Athens is often referred to by Greeks as the center of the world. In ancient times, Athens was a meeting place for scholars, artists, and tradesmen alike. As a result of its deep and intricate history, Athens is home to world renowned museums holding precious artefacts dating back thousands of years.
Alongside one of the best museums in the world, the Acropolis Museum, the ancient city of Athens is home to many other museums worth visiting. These museums may be lesser known but have much to offer and certainly do not disappoint!
City Museum of Athens
The first museum worth noting is the City Museum of Athens located right by Panepistimio metro station in the heart of the city. The building itself is of historical significance, as it was the first home of King Otto and Queen Amalia, the first monarchs of modern Greece. As you enter the building, everything looks seemingly untouched, as if it were still the residence of the king and queen. Lining the walls on the ground floor are blueprints of the city of Athens dating back to the mid 19thcentury. A projection rooms allows museum goers to see a glimpse into how Athens looked like in the first years of modern Greece, coupled with information about various historical buildings such as the National Library, the Academy of Athens, and the current Parliament building. Throughout the museum you will find furniture and everyday items such as fine china and clothing that all once belonged to Greece’s first monarchs. The building and its artefacts truly give the visitor a sense of what life was like in Athens and how the royal family lived, soon after Greece had claimed its independence. As is still true today, monarchies throughout Europe have ties or cooperation with one another. This was apparent through the many books that lined the museums library in languages such as German and English. The museum is a must see for someone who would like to understand more about the way life was like in Athens after claiming its independence and how it has evolved.
Hellenic Motor Museum
The next must see museum is the Hellenic Motor Museum, located about a block away from Viktorias metro station. The museum itself is located on the top floor of a building that stands out and towers among the classic structures surrounding it in this very old neighborhood of Athens. As you walk up the spiral ramp inside the building, you can read a brief history about how the wheel may have been invented, the different types of wheels used on cars today and see the different kinds of tires from the ancient times until today lining the walls. As you enter the museum on the top floor, you are greeted by automobile models dating back to when the invention was brand new. Car manufacturers still operating today and some which have stopped production filled this seriously impressive collection of automotives. Make sure to read the descriptions on the plaques placed in front of each vehicle, as you may find some were a part of 10 or less ever made! For example, the museum holds ownership to a rare 1939 BMW coupe, molded by hand and one of only three made. Keep going and you’ll find antique American muscle cars in bright colors, tiny Italian Fiats, cars you might picture in the Great Gatsby, and an array of other odd but cool automotives. This museum is truly a hidden treasure in a neighborhood usually unfrequented by tourists. I highly recommend the Hellenic Motor Museum for everyone, car enthusiasts or not!
The final stop on my museum tour, is the well known Benaki Museum located near the Technopolis neighborhood of Athens. The museum not only holds ancient artefacts from our Greek culture but also from even older civilizations such as the Assyrian Empire. Along with ancient art, the museum also has exhibitions celebrating modern and contemporary art. I was fortunate to attend the exhibition of artist Stefanos Rokos titled “Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds No More Shall We Part”. This exhibition has since finished but serves to show the range of beautiful and meaningful art on display at the Benaki Museum.
Museums connect us to our past and give up something to look forward to for the future. I hope the next time you are in Athens, you are able to visit these brilliant museums!
By Stamatina Mylonas