Along with the Acropolis and democracy, the Olympic Spirit is perhaps the finest gift that Athens – and Greece – has given the world. Dating back 2,700 years, the ancient Olympic Games lit the torch for the notion of noble rivalry as a universal value.
Now, visitors to Athens can soak up the glory and eternal principles of the Olympics at the first dedicated museum to the Olympic Games, within walking distance of the 2004 Olympic stadium.
The state-of-the-art Athens Olympic Museum is housed over a 3,500 sq m light-flooded floor of the Golden Hall shopping mall, in northern Athens, and linked via a pedestrian bridge to the main Olympic arena, known as OAKA.
Conceived by Lamda Development SA, the spacious new cultural landmark traces the legendary history of the Olympic Games through the three main chapters of its evolution: Birth (Ancient Olympia), Revival (Athens 1896) and Return (the 2004 Athens Olympics); using rich audiovisual props such as videos, animations, interviews and augmented reality applications that will flash you back in time to ancient Greece.
As well as showcasing Greece’s proud Olympic heritage, the permanent museum (supported by the Hellenic Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee) also champions Greece's contribution to the formation of the International Olympic and Paralympic Movement and the role of Athens as the Olympic Capital.
To document the exhibits, the museum collaborated with more than 40 national and international cultural institutions (including the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York); while a number of Greek Olympians and Paralympians and private collectors donated medals and personal heirlooms.
Among the Olympic treasures, both old and new, that you can expect to see:
- a kotinos wreath made from wild olive branches from Olympia. These Olympic prizes are always cut from the same sacred tree, Kallistefano, which grows near the temple of Zeus in Olympia;
- a bronze disk dedicated to the sanctuary of Olympia, with an engraved inscription stating that the athlete was the winner of the pentathlon in the 255th Olympiad (241 AD);
- the silver weightlifting medal of Greek athlete, Leonidas Coca, from the Atlanta Games of 1996;
- an illustrated antique album on Athens and Greece from the Olympic Games of 1896;
- the ceremonial robe of Artemis Ignatius, Priest at the Ceremony of Touching and Delivering the Olympic Flame, for the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
Visitors can channel the Olympic look at the on-site museum shop that sells branded athleisure wear, along with authentic mascots, posters, souvenirs and collectibles. You can also cap your outing with a coffee break or Mediterranean meal at the all-day Café - Restaurant "1896", while you eye up the curvy Olympic Stadium opposite; then go put it all in context at the all-marble Panathenaic Stadium in Pangrati; birthplace of the 1896 Modern Olympic era and finishing line of the world-famous Athens Classic Marathon.
Entrance is €7 (€6 for children and seniors; €20 for families); book online here for a 10 percent discount and to check opening hours.