In 1836, the neoclassical mansion that houses the Museum of the City of Athens was just three years old and it took an invitation from the palace to cross its threshold. Today it is open to the public and retains not just the regal opulence of its past, but also recounts the history of the Greek capital in the 19th century through exhibits arranged in 20 halls.
The museum consists of two mansions that are connected by an interior corridor and cover a total area of 2,000 square meters.
The voice of a virtual tour guide beckons you into the dimly lit hall on the ground floor, where, among engravings by foreign travelers, you will also see a monumental oil painting of Athens by Jacques Carrey, executed in 1674 before the explosion that destroyed much of the Acropolis. There is also a digital display that connects the different threads of the city’s history.
On a touch screen, you can tour Athens’ Top 30 buildings and each selection you make will light up a map from 1842, revealing the city as you will never see it, however much you explore it.
Engravings and narratives tell the tales of the buildings:
Some, like the Mint, disappeared through the ages; others were more recent constructions, while several survived the ravages of war and abandonment like the building of the museum – home for seven years to King Otto and Queen Amalia before they moved to the palace (present-day Parliament).
Though they vacated the premises 168 years ago, the first floor resonates with the presence of the royal couple through a display of their possessions: his binoculars and throne, her writing desk.
The well-appointed adjoining rooms also contain objects such as an ornate table with a built-in backgammon board, while the internal bridge takes you into the living rooms of prominent Athenian aristocrats, where tables are still laid with exquisite porcelain as though guests are expected to tea.
The lofty proportions of the rooms are best illustrated by the huge gilded mirror at the top of the stairs and the richness of the parties once held here is depicted in “Carnival,” a painting by Nikolaos Gyzis, considered among Greece’s most important artists in the 19th century.
You mustn’t finish your visit without stopping for a coffee and snack – if the day is fine – at the bistro in the garden that once connected Klafthmonos Square to the Old Parliament.
5-7 Paparigopoulou, Klafthmonos Square • Opening Hours: Mon & Wed-Fri 9:00-16:00, Sat-Sun 10:00-15:00