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National Archaeological Museum

National Archaeological Museum (49)

Recently renovated, this museum will take up at least half a day of your time in the Greek capital. And the National Archaeological Museum offers one of the most fascinating collections in the world, especially as far as sculpture is concerned. 

With over one hundred years of history, on its inauguration the museum, which until then was a hotchpotch of collections owned by private individuals, joined other museums, galleries and even scrap metal firms and archaeological sites being excavated. 

In a city that in itself is a real archaeological site, there was an urgent need for a museum like this, in which the pieces are painstakingly sorted and carefully restored. 

The museum opened in 1891, and although prior to this it was on small two floors, the number of rooms it has now and especially the large number of pieces, is truly exceptional. There was a considerable break in its history in which it remained closed from the beginning of World War II  until 1946. Since then, it has been one of the most visited museums in Greece. And there is a good reason for this. 

On the first floor, its collection includes Cycladic, Mycenaean and Archaic art. The white marble figurines dating to 3,000 BC are on display next to the china, silver cups, funerary masks and jewellery belonging to the Mycenaean kings, and Archaic vases with mythological motifs and geometric abstract decorations. 

This is just a taste of the richness of this museum; the main treasure, which makes it one of the most important museums in the world, remains to be seen. It is the collection of sculptures, which reconstructs the evolution of this art form from the 7th century BC to the Byzantium. 

And its recreation is essential, as sculpture is one of the most prominent and sophisticated forms of Greek art. From the rigid statues of Kouroi, busts with minimal expressions and a halo of mystery shrouded in the familiar "Archaic smile" to the twisted and melodramatic sculptures from the Hellenistic period, the National Archaeological Museum showcases all eras in sculpture. Gods, heroes, governors and athletes are represented in Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic form. Thus, somewhere between the latter two stages of Greek sculpture, pay special attention to the Child of Marathon, a Greek bronze discovered on the seabed and that reflects its own unique form of Classicism,  breaking free from constraints into a longer and more exaggerated movement; a fact that was exacerbated during the Hellenistic period. 

While the ground floor contains the main body of the museum's collection as well as its most famous pieces, don't miss the first floor; it has very interesting galleries. 

This applies to the collection of ceramics. There are many, many pieces in the display cabinets in this section but above all, more than the number of objects, the real value is in the high quality of the collections. Designs that seem current and intact terracotta paintings reveal the importance of this art in the Hellenic country. 

Thira frescoes can also be admired on this floor, found on the island of the same name, in Santorini. Legend says that these frescoes came from the mythical Atlantis, but obviously there is nothing to confirm it. The refinement and sophistication of these frescoes reveals the art that evolved on the islands in the Minoan Era, in the 15th century BC. 

If archaeological remains scattered throughout the city fascinate you and take your mind back into the past, just step one foot into this museum. Its organised arrangement as well as the practical information offered on information panels, brochures and audiovisual media, as well as the priceless collection, makes the National Archaeological Museum a must-visit.

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