Explore a smorgasbord of artifacts and artwork,from all of the important Greek eras, in this exquisitely restored mansion.
The Benaki Museum is the oldest museum in Greece, established in 1930 by Antonis Benakis in memory of his father. Housed in the Benakis family mansion downtown, this is a great place to get an understanding of the history and culture of Greece, with more than 40,000 artifacts and artistic works. Explore a smorgasbord that includes pieces from all the important eras of Greek eras: the age of Roman rule, the medieval Byzantine period, the centuries of Frankish and Ottoman occupation and the struggle for independenceand modern times. It’s a lot to digest, but covers a relatively small area that can be covered in a few hours.
In 2000, the Benaki Museum underwent a major renovation, restoring the pristine white limestone exterior. Walk inside and admire the hardwood floors, gilded decorative walls, and stained glass windows befitting the former home of one of Greece’s wealthiest families.
The museum is divided into sections covering four different eras made up of smaller collections. Begin your tour on the first floor, with artifacts from the Bronze Age, the Geometric Age and the Cycladic period.
Walk up the stairs the second floor, which recreates the lifestyle and culture of Macedonian nobility who lived on the islands of Hydra and Siatista during the 1700s. You’ll be swept away, back in time, with furnishings, ornaments, useful tools and artwork.
Explore more recent Greek history on the third floor. The 1821 Revolution is a focal point with memorials, portraits of heroes, maps and etchings on display. The tour concludes with a collection of 20th century Greek artifacts.
The umbrella of the Benaki Museum includes a handful of other galleries throughout the Athens area. Families will enjoy the Kouloura Mansion in Palaio Phaliro, known for an extensive collection of children's toys. History buffs can explore the historical archive collection in the Penelope Delta House in Kifissia, an upscale suburb. There’s also the Benaki Islamic Art Museum in the Kerameikos district, and the downtown Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas Gallery.
The Benaki Museum main building is located in central Athens, close to Syntagma Square. It’s on several major subway and bus routes. It’s open Wednesday to Sunday, and closed on major Greek holidays. Separate admission to each museum is required.