Athens Travel Guide

Athens Sights

Benaki Museum

  • Koumbari 1 Map It
  • Kolonaki
  • Fodor's Choice

Published 03/09/2017

Fodor's Review

Greece's oldest private museum received a spectacular addition in 2004, with a hypermodern new branch that looks like it was airlifted in from New York City. The imposing neoclassical mansion in the posh Kolonaki neighborhood was turned into a museum in 1926 by an illustrious Athenian family and was one of the first to place emphasis on Greece's later heritage at a time when many archaeologists were destroying Byzantine artifacts to access ancient objects. The permanent collection (more than 20,000 items are on display in 36 rooms, and that's only a sample of the holdings) moves chronologically from the ground floor upward, from prehistory to the formation of the modern Greek state. You might see anything from a 5,000-year-old hammered-gold bowl to an austere Byzantine icon of the Virgin Mary to Lord Byron's pistols to the Nobel medals awarded to poets George Seferis and Odysseus Elytis. Some exhibits are just plain fun—the re-creation of a Kozani (Macedonian town) living room; a Karaghiozi

shadow puppet piloting a toy plane—all contrasted against the marble and crystal-chandelier grandeur of the Benaki home. The mansion that serves as the main building of the museum was designed by Anastassios Metaxas, the architect who helped restore the Panathenaic Stadium. The Benaki's gift shop, a destination in itself, tempts with exquisitely reproduced ceramics and jewelry, some with exciting contemporary design twists. The second-floor café is on a generous veranda overlooking the National Garden. The annex at 138 Pireos Street in the Gazi-Keremeikos neighborhood displays avant-garde temporary exhibitions, while behind Kerameikos Cemetery stands the Benaki Museum of Islamic Art. Topping the complex off is a state-of-the-art amphitheater.

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Sight Information


Koumbari 1, Athens, Attica, 10674, Greece

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Sight Details:

  • €7 (free Thurs.)
  • Closed Mon. and Tues.

Published 03/09/2017


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