Our minds might immediately wander to the museums we’ve visited that have left us in awe, or those we eagerly plan to explore at the first available opportunity. These are collections that have made a lasting impression on our memories; exhibits that have moved us, incited our admiration and curiosity, and even stirred deep emotions. There are still others we set as our targets to discover and delve into. One thing’s for sure: they all enrich us, regardless of whether they’re located in our own city or in the next destination on our travel itinerary.
Museums aren’t just a fundamental and captivating part of our travels; they are journeys in their own right. They provide us with passage through history, culture, customs, and traditions; a glimpse into the works of notable artists or humble craftsmen, gastronomy, local environments, and the achievements unique to a place. For us Greeks, as it is with all nations, every visit to the small and large museums across our country signifies a journey back to our roots.
“As summer draws near, the call of the Greek islands becomes irresistible. A myriad of fascinating experiences awaits you, particularly in our diverse museums that are mostly focused on archaeology. If you’re looking to deviate from this popular choice, there’s an array of both well-known and hidden gems that will undoubtedly be worth your time.
Museum of Asian Art in Corfu
One of these treasures is the Museum of Asian Art in Corfu. Corfu, an Ionian island, is revered for its rich cultural heritage and plethora of museums, predominantly located within the charm of its old town. Occupying a distinguished spot among them is the Museum of Asian Art. This unique institution is housed in the historic and magnificent Palace of St. Michael and St. George. Its extensive collection makes it the only museum of its kind in Greece, promising a journey through the vast richness of Asian civilizations, from Chinese to Indian, with numerous intriguing stops in between.
The museum’s core collection was initially formed by 9,500 objects and works of art, graciously donated by the passionate collector and former Greek ambassador to Austria, Gregorios Manos. Over time, this collection has grown to encompass a panorama of artifacts spanning 30 centuries, offering profound insights into the artistic movements and traditions of countries like China, Japan, Thailand, Korea, Pakistan, and India.
While in Corfu, you might also want to explore other captivating museums such as the Archaeological Museum, Byzantine Museum Antivouniotissa, Numismatic Museum, Casa Parlante, Philharmonic Museum, Municipal Gallery, Kapodistrias Museum, Dionysios Solomos House Museum, and the Archaeological Museum of Palaiopolis located within the Mon Repos Palace.
Historical and Folklore Museum of Aegina
Another less-known but fascinating museum to explore is the Historical and Folklore Museum of Aegina. This museum pays tribute to the folk traditions and lifestyle of the residents of Aegina, a picturesque island in the Saronic Gulf. Nestled in a neoclassical house from the era when Aegina served as the first capital of the newly-formed Greek state, this museum whisks you back in time by 200 years, giving you a glimpse into the island life of the past.”
“An urban ‘Aeginetan house’ comes to life through the recreation of an office, a dining room, and a living room of an upper-class family. At the same time, various items are exhibited, including garments, traditional costumes, weaving tools like the Aeginetan spindle, and intricate lacework. On the other hand, the daily tasks and lifestyle of the countryside are accurately represented in the ‘Rural House’ through an extensive presentation of everyday objects, agricultural and weaving tools.
The ‘Fisherman’s House’ includes a beautiful collection of small-scale fishing boat models and fishing tools. Particularly interesting is the reference to the history of local sponge fishing, accompanied by old photos of Aegina’s sponge divers.
Other interesting museums in Aegina include the Archaeological Museum of Kolona, Christos Kapralos Museum, and the Museum of the Aphaia Temple.
Museum of Contemporary Art in Andros
Now, let’s talk about the Museum of Contemporary Art in Andros. For this unique Cycladic island, the connection to arts, literature, and every kind of cultural expression is not recent or random. The old shipping families of Andros, having come into contact with stimuli of world art, emerged as patrons of the arts, not only for their hometown but for all of Greece. A brilliant example is the art-loving Vasilis Goulandris, who, with his wife Eliza, established here the first museum of modern art in Greece. Since 1979, the museum’s pioneering and captivating exhibitions have introduced us to the magical world of contemporary art.
The original collection consisted of sculptures by Michalis Tombros, bequeathed by him to his island. This was enriched with works from the personal collection of the Goulandris couple, leading to an expansion of the museum to a new wing in just seven years.
Just a few steps from Kairi Square in Chora, in the elegant spaces dominated by marble and stone, temporary exhibitions have hosted some of the greatest artists of the 19th and 20th centuries, such as Picasso, Chagall, Matisse, Kandinsky, Rodin, and Miró. This summer, from June 25 to October 1, we will have the opportunity to encounter the great work of the painter, engraver, and sculptor Chronis Botsoglou, in a retrospective exhibition of more than 100 of his creations, some of which are being exhibited for the first time.”
Other interesting museums in Andros: Maritime Museum, Archaeological Museum of Chora Andros, Archaeological Museum of Paleopolis.
Industrial Museum of Hermoupolis, Syros
This unique museum illuminates a different side of the famed ‘lady’ of the Cyclades, forming an integral part of the history, economy, and social development of Syros, not only with its exhibits but also with the four historical buildings that compose it. The tour in both the museum complex and the industrial ruins area of Hermoupolis, where they are integrated, provides the visitor with a total experiential experience and an opportunity to learn a different aspect of the island. Even more lively, as beyond the various tools and machinery of the time when the industry of Syros flourished, one can hear workers’ testimonies and see in three-dimensional representation architectural designs and maps of the numerous industrial buildings and the famous neoclassical mansions of the beautiful Syros capital.
Equipment from loukoumi (Turkish delight) workshops, weaving, glassmaking, tannery, printing, and engineering constitutes the permanent collection, which along with the periodic exhibitions occupy the Kornilaki Tannery, the Anairousi Shipyard – the only one surviving in Europe -, the Velissaropoulos Weaving Mill, and the Katsimantis Dye Works, all exemplarily restored and another important – now cultural – center for the enchanting Syros.
Other interesting museums in Syros: Archaeological museum, Ecclesiastical museum, Markos Vamvakaris Exhibition, Exhibition of traditional professions, Historical memory exhibition.
Chios Mastic Museum
Fully harmonized with the environment in which it is located, in the famous Mastic Villages of fragrant Chios, with the mastic trees surrounding it and inviting you to listen to their story, this unique museum is dedicated to an equally unique Greek product and the secrets of its cultivation. Precious, proud, and an integral part of the identity and economy of this beautiful island, mastic cultivation, which has been included in UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage since 2014, and specifically interesting information about the method of production and use of mastic, its applications and exports, becomes the narrative that transports us from the past to the present, of the place and the people who have devoted themselves to it. The experience includes photographs and videos, machines from the first mastic factory, as well as an informative section dedicated to the history and architecture of the Mastic Villages. At the end of the tour, and after you have naturally touched and smelled the mastic, a refreshing walk in the museum’s mastic grove awaits you as a surprise.
Other interesting museums in Chios: Archaeological Museum, Municipal Art Gallery, Byzantine Museum, Maritime Museum, Argenti Folklore Museum, Citrus Museum, Nea Moni Museum.
Samos Wine Museum of EOS Samos
A little further south in the Aegean waters, on another unique island, another wonderful fruit of nature, has given us all delightful moments and made Samos famous. Of course, we’re talking about the grape and specifically the White Muscat variety, which almost completely dominates the vineyards of Samos and from which the sweet white wines PGI Samos are made, with their golden color and rich fruity aromas. And since the EOS (Cooperative Winemaking Company) has the exclusive responsibility for the production and commercial distribution of all the island’s wines, it was logical to establish a museum dedicated to these unique wines, in one of the two winemaking facilities of the Cooperative.
Thus, since 2005, every visitor to Samos can be initiated into the intoxicating world of local wines, with a tour of the beautifully structured 19th-century building that serves as a museum, in the winery at Malagari. In this old wine warehouse and later cooperage, the history of Samos’ winemaking tradition unfolds, bringing to life the labor of the Samiot vine grower, in a journey that extends from the physical representation of vine cultivation on dry stone terraces to the huge wooden tanks, from grape harvesting to pressing, from barrel-making to modern chemical equipment. Don’t miss the experience of tasting the wonderful wines that the small white grape Muscat of Samos produces.
Other interesting museums in Samos: Samos Archaeological Museum/Pythagorion, Aegean Natural History Museum, Silversmithing Museum, Cooperage Museum, Ecclesiastical Byzantine Museum, and 3 Folklore Museums.
3 museums in Crete dedicated to 3 prominent figures in Greek history, literature, and the arts
The numerous museums in Crete cover a truly wide variety of objects and interests, with half of them dedicated to the archaeological finds of the island, while among the rest, you will find three honoring the lives and works of personalities known beyond Greek borders. The Eleftherios Venizelos House-Museum is located in Halepa, Chania, and served as the two-story house where he lived for over 30 years from 1880. The personal touch of the great politician is evident in all areas, which have retained their original form to this day from the time Eleftherios Venizelos lived in the house, decorated with period furniture and decorative items and showcasing many of his personal belongings.
In Heraklion, on the other hand, where the eminent modern Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis was born, a little below his tomb, an exhibition space dedicated to him and his work has been set up, including the refurbished exhibition that was first organized as part of the Cultural Olympiad in 2004.
Another great representative of the arts, this time of painting, has his own museum just outside the village of Fodele, where he is believed to have been born and lived before moving to Heraklion. This is, of course, Domenicos Theotokopoulos, better known as El Greco, and reproductions of his greatest works can be viewed alongside a recreation of his workshop.
Nestled beside the picture-perfect village of Chalki on the irresistible island of Naxos, you will find a quaint, untouched settlement, free from the waves of tourists and authentically charming: Kaloxilos. A must-visit spot and reason to find yourself here is the small but incredibly informative Folklore Museum of the village. The ancestral home of passionate collector Florios Chorianopoulos hosts an exceptionally extensive exhibition of objects from all facets of the everyday lives of the people of Naxos.
Here, you will observe the authentic tools of the village’s cooper, the workshop of the shoemaker, the equipment of an 1830 candle-maker, and find yourself in the faithful recreation of an entire general store, the first to operate in Chalki in 1935. Old typewriters, radios, cameras, military uniforms, traditional toys, looms, clothes, gramophones, and records that have reached a century of life, constitute material of great value for a deep acquaintance with the manners, customs, culture, and history of the people of Naxos.
Other interesting museums of Naxos include: Archaeological Museum, Venetian Museum, Byzantine Museum of Chora, Theatrical Museum of Iakovos Kambanellis, Folklore Collection of Koutelieris, Greek Coin Collection, and 5 noteworthy museums in the village of Apeiranthos.”
The Museums and Galleries of Kalamata in the Peloponnese
A Brief Tour Around Thasos Island’s Museums