7 Museums to Visit in Athens

With more than 70 museums across the city, Athens remains a cultural hub. Here are seven museums that everyone should visit in Athens, Greece.

Mar 22, 2024By Marialena Perpiraki, MSc. Media & Convergence, BA Communication, Media & Culture

museums visit athens


Known for its countless archaeological sites, busy nightlife, and quirky architecture, Athens welcomes millions of tourists every year. Although open-air sites are the most popular Athenian landmarks, there are more than 70 indoor museums and galleries to choose from. Whether you are a history buff or an art aficionado, you will find at least one place you can add to your list of favorite museums. All Athenian cultural institutions offer insights into Greece’s ancient and modern history and culture but, for most visitors, seeing them all is an impossible task.


From the National Gallery to the Numismatic Museum, here are seven museums you should visit in Athens, capital of the Hellenic Republic.


1. National Archaeological Museum

The exterior of the National Archaeological Museum Source: National Archaeological Museum


Situated in close proximity to Omonia square, the National Archaeological Museum is the largest archaeological museum in Greece. It was established in the 19th century to protect and exhibit the ancient Greek artifacts that were recovered during the numerous archaeological excavations of that time. What few people know is that its initial location was the island of Aegina. In 1858, however, a new neoclassical building was being constructed at the heart of Athens. A few years later, all artifacts were relocated to Patission Street in Athens, where they remain to this day.


Part of the sculpture collection at the National Archaeological Museum Source


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The National Archaeological Museum not only contains the largest collection of ancient Greek artifacts in the world, but it stands as an architectural wonder at the heart of Athens. It was initially designed by the German architect Ludwig Lange and was later modified by Panagis Kalkos, Armodios Vlachos, and Ernst Ziller. Its façade with its characteristic row of Ionic columns makes the building easily recognizable from a distance.


The National and Archaeological Museum’s admission fees vary between 6€-12€, depending on the season. The opening hours are between 08:30-20:00, except Tuesdays, when the museum remains closed until 13:00. Due to the large size of the museum and the number of artifacts, it is not recommended to combine other museum visits on the same day.


2. Benaki Museum of Greek Culture 

Benaki Museum, Source: Museum of Greek Culture


The Benaki Museum was founded in 1930 in memory of Emmanuel Benakis, a Greek merchant and national benefactor who served as mayor of Athens in the early 20th century. The main museum, the Museum of Greek Culture, is housed in the beautiful neoclassical house of the Benaki family. It was donated to the Greek nation by Emmanuel’s children: Antonis, Alexandra, Penelope, and Argine.


Its permanent collections include historic heirlooms, ancient Greek and prehistoric artifacts, and Byzantine iconography, among other exhibits. In its post-Byzantine collection, visitors will have the opportunity to see many traditional clothing items from different parts of Greece. It is one of the few Athenian museums that shed light on the historical period between the 15th and 19th centuries, during the Frankish and Ottoman occupations of Greece.


The Benaki Museum also has a number of satellite museums in different parts of Greece, including Pireos 138, the Museum of Islamic Art, the Ghika Gallery, the Yannis Pappas Studio, the Toy Museum, and the Leigh Fermor House.


The main museum, the Museum of Greek Culture, is open every day except for Tuesdays and admission fees vary from 1€-9€. It is located within walking distance from Syntagma Square or Evangelismos subway station.


3. National Gallery (Alexandros Soutsos Museum)

National Gallery, Athens, Source: Travel.gr


One of the most important art museums in Athens is the National Gallery, located on Vasilissis Sophias avenue, about 10 minutes on foot from Benaki Museum. The jurist Alexandros Soutzos helped establish the museum in 1900 CE, by donating his estate and art collection to the Greek government.


Contrary to other local museums that exhibit ancient Greek and Byzantine art, the National Gallery displays Greek and international paintings from the 14th century till today. Its collections comprise more than 20,000 artworks, including historical paintings depicting scenes from the Greek War of Independence.


The National Gallery also includes the National Glyptotheque which is located at the Army Park in Goudi, Athens. Various annexes can be found across Greece, including Corfu and Aegina. The main building is open every day except for Tuesday and tickets cost between 5€-10€. Contrary to other Athenian museums, the current building of the National Gallery follows the Greek modernist movement, rather than Neoclassicism.


4. Byzantine and Christian Museum

Byzantine and Christian Museum, Source: This is Athens


Situated between the National Gallery and Benaki Museum, the Byzantine and Christian Museum houses more than 25,000 Byzantine artifacts, including religious icons and manuscripts. Moreover, it includes a collection that showcases the progression from the ancient world to Byzantium and Byzantium to the modern era.


The museum is housed in one of the most beautiful historical buildings of Athens. Known as Villa Ilissia, the museum’s building used to belong to Sophie de Marbois-Lebrun, Duchess of Plaisance. Designed by the architect Stamatis Kleanthis in the 19th century, it combines elements from both Classicism and Romanticism. Due to the unconventional lifestyle of the Duchess of Plaisance, who had an interest in occultism, Villa Ilissia is one of the most mysterious Athenian buildings. More precisely, it has been the epicenter of countless urban legends involving secret séances and ghost sightings; a common interest among the members of the high society of the late 19th century.


The Byzantine and Christian Museum is open every day between 08:00-20:00, except for Tuesdays, when it remains closed till 13:00. Admission fees vary between 4€-8€.


5. Acropolis Museum

Acropolis Museum, Luna Zhang, Source: Unsplash


One of the most recent additions to the Athenian cultural scene is no other than the Acropolis Museum. It houses more than 4,250 ancient artifacts from the archaeological site of the Acropolis Hill, including the Caryatids. These were the marble maidens that carried the roof of the Erechtheion Temple on their heads. Although there were six in total, one Caryatid was taken by Thomas Bruce, also known as “Lord Elgin,” during the Ottoman occupation of Greece. The missing Caryatid is displayed at the British Museum.


The Acropolis Museum was founded in 2009 to restart the negotiations for the return of the Parthenon Marbles from the United Kingdom. It has replaced the first museum that was built in 1874 on the Acropolis Hill to safeguard the artifacts found on the site. One of the reasons the British Museum initially denied the return of the sculptures was the alleged “bad conditions” of the old building. The main motivation behind the completion of the new building was the elimination of such complaints.


Exterior view of the new Acropolis Museum, Zsófia Fehér, Source: Pexels


Located in close proximity to the Acropolis Hill, the new museum can be recognized from a distance thanks to its unique modern design. The architect behind it was no other than the French-Swiss Bernard Tschumi, commonly associated with deconstructivism.


The Acropolis Museum is open every day of the week and the ticket prices vary between 5€-15€, depending on the season. The entrance is located right next to the Acropolis subway station.


6. Museum of Cycladic Art

Museum of Cycladic Art, Source: Athina Guide


Recognized for its minimalism and sophisticated simplicity, Cycladic art has been one of the main influences of modern art. The ancient Greek art movement, which flourished in the Aegean islands during the Bronze Age, has its own dedicated museum in Athens. The Nicholas P. Goulandris Foundation, also known as the Museum of Cycladic Art, is located two blocks away from Benaki Museum. Housing more than 3,000 items from the private collection of Nicholas and Dolly Goulandris, it is one of the most popular museums in Athens. The collection of Goulandris has since been donated to the Greek state and the museum is a non-profit legal entity.


The Museum of Cycladic Art is based at the Stathatos Mansion, another beautiful neoclassical building with a rich history. Designed in 1895 by Ernst Ziller, the villa has a rich history, as most of the buildings on Vasilissis Sofias Avenue do.


It can be reached easily from Syntagma Square and Evangelismos subway station, while it remains open every day of the week except for Tuesdays. Ticket prices vary from 6€-12€.


7. Numismatic Museum 

Numismatic Museum, Mathias Volzke, Source: Documenta14


An important Athenian museum with one of the most impressive façades in the city is the Numismatic Museum. It houses a collection of over 500,000 of coins, medals, and other related artifacts that often date back to 1400 BCE. Its permanent collections consist of a large number of ancient Greek and Byzantine coins, including a golden (Y)perpiron.


Established in 1834, it was initially considered a branch of the National Library of Greece. It took many years until it found its permanent location at Iliou Melathron, the former residence of the Schliemann family. The beautiful building is another work of Ernst Ziller, this time combining elements of the Neoclassical, Exotic, and Renaissance movements.


The Numismatic Museum of Athens is open every day except for Tuesdays and Wednesdays, while ticket prices vary from 3€ to 15€. The building is located in close proximity to Syntagma Square, towards the Academy of Athens.


All Athenian museums remain closed during national holidays, such as Christmas day, with the exception of “Ohi Day” on the 28th of October. On that day, many museums are not only open but also offer free entrance to all visitors.

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By Marialena PerpirakiMSc. Media & Convergence, BA Communication, Media & CultureMarialena is a journalist and content writer with an interest in comparative mythology and folklore. She holds a BA in Communications, Media & Culture from Panteion University of Athens and an MSc. in Media & Convergence Management from AAU, Austria. She is the creator of the cross-media platform Helinika.