10 best museums in Greece everyone should visit

Greece is home to some of the world’s most iconic and historically significant museums. 

A journey through these museums provides a deep dive into different eras of Greek history that shaped the present.

Beyond their historical and cultural significance, many are architectural icons and modern spaces tailored to enhance the visitor experience. 

From the mainland to the islands, Greece’s museums offer one-of-a-kind opportunities to immerse in its vast heritage.

With roots dating back to ancient civilizations, Greece’s museums showcase its rich cultural heritage and offer glimpses into its storied past. 

From Athens to the islands, here are the top 10 museums you must visit when in Greece:

#1 Acropolis Museum (Athens)

The Acropolis Museum is one of the most important archaeological museums in the world. 

This Greek museum lies in at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens,

It houses findings from the archaeological site and provides an in-depth understanding of the Acropolis and Ancient Greek civilization. 

The museum opened in 2009 and its collection includes sculptures and artifacts dating from the Greek Bronze Age to the Roman and Byzantine periods. 

However, it is best known for its vast collection of original artifacts from the Acropolis site including the Caryatids and original Greek sculptures from the Parthenon.

The museum building itself is an architectural marvel designed by Bernard Tschumi with ample exhibition space and glass floors offering views of ancient ruins below.

#2 National Archaeological Museum (Athens)

Founded in 1829, the National Archaeological Museum in Athens is the largest museum in Greece and one of the most important museums in the world. 

Its extensive collections comprise over 11,000 exhibits spanning Greek artifacts dating from the 6th millennium BC to the 5th century AD. 

The museum houses essential pieces such as the golden Mask of Agamemnon and a bronze statue of Zeus. 

Other highlights include the Antikythera mechanism – an ancient analog ‘computer’ used to predict astronomical positions and eclipses, and the earliest known Greek mosaics.

 The museum is housed in an impressive neoclassical building with 8 shaped halls that take visitors through different eras of Ancient Greek history.

#3 Museum of Byzantine Culture (Thessaloniki)

The Museum of Byzantine Culture is in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city. 

It opened in 1994 and contains the world’s largest collection of Byzantine artifacts. 

The museum provides a comprehensive overview of the Byzantine civilization from the 3rd to the 15th century AD through a display of over 25,000 artifacts. 

Some highlights include mosaics, sculptures, icons, inscriptions, manuscripts and daily objects from the Byzantine period. 

The museum is housed in a modern steel and glass building designed to represent the monumentality of Byzantine architecture. 

It also features educational spaces, conservation labs and auditoriums for lectures and workshops.

#4 Archaeological Museum of Heraklion (Crete)

Home to many Minoan artifacts uncovered in Crete, the Heraklion Archaeological Museum allows you to discover the advanced Bronze Age Minoan civilization. 

The museum was established in 1883 in a small building but moved to its current modern premises in the 1930s. 

Spanning over 5500 years of history, the museum houses finds from excavations conducted in Crete, the Aegean islands and Cyprus. 

The most prized possessions include the Phaistos Disk – a fired clay disk with undeciphered writing dating back to 1700 BC.

You can also find the iconic frescoes from Knossos, including the Prince of the Lilies and the Bull-Leaping Fresco.

#5 Museum of Cycladic Art (Athens)

Dedicated to studying and promoting ancient cultures in the Cyclades islands, this museum contains one of the world’s largest collections of Cycladic art. 

You can see marble figurines, idols, vases and impressive artifacts from ancient civilizations that flourished in the Aegean and Cyprus from 3200 BC to 2000 BC. 

The museum’s main building is located in the historical neighborhood of Plaka. 

In 2014, the museum opened a new modern wing designed by architect Andrea Tsiropina to showcase its ever-growing collections.

#6 Cretaquarium (Crete)

Image: Facebook.com

More than just a standard aquarium, Cretaquarium provides visitors with a multi-faceted learning experience focused on the marine world of the Mediterranean Sea.

Located near the town of Gournes in Crete, it opened in 2005 and remains one of the largest and most modern aquariums in Europe. 

It houses over 2500 organisms and 150 Mediterranean fish species, including sharks, groupers, and lobsters. 

Extensive multimedia displays educate visitors on marine biology and oceanography. 

Kids can touch sea anemones and urchins in the touch pool or walk through acrylic tunnels surrounded by sharks and other creatures.

#7 Archaeological Museum of Olympia

Situated in the ancient site of Olympia, this museum houses one of Greece’s most significant collections of archaeological artifacts. 

The ancient Olympic Games were held in Olympia for over a thousand years, making it an important cultural and religious center. 

The museum displays findings from Olympic venues and artifacts related to athletic competitions like bronze helmets, Discophoroi statues, and clay lamps decorated with runners. 

One of the highlights is the Nike of Panionios – a statue of the Winged Goddess Nike. 

The current museum building opened in 1982, replacing the old museum built in the 19th century.

#8 Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art (Thessaloniki)

Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art
Image: Momus.gr

Opened in 1979, the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art has a permanent collection of over 1,200 works of modern Greek art created after 1960. 

It aims to promote and highlight contemporary Greek artists and modern movements in Greek art. 

Some renowned artists displayed include Georgios Gounaropoulos, Nikos Engonopoulos, Yannis Tsarouchis and Yannis Moralis. 

The museum is housed in a building that served multiple functions over its history including a warehouse, hotel and girl’s school. 

The conversion to a museum was undertaken by architects Kyriakos Krokos and Panagiotis Traulos.

#9 Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki

The Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki holds and preserves artifacts found in the region of Macedonia in northern Greece and Thessaloniki. 

The museum opened in 1962, showcasing Macedonian artifacts dating from prehistoric times to Late Antiquity. 

Some important items in its collection are the Derveni Krater – a large ancient Greek bronze krater and frescoes from a Macedonian tomb in Vergina. 

Visitors can also view ancient Macedonian sculptures, coins, and findings from excavations like pottery, figurines and metal artifacts. 

The current building was designed in the early 1960s by architect Patroklos Karantinos.

#10 Benaki Museum (Athens)

Founded in 1930, the Benaki Museum in Athens houses one of the greatest private collections of Greek cultural artifacts. 

It features over 40,000 objects spanning multiple millennia – from the Stone Age to modern Greece. 

Extensive collections cover diverse categories like ancient Greek sculptures, Cycladic figurines, Byzantine icons, Ottoman artifacts, Coptic clothes, and Greek national costumes. 

The museum is spread across four buildings, including the main historical neoclassical house donated by its founders. 

Other facilities include a toy museum and an Islamic art museum on separate premises. 

It provides rich insights into Greek history and culture over the ages.

Featured Image: Dawid Tkocz on Unsplash

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