The National Archaeological Museum of Athens, is not just the best museum in Athens. It is also the best museum in Greece, and dare I say, one of the best in the world. A bold statement? Perhaps, especially as I controversially compared the Acropolis Museum of Athens to a shopping mall or McDonald's not too long ago! I stand by that though, and here's why…
The National Archaeological Museum of Athens
The problem I had with the Acropolis Museum in Athens, was that it didn't have much soul to it. It was too clean and sanitary. It lacked personality. The National Archaeological Museum of Athens on the other hand is a different beast altogether. It brilliantly displays the style, culture, and sophistication of Ancient Greece in its well presented and labelled exhibits.
The core of the building was completed in 1889, although several additional sections have been added on to it since. This means that the building itself has a history, as well as the collection it houses. One great story that I learned whilst visiting, is that during the Second World War, the artefacts were removed from the museum.They were then buried beneath it to prevent them being looted. Such a wise decision in tragic times, and something we should all be grateful for. Now, the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, contains the greatest collection of Ancient Greek artefacts in the world.
National Archaeological Museum Athens Layout
The National Archaeological Museum is spread out for the most part on the ground floor, with a smaller section one floor higher. The rooms are laid out into different sections or themes as listed below.
- The Prehistoric Collection (Neolithic, Cycladic, Mycenaean).
- The Sculpture Collection.
- The Collection of Vases and the Minor Arts.
- Terracotta Figurines.
- Vlastos-Serpieris Collection.
- Gold Jewellery and Silver Vessels.
- Glass Vessels.
- The Bronze Collection.
- The Egyptian Collection.
- The Stathatos Collection.
- Collection of Cypriot Antiquities.
Does that seem like a lot? It is! This is a huge museum, and so don't underestimate the time needed to do it justice. In my opinion, you should allow for at least four hours. Fortunately, you can take a break whenever you want in the unique inner garden cafe area.
It also goes without saying, that there is no way that I can write about everything in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. It would take a volume of books at least! Instead, I will write about my two favourite sections of the museum.
The Prehistoric Collection in the The National Archaeological Museum
I am a firm believer that whilst ancient civilisations may not have been more technologically advanced, their levels of craftsmanship were much higher than they are today. To me, the prehistoric collection shows this off beautifully, especially with the incredible grave goods found in Mycenae.
Having visited the ancient site of Mycenae only a few weeks before, it felt like a journey had been completed.
To think that this treasure had laid buried and undisturbed for thousands of years is amazing.
Was this indeed the mask of Agamemnon? We will never know for sure.
The Bronze Collection
The other section of the National Archaeological Museum of Athens which I loved, was the Bronze collection. This, more than anything else, reveals just how talented those early metal workers and artists really were.
The Artemision Bronze – Is this Poseidon or Zeus?
The Jockey of Artemision – Take a look at the features of both horse and rider. Aren't they incredible?
For me though, my absolute favourite part of the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, was the separate room displaying The Antikythera Mechanism. Remember when I said just a few sentences back, that ancient civilisations were not more technologically advanced? Well, this makes you think again! I have written a special blog post just for that here >> The Antikythera Mechanism.
Some final information then. I visited the National Archaeological Museum of Athens as part of my ongoing project to visit every museum in Athens. It is open every day between 08.00 and 20.00, although the hours may change in the winter months. The entrance to the museum is on Patission Street. The closest metro stations are Viktoria and Omonoia.
The National Archaeological Museum of Athens is a great place to visit during the heat of the day, as the air-con is amazing! Sensitive types who get cold easily might want to bring a long sleeve top. Personally, I loved it!