Have you heard about Vergina? Or about the newest archeological museum in Greece, that opened at the end of 2022? If not, pay close attention! Because not all of the best historical museums of Greece are located in Athens. In fact, Vergina, in the north of Greece, houses multiple archeological sites and a brand new museum that are very impressive. This is a complete guide for visiting the the Museum of AIGAI and the Royal tombs in Vergina, but also the other 2 sites which are the palace and the cemetery.
Vergina is a small town located in northern Greece, within the region of Macedonia. Vergina is located approximately 56 kilometers from Thessaloniki, the second largest city of Greece. The town of Vergina is easily accessible by car or bus and is a popular day trip destination among those visiting Thessaloniki and it has become a popular tourist destination after the discovery of King Philips II’s tomb in 1977.
It is famous for being the site of the ancient city of Aigai, the first capital of the Kingdom of Macedon. The city was also the birthplace of Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great, who conquered much of the known world.
Ancient Aigai was not a typical ancient Greek city. Instead of being densely populated, it was a collection of smaller cities spread throughout the region.But don’t let its scattered structure fool you, Aigai was a major player in the ancient Kingdom of Macedon. It served as the first capital of the kingdom and was the birthplace of the one and only Alexander the Great! So it’s no surprise that this city was a hub for religious, political, and cultural activity.
Aigai’s palace was the residence of the Macedonian kings and served as a symbol of political power and a center for religious rituals and cultural events. The city was also equipped with a theater, an agora, and various public buildings, truly making it a hub of political and cultural life. The architectural style of Aigai was a melting pot of Athenian, Macedonian, and Achaemenid influences, showcasing the city’s role as a crossroads of cultures and the exchange of ideas that took place in the region.
In a nutshell, Ancient Aigai was a city of many hats, and its unique structure is a testament to its rich political, cultural, and religious significance. No wonder that today it houses a collection of very impressive museums and archeological sites that you should definitely visit.
The museums and archeological sites of Aigai are located in the village of Vergina, in northern Greece. If you want to go there, you have the following options:
The Museum(s) of AIGAI in Vergina are opened on Monday, Wednesday to Sunday from 09:00-17:00. On Tuesdays, they are closed.
The ticket cost is as follows – a ticket is valid for all 4 museums / sites!
Before you go, I advise you to check the latest opening times and ticket prices on the website of the museum.
Vergina has multiple historical locations and museums that are accessible to visitors. Unlike other Greek historical places in Aigai the visitor can enter 4 different museums within a distance of 2km. That’s why it’s called the polycentric (multiple centers) museum of Aigai.
These 4 museums are:
Of course we can not complete a guide c for visiting the Museum of AIGAI and the Royal tombs in Vergina without discussing all of them separately below.
The New Polycentric Museum of Aigai opened its doors in December 2022. You are offered a journey through the rich cultural heritage of the ancient Kingdom of Macedon in this museum.
Each section is designed to bring the history of Aigai to life, showcasing different aspects of the city’s rich cultural heritage. You’ll be transported back in time as you learn about the daily life of the people of Aigai, including their customs, beliefs, and traditions.
The museum offers a treasure trove of artefacts from the ancient city, including original pottery, coins, and jewelry. Check out the ancient keys for instance. How is it possible that they resemble the keys of nowadays so much!? The museum also displays reconstructions of buildings and monuments that once stood in the city. I must say that at this moment (February 2023) the collection is not extremely large yet, but artefacts will be added constantly over time.
The research department is dedicated to advancing our understanding of the city and the Kingdom of Macedon, making the New Polycentric Museum of Aigai not only a cultural institution but also a center for scientific research and education.
The Museum of the Royal Tombs in Vergina is my favorite museum of Greece. An exceptional display of the grandeur of ancient Macedonian civilization! It includes the famous tomb of King Philip II, father of Alexander the Great. The museum is a true testament to the wealth and prosperity of the ancient Macedonian kingdom.
As you enter the museum, you will be struck by 2 things. Firstly, the tombs themselves will make you believe you are visiting a pharao’s grave in Egypt. Secondly, the blinking gold of the objects on display. You’ll find it to be mostly jewellery and artillery that the dead were buried with. We nowadays tend to give away our most valuable items to our family when we die, but the Makedonians were buried with their most precious posessions. The golden boxes however, werespecially made to store the bones of the dead after cremation.
The highlight of the museum is the tomb of King Philip II, an architectural marvel and one of the finest examples of ancient Greek engineering. With its impressive antechamber, hypostyle hall and burial chamber, the tomb showcases the mastery of ancient Greek design and construction.
The burial cluster was discovered in 1977 in a large burial mound, known as the Great Tumulus. They identified the tomb as Philips’ due to inscriptions and artefacts found inside. This includesa golden larnax containing the king’s ashes. The burial cluster also includes the tombs of other members of the Macedonian royal family. This offers us a unique glimpse into the funeral customs and beliefs of the ancient kingdom. The exhibits are housed in the museum, which was built to preserve and protect the artefacts and treasures found in the tomb and in the nearby ancient city of Aigai.
The Palace of Aigai was the center of political and religious life in the ancient city of Aigai. Aigai was the first capital of the Kingdom of Macedon. The palace consisted of several buildings. This included a large courtyard, rooms for public and private gatherings, and a theater that was used for political and cultural events.
The Palace of Aigai was the residence of the Macedonian royalty, including King Philip II. The palace was a symbol of power and wealth, reflecting the prosperity of the Macedonian Kingdom. If you visit the site you can still see remainsof the palace’s grandeur, including its impressive entrance, floor and architectural features.
The sacred/political agora was the center of political and religious life in the ancient city of Aigai. It was a place for public gatherings and political meetings, as well as religious ceremonies. The agora is very well preserved. You can see the remains of the altar and the stoa. The stoa was a covered walkway used for shelter during inclement weather.
The theater of Aigai was an important cultural and social center for the ancient city. The theater was one of the largest in ancient Macedonia, seating over 5,000 spectators. The Macedonians used the theater for performances, concerts, and other public events. The theater has been partially restored. Visitors can see the stage, the seating area, and the orchestra pit.
Together, the palace, sacred/political agora, and theater showcase the rich cultural and historical heritage of the ancient city of Aigai. You will get a glimpse of the daily life and social customs of the ancient Macedonians, while walking in the same places Alexander the Great 2500 years ago.
Macedonians used the large necropolis of Aigai as a cemetery for many centuries. This was due to the Macedonian tradition of not conducting multiple burials in the same place. This allowed for each person to have their own individual tomb, reflecting their status and importance in life. The park covers an area of 133.4 acres and houses 530 visible burial mounds and 21 tombs. They are dating from the 6th to the 3rd centuries BC.
If you visit the Aigai Necropolis Archeological Park today you can see the mounds that have survived. And, of course, learn about the ways in which the Macedonian expressed their beliefs and values when burying their dead.
The 7.500 trees that were planted in the area are all native to the region. They provide a natural habitat for local wildlife. Supervisory materials and protection shelters are installed over the mounds and in the older part of the Royal Tomb Cluster. This ensures the preservation of these historical treasures, as it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.