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National Archaeological Museum Athens

Nestled in the heart of Athens, the National Archaeological Museum is home to an extensive collection of artifacts from various periods, offering captivating insights into the rich heritage of Greece. I...

Founded On

1889

Founded By

Ludwig Lange

AthensNational Archaeological Museum AthensNational Archaeological Museum Athens

Quick information

RECOMMENDED DURATION

4 hours

Timings

8am–8pm

VISITORS PER YEAR

500000

NUMBER OF ENTRANCES

2

EXPECTED WAIT TIME - STANDARD

30-60 mins (Peak), 0-30 mins (Off Peak)

EXPECTED WAIT TIME - SKIP THE LINE

0-30 mins (Peak), 0-30 mins (Off Peak)

Plan your visit

Did you know?

Established in 1829, the National Archaeological Museum stands as the first museum of the independent Greek state. Initially located in Aegina, the first capital, it moved to Athens in 1834 when the capital shifted and officially opened its doors in 1889.

The museum is housed in a graceful neoclassical building from the 19th century.

As the largest museum in Greece, it encompasses an area of 8,000 m² divided into numerous halls showcasing an outstanding collection of antiquities with over 11,000 exhibits. The museum possesses one of the world's most extensive and impressive bronze collections.




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What to see at the National Archaeological Museum Athens

Collection of Mycenean artifacts

Collection of Mycenean artifacts

Period: Late Bronze Age (around 1600 BC to 1100 BC)
Must-see highlights: Gold Death Mask of Agamemnon, Warrior Vase, Linear B tablets, grave treasures from the tombs of Mycenean nobility

  • Although its name suggests otherwise, Agamemnon’s death mask did not belong to the Homeric hero. The Mycenean civilization likely had another prosperous king of the same name, who ruled the Aegean lands much before the Trojan War.
  • The Linear B clay tablets were one of the earliest written records of the Greek language and offer a glimpse into the Mycenean administrative system. 
Collection of Cycladic works

Collection of Cycladic works

Period: Early Bronze Age (around 3200 BC to 2000 BC)
Must-see highlights:
Marble statues, pottery, and kitchen tools

  • The minimalist marble statuettes, with their characteristic folded arms and flat features, are some of the most recognizable artifacts from the Cycladic civilization. Most of these statues were placed in graves.
  • The stylized representation of the human form in Cycladic statues is quite similar to 20th-century art. 
Collection of Egyptian antiquities

Collection of Egyptian antiquities

Period: Predynastic to the Roman period (from around 3000 BC to the 4th century)
Must-see highlights:
Statues of Ramses II, wooden coffins from Thebes, sarcophagi, amulets, and scrolls with inscriptions from the Book of the Dead

  • The wooden coffins, mummies, and other funerary objects offer a closer look at the burial practices and Egyptian beliefs in the afterlife. 
  • A majority of this collection is from the New Kingdom era, a period of artistic achievements. You will find clay tablets and pieces of temple walls adorned with scenes depicting religious ceremonies, military victories, and their daily life.
Collection of Cypriot antiquities
Collection of Classical sculptures

Collection of Classical sculptures

Period: 5th to 4th century BC
Must-see highlights:
Statue of Peplos Kore, the Kouros of Anavyssos, and the Parthenon Friezes

  • The Friezes from the Parthenon are carved from marble and depict scenes from Greek mythology and the Panathenaic procession, offering a glimpse into Athenian art and religious practices during the Classical period.
  • The collection also traces a significant development in Greek sculpting styles, from the rigid forms of the Archaic period to the more naturalistic and dynamic postures of the Hellenistic period statues.
Collection of metalworks

Collection of metalworks

Period: Mostly from Mycenean (1750 BC to 1100 BC) and the Classical period (500 BC to 323 BC)
Must-see highlights:
Mycenean daggers, Spartan armor, bronze statues, farming tools, jewelry, and others

  • The sophistication of farming equipment and weaponry reflects the technological progress of the period. 
  • This collection also includes figurines made from silver, gold, and bronze, depicting gods and goddesses, people going about their daily lives, and humans and animals together. These offer a closer glimpse of the religious beliefs and everyday life of ancient Greeks.

Must-visit artifacts inside the Archaeological Museum of Athens

The Antikythera Mechanism

The Antikythera Mechanism

The Antikythera Mechanism is the world’s first analog computer, built as a complex series of bronze gears lodged within a wooden case. It was once used to determine planetary positions and eclipses for astrological purposes.

Epinetra of Aphrodite

Epinetra of Aphrodite

This terracotta piece depicting Goddess Aphrodite was used in ancient Greek households to cover the thigh when spinning wool. The reference to Aphrodite, the goddess of fertility, is a silent nod to the domesticity and femininity associated with spinning wool.

Gold Death Mask of Agamemnon

Gold Death Mask of Agamemnon

The gold death mask of Agamemnon, dating back to the 16th century BC, offers a glimpse into funerary practices and the disposable wealth in the hands of the nobility in the Mycenean period. This solid gold mask was used to cover the face of a deceased noble upon death. 

The Varvakeois Athena
Marble statues of Kouros and Kroisos

Marble statues of Kouros and Kroisos

These marble statues are perhaps the best examples of Archaic-style sculpture. They were used as grave markers or as offerings to Gods. You can notice a distinct change from the Kouros statue (a generic young man) to the Kroisos (a statue of a fallen warrior), going from idealized proportions to dynamic expressions.

Tombs of the Karameikos

Tombs of the Karameikos

The tombstones, vases, jewelry, weapons, and sculptures, uncovered from an ancient cemetery in Athens, will tell you about the burial practices, social customs, and day-to-day activities from the 12th century BC to the Roman period. Karameikos was particularly revered as a sacred site and was thought of to be the intersection between life and death in those times.

History of the Athens National Archaeological Museum

  • 1829: After Greece’s liberation from the Ottoman Empire, the Archaeological Museum of Athens houses its first collection on the island of Aegina. 
  • 1834: The museum’s collection is moved to Athens and kept at the Temple of Hephaestus. 
  • 1866: Architect Ludwig Lange offers a design plan for the museum, which is later improvised by Panagis Kalgo, Armodios Vlachos, and Ernst Ziller. 
  • 1866 to 1889: The Greek government, with generous donations from the likes of Eleni Tositsa, begins the construction of Athens’ first independent archaeological museum. 
  • 1891 to 1900s: The museum grows its collection with donations from significant archaeological sites around the world. 
  • 1939 to 1945: During World War I, the Athens Archaeological Museum hides its collections to prevent them from being damaged or stolen. 
  • 1980s to 1990s: The authorities add climate control systems to make visitors feel more comfortable when exploring the exhibits.
  • 2002 to 2004: To prepare for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, the museum adds new exhibition halls and improves its facilities. 
  • 2010 to 2024: The National Archaeological Museum in Athens continues to add advanced digital displays to enhance visitor experience. 

Who built the Archaeological Museum in Athens?

The National Archaeological Museum of Athens was constructed in 1889. The idea for an independent archaeological museum was sowed after the country’s liberation from the Ottoman regime in 1829. A renowned architect of the time, Ludwig Lange, initiated the design process and laid out a plan, which was later improvised by the likes of Ernst Ziller, Panagis Kalgo, and Armodios Vlachos. The museum originally intended to house antiquities only from Athens. However, at present, the museum has over 11,000 exhibits spanning centuries of Greek civilization. 

Architecture of the National Archaeological Museum Athens

Architecture of the National Archaeological Museum Athens

Frequently asked questions about the Athens National Archaeological Museum

How big is the National Archaeological Museum of Athens?

The museum is built on 8,000 square meters and houses over 11,000 exhibits, spanning the Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman periods of the Greek civilization. A renowned architect of the time, Ludwig Lange had laid out the first design plan of the museum in 1866, which was later improvised to build its current Neoclassical building. 

When was it opened to the public?

Ludwig Lange, a famous architect, had laid out the first design plan for the Athens Archaeological Museum in 1886. After significant improvisations by Panagis Kalgo, Armodios Vlachos, and Ernst Ziller, the museum was opened to the public in 1889. It was the first national archaeological museum of the independent Greek state.

What are the most famous artifacts on display at the museum?

The National Archaeological Museum of Athens provides a wealth of information on Greek civilization through exhibits, audio-guided tours, and interactive displays. Among its 11,000 exhibits, the Antikythera mechanism, Mycenean Warrior Vase, Artemision bronze statue, and the gold mask of Agamemnon are some must-see highlights.

Can I see the original Parthenon sculptures at the Athens Archaeological Museum?

The museum displays a significant portion of the Parthenon frieze, adorned with statues, depicting scenes from the Panathenaic procession, held in honor of the Goddess Athena. While the National Archaeological Museum in Athens does not house the majority of the original frieze slabs, they provide a wealth of information for anyone interested in learning more about ancient Greek history.

What is the Mycenean collection known for?

The Mycenean collection in the Athens National Archaeological Museum is known for housing artifacts uncovered from the Late Bronze Age (around 1600 to 1100 BC). Its most famous piece is the gold death mask of Agamemnon, which was used to cover the face of a deceased noble from around that time. The collection’s Linear B clay tablets are one of the earliest forms of Greek writing. The Mycenean Warrior vase, adorned with imagery of soldiers heading to war, also offers a closer look at their artistic achievements and social customs.

Does the National Archaeological Museum in Athens have any Egyptian artifacts?

The Egyptian antiquities at the Archaeological Museum in Athens house objects from the New Kingdom period, known for their artistic endeavors. Their well-preserved mummies, decorated wooden coffins, sarcophagi, and funerary objects like canopic jars and ushabtis offer visitors a closer glimpse into the burial rituals and beliefs in the afterlife of ancient Egyptians.

Are there any interactive exhibits at this museum?

The Athens National Archaeological Museum offers audio-guided tours, engaging digital displays, and advanced augmented reality simulations, which instantly transport you to a mythical world. One such VR experience you must try is Odysseus’ ship, where you can feel what it must have been like to be the Homeric hero, battling the Cyclops and sirens to return to Athens.

Are there any special events or exhibitions happening at the Archaeological Museum of Athens?

The National Archaeological Museum of Athens hosts a number of temporary exhibitions, workshops, and talks by eminent historians and archaeologists, as well as engaging educational displays for visitors of all ages. An exhibition that recently caught the attention of several visitors is the ‘Shadows of Fire’ by Andreas Nikolaidis. The artist used fire to shape his materials and create abstract pieces, which examine the connection between the past and the present, reality and imagination, and light and shadow.