The history of Thessaloniki is so old that a visit to the Archaeological Museum was a must for me. It was founded in early 20th century but the building we see today is from 1962.
Its collections covers the area of Thessaloniki and the near by prefectures (Pieria, Kilkis, Halkidiki) covering the region of Macedonia in general from archaic and classical eras to Hellenistic and roman era. I tried to follow the chronological order but I skipped some halls because I couldn’t stay there for more than 2 hours to see every single artifact (2 hours is my limit in most museums)
There are sculptures from all periods, artifacts from the excavations in the Garelius complex/palace, parts of an Ionic temple from 6th century BC, mosaics etc What I liked was that some rooms have ancient quotes (translated into English too), it was nice to check burial customs while the info board reads:
It is men’s destiny to have no way to escape death, even if their ancestors were immortal.
Collinos of Ephesos (7th c. BC)
Lower floor is dedicated to Prehistoric Macedonia, with interesting information (in greek and English everywhere in the museum) about the habits, works, funeral customs during the Minoan times, much earlier than the city of Thessaloniki was founded. Then is the part named as Toward the birth of the towns, with information about settlements and cemeteries during the iron age (1100-700BC).
I walked fast through those first parts but the third one started to become really interesting, Macedonia from 7th century to late antiquity but above all the beautiful exhibition The Gold of Macedon where artifacts from different places (mainly cemeteries of the archaic and classical eras) show the importance of gold in the culture of Ancient Macedonia with numerous different items (jewelry, medals, coins, vessels etc). Of course there’s also an exhibition about Thessaloniki, The Metropolis of Macedonia and the importance of Thessaloniki during the roman period.
Pic3:Dionysiac composition, possibly from the floor of the formal room of a wealthy house. It depicts the arrival of Dionysus and his followers in Naxos and the discovery of Ariadne
Pic4:Fragments of a marble sarcophagus depicting the Caledonian boar-hunt. From 225-250AD
Pic5:The Derveni Crater, one of the most notable exhibits in the museum, a sophisticated metalworking from 330BC that was used as a depository urn for the deceased’s ashes. It’s the only intact bronze vessel with relief decoration preserved from the period.
The museum is open daily 9.00-16.00
The entrance fee is 6euros but I bought the combo ticket for 8e that includes the Museum of Byzantine Culture too. Free for those under 18 and university students
Although Lonely Planet suggested that this museum was lacklustre, it was likely only the effect of having visited the Museum of Byzantine Culture just before coming to the Archeological Museum. The collection here is very large and many of the pieces could probably be removed to allow the visitor more time to digest what she sees. Nevertheless, the exhibits are well devised to give the viewer an idea of different aspects of life in Macedonia and Thessaloniki in the pre-Byzantine eras, both Hellenistic and Roman. Rooms focus on economics, home life, war, governance and death. There is also the spectacular exhibit of the Gold of Macedonia, which houses many gold objects excavated from burial sites around Macedonia. The basement of the museum has a rather boring exhibit on the pre-historic finds in Macedonia, but it is also used for the biennale of contemporary art, which adds a bit of pizazz (if you're in Thessaloniki during the biennale, June-September of odd numbered years).
The Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki was build in February 1961. The building
was inaugurated on 27th October 1962, during the celebrations of the fiftieth
anniversary of the liberation of Thessaloniki. In 1971, the displays were brought to
completion in all the rooms. They included sculpture, a prehistoric collection, miniature
art of the Archaic and Classical periods, and the brilliant group of finds from the tombs
at Derveni, which was first presented to the public on the day of the inauguration
ceremony. A few years later, in 1978, the astonishing discoveries at Vergina led to
the first changes in the display: finds from the royal tombs were exhibited in the rooms
housing the prehistoric collection and miniature art as part of the exhibition "Treasures of Ancient Macedonia". The treasures from Vergina, and other precious discoveries of the 70's, made the construction of an extension to the Museum inevitable: the new wing was inaugaurated in July 1980 with the exhibition "Alexander the Great". This same year saw the begininng of the excavation of the cemetey at Sindos, with its rich finds of gold, and the "Sindos" exhibition was opened to the public in October 1982. There followed in 1984 a repeat of the exhibition of finds from Vergina and Derveni, in 1985 an exhibition on ancient Thessaloniki, and in 1989 an exhibition of new finds dating from the Archaic and Classical periods at the ground floor of the New Wing.
It includes sculpture, a prehistoric collection, miniature art of the Archaic and Classical periods, and the brilliant group of finds from the tombs at Derveni, which was first presented to the public on the day of the inauguration ceremony.
There're also the royal tombs which were exhibited in the rooms housing the prehistoric collection and miniature art as part of the exhibition “Treasures of Ancient Macedonia”.
Decent displays. Kinda small. I thought it was going to have more than it did, and I think it probably is smaller compared to the displays at the Royal Tombs in Veiria. Also, don't be fooled by the center atrium. There's nothing down there except the bathrooms, and the wings to the left and right are also void of displays. You start by going to the obvious entrance to the left after walking past the reception area. The visit can be done in an hour with a good mix of just browsing, observing, and reading of artifacts' descriptions.
I was most impressed with the large, decorative funeral urn. I also enjoyed the beginning displays that discussed the craftmanship that went into manufacturing gold jewelry and items and the process of gilding.
There's a small gift shop, but it had mostly expensive items. Nothing interested me enough to make a purchase.
GO ON SUNDAYS...IT'S FREE!!!
The Archaeological Museum hosts important findings of the area. Here is a cooper vessel used for mixing the wine. On its side there is a representation of Dionyssos and Ariadni with a group of their companions dancing in ecstasy. This article, dated at 330 BC, is named "The Crater of Derveni".
If you have even a slight interest in history, you should visit the Archeological Museum of Thessaloniki, one of the best in Greece. Its somewhat oldfashioned exhibitions include a magnificent collection of Royal Macedonian Treasures, 100s golden articles! Open weekdays 9-15.00.
BUT you can now visit a newly restored MACEDONIAN TOMB, just at the outskirts of eastern Thessaloniki. It's open on Saturdays, 8.30-15.00.
An artistic mosaic floor found in an ancient mansion, presenting Dionyssos and Ariadni, about 200 AD. Now it is housed in the archaeological museum of Thessaloniki.