Museums in Central Athens


Psirri can take the urban jungle experience to delirious heights, inviting a thousand little discoveries and as many opportunities for living it up after hours but, how could you forget that you are almost in the shadow of the Acropolis and the cradle of the starting point of Western civilization?
Well, as it happens there are three places within a very short walk of 18 Micon Street and they are each poetic, dramatic and positively epic. The first is the ancient Agora itself, the marketplace and meeting point of classical ancient Athens. Though it’s possible to take in the Acropolis, the Areopagus hill and Agora in one visit, I say don’t do it. Don’t rush it. To understand the power of antiquity, and to feel its enduring beauty, you must slow down and Psirri’s proximity to the Agora in particular allows you to do just that. Wandering around the ancient Times Square of Athens, deliciously littered as it is with broken columns and temple fragments, sunlit and windswept by gnarled olive trees, opens so many windows into Greece’s glorious past that it will turbo-charge—quietly, quietly— all your present moments in the city. It’s a kind of magic and it can belong to everyone. To get some context, make a very worthy detour to the Museum of the Ancient Agora, which is located in the impressively reconstructed Stoa of Attalos. The collections largely related to Athenian democracy; for example you’ll find ostraka, the inscribed potsherds used as ballots for ostracism, from the 5th century B.C. and a klepsydra, sort of an ancient hourglass used to mark the time of public speeches. Amphoras, exquisite decorated black figure and red figure vases, stately statues, clay lamps and ancient coins and fragments of columns with the original paint traces intact are all just waiting to wow you here—and the museum, lesser known that it’s more famous cousins, is seldom crowded.

And then there’s the Kerameikos Archaeological Museum and adjacent Kerameikos necropolis—the cemetery of the ancient Athenians—both technically outside the confines of Psirri but in reality just a whisper away at 148 Ermou Street (hint: if you’ve walked into Gazi you’ve gone too far). Kerameikos comes from the Greek word for pottery and many important vases were made here, but the area was subject to flooding and was made into a burial ground. It’s quite an evocative experience to wander around the archaeological site today. Most of the marble funerary stelae have been removed and put on display in the National Archaeological Museum and at the small Kerameikos museum itself—the latter a hidden gem in plain sight and a must stop. Early Geometric amphoras, a marble sphinx, artifacts from the Archaic and Classical eras, decorated lekythoi (used for storing olive oil, jewelry and more : You’ll feel like you are in an obscure and enchanted museum somewhere in the Attica countryside but there you are staring at the physical imprints of a decisively urban culture that is still buzzing all around you.