The Museum of Cycladic Art is a living, breathing organism. What started out as a moderately sized edifice intended to house the Nicholas and Dolly Goulandris Collection in 1986, has managed to transform itself into a universally appealing destination, luring the most unlikely visitors into its charming, self-contained universe. Intricately entwined with Greece’s sun-bleached reputation, the Museum holds one of the most comprehensive collections of Cycladic art in the world, a panoramic view of ancient Aegean cultures, with a special emphasis on the 3rd millennium BC: the minimal, off-white figurines that it has become famous for being something of a blank canvas that has inspired everyone, from Mondrian to Henry Moore and, more recently, Ai Weiwei. Whitewashed by the passage of time, they challenge visitors to use their imagination, as no one is entirely certain what they might have looked like in their original state. The only thing we know for sure is that they hold an undeniable mystique that’s almost impossible to put into words. The adjacent Stathatos Mansion (entrance on Vasilissis Sofias Ave & 1 Irodotou St), connected to the main building with a not-so-secret passage, is one of the most important extant examples of 19th Century Neoclassical architecture in Athens, lending a unique character to the MCA’s itinerant exhibitions and is worth visiting in and of itself.
If you want the Full Monty, don’t forget to take a peek around the Cycladic Shop that has become something of a Mecca for tasteful, locally sourced gifts and elegantly branded special editions. The Museum tour ends at the Cycladic Café, which serves up top quality coffee and some of the tastiest desserts in town. This little glass-covered oasis, designed by Kois Associated Architects (same as the Shop), has acquired quite the faithful following over the past few years and is, amusingly, frequented by a large number of people who have never even set foot inside the galleries upstairs. We implore you not to make the same mistake!