- Acropolis Museum (Athens): Athens' newest high-profile museum is also its most stunning. This impressive five-story building handsomely displays the riches that adorned the Acropolis in its heyday: stunning sculptures, statues, free-standing objects, and 36 of the original 115 frieze panels that remain in Greece. More than any other ancient pieces, the Parthenon friezes’ fragments of exquisitely carved marble capture snippets of good-natured divinity and humanity—in one, the goddess Athena Nike fastens her sandal (something you didn’t think goddesses had to do). Priests, soldiers, and ordinary citizens parade across the marble strip, and you almost want to jump in and join the procession. On the lower levels, visitors can peer through glass panels at the ongoing excavations of an ancient Athenian neighborhood and an early Christian settlement.
- National Archaeological Museum (Athens): You don’t have to be a classics scholar to realize you’ve stumbled into an embarrassment of riches here. This stunning collection has it all: superb red- and black-figured vases, bronze statues, Mycenaean gold, marble reliefs of gods and goddesses. There’s no need to be methodical in your approach: Just wander and stop in front of the pieces that catch your eye—all those figures frozen in marble for eternity; all that gold, jewelry, and pottery. Irresistible favorites are the colorful frescoes that capture residents of the Minoan settlement of Akrotiri on Santorini going about everyday life as it was more than 3,500 years ago.
- Museum of Popular Greek Musical Instruments (Athens): Life-size photos of musicians beside their actual instruments and recordings of traditional Greek music make this one of the country's most charming museums. On our last visit, an elderly Greek gentleman listened to some music, transcribed it, stepped into the courtyard, and played it on his own violin!
- Museum of Cycladic Art (Athens): It’s hard to distinguish the smooth, oblong, elongated figures from the modern pieces of Henry Moore, Picasso, and Modigliani they’ve inspired. More than 300 of these magnificent, 3,500-year-old masterworks are housed in this museum’s light-filled modern galleries. Their timelessness is haunting.
- Archaeological Museum of Iraklion (Crete): Few museums can boast of holding virtually all the important remains of a major culture. This museum can do just that with its Minoan collection, including elegant bronze and stone figurines and exquisite gold jewelry. In the superb frescoes from Knossos, the athletes, dancers, and other subjects seem to reach across the millennia and touch us—so palpably you can understand why a modern French archaeologist looked at a 4,000-year-old scene of flounce-skirted court ladies and exclaimed, “Les Parisiennes!”, giving the fresco its modern nickname. The museum also contains Neolithic, Archaic Greek, and Roman finds from throughout Crete.
- Archaeological Museum of Chania (Crete): Let's hear it for a truly engaging provincial museum, not one full of masterworks but rather of representative works from thousands of years, a collection that lets us see how many people experienced their different worlds. All this, in a former Italian Renaissance church that feels like and is a special place.
- Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki & Museum of Byzantine Culture (Northern Greece): These side-by-side museums showcase the art and architecture of Thessaloniki and Northern Greece from the earliest days to the Byzantine era and its legacy.
- Archaeological Museum of Paros (Paros): The carved Parthenon scenes in Athens aren’t the only famous marble carvings in Greece. At the Archaeological Museum in Parikia, a fragment of the Parian Chronicle captures a march of Alexander the Great and other scenes from Greece’s distant past. Another frieze nearby portrays the poet Archilochus, a 7th-century-B.C. master of the bon mot who famously sniped, “‘Tis thy friends that make thee choke with rage.”
- The Bank of Piraeus has sponsored a number of absolutely superb museums (some with rather clunky names!) throughout Greece, including the Museum of Marble Crafts on Tinos; the Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive Oil in Sparta; the Open-Air Water Power Museum in Dimitsana, Arkadia; the Rooftiles and Brickworks Museum in Volos; and the Museum of Industrial Olive Oil Production on Lesbos. Check www.piop.gr for more information on these terrific interactive and educational small museums.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.