National Archaeological Museum

If you plan to visit any museums in Athens, as you should, you will put the National Archaeological Museum at the top of the list. The Museum, first of all, is housed in an impressive neo-classical building that alone deserves a visit. Once inside the structure, you have entered the biggest of all museums of Greece, and you have some 20,000 exhibits awaiting you. You might be here a while, but it will the kind of time spent that is truly worth it. Although the museum was originally intended to house artifacts found in and around Athens, it slowly developed into the National Archaeological Museum of Greece, gathering items from around the country’s top archaeological sites. Greece is deemed by most the cradle of modern civilization, which gives some weight to the significance of this museum. The National Archaeological Museum of Greece can be found in the centrally located area of Exharhia in Athens, sitting between Ipirou, Boubalina, Tossitsa and Patission Streets. It is next to the Athens Polytechnic building, and you enter the museum at 28 Patission Avenue.

This great museum is easy to access if you hop on the Athens metro. Transportation in Athens has seen improvements with and since the 2004 Olympics, and some of those improvements include the metro system. You can exit the metro at either Viktoria station, where its just a 5-minute walk to the museum, or exit at the Omonoia station if you are in the mood for a 10-minute walk. You’ll know the building once you see it, a neo-classical giant holding the top collection of ancient Greek art in the world. Due to this impressive collection, the museum is often regarded as one of the top musuems worldwide.

Greece prime minister, Ioannis Kapodistrias first established a national archaeological museum for the country in Aigina. That was in 1829, and since then, the location has been changed a number of times. In 1858, an architectural competition was held to determine the location of a new museum and to find an architect. When the location was decided upon, construction began in 1866 and didn’t finish until 1889. The cost was shouldered mostly by the Greek Government, with help from the society of Mycenae and the Greek Archaeological Society. The land for the National Archaeological Museum of Greece was donated by Eleni Tossitsa, and the site placed it next to the historical Technical University building. A large amount of money reserved for the completion of the museum was gifted by Dimitrios Vernardakis, who was from Saint Petersburg. The final stages for the museum were executed under the guidance of the famous architect, Ernst Ziller. By 1891, the Archaeological Society had transferred its collection of artifacts to its new home, which would soon expand after various excavations in the 20th century.

The National Archaeological Museum has a large arrangement waiting for you, and the best part about it is that the exhibits flow in chronological order. Wander through the centuries and marvel at the array of items dating from 7,000 BC-500 AD. Within the 5 permanent collections, there is the Prehistoric Collection, The Sculptures collection, the Vase and Minor Objects collection, the Stathatos Collection, and the Metallurgy collection. Among the highlights you’ll find are the Mask of Agamemnon, which is a death mask made from gold, and the Minoan Frescos, which where found in Santorini at Akrotiri’s Minoan settlement. Among the popular bronze statues is the Poseidon of Artemision. It’s an amazing statue from 450 BC of the Greek god hurling his trident. Head to room 20 to see the Statue of Athena, which dates to 450 BC and originally pertained to the Parthenon.

The museum also has an impressive library of archaeology that is 118 years old and houses the country’s richest collection of rare books and other publications. There is also the Epigraphic Museum in the southern section of this museum of museums in Greece. Here, you’ll find the largest collection in the world of Greek inscriptions. The National Archaeological Museum is open Tuesday-Sunday from 8 a.m.-7:30 p.m. and on Mondays from 12:30-7:00. It is free for EU students or kids 6 and under. Otherwise, it costs about $10 to get in. If you like this museum, be sure to check out the new Acropolis Museum, which is slated to open soon and will house the majority of the stone sculptures from the Acropolis. For a historical journey through art, be sure to check out the Benaki Museum as well.

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