Here’s 10 of the best museums in Athens you can visit in the Greek capital. These are my favourite Athens museums for archaeology and history.
Top 10 Athens Museums
No visit to Athens is complete without spending time in a museum or two. In fact, Athens is a museum lovers paradise, as there are over 80 museums!
From ancient exhibits to modern art, there’s something here for everyone. There’s no way you can see all the museums in Athens on a short break though.
In this article, you will find which Athens museums you should visit if you want to discover more about Greek history and culture. They cover the entire range of Greek history, from its ancient past to modern Greece. I’ve also listed a few more museums and art galleries in Athens, when you’ve had enough of our long history.
Best Athens Museums
Here are the best museums in Athens for anyone interested in Greek history and culture:
- National Archaeological Museum
- Acropolis Museum
- Museum of Ancient Agora in Athens
- Museum of Cycladic Art
- Byzantine and Christian Museum
- Benaki Museum
- War Museum
- Numismatic Museum
- National Historical Museum of Greece
- Korai 4 Memorial Site 1941-1944
These museums are all in the city centre, and you can easily reach most of them on foot.
1. National Archaeological Museum of Greece
The National Archaeological Museum in Athens is one of the most important museums in Greece. Its permanent exhibitions include artefacts found all around the country, dating from the ancient times.
The exhibits are split into five permanent collections, dating from the Prehistoric times to Late Antiquity. There are also sections with Egyptian and Cypriot antiquities, showcasing other ancient cultures.
If you are interested in Ancient Greece and Ancient Greek art, this is the best museum in Athens. You will have the chance to see ancient Greek sculptures, vases, ornaments, jewelry, tools and everyday objects.
Some of the highlights in the National Archaeological Museum include the mask of Agamemnon, the statue of Zeus / Poseidon and the statue of the child on a horse.
Tip: If you want to visit the museum properly, you will need around four hours! You can take a break at the lovely garden at the back, which offers a quiet retreat from the hustle and bustle of Athens.
Closest metro station: Victoria / Omonia
Website: National Archaeological Museum
2. Acropolis Museum
The New Acropolis Museum opened in 2009, replacing the old Acropolis museum which was up on the Acropolis Hill. It is one of the most popular archaeological museums in Athens.
There is a large collection of statues and sculptures that were excavated around the Parthenon and the Acropolis. This includes several statues of the twelve Olympian Gods, such as Athena, Artemis, Aphrodite and Hermes. Arguably, the most famous sculptures in the Acropolis Museum are the Caryatids.
On the top floor, you can see the surviving sculptures from the Parthenon’s frieze. In addition, you will see replicas of original sculptures that are nowadays found in the British Museum, better known as the Elgin marbles.
Make sure you spend a few minutes to watch the video explaining the history of the Acropolis, being shown in a special gallery in the museum.
The café at the Acropolis Museum is lovely, so allow some time to have a coffee or a snack with a view of the Acropolis. In fact, even if you don’t want to visit the museum, you can visit the café without purchasing a entrance ticket.
Tip: The museum has transparent glass floors, so shorts or trousers are the way to go! Before you leave, make sure you check out the excavated houses under the ground floor, which will give you a better idea of the ancient city.
Closest metro station: Acropolis
Website: Acropolis Museum
3. Museum of Ancient Agora in Athens
Entry to this fabulous archaeological museum is included with your ticket to the ancient site of Ancient Agora.
The Ancient Agora museum itself is rather small. Yet, it gives you a great overview of the social and political life in the ancient city of Athens. You will see many antiquities such as vases, weapons, terracotta figurines, coins, jewellery and everyday objects.
In addition, there are objects representative of Athenian democracy, such as bronze ballots, potsherds and official jurors’ identification tags.
Allow at least two hours to explore the archaeological site of Ancient Agora and the Museum. You will love walking around the impressive site and imagining life in Ancient Greece.
Tip: You can visit this interesting museum using the combined ticket to all the important archaeological sites in Athens. The ticket also includes entrance to the Acropolis, the Roman Agora, the Kerameikos Ancient cemetery, the temple of Zeus, Hadrian’s library and Aristotle’s Lyceum.
Closest metro stations: Monastiraki, Thisseio
Website: Archaeological site of Ancient Agora
4. Museum of Cycladic Art
The Cycladic Art Museum in Athens is one of the best museums in Greece if you are interested in Ancient Greek art.
The most famous exhibits of this fascinating private collection are the iconic Cycladic idols. Those marble figurines, created thousands of years ago, are enigmatic, abstract depictions of humans.
Apart from the idols, the museum houses artefacts representative of the Cycladic civilization. You will see objects from all eras of the Ancient Greek world, between the 2nd millennium BC and the 4th century AD.
Do not miss the fourth floor, where you can learn about religion, customs, beliefs, attitudes and daily life in ancient Athens. The exhibition includes two short movies where you can see the life and death of an ancient Athenian called Leon.
Tip: Make sure you check out any contemporary exhibitions, such as the fascinating children’s painting competition, organized on an annual basis.
Closest metro station: Evangelismos
Website: Cycladic Art Museum
5. Byzantine and Christian Museum
The Byzantine Museum in Athens is one of the most important Byzantine museums in the world. It is a must-see for anyone interested in the history of the Byzantine Empire, which emerged from the ashes of the Roman Empire.
The permanent exhibitions focus on Byzantine art and architecture. You will see an impressive collection of icons, frescoes, sculptures, pottery, manuscripts and textiles.
In addition, the museum often hosts temporary exhibitions that have nothing to do with Byzantine Art. Usually, there is some connection to decorative arts, fine arts or even contemporary art.
Tip: The museum hosts music performances on selected summer nights. Check their website for more information.
Closest metro station: Evangelismos
Website: Byzantine and Christian Museum
6. Benaki Museum of Greek Culture
The Benaki Museum spreads out across several buildings around Athens. The private collection presented at the main building, in Kolonaki area, follows Greece throughout its history.
The exhibits focus on Greek art and Greek culture, covering the period from antiquity to 1922, when the Asia Minor tragedy happened.
The permanent collection includes several artefacts from the ancient world, and an extensive collection of Byzantine art. In addition, you can see traditional Greek costumes used at different eras, and objects related to the Greek Revolution in 1821.
If you only have time for one museum in Athens, the Benaki Museum is a great choice, as you can get an idea of the various historical periods of Greece.
Tip: On Thursdays, the Benaki museum remains open until midnight! So you can do other things during the day, and plan your visit in the evening. Bonus – entrance for the permanent exhibition is free on Thursdays.
Closest metro station: Evangelismos
Website: Benaki Museum of Greek Culture
7. War Museum
The War Museum hosts items related to the numerous wars that Greece has taken part in.
You can see weapons, ammunition, uniforms, flags and medals from the last 200 years. Exhibits cover the Greek war of Independence, the Balkan Wars, World War I and World War II.
You will easily recognize the War Museum by the numerous air planes in the back yard.
Opening hours are 9.00-17.00, and the museum is closed on Mondays. Allow an hour and a half to visit the museum comfortably.
Tip: If you are not very knowledgeable about the history of modern Greece, try to gain some insight before visiting the War Museum.
Closest metro station: Evangelismos
Website: War Museum in Athens (in Greek only)
8. Numismatic Museum of Athens
The Numismatic Museum hosts an impressive collection of Greek coins, from the ancient world to modern Greece. It’s the only museum in Greece with this theme.
You can see coins of the city-states of Ancient Greeks, coins designed by Greek rulers and Roman emperors, and coins used by the Byzantine Empire and the Frankish kingdoms. On display are also contemporary coins and banknotes.
The Numismatic Museum of Athens is housed in one of the most important neoclassical buildings in Athens. Heinrich Schliemann, the archaeologist who excavated Troy, Mycenae, Tyrins and other areas, used to live here. So, even if coins are not your main interest, you can pop in to look at the interior.
The museum is open from 8.30-15.30 daily, apart from Tuesdays.
Tip: Before you leave, stop for a coffee at the Museum’s garden, and check whether they are hosting any live music events in the evening.
Closest metro stations: Syntagma / Panepistimio
Website: Numismatic Museum of Athens (mostly in Greek)
9. The National Historical Museum of Greece
The National Historical Museum presents the history of Greece from the era of the Ottoman Empire to modern Greece.
Some of the exhibits date from the Ottoman Era. There are also later items, relevant to the Greek revolution in 1821 and the era of King Otto. A large section of the museum includes information on the symbols of the Revolution and the Greek flag.
In addition, WWI and the Balkan Wars are covered, and there’s a (rather small) room about WWII.
If you have a specific interest in the Greek revolution, you should definitely visit this museum. Interestingly, the English translation on the otherwise comprehensive signs is not always 100% accurate!
Take some time to check the building, which used to be the Old House of Parliament until 1932.
Tip: Even though entrance to the museum is free on Sundays, it tends to be fairly quiet. It’s a great option if you are in Athens on a Sunday.
Closest metro stations: Syntagma, Panepistimio
Website: National Historical Museum of Greece
10. Korai 4 Memorial Site 1941-1944
A largely unknown site in Athens, Korai 4 is not a museum strictly speaking, but a memorial site. Of all the historical sites in Athens, I find this one to be the saddest.
The site is located in a mansion, which hosted the offices of “I ETHNIKI” General Insurance Company towards the end of the 19th century. It was reconstructed just before WWII.
After Athens was conquered by the Germans in 1941, the building was immediately requisitioned to host the German troops and the Kommandatur. The basements, which had been constructed to be used as bomb shelters, were soon turned into detention and transfer centres for Greek patriots. Prisoners often wrote or carved on the walls, and many of those messages are still visible today.
Photography was not allowed at the time I last visited, but as you can imagine the place is really grim. Even though the writings on the walls are in Greek, foreign visitors will still be able appreciate the difficulties that the prisoners went through.
Tip: Make sure you have a chat with the helpful museum employees, as they have many stories to tell.
Closest metro station: Panepistimio
Website: Memorial Site 1941 – 1944
Bonus – Where to go if you’ve had enough of our Historical Museums
While all these museums are brilliant, history and archaeology are not for everyone. So here are a few more ideas.
- National Gallery in Athens – This brand new national museum is a must-see for anyone interested in international artists and contemporary art.
- Museum of Islamic Art – A rare collection of Islamic art, part of the Benaki foundation. The exhibits come from several parts of the Islamic world, including North Africa and the Middle East.
- Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum – Even if you are not particularly interested in jewelry, this museum is fascinating. Among others, the permanent collection features contemporary Greek jewelry which has been influenced by ancient designs.
- Museum of Illusions in Athens – Its interactive exhibits are a lot of fun! The museum is ideal for everyone, especially families with teenagers. I loved it!
- Hellenic Motor Museum – An extensive collection of antique, classic and modern cars. You can see several famous cars, like Rolls Royce, Bugatti, Ferrari, Jaguar and Morgan.
- Goulandris Museum of Natural History – Fantastic for families and not only, the Goulandris Museum focuses on geology, zoology, plant biology and all other aspects
- Museum of Greek Folk Musical Instruments – A fantastic permanent collection of musical instruments used in Greece. There are also some interactive exhibits.
The Best Museums of Athens
So this was my guide to the best historic museums in Athens! If you’ve been to any of them, I’d love to see what you thought, so feel free to leave a comment below.
Hi! I am Vanessa from Athens. I really enjoy visiting museums and galleries, and Athens has dozens. It’s a great city to visit if you are interested in Ancient Greek history, Greek art, and modern Greek culture. I hope this guide to the best museums in Athens has been helpful.