Athens’ National Archaeological Museum Set to Expand

The National Archaeological Museum of Athens, the largest archaeological museum in Greece and one of the most important museums in the world- is set to welcome a huge upgrade that will include new spaces, exhibits, a garden and dining areas. 

The Greek Minister of Culture and Sports, Lina Mendoni, announced on Monday that the first stages towards the renovation of the National Archaeological Museum in Athens- devoted to ancient Greek art- have taken place, following the approval of the technical stages of the architectural requirements that will be drafted.

“The emblematic and visionary work of the rebirth of the National Archaeological Museum is now in progress. We want a Museum with a strong and clear identity at a national, European and international level. A Museum that promotes Greek culture and Greek identity in the new age,” said Minister Mendoni.  

The expansion of the museum will include an underground car park, a new garden, dining areas and an upgraded entrance. The renovation will also focus on adding natural light to the current exhibits and spaces, highlighting Greek civilization through exhibits spanning the centuries.

According to the announcement, the aim of the new plan is to not only highlight ancient Greek art but to also start showcasing contemporary pieces, as both the main and temporary exhibition spaces will increase substantially in size. 

“It will be a Museum that inspires contemporary artistic creation and that rejuvenates; defining the rebirth of the wider area of Athens,” added Mendoni.

Strolling Around the Neoclassical Zappeion Hall 

One of Athens’ most striking buildings is the neoclassical Zappeion Hall, the first building in the world constructed in honour of the modern Olympic Games.

Insights Greece - Strolling Around the Neoclassical Zappeion Hall 
Zappeion Hall

Designed by Danish architect Theophil Hansen and completed in 1888, its construction was funded by the national benefactor, Evangelos Zappas. Since its opening, Zappeion has been linked with numerous significant moments in Greece’s history. In the past few years, some of the country’s most significant events have taken place here- including European summits, political conferences, as well as art exhibitions, fashion shows and other artistic and musical performances. 

Located in the centre of Athens, the Zappeion Hall is surrounded by the Greek Parliament building and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Right next to it is the National Gardens and, opposite, on the side of the Ardittos Hill, the Panathenaic Stadium; Hadrian’s Arch and the ancient Temple of the Olympian Zeus.

The surrounding area of Zappeion is adorned with a multitude of statues, reflecting upon Greece’s modern history and at the main entrance are the statues of the two Zappas cousins, who funded the construction of the building; as well as a charming park, where locals go for a walk. Across Zappeion Hall there is Aigli, a nice café serving homemade pizza and club sandwiches as well as Aperol Spritz, salads and wines. Right next door is an open-air movie theatre of the same name, which is also loved by Athenians – especially during summer.  

Insights Greece - Strolling Around the Neoclassical Zappeion Hall 
Built in 1888 to honour the Modern Olympic Games

When visiting also make sure to check out the archaeological site of the Roman Baths built at the end of the 3rd century AD- they are located within the Zappeion grounds on Vassilissis Amalias Avenue. The site was discovered during excavations for the construction of the Athens Metro and has been made accessible to the public since 2004.

Zappeion’s gardens are surrounded by the streets Irodou Attikou, Vasileos Konstantinou, Vasilissis Olgas, and Vasilissis Amalias and the National Gardens feature charming lawns, atriums, patios, flower beds and charming orange trees that are also lovely to see. 

A: Vasilissis Olgas Ave, Athens 

Visiting the Grand Municipal Theatre of Piraeus

Having first opened its doors in 1895, the Municipal Theatre of Piraeus immediately became a jewel in Athens, as well as a cultural landmark of the city – offering inspiration and creation for the Greek theatre and music scene.

Considered a theatre of rich history and beauty, it is housed in a grand neoclassical building designed by architect Ioannis Lazarimos, who through his work on this project was able to highlight some of the finest examples of 19th Century Greek architecture. 

Insights Greece - Visiting the Grand Municipal Theatre of Piraeus
Outside the theatre

The style of the building is described as “classicist”, and is highly influenced by German architect Ernst Moritz Theodore Ziller, who designed hundreds of buildings in Athens and was the most famous architect in Greece at the end of the 19th Century.

The façade of the theatre features four Corinthian columns and a condiment; inside, the stage is considered one of the last surviving monuments of the Baroque era in Europe. It consists of a proscenium and a space for the orchestra, and the auditorium features 1300 seats with stalls, boxes, and balconies that are arranged over four levels. 

The main room was lit by an enormous chandelier, which can still be seen today. There were also spacious dressing rooms and a luxurious sitting lounge for the actors, while the two-level foyer also hosted balls and exhibitions by renowned Greek artists.

Over the years, a range of prominent Greek directors and actors have performed on this stage and it’s considered one of the best theatres in the country. Hosting both theatrical and musical performances, events and exhibitions has played a major role in the city’s cultural scene.

Insights Greece - Visiting the Grand Municipal Theatre of Piraeus
One of Greece’s most beautiful theatres

Since it first opened, regular maintenance work was done to keep it fresh and inviting, and in 2008, a complete restoration began. In 2013, the stunning building re-opened its doors to the public and curtains were raised once again.

Today, the Municipal Theatre of Piraeus is an imposing neoclassical monument with an exceptional stage, fully operational, with a unique flair. Its extraordinary architecture design still shines through and is worth viewing close up when you are visiting the area, and if you happen to be able to catch a show here, you will undoubtedly be impressed. 

A: Leof. Ir. Politechniou 32, Piraeus 

Municipal Theatre of Piraeus 

Athens’ Historic Odeon of Herodes Atticus

Athens’ famous Odeon of Herodes Atticus has been staging musicals and theatrical performances for over two thousand years.

Set on the southwest slope of the Acropolis, it’s one of the Greek capital’s most striking historic monuments and one of the world’s most stunning open-air theatres.

Insights Greece - Athens’ Historic Odeon of Herodes Atticus
One of the world’s oldest functioning theatres

Featuring a three-story stone front wall, the theatre wasn’t always open-air; the original façade of arches was closed in by a wooden and tiled roof and was known as the most prestigious Roman-era theatre in ancient Athens and a landmark of the city, even in ancient times.

The roof burnt down around a century after it was built and its condition declined over the centuries, however, performances and public events still took place- even during the German occupation. 

Herodion was renovated in 1950, with the audience seats and the stage being restored using Pentelic marble; taking the capacity to around 5,000.  

Since its renovation, Herodion became the main venue of the Athens Festival, which runs from May through October each year and it has also hosted some of the world’s leading performers – from home-grown legends including Mikis Theodorakis, Manos Hatzidakis, Maria Callas and Nana Mouskouri to international stars such as Luciano Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli and Frank Sinatra and pop icons Diana Ross, Liza Minnelli, Elton John and Sting.  

Insights Greece - Athens’ Historic Odeon of Herodes Atticus
Renovated in 1950

Today you can attend the Athens and Epidaurus Festival, a range of musical events and classical tragedies at Herodion. Under the Athenian-lit sky, you will be able to enjoy a fabulous acoustic performance. Events are held from May through to early October when the theatre is open and if you are in Athens during this time- and there is a performance taking place – we highly recommend you book yourself a ticket as it will definitely be a cultural experience you will never forget! 

Getting there

The Herodes Atticus theatre is located at the base of the southwestern slope of the Acropolis, on Dionysiou Areopagitou Street. It is around a 750m walk (10 minutes) from the Acropolis metro station (red line). 

Tip: Photos (with or without flash) or video recording by phone or other devices (without prior permission) are not permitted during a performance.

Main Image by Eric Domas ©

Visiting Athens’ Striking Stoa of Attalos 

The Stoa of Attalos is part of the historical Ancient Agora site in the centre of Athens, built around 150 BC by the king of Pergamon Attalos II, as a gift to the city. 

Stoa of Attalos is an impressively large building that spans over two levels and highlights Hellenistic architecture at its best. The ground level is inspired by the Doric style and the first floor is Ionic. The building features walls made of limestone, the facade was created using marble from Mount Penteli, and the roof is covered with tiles.  

Insights Greece - Visiting Athens’ Striking Stoa of Attalos 
Stoa of Attalos

This glorious building was once a cultural, social, and commercial hub, housing all kinds of shops leased by the State of Athens, and is described as an “ancient shopping centre,” and a busy spot where Athenians gathered socially to catch up with other locals while doing a spot of shopping.

The Stoa of Attalos is said to have been home to 21 shops (on each floor) lining the western wall. Visitors are able to get an idea of life during ancient Athens times through the vast collection of everyday objects which were unearthed during recent excavations. 

Facts About Stoa of Attalos 

-The Stoa’s dimensions are 115 by 20 meters wide (377 by 65 feet wide).

-There were five Stoas connected to the Agora and the Stoa of Attalos was named after King Attalos II of Pergamon who reigned from 159-138 BC. 

-A second Stoa, the Stoa of Eumenes II, was built by the brother of Attalos, on the southern side of the Acropolis. 

-The Stoa was open at either end on the ground floor, with a wall running along the western side on each floor with windows and doors leading to 21 small rooms.

Insights Greece - Visiting Athens’ Striking Stoa of Attalos 
Museum of Ancient Agora

The Museum Gallery 

The exhibition in the Museum gallery is home to archaeological finds from the excavations made by the American School of Classical Studies in the area and dates from the Neolithic to the Post-byzantine and Ottoman periods. The Museum exhibition is organised in chronological and thematic units that reveal aspects of the public and private life in ancient Athens. 

Here you will find an interesting collection of artifacts on display including marble statues, parts of columns, coins, ceramic vases, pottery, items of daily use, and there is an ancient ballot box and a ‘klepsydra’ which was a water clock used for timing public speakers in the courthouses.

Also look out for a giant statue of the god Apollo, a large statue of a female figure (goddess or queen), the tomb of a young girl that dates from the Geometric times, and a bronze Spartan shield that the Athenians took as a war prize in the Battle of Sfaktiria (425 BC).

Insights Greece - Visiting Athens’ Striking Stoa of Attalos 
Ancient Agora

Getting there

The Stoa of Attalos is situated below the Acropolis and within the Ancient Agora in the heart of Athens. The main entrance to the Stoa is Adrianou Street which is about 700 meters from Syntagma Square. There is a smaller entrance from Thisseion Square. The nearest Metro station is Thisseion or Monastiraki. 

A: Adrianou Street, 24, Thissio