National Historical Museum Athens: everything you need to know

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Written By: Pavlos Inglesis

This is a video from my recent visit to the wonderful National Historical Museum in Athens

The National Historical Museum in Athens is one of the hidden gems of the capital of Greece, with lots of artefacts and items from Greece’s modern history (of at least the last 300 years). Along with a visit to the Acropolis Temple, Acropolis Museum and the National Archaeological Museum, this is one of the best things to do in Athens.

I recently visited the museum and took lots of photos, so here is everything you need to know:

national historical museum athens
The National Historical Museum is located in Athens downtown (Stadiou Street), very close to Syntagma Square, and its building is basically the old Greek Parliament (the existing parliament used to be the Royal Palace)

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The National Historical Museum of Athens basically hosts a ton of items and artefacts about the 1821 Greek War of Independence and the early days of Greece as an independent country after the Ottoman Empire occupation of more than 400 years. The building that hosts the Museum used to be Greece’s First Parliament, which stopped being in use back in the 1930’s. The National Historical Museum of Athens opened its doors in 1962 with thousands of items from modern Greece and the Greek Revolution.

national historical museum athens
The museum is located in the heart of Athens on Stadiou Street at Kolokotroni Square.

Is it actually worth visiting this Museum?

100%. You will get to know modern Greek history and see a different nation than what you see in Acropolis or Delphi. This is what shaped Greece as a country and as a nation over the last 300 years, and this is what we Greeks are being taught in history lessons in school aside from ancient Greek history. Personally, as a Greek, I feel closer to the people you will see in this museum than Socrates, Pericles or other prominent ancient Greeks.

national historical museum athens
The building of the museum is literally the old parliament of Greece, which is a cool fact in itself

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national historical museum athens
The Museum is very close to Syntagma Square, from where you can literally walk 5 minutes to reach it

THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE NATIONAL HISTORICAL MUSEUM IN ATHENS

acropolis museum athens underground metro map
Athens Metro Map: for the National Historical Museum, you have to get off at the “Syntagma” stop on the red or blue line
  • The best way to get to the museum is by the underground metro RED LINE (Line 2) or the BLUE LINE (Line 3) and stop at “Syntagma Station” (on Google Maps). The Museum is literally a 5 minutes walk from Syntagma station on Stadiou Street and the best ticket to get is the ATH.ENA Card for public transport within Athens.
  • If you live close to the centre of Athens in areas such as Kolonaki, Koukaki, Syntagma Square, Monastiraki, Plaka, Thission you can literally walk to the National Historical Museum as it’s about a 15-20 mins walk from all those areas.
  • The ticket for the museum costs 10 euros per adult person and 5 euros reduced for children, 65+ and students
  • The best website to book a guided tour is Get Your Guidewith hundreds of available tours that you can actually book online

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The National Historical Museum

This is not a museum with long queues and lines to enter, so you won’t have any issues getting a ticket (there is no need to book anything in advance). Just walk to the door and go to the ticket booth, where a lady will print out the ticket for you after paying.

national historical museum athens
There are many canons and cannonballs from the 1800s just outside the museum.
national historical museum athens
The ticket box of the Museum is just at the entrance
national historical museum athens
There is never a long line to get your ticket from the entrance lady as it’s not a very well-advertised museum and it’s never busy.
national historical museum athens ticket
The ticket for the Museum: unfortunately, there is no way to buy your ticket online in advance but there is no need to do that, to be totally honest…

The Temporary Exhibition

The museum hosts an exhibition every few years with a different topic and focus. This is located mainly close to the entrance of the museum on the right and left of the ticket booth as you enter.

national historical museum athens
One of the first things you will see as you enter on the right is the temporary exhibition of photos and artefacts from the last century of Greece’s modern history, including WW1, the catastrophe of Smyrna (1922) and the refugee crisis after that.
national historical museum athens
Greece’s turbulent 20th century in all of its glory
national historical museum athens
There are lots of interesting items and photos from the early 1900s
national historical museum athens
Maps showing the Greece-Turkey war progression in 1920
national historical museum athens
This exhibition is temporary but it lasts for a few years, usually
national historical museum athens
Lots of stunning photos from Greece’s wars of the early 20th century, mainly in Minor Asia
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The destruction of the city of Smyrna (Izmir) in 1922
national historical museum athens
Thousands of refugees flooded mainland Greece after Smyrna’s destruction from the Turks.
national historical museum athens
Smyrna’s entire Greek population (hundreds of thousands of people) was extradited brutally from the city of Smyrna within a couple of days
national historical museum athens
Not all heroes wear capes…

The Permanent Exhibition

Traditional Greek Clothes

The permanent exhibition of the National Historical Museum of Athens has a whole section dedicated to the Greek traditional clothing and costumes that were worn not only on special occasions like weddings and dances but also in the daily lives of men and women.

national historical museum athens
There is a vast section of the museum dedicated to traditional Greek clothing
national historical museum athens
There are costumes and clothes from different areas of Greece
national historical museum athens
The variety of traditional Greek clothing is astonishing.
national historical museum athens
Some lovely details of the costumes
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Children’s clothing was equally beautiful and well-decorated
national historical museum athens
Super cute Playmobil dolls wearing the traditional Greek costumes
national historical museum athens
These have to be the cutest exhibits in the whole museum.
national historical museum athens
Most of the items are also accompanied by photos of real people wearing specific costumes (mainly for weddings or other occasions)
national historical museum athens
A typical drawer of a greek house always had lots of handmade towels and ornaments
national historical museum athens
Yes, the children had to wear traditional clothes too!

Greek War of Independence

The vast majority of the museum is dedicated to the Greek Revolution of 1821 against the Ottoman Empire, with armaments, guns, clothing, portraits and other items of generals and other people who actually fought during those wars.

national historical museum athens
80% of the exhibits are dedicated to the 1821 Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire
national historical museum athens
This was the motto of the Greek Revolution that was present in almost all flags: “FREEDOM OR DEATH”
national historical museum athens
Konstantinos Kanaris was a Greek admiral and one of the most important figures in the greek war of Independence; he then became a Prime Minister of Greece after the independence.
national historical museum athens
There are hundreds of portraits of important figures and flags of Greece from the 1800s
national historical museum athens
To be honest, the whole museum feels a bit dated, without any modern features or technology used
national historical museum athens
Portraits of Greek Revolution generals and admirals
national historical museum athens
Imagine all those flags literally being in live battles of the 1800s
national historical museum athens
There are also lots of guns and memorabilia from 1821 admirals and soldiers.
national historical museum athens
There are notes in English and in Greek in every room and item, explaining what you are seeing
national historical museum athens
This is one of the most important maps ever created for Greece back in 1797 from Rigas Ferraios in Vienna, where he captured all the areas where Greeks lived up to that time; believe it or not, there was no Greece as a country before 1830
national historical museum athens
Clothes and other personal items of Ioannis Makrygiannis, a military officer and political figure of the 1800s
national historical museum athens
Armaments of senior figures, generals and admirals of the Greek Independence War of 1821
national historical museum athens
Laskarina Bouboulina was a greek naval commander and a prominent figure in the Greek War of Independence; she is one of the most important women in modern Greece
national historical museum athens
The interior of the museum is covered completely with photos, portraits and paintings of important figures and battles of the Greek Revolution of 1821
national historical museum athens
As you enter this corridor (halfway through the museum’s main path) you will see another Playmobil installation on your right
national historical museum athens
The Playmobil dolls installation shows a representation of the Missolonghi seize and battle; super cute (the Playmobils…not the actual battle…)
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A portrait of Dionysios Solomos, the national poet of Greece (he literally wrote the Greek anthem)
national historical museum athens
A massive copy of a famous Delacroix painting depicting a battle of the greek war of independence

Modern Greece and 20th-Century Politics

The museum hosts a lot of items, photos and documents of the turbulent first 100 years of Greece as an independent country.

national historical museum athens
The First King of Greece, Otto and his wife Amalia used to sit on these chairs; thankfully, Greece has had no royals since 1973 (they were never Greeks anyway but were imported from Germany and Denmark in 1831)
national historical museum athens
A piece of the once-royal boat
national historical museum athens
Statues of Otto (the first king of Greece) and his wife Amalia (both imported from Germany, and they had no connection with Greece)
national historical museum athens
The throne and some personal items (socks!) of Otto and his wife
national historical museum athens
A portrait of Eleftherios Venizelos (yes, Athens International Airport is named after him); greek Prime Minister of the early 1900s and controversial politician
national historical museum athens
Personal items and photos of Eleftherios Venizelos
national historical museum athens
The hat of the patriarch of Smyrna city (that got burned by the Turks in 1922)
national historical museum athens
Personal items of Ioannis Kapodistrias, the first governor of modern Greece
national historical museum athens
national historical museum athens
Canons and posters from WWI and WWII
national historical museum athens
Memorabilia from WWI, the Balkan Wars and WWII
national historical museum athens
Flags, photos, statues and furniture from the first 100 years of politics in Greece
national historical museum athens
Pocket watches of Greek politicians of the 1800s
national historical museum athens
This is possibly the funniest item in the whole museum: a plaque from a tower clock that Lord Elgin gifted to the city of Athens after he stole the famous Elgin marbles from the Acropolis
national historical museum athens
In 1814, Thomas Elgin donated a tower clock to the city of Athens after stealing the marbles from Acropolis; these are now located in the British Museum in London but the clock was destroyed in a fire in 1884.

The Old Parliament

The building of the museum itself used to be the first parliament of Greece, and that is basically the reason there are so many personal items and furniture of Greek politicians. The parliament was also used for a famous trial back in the 1910s.

national historical museum athens
The first parliament of Greece
national historical museum athens
national historical museum athens
It’s a beautiful room with lovely ceilings
national historical museum athens
national historical museum athens
The place is still used today for lectures.
national historical museum athens
There is a small exhibition in regards to the famous “Trial of the Six” of September 1922 after the Asia Minor catastrophe of the Greek-Turkish war of 1919-1922
national historical museum athens
The famous “Trial of Six” that took place in the parliament itself
national historical museum athens
Documents and newspapers from the trial
national historical museum athens
Documents, sketches and photos from the trial

The Museum’s Shop

Unfortunately, the museum shop is very small, with only a few items and memorabilia for sale.

national historical museum athens
The museum shop is very small, with nothing interesting to buy, in my opinion

Conclusion

So…do I recommend this Museum to anyone visiting Athens? 10000%!

Not only the building itself is of great significance for modern Greece but you will also get to see and learn about the people, the stories and the battles that shaped what Greece is today. Admittedly, this looks and feels like a museum that definitely needs a bit of modernization and funding, to be honest. However, the fact that you will be sitting in the first parliament of Greece is by itself great and there is so much history, politics and art in this building that is a “must” see for any history buff (but not only).

Photo of author
AUTHOR
Pavlos Inglesis
Greek, born and raised in Athens. I have been to almost every greek island and pretty much in every region of mainland Greece. I have also been eating souvlaki and gyros since the 80s. I love being a dad to my 2 beautiful daughters and also taking great photos of the places I visit. This is my blog to help you out explore the places I have visited with my inside tips as a Greek, knowing the ins and outs of my country and culture. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section under the post you are interested in and I wIll try my best to respond asap.

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🏺 Get Your Guide has the best and largest variety of Tours in Athens and the greek islands (Santorini, Mykonos, Crete etc)

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