This year, the tourist season in Thessaloniki has been much more organized than in years past. The city has achieved, what some could say, is the self-explanatory. Since April 2014, 33 archaeological sites and museums have extended their working hours as part of a National Pilot Upgrading Plan, which includes, in addition to the extension of working hours, the renovation and reopening of gifts shops, reorganization of what may be sold in these places and, of course, recruitment of personnel. In Greece there aren’t only 33 museums and archaeological sites, but at least 1,033. All of them should normally be open to the public for extended hours, at least during the summer season, as these cultural sites are some of the main tourist attractions assisting the country’s poor economical situation.
Among these 33 museums and monuments, Thessaloniki’s White Tower and the Museum of Byzantine Culture are included. I could make a list with another 20 archaeological and memorial sites that should have extended working hours in order to increase public access, but I must point out the word “pilot” in the title of this plan. Hopefully next year this policy will include many more museums, monuments and archaeological sites.
As expected, these monuments experienced an enormous increase in visits in the initial month of the pilot plan. An increase in collections up to 115.81% is noted in the archaeological site of Thira’s Akrotiri (Promontory) and 109.59% in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. The ones following are the White Tower’s Museum with 100.26%, the Acropolis of Ialysos with 95.85% and the Museum of Byzantine Culture with 87.98%. The White Tower has experienced the best income increase in mainland Greece and is third in Greece overall, whereas the Museum of Byzantine Culture comes sixth. This was the first time the White Tower’s Museum extended working hours since its opening day in 2008, and the results have been very optimistic.
The extended working hours are 8AM – 8PM seven days a week. This pilot program started on April 1st and will last until October 31, 2014. It should be clarified that visitors may access the museums until 15 minutes prior to closing time.
The 22 museums and archaeological sites in Greece that have extended working hours are as follows:
- Archaeological site of Acropolis
- Dionysos’ Theatre
- Museum of the Ancient Agora and the site of the Ancient Agora
- The archaeological site of Sounio
- Olympieio- Kerameikos
- Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus
- Archaeological Museum of Mycenae
- Archaeological Museum of Olympia and its archaeological site
- Delphi Archaeological Museum and its archaeological site
- Museum of the royal tombs of Vergina
- Delos archaeological museum
- Thira’s Akrotiri
- The archaeological site of Lindos in Rhodes, Greece
- Acropolis of Ialysos
- Archaeological Museum of Rhodes
- The archaeological site Asklipeios in Ko, Greece
- The archaeological site of Knossos
- The archaeological site of Phaistos
- Diktaion antron
- Archeological Museum of Ancient Corinth
- Palace of the Grand Masters
- The castle of Neratzia in Ko, Greece
- The archaeological site and Museum of Mystras
- Corfu Old Fortress
- Fortress of Palamidi
- Heraklion Archaeological Museum
- Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki
- Byzantine and Christian Museum
- National Archaeological Museum
- Museum of Byzantine Culture in Thessaloniki
- White Tower’s Museum
A Short Presentation of the Two Museums
The White Tower Museum was fully renovated in 2008, and since then it has hosted a new permanent collection of the Byzantine Museum, which presents a short version of the city’s history. While presenting 23 centuries in a space of 450 square meters seemed practically impossible, it was achieved thanks to new technologies (videos, tapings, documents and touch screens). The monument, which is Thessaloniki’s trademark, was built more than 600 years ago, and during its existence has gone through several names, uses and… colors! In 1983 it was transformed into an exhibition space. During the time of Turkish rule in Greece the monument was called “Blood Tower,” and was used as a prison. Its name changed when a prisoner painted it white in exchange for his freedom. The building has four floors, is 34 meters high, and one can enjoy the best view of the city and Thermaikos Gulf on its terrace.
Museum of Byzantine Culture
The museum was designed by the architect Kyriakos Krokos, and is an excellent example of the protection, research and a study centre for the Byzantine Culture that survived in Macedonia, and especially in Thessaloniki. Its permanent exhibition presents Byzantine art and culture, such as frescos, mosaics, icons, ecclesiastic vessels, jewelry and objects of everyday use. For the record, we should remember the exhibition called “Mountain Athos’ Thesaurus,” presented during the European Capital of Culture in 1997, that reached record levels of attendance.
Do the museums and archaeological sites in your country have extended working hours during tourist season?
The original article, published in Greek, can be found here.
Credits: Data and images linked to sources.