Greece’s most captivating castles are romantic, historic and a travel experience all in one.
Greece’s most captivating Castles
Growing up we were fascinated by the bedtime stories told of horse-drawn carriages, fire-breathing dragons and fairytale endings all happening in magical castles. Visit Greece for a piece of this nostalgia where you can come across the grand, well-preserved fortresses of another era. Here are the most captivating castles which you can discover in Greece.
Akrokorinthos Castle, Corinthos
Akrokorinthos meaning the upper Corinth is a stunning Acropolis of ancient Corinth and is one of the most impressive in mainland Greece. The castle which is one of the most important medieval castle sites of Greece, was continuously occupied from the archaic times until the early 19th century.
It was used as the last line of defense to protect the Isthmus of Corinth from invaders entering into the Peloponnese peninsula. Myth has it that a dispute occurred between the god of the sea Poseidon and the god of the sun Helios over the ruling of the Isthmus of Corinth and the Acropolis of Corinth (Akrokorinthos).
Bourtzi Castle, Nafplio
This Venetian castle is one of the landmarks of Nafplio. It was initially named Castello dello Soglio translating as the castle of the throne when it was built in 1473 by the Italian engineer Gabelo. Later the castle was named Bourtzi, a Turkish word translating to island fort.
This postcard perfect castle rises on the islet of St. Theodoroi. Time, history and numerous invasions have shaped its existence. It served as the first prison for the hero of the Greek Revolution against the Turks, Kolokotronis and later as a residence to the executioners of Palamidi. Between 1960 and 1970 it was also operated as a luxury hotel. You can get here by a little boat from the harbor of Nafplio (10-minute journey).
Palamidi Castle, Nafplio
This baroque style fortress dominates the town of Nafpilo, soaring 216 meters high. Its construction was relatively short and took three years to complete (1711-1714). In 1715, the fortress was captured by the Turks and it remained under their influence until 1822 when the Greeks took over.
The climb up to the castle consists of 999 steps but the view is definitely worth it. From here you can enjoy captivating views of the Argolic Gulf, the city of Nafplio and the surroundings.
Frangokastello Castle, Chania
Like most Greek castles, Frangokastello was built for defense to protect the coast from pirate raids. Initially, the project started in the late 14th century by the Venetians, yet its construction continued for over thirty years. The patriotic Cretans kept protesting against the invasion, until six Patsos brothers were hung here during their protests for the freedom of Crete. Sadly, the fortress never served its purpose. A famous local legend has it that the spirits of the dead warriors who fought here against the 8,000 Turks in the Battle of Frangokastello, haunt the shores of the castle every year from the end of May until the beginning of June. These shadows, called drosoulites meaning dew shadows, are said to appear on the beach when the sea is calm and the atmosphere is moist.
Geraki Castle, Peloponnese
Construction of this castle began after the fall of Constantinople, when most of the Peloponnese became a Frankish territory who divided the land into twelve baronies — Geraki was one of them. Built on a low hill by the French, Guy de Nivelet, it was called geraki meaning falcon.
The castle’s history saw numerous invasions over the centuries and was one of the most prominent castles of the Peloponnese. Today it is mostly ruins however its notable characteristic is that several Byzantine churches standing on the grounds of the castle have remained preserved.
Methoni Castle, Messinia
The stunning fortress rising on top of a hill overlooking the Ionian Sea was built by the Venetians in the early 13th century. It is among the largest in the Mediterranean. A fourteen arches stone bridge connects the castle to the mainland. The castle had overcome numerous challenges and invasions. Several gates lead inside the castle and the highest wall reaches 11 meters. Inside the castle there are ruins of houses which were once occupied by the Venetian lords, a paved road which leads to the Gate of the Sea, ruins of a Turkish bath, the Byzantine Church of Agia Sophia and a monolithic granite column which is known as the Column of Morosini.
Monemvasia Castle, Laconia
Monemvasia is a renowned medieval fortress-city of Greece and one of the most beautiful castles in the world. There is a single entrance into the city and this is what the name implies, derived from two Greek words mone and emvassi, meaning one way. Over the centuries conquerors claimed Monemvasia. Byzantines, the Franks, the Venetians and the Ottomans had an eye on the fortress town as it flourished and they all managed to rule at one point or another. Dozens of historic churches can be found in Monemvasia one of which is St. Sophia, a Byzantine church known for its magnificent standing interior and a few impressive wall paintings.
Mystras Castle, Sparti
Famous for its Byzantine Churches with impressive frescoes, Mystras Castle is an old town which was amphitheatrically built around the fortress constructed by the prince of Achaia, William of Villehardouin, in 1249. During the Byzantine period, the castle town was the second most important after Constantinople.
The castle, set on the hill of Mt. Taygetos, dominates the valley of the Evrotas River and was considered the ultimate status symbol, demonstrating power and success. Following centuries of occupations and invasions, the last inhabitants were forced to leave in 1953. Most of the castle is in ruins. However, there are ongoing restoration works and many of the churches and palaces have been restored.
Nafpaktos Castle, Nafpaktia
The fortified city of Nafpaktos is perched on a high hill overlooking the entrance of the Corinthian Gulf. Having suffered several catastrophes and damages, the castle of Nafpaktos is one of the best preserved and largest castles of mainland Greece. Its ancient fortified walls descended all the way from the hilltop to the harbor. On the castle’s grounds visitors can explore the upper fortified part of the city, the acropolis, the three enceinte which are connected via gates. There is also a 19th-century church dedicated to Profitis Ilias which was built on a former site of a Byzantine basilica and a 16th century mosque.
Greece’s most captivating castles can be found across the mainland and on the islands too. Have you visited any of these castles? If yes what did you find fascinating. Let us know in the comments below!
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