Greece is certainly known for culture. And it’s also known for café culture. So it stands to reason that most museums will have a fine café to complement the experience — a place to reflect on your impressions, write in your travel journal, and charge up for the rest of the day or night. Here are six of our favorite Museum Cafes in Greece for some diverse, enriching experiences.
The Museum Café Experience in Greece
The Benaki Museum
The Benaki Museum is one of the defining buildings of Athens’ elegant cosmopolitan center — across from the National Gardens, at the edge of chic Kolonaki, and near the Parliament. As soon as you enter the gates to the courtyard of the opulent Benakis family mansion, you will understand why this is such a treasured cultural landmark — the museum is a world of its own, a place of beauty and refinement. Enjoy the permanent collection and special exhibitions (they have some spectacular shows here), then relax on the terrace overlooking Vasilissis Sophias Avenue and the trees of the park with a coffee or a glass of wine. Or, order from their complete menu. The café is a great favorite with Athenians. Bonus — the museum is open until midnight on Thursdays and Saturdays.
Benaki Museum of Islamic Art
In the Kerameikos district — Athens’ historic center, near the ancient Agora and Temple of Hephaistus — a complex of neo-classical buildings houses the Benaki Museum of Islamic Art. It’s a magnificent collection. But some people come specifically just to visit the marvelous café on the terrace. The views of the Acropolis and Thiseo are unbeatable. And, as befits a Museum of Islamic Art, the tea selection is lovely, and so is the service.
The Numismatic Museum of Athens
Even if your interest in coins is limited, the Numismatic Museum is worth visiting for the architecture alone. Housed in the Iliou Melathron, this was once home of famed Archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann. It was designed by Ernst Ziller, and was considered the grandest private residence of Athens in its time. Naturally, it has a grand large garden — atmospheric with copies of ancient Greek statues amid lush flora, where you can now enjoy coffee or a light lunch.
The Byzantine and Christian Museum, Athens
The Villa Ilissia was once the winter palace of the Duchess of Plaisance. Built in the 1840’s (around the same time as the nearby Royal Palace, now the Parliament building), it was made into the Byzantine and Christian Museum in 1926. Explore the wealth of the collection (manuscripts, icons, sculpture…), then enjoy the ample gardens — an oasis of green. Here in the shade of the palace there will be a breeze on even the hottest of Athenian days, and it is nearly impossible to imagine you are in the bustling center as you sip your coffee in the Ilissia restaurant, on these beautiful grounds. Desserts and light menu also available.
The Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive Oil, Sparta
Is there any product more profoundly associated with Greece and its history than the olive? That history is a long one, with the first references to the olive on tablets from the 14th century BC, in linear B script. For lovers of cultural and culinary history, for lovers of design and engineering, and also definitely for children, this museum is a delight. It’s full of rustic beauty in a rustically modern structure. See and compare various olive oil presses through the ages — the pre-historic, the Hellenistic, the Byzantine- and learn about the culinary and cultural significance of the olive and olive oil throughout history and to the present day. A café with a shady outdoor seating offers refreshments after your visit.
Thessaloniki Museum of Photography
The first pier of Thessaloniki’s port is a favorite with visitors and locals, offering the most romantic views of the city’s seafront and the White Tower. The port’s many warehouses — designed with the graceful elegance of 19th C industrial architecture — now house much of the city’s contemporary culture. Some are screening rooms for the international film festival, and there is also the center for Contemporary Art, The Cinematography Museum, and the Museum of Photography. There are always excellent shows at the Museum of Photography, but the real treat and not at all well known, even to locals — is the museum’s cafe. It feels like being on a ship with its dramatic floor to ceiling window overlooking the harbor and the elegant ferry terminal. Exposed brick and iron beams complete the industrial/chic mood. This is the perfect place to watch a winter storm brewing as you enjoy a glass of red wine (or to escape for a while from the bright July sun with an iced cappuccino.)
Have you had any Museum Café Experience in Greece? Do let us know in the comments below.