Art & the City: Koukaki and the Acropolis Museum

An introduction to Greece's most popular museum, and some things to in the area - especially behind it, in the happening Koukaki neighborhood.


The modern Acropolis Museum, constructed to meet the latest operational museology standards, has put pressure on the British Museum to return the marbles removed from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin in the early 19th century. Today, the it’s the most popular archaeological destination in the country, welcoming nearly two million visitors during the year before the pandemic.

The museum’s thematic sections unfold over four levels: the ground floor showcases findings from the sanctuaries and the settlements that occupied the slopes of the Acropolis across all historical periods. The first floor presents almost the entire history of the site in a circular route, from the 2nd millennium BC to the end of antiquity. The third floor, the Parthenon Gallery, showcases the relief sculptures exactly as they crowned the temple, wrapped around a rectangular core that mirrors the precise orientation and dimensions of the Parthenon cella. Original marble sculptures are combined with plaster copies of those pieces held by the British Museum and other foreign museums. The steel columns of the hall reflect the Parthenon’s columns, and the colossal figures once displayed in the two temple pediments have been mounted on pedestals on their respective sides, where they are visible from all directions. The glass walls enclosing the gallery allow a direct line of sight between the sculptures and the Parthenon itself, creating a spectacular setting that never fails to inspire awe.

 

An archaeological excavation under the building reveals details of life in the ancient city from the 4th century BC to the 12th century AD. Streets, residences, baths, workshops, and graves comprise an evocative mosaic that is no less impressive than the other exhibits housed in the museum.

Info

The Acropolis Museum, 15 Dionysiou Areopagitou, open Mon-Thu 09:00-17:00, Fri 09:00-22:00, Sat & Sun 09:00-20:00, admission: €5, theacropolismuseum.gr.

The museum’s café-restaurant has a terrace with a marvelous view of the Acropolis.

What to do in the area

A short walk

One of the most beloved streets of Athens is the pedestrianized Dionysiou Areopagitou that begins opposite Hadrian’s Arch and ends at the foot of Filopappou Hill. This beautiful 830-meter street, paved in marble, brings ancient and modern Athens together, joining the Parthenon and the Roman-era Odeon of Herodes Atticus to the stately Art Nouveau and neoclassical mansions, and the artful pathways designed by Greek architect Dimitris Pikionis (1887-1968).

Grab a pie

You rarely see Athenians lining up outside stores, and certainly not for bread or other bakery goods. But at the Takis Bakery, aka Artopoiotis, which means “Quality of Bread,” you’ll often spot a line waiting patiently for goods such as delicious little cheese pies made with buttery kourou dough, traditional bread rings coated with sesame seeds, warm croissants, delicious sourdough bread, French baguettes, or delectable American-style cakes. You won’t have any trouble finding it – just follow your nose!

 

14 Misaraliotou, Tel. (+30) 210.923.0052.

Aperitivo time

On a narrow street just a four-minute walk from the Acropolis Museum, there’s a very popular spot. Drupes Spritzeria isn’t high-end, but it has good vibes and a laid-back clientele happy to stand, drink and chat at its wooden counters. It serves fine charcuterie and cheeses, Italian wines and various versions of spritzes.

20 Zitrou, Tel. (+30) 697.030.0404 

Pasta and whiskey

 

Alexandros, a former ship’s captain, opened a bar-bistro just a few steps from the Acropolis in the early 1990s. For the past 30 years, his establishment Duende has remained unchanged and perennially popular with the after-theater crowd, couples desiring a romantic evening out, and whiskey lovers. It is a dive bar (in the most positive sense possible) with jazz music. Alexandro’s wife, Rena, is in charge of the menu, and her spaghetti bolognese has become well-known among the city’s night owls.

2 Tzireon, Tel. (+30) 210.924.7069

Treasures from the earth

The young couple behind the almond green door at the Ellinika Kaloudia deli on Hatzichristou Street next to the Acropolis Museum has been running the business for the past 15 years. The enterprise, which started as a small neighborhood grocery store selling everyday essentials, is now an institution on the Athenian gastronomy scene, offering an enviable range of local cheese and charcuterie products, handmade pasta, exceptional extra virgin olive oils and many deli delights.

8 Hatzichristou, Tel. (+30) 210.922.4060 

Lalaounis legacy

 

The beauty and craftsmanship of Greek and world jewelry, from its glorious past to the creative present, are on display at the Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum. Founded by master jeweler Ilias Lalaounis, the museum is one of the very few in the world dedicated to jewelry and the decorative arts. If you make your way there by December 10th, check out the temporary exhibition “Form Follows Function: 200+200 Decorative and Applied Arts, 1621-2021.”

12 Kalisperi, lalaounis-jewelrymuseum.gr

A Post-Industrial Venue for Contemporary Art

A short distance southwest of the Acropolis Museum is the National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST), housed in the former FIX brewery. The original 1893 building was redesigned in 1957 by Modernist architect Takis Zenetos (1926 – 1977). A stellar example of postwar industrial innovation, this enormous structure was reborn as a museum in 2016, after a complete renovation and many years of interventions. The collection includes important contemporary paintings, sculptures, and installations by Greek and foreign artists.

emst.gr, Mon closed, Thu 11:00-22:00, all other days 11:00-19:00. Admission: €8.



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