Benaki Museum

One of the highlights of my visit to Athens was the Benaki Museum, a private museum with collections covering Greek history from antiquity to 1922. It’s easily one of the best museums in Greece. I was very impressed with the quality of the collection and the way the museum is organized.

The best day to visit is on a Thursday. Admission is free and it’s open until midnight! Otherwise, you pay a full admission of €9 or €7 for temporary exhibitions. The museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

I started my visit on the ground floor in the Greek antiquities section. It started out with the typical statues, vases, and funerary items, but especially interesting were the Fayoum Portraits from Egypt. They were used to cover bodies prepared for mummification during Roman occupation of Egypt. Before heading upstairs, there were a number of Byzantine icons on display.

Antiquities Gallery at the Benaki Museum in Athens, Greece

Antiquities Gallery

Antiquities Gallery at the Benaki Museum in Athens, Greece

Antiquities Gallery

Fayoum portrait at the Benaki Museum in Athens, Greece

Fayoum portrait

Next was an ethnographic section of the museum. Several traditional Greek costumes from Greece, Cyprus, and Asia Minor were on display.

Traditional Cretan costumes at the Benaki Museum in Athens, Greece

Traditional Cretan costumes

Traditional dress from Pyrgi (left) and Kalamoti (right) in Chios at the Benaki Museum in Athens, Greece

Traditional dress from Pyrgi (left) and Kalamoti (right) in Chios

Traditional Cypriot costumes at the Benaki Museum in Athens, Greece

Traditional Cypriot costumes

Traditional dress from Samsun in Asia Minor at the Benaki Museum in Athens, Greece

Traditional dress from Samsun in Asia Minor

A room from a traditional Greek mansion in the town of Kozani in northern Greece concluded the exhibit.

Room from a mansion in Kozani at the Benaki Museum in Athens, Greece

Room from a mansion in Kozani

Before checking out a temporary exhibition of serving trays, I viewed some paintings of Greece in the 19th century. It was incredible to see how small the city was just before Greece won its independence from the Ottoman Empire.

Painting of Athens in 1820 at the Benaki Museum in Athens, Greece

Painting of Athens in 1820

Decorative serving tray of Hagia Sophia at the Benaki Museum in Athens, Greece

Decorative serving tray of Hagia Sophia

Finally, I got to see several items from Greece’s war for independence and the period after the war. On display were items such as Lord Byron’s pistols, Bouboulina’s telescope, a flag belonging to Theodoros Kolokotronis, and a painting of the launching of the Greek Revolution at Agia Lavra.

Lord Byron’s pistols at the Benaki Museum in Athens, Greece

Lord Byron’s pistols

A flag belonging to Theodoros Kolokotronis at the Benaki Museum in Athens, Greece

A flag belonging to Theodoros Kolokotronis

Painting of Agia Lavra at the Benaki Museum in Athens, Greece

Painting of Agia Lavra

The rest of the gallery focused on post-war Greece and the new Greek royalty. Traditional clothing worn by the royal family and chairs used at a reception for King Otto were among the items on display.

Traditional clothing used by the royal family at the Benaki Museum in Athens, Greece

Traditional clothing used by the royal family

Chairs used at a reception for King Otto at the Benaki Museum in Athens, Greece

Chairs used at a reception for King Otto

The Benaki Museum is located in the upscale Kolonaki district of Athens. It’s named for a single ancient column that stands in Kolonaki Square, which is a great place for having coffee and people watching. Kolonaki is also known for shopping and jewelry. I visited the next afternoon with my friend Eleni after finishing some personal business and running around to several different government offices in the morning.

Kolonaki in Athens, Greece

Kolonaki

Kolonaki sits on the slopes of Lykavittos, a hill that rises 300m above sea level and is the highest point of Athens. On top is a church, an open air theatre used for many popular concerts, and a restaurant. It’s accessible by funicular railway. Eleni and I thought about going up to the top but decided against it.

Lykavittos in Athens, Greece

Lykavittos

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