, I would suggest visiting the following museums as well. These are dedicated museums, which focus on the areas covered in the Benaki Museum in more detail.
- Museum of Cycladic Art
- National Archaeological Museum of Athens
- Byzantine and Christian Museum
- Eleftherios Venizelos Historical Museum
- Museum of Popular Music Instruments
- National Historical Museum of Greece (Old Parliament House)
- Museum on Panos Street
Useful Information for Visiting the Benaki Museum
The Benaki Museum has weird opening hours! The best day to visit is on a Thursday, as until March 2016, it is open 09.00 to 24.00, and admission is free. The complete opening hours are below.
Wednesday, Friday: 9:00 – 17:00
Thursday, Saturday: 9.00 – 24.00
Sunday: 9:00 – 15:00
Wednesday: 9:00 – 17:00
Tuesday: 09.00 – 17.00 (only The Shop)
Thursday: 9:00 – 24:00
Friday: 12:00 – 18:00
Saturday: 9:00 – 15:00
Closed on Monday, Tuesday and the following holidays:
March 25th, May 1st, August 15th, October 28th, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, New Year's Day, Epiphany, Easter Day, Easter Monday, Clean Monday, Holy Spirit Day.”
Opening hours for museums in Athens do change on a whim though. If you want to make sure it is open for your visit, call first at tel 210 367 1000. You can also visit their website >> http://www.benaki.gr/.
The Main Building of the Benaki Museum is located at 1 Koumbari St. & Vas. Sofias Ave. The closest metro stations are Syntagma and Evagelismos.