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National Archaeological Museum Athens Collection | From Cycladic art to Roman sculptures

National Archaeological Museum Athens collection

With over 11,000 exhibits on display, the National Archaeological Museum Athens is a treasure trove unlike any other. The museum provides a comprehensive understanding of the Greek civilization, its art, and culture, from the Archaic to the Roman period. Forget dry textbooks and boring lectures. The museum brings forth interactive exhibits with digital displays, reconstruction techniques, and virtual reality simulations.

Collection of Egyptian antiquities

This collection reflects Egypt’s trade exchanges with the Aegean lands. You will find vases, statues, and funerary objects on display. As you explore their sarcophagi and amulets, you will understand how even though death is a somber event for us, the ancient Egyptians almost welcomed death and decorated vases and objects to place within their tombs for their afterlife. 

Collection of Mycenean artifacts

The Mycenean collection features artifacts from the civilization that had flourished near the Aegean Sea from around 1600 to 1100 BC. Its most notable object is the Gold Mask of Agamemnon (not the Homeric one!), which was used to cover the face of a deceased noble. Look out for their Linear B tablets, one of the earliest forms of Greek writing, and Vapheio cups, depicting bull-taming scenes, an iconic practice in those times.

Collection of Cycladic works

This collection features a number of nude female statues, with their arms folded on top of each other. Such minimalist idealization of the human form belonged to the Cycladic civilization, which flourished around 3000 BC to 2000 BC in ancient Greece. The Cycladic craftsmen also took special care in inscribing patterns on their marble creations. Look out for ridges and curves over the marble form.

Collection of ancient Greek sculptures

The ancient Greeks were known for their idealized representations of the human form. This collection includes statues from the late Bronze period to the end of the Roman times. You will notice marked changes in their sculpting techniques, going from balanced proportions in the Zeus, and Poseidon statues of the Classical period to dynamic poses in the Hellenistic years. The Nike of Pionios is one such example, where the sculptor brought out the fluidity of the human body.

Collection of metalworks

From swords, daggers, spears, armor, axes, chisels, and other farming tools, to kitchen utensils, cauldrons, and necessities molded from bronze, silver, and gold, this collection traces the technological advancement of the Greek civilization. As the centuries passed, the Greeks honed their welding skills and brought out finer bronze specimens. The colossal size of the bronze statue of Zeus or Poseidon depicts the high level of ingenuity among the ancient Greek craftsmen.

The jewelry collection

This collection includes a variety of necklaces, brooches, bracelets, and earrings, worn by royalty and higher-ranked nobility in ancient Greece. From Mycenean gold diadems and Hellenistic earrings with filigree designs, to Roman gemstone rings, this section highlights the uniqueness and popularity of certain gems in each period. 

Antiquities of Thera

These artifacts, recovered from the ancient settlement of Akrotiri on the Santorini islands, mostly included pottery, everyday tools, and frescoes. One of its most notable highlights is the ‘Spring Fresco’, a painting of a landscape full of lilies and swallows. A majority of these objects were preserved in volcanic ash, which ensured their vibrancy and quality. 

Must-see exhibits inside the Athens Archaeological Museum collection

Epinetra of Aphrodite

Collection: Collection of Vases and Small Crafts
5th century BC

  • The Epinetra of Aphrodite is a ceramic thigh guard, that was worn by women while spinning wool. The object features detailed imageries of Aphrodite on its surface. 
  • The decorations reflect the importance of Greek aesthetics and high-level artistry in creating simple but functional utilitarian objects.

Gold Death Mask of Agamemnon

Collection: Collection of Mycenean artifacts
16th century BC

  • The Golden Mask of Agamemnon is one of the most notable funerary masks discovered in the royal tombs of Mycenae, indicating the high status of the nobility buried there. 
  • These masks were used to cover the faces of the mummies and were made from beaten gold. 

The Varvakeois Athena

Collection: Collection of Ancient Greek sculptures
2nd century BC

  • The Varvakeois Athena is a Roman copy of the Athena Parthenos by Phidias. The original statue was most likely housed at the Temple of Parthenon on the Acropolis Hill. 
  • The Roman copy is a smaller version of the original, depicting the Goddess Athena with her spear, helmet, aegis, and a small Nike figure in her hand. 

The Nester’s Cup

Collection: Collection of Vases and Small Crafts
around 750 BC to 700 BC

  • The Nester’s Cup is a drinking vessel inscribed with a verse from Homer’s Illiad, referencing the famed cup of Nester. This is one of the first instances of Greek inscriptions on objects, reflecting their early poetic traditions. 
  • This drinking vessel dates back to the Geometric period and was found in Pitthekousai, modern-day Ischia.

Artemision Bronze

Collection: Collection of ancient Greek sculptures
Around 750 BC

  • There is much confusion over whether the outstretched arm of this statue is seen holding a thunderbolt or a trident. However, the Artemision Bronze, no matter whether it is of the Olympian King Zeus or the Sea God Poseidon, is known for its hyper-realistic anatomy and dynamic pose. 
  • The statue was recovered from a shipwreck, highlighting the importance of maritime trade in those times. 

Marble statues of Kouros and Kroisos

Collection: Collection of ancient Greek sculptures
6th century BC

  • The kouros statue shows a young man, standing in a rigid posture. The slightly advanced Kroisos statue’s form is comparatively more relaxed. 
  • These statues belonging to the Archaic period were used as grave markers or as offerings to the Olympian Gods.

The Jockey of Artemision

Collection: Collection of ancient Greek sculptures
Around 140 BC

  • This bronze figure dates back to the Hellenistic period, depicting a young boy riding a racehorse at full gallop. 
  • It was found off a shipwreck, signaling that it may have been a part of a bigger cargo of precious artifacts.

Portrait Head of Emperor Hadrian

Collection: Collection of ancient Greek sculptures
Around 117 BC to 138 BC

  • This marble sculpture dates back to the Roman period and shows the emperor with his trademark features like his characteristic beard. 
  • Publius Aelius Hadrian was one of the 5 Good Roman Emperors, known for their just rule. This portrait may have been Hadrian’s efforts to associate himself with Greek culture and philosophy. 

Mycenean Warrior vase

Collection: Collection of Mycenean artifacts
12th century BC

  • The Mycenean Warrior Vase is a large krater vase, featuring detailed portraits of soldiers in a military procession, marching off to war. 
  • Although the vase depicts imagery of war, it wasn’t used to fight battles. The vase was most likely used for decorative purposes or to dilute wine during prolonged celebrations.

Tombs of the Karameikos

Collection: Collection of ancient Greek sculptures
5th century BC onwards

  • The Tombs of the Karameikos is a series of sculptures and figureheads, which were used as grave markers in funerary sites. These statues were found in the Kerameikos cemetery in Athens. 
  • These grave markers reflected the status of the nobility buried inside the tombs and also provided insights into ancient Athenian death rituals.

Marble statue of a Sphinx

Collection: Collection of ancient Egyptian sculptures
Around 560 BC

  • The Sphinx statue depicts a mythical creature with the body of a lion, the wings of an eagle, and the head of a woman, sitting upright with a dignified posture.
  • The Sphinx was revered as a symbol of protection and was often placed on grave monuments.

Digital exhibitions of the Athens National Archaeological Museum

The Countless Aspects of the Beautiful

This exhibition is centered around Greek ideals of beauty. Their vast collection of marble, bronze, and terracotta pieces, including statues of Zeus, Poseidon, Venus de Milo, and Discobplus, showcase their pursuit of the idealized human form. The ancient Greeks also focused on maintaining proportion and balance when sculpting, making their figures look more life-like. 

Antiquities and the Greek Revolution

Greeks waged their War of Independence against the Ottoman Rule from 1821 to 1830. Around this time, Neoclassical art pieces and statues had gained popularity among the masses to boost the morale of soldiers. This exhibition emphasizes the role of conserving ancient artifacts and drawing on them to strengthen national unity. Here, you will also find displays of armor, weapons, and daily objects, that were used by the soldiers in their struggle for independence.


Calling the mythology lovers! If you are familiar with the enduring legacy of Homer’s epics, you would also know of Odysseus and his journey back to Athens. This exhibition uses digital displays and virtual reality (VR) simulations to transport you into the epic world, where you can experience what it must have been like for Odysseys to brave past cyclops, sirens, and raging waves to come back to his homeland.

Where to start from when exploring the Athens Archaeological Museum?

Confused about where to begin your tour? Fret not! Here’s a detailed guide for your convenience. Follow through this sequence of rooms to save time and make the most of your visit.

  1. Prehistoric collection (Room 3)
  2. Egyptian collection (Rooms 22 and 23)
  3. Sculpture collection (Rooms 24 to 29)
  4. Vases and minor arts collection (Rooms 40 to 56)
  5. Cypriot collection (Rooms 65 to 75)
  6. Mycenean collection (Rooms 6 to 13)
  7. Cycladic collection (Rooms 14 to 21)
  8. Metalworks collection (Rooms 57 to 64)
  9. Jewelry collection (Rooms 75 to 79)
  10. Thera collection (Rooms 80 to 81)

Tips to note when visiting the Archaeological Museum in Athens

  • Use the side entrance: If you are traveling to the museum on a weekend or during the peak tourist season, between June to August, you may consider entering the premises from the side entrance to avoid congestion on the main gate. 
  • Arrive around the afternoon: For comparatively fewer crowds, even on a weekend, visit the museum after 12:30pm to escape the morning rush. You may also visit in the evening, after 6:30pm. However, the museum exhibits usually close around 8pm, so if you are exploring in the evening, you may have to rush through the exhibits.  
  • Engage with the displays: Unlike other traditional museums, the National Archaeological Museum of Athens offers innovative visual reality simulations, audio-guided tours, and digital displays. Make sure to explore the museum’s digital exhibitions for some added knowledge and fun. 
  • Head to the lesser-known exhibits first: The Cycladic collection, metal works, and Mycenean collection, featuring Agamemnon’s gold mask are always crowded, no matter the day or season. To save time, go to the lesser-known exhibits first. 
  • Visit the garden: Keep a few minutes towards the end of your tour to lounge in the museum’s garden. The space is lined with gravel paths and filled with pine shrubs and vibrant flower beds. 
  • Check for limited exhibits: When planning your visit to the Athens Archaeological Museum, check for temporary exhibits and limited events. The museum often hosts unique and engaging displays to educate visitors on ancient Greek heritage. 
  • Wear comfortable shoes: With over 11,000 exhibits, the museum demands you to be on your feet at all times. Wear your most comfortable, closed shoes to stroll through the exhibits comfortably. 
  • Plan a day trip: The National Archaeological Museum of Athens is situated quite close to the Benaki Museum, Pedion tou Areos Park, and the Epigraphical Museum. Set aside a full day and explore all these nearby attractions at once. 

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Frequently asked questions about the National Archaeological Museum Athens collection

What kind of artifacts are on display at the Athens Archaeological Museum?

The National Archaeological Museum showcases a variety of exhibits, spanning the Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman periods. There are over 11,000 exhibits, spread throughout the building’s basement and first floor. Make sure to explore the Antikythera mechanism, the Gold Mask of Agamemnon, the Epinetra of Aphrodite, and more.

How big is the collection?

The National Archaeological Museum Athens collection spans throughout the Greek civilization, from its humble beginnings to its glory days of the Classical and Hellenistic periods. There are over 11,000 exhibits in the Athens Archaeological Museum. Beyond that, the museum also offers digital simulations and audio-guided tours and hosts temporary exhibitions throughout the year.

How long does it take to tour the museum?

We recommend you set aside at least 3 to 4 hours to visit the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. There are over 11,000 exhibits for you to explore, including audio-guided tours, digital displays, and augmented reality simulations.

How old are the artifacts at the Archaeological Museum in Athens?

The artifacts at the National Archaeological Museum Athens span a vast swathe of time, ranging from the Neolithic period (around 6800 – 3000 BC) to the Roman period (through the 4th century CE). Its objects include colossal statues, vases, pottery, terracotta pieces, small amulets, and more.

Do you need tickets to see the National Archaeological Museum Athens collection?

You must book Athens Archaeological Museum tickets to enter the museum and tour its collections. You do not need to pay any extra charges to visit its gardens and temporary exhibitions. Your skip-the-line museum tickets also include an audio guide app for your convenience.

Can I touch the exhibits at the museum?

You cannot the artworks and artifacts inside the Athens Archaeological Museum. However, visitors with partial or full vision loss can take advantage of a special tactile workshop. A knowledgeable personnel will take you through about 20 sculptures, which you can touch and experience.

Can I click pictures of the collection?

Except for exhibits with relevant symbols and icons, you can click pictures of all the collections and objects inside the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. Flash photography, drones, selfie sticks, and tripods are not allowed within the museum premises.

Are there audio guides available?

The Athens Archaeological Museum skip-the-line tickets include access to audio guides. You can make use of the museum’s Wi-Fi to download your free audio guide and take a stroll through the exhibits, learning about their history at your own pace.

Is the Athens Archaeological Museum collection accessible to visitors with disabilities?

The National Archaeological Museum has ramps and elevators to accommodate visitors with limited mobility. This museum in Athens also provides tactile tours and special educational programs for visitors with partial or full vision loss and hearing problems. There are almost 20 exhibits inside the museum, which visitors with disabilities can touch and experience.