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The National Gallery of Athens is perhaps the most prominent museum in the city, an institution that houses the largest collection of modern Greek art in the country. And yet, for a little less than a decade, visitors of Athens had no place to admire local art and learn about its transformations through the course of time, as the gallery had been closed for renovations since 2013.
Smaller exhibitions at various local art galleries, the Benaki museum on Peiraios avenue, and the more recent Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation were a bit of a consolation but no match to visiting the National Gallery of Greece.
8 years and 60 million euros later, the National Gallery of Athens is now ready to welcome visitors to its brand new building in Pangrati and allow them to marvel at the gems it has been keeping in the dark for far too long.
Keep reading to learn all you need to know about the brand new house of the National Gallery of Athens, what to expect when visiting and how to get there.
The History of the National Gallery of Greece
The National Gallery of Athens (also known as Alexandros Soutsos Museum) was founded in 1900 with the purpose of collecting, preserving, safekeeping, and exhibiting a vast collection of Greek artworks under a single roof.
Initially, the works of art that were to be housed in the National Gallery of Athens were collected from the University of Athens and the National Technical University of Athens.
Several decades later, a merger with the Alexandros Soutsos Estate (after which it got its name) combined with a significant amount of private donations gave the gallery its first form and its first 117 paintings.
Today, the National Gallery of Athens boasts a collection of more than twenty thousand works of art including paintings, sculptures, and engravings that span from the Byzantine period of Greece to modern times which are a representation of the country’s history through art.
In addition, the collection features a significant number of western European paintings -including art by Picasso, Caravaggio, and Delacroix- as well as a state-of-the-art library and cutting-edge restoration systems that conserve the works of art.
During the past few years, the need for a renovation of the building and an upgrade of its facilities became apparent. In 2013, it was decided that the time for the next step had come.
The Brand New House of the National Gallery in Athens
After several preliminary designs for the new building of the National Gallery, the renovation project resulted in plans to make the museum’s space more than double its original size with the construction of a new building that would offer a huge exhibition space, a new 450-seat auditorium, warehouses, and an educational venue as well as a museum shop, a cafe, and a restaurant.
The last two are definitely worth your attention.
On the ground level, you’ll find Ilissos café, which takes its name after a river that used to flow through the area, ideal for a quick break for a snack or coffee.
In addition, visitors of the renovated National Gallery will be able to visit an art conservation laboratory, a sculpture garden that features works by Greek sculptor Varotsos and the French artist Auguste Rodin and, of course, famous works of art by some of the most prominent Greek artists like El Greco and Yannis Tsarouchis standing next to classic art made by internationally acclaimed artists like Goya and Rembrandt.
Lastly, the new house of the National Gallery is equipped with a ramp and an elevator to provide easy access to visitors with disabilities.
The renovated National Gallery finally opened its doors on 24 March 2021, one day before the 200th anniversary of the Greek War of Independence marking the beginning of the celebrations.
Where is Located the National Gallery in Athens and How to Get There
The National Gallery of Greece is located in the upscale neighborhood of Pangrati on Vassileos Konstantinou Street just a few meters off the central Vasilissis Sofias Avenue.
The easiest way to get there is by taking the metro and getting off at Evangelismos metro station (blue line). Read here how to get around Athens.
Here’s a tip: A few meters away from the National Gallery, right across the iconic Hilton Athens, you can see “The Runner” a famous sculpture by Costas Varotsos whose work is also featured in the exhibitions of the gallery.
National Gallery of Athens: Opening Hours and Admission Fees
Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday: 10.00 – 18.00
- Admission until 17.00
- Wednesday: 10.00 – 21.00
- Admission until 20.00
- Tuesday: closed
General admission: 10€
Reduced entry ticket: 5€ for students and citizens over 65
- Holders of ICOM & AICA cards
- Students of Fine Arts
- Children under 12 years old
- People with special needs and their attendant
- From 1st November until the end of March, the first Sunday of the month.
Information: +30 214 408 6213
All in all, the newly renovated National Gallery is the most recent addition to the long list of the most important museums in Athens.
The works of art featured in its halls are more than exhibits; they are artifacts that narrate the history of Greek art through the centuries, an experience you can’t afford to miss if you want to explore local art and the culture of Greece
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