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National Archaeological Museum or Acropolis Museum

I saw reference to this in a semi-related post and thought it deserved its own topic. We will be going to Athens for 3 days in May (also going to Hydra, Meteora and Santorini). Question: assuming we only have the time or inclination to spend 2-4 hours at one single museum, which of these two would you recommend?

I was leaning toward the National Archaeological Museum for its comprehensive coverage, as opposed to what I assume is the more site specific Acropolis Museum. I also thought, having seen the real Elgin Marbles in London and the real Parthenon in Athens, what more could the Acropolis Museum show me. But then I saw recommendations for the Acropolis Museum so maybe my assumptions are not sound.

Posted by
4173 posts

Go with your 1st inclination.

The best collection is at the NAM.

However, the best café is at the AM and you don't have to pay the entrance fee to go to it.

Posted by
3335 posts

The Acropolis museum is just steps from the South Exit of the Acropolis area ... right across a pedestrian promenade. The first 2 floors have assorted sculptures and artifacts from the Acropolis/Parthenon history. Top floor, look above your head, an exact replica of the architrave (top banding) of the Parthenon -- showing (in plaster) the looted parts that are in London... same for the famous end-piece sculptures. Dramatic. There is also a SUPERB 20-25 minute continually-running video that gives entire history of the Rock and the temple ... animated and present-day live action. V informative for persons who haven't read up on it. Low admission fee -€4?

N.A.M. is a 5-7€ taxi ride away. If you want to be Efficient in your visit, Rick S has a FREE podcast to download (or see his guide) on the TOP TEN SIGHTS, whisk from one to another, you could do it in 2 hours, moving right along. Admission is at least €12 -- but of course many people spend an entire day there.

Posted by
6631 posts

The Acropolis Museum, well described by Janet, is one of the best designed museums I've ever visited. And extremely easy if you're already visiting the Acropolis. And the café is indeed very good.

In London you see the Elgin Marbles (which are neither Elgin's nor marble) in a big windowless gallery, arranged as they were on the Parthenon but with no real context otherwise. In Athens you see the entire sculptural arrangement, in natural light, albeit with many reproductions where the originals were "exported." You also see original pieces that remained on the Parthenon until this century, subject to the ravages of air pollution.

As you note, the NAM covers the long sweep of art from the Cycladic to the Hellenistic and Roman periods. It would be hard to do it justice in just two hours, but maybe in four. A downside is that it's a considerable distance from the Acropolis, Agora, and most other "big" Athens sights, so the time commitment is greater.

We had about three days in Athens and spent quite awhile in both museums, as well as other places. I wouldn't have missed either.

Posted by
4441 posts

If you're not planning a return visit to the Acropolis, the National Archeological Museum because of the broader sweep of history it depicts.

Posted by
15649 posts

I thought the Acropolis Museum was very good, but the NAM is a Wow.

Posted by
3961 posts

We agree that both museums are worth your time. On our first day we did the Acropolis Museum with the wonderful RS local guide Faye Georgiou. On our own we visited the phenomenal NAM. We felt that both museums gave us an introduction to the history that was discussed along our journey through Greece.

Posted by
1070 posts

Thank you, everybody. I'm sure we will go to the NAM, and hopefully we can find time to squeeze in the Acropolis Museum also.

Posted by
1070 posts

We ended up going to the National Archaeological Museum. It was a scorching hot day so we enjoyed the air conditioning and the nice cafe downstairs. I would grade it about a B- museum.

We didn't get to the Acropolis Museum but heard many positive reviews.

Posted by
72 posts

I'm not a museum person but was so impressed by the Natl Arch Museum. Spent about 4 hours there and could have spent more. The way the Greeks display their antiquities was fascinating and the things that were there were on display created an interesting image of the country during its golden age. Let me also put in a plug for the best fast food on the planet, Oven Sesame in Monastariki...yummy fresh veggies, sauces and other ingredients stuffed into the crispest sesame shell for the price of a Big Mac.

Posted by
585 posts

Last fall was in Athens determined to finally visit the NAM, and ignoring the Acropolis Museum having been there on each of my three previous visits. But as usual I was drawn into the Acropolis Museum, revisited favourite pieces and had lunch in the fabulous cafe overlooking the Acropolis. I did finally make it to the NAM and yes it is a fabulous museum. The bronzes were the high point for me. Definitely needs multiple visits to see and appreciate everything that is in there.

Both museums are worth visiting but my favourite is still the Acropolis Museum..not just for the panels and friezes from the Parthenon but for the wealth of other material that has been retrieved from the area, the well-designed purpose-built building, the cafe and its view of the Acropolis, the archaeological site that was revealed during the building of the museum and is now covered by a glass walkway.

Talking of museums In Greece, I’d like to add a plea for the wonderful museum in Heraklion, Crete. I first visited it when the renovation was still under way and the exhibits were in the basement. Now the Reno’s are complete and it is an impressive display space covering Crete from Pre-Minoan times. The Minoan gold jewellery is stunning, as are the what I call “octopus jars”.