The Fascinating Castles of Greece

Castles are huge protective buildings that are magnificent to look at and used to protect the people who lived there – usually kings or important public figures.  They are usually surrounded by beautiful countryside.

The Fascinating Castles of Greece

There are about 800 castles scattered around Greece and some of them are regarded as the best-preserved buildings of Europe, and we’re going to take a look at some of them:

Castle of Epirus 

Castle of Parga

Situated on top of a hill with views of the town below, the castle of Parga was used to protect the town from the mainland and the sea. Toward the end of the 16th-century, it underwent a major reconstruction.

The castle had 8 towers outside, and inside the space of the citadel there were 400 houses. The castle is an example of Venetian architecture, and inside there is a café and gift shop.

Ioannina Castle 

Silversmithing Museum inside the walls of Ioannina Castle

This castle is found in the southeastern part of the city on lake Pamvotis. The structure is dominated by 2 citadels. The northeastern citadel is surrounded by a wall that dates to the Byzantine period. 

The citadel is made up of a palace as well as a church dedicated to Saint John. The castle serves as a cultural and exhibition space today. Check out this post: Ioannina: A Nature Lovers Dream World

 

Castle of Central Macedonia

Platamonas Castle – Pieria 

The Platamonas Castle, found on a rocky hill and with splendid views of the shores of Platamonas, is a 10th century Byzantine-built structure. It was built between 1204 and 1222 in northern Greece and southeast of Mount Olympus. The tower is a medieval fortress. 

You can’t miss the castle from the old National Road and it is regarded as a trademark of the Prefecture of Pieria and just a short distance from the town of Platamonas. 

Castles of East Macedonia

Castle of Kavala

This impressive fortress is the crown jewel of the old city of Kavala. It was built in the early 15th century on the remains of the Byzantine Acropolis of Christoupolis, which is the former name of Kavala. Today visitors can admire the spectacular view of the city from its circular tower which was used for defence. The fortress occasionally is used to host cultural events. It is one of the top visited monuments of Kavala.

 

Castle of West Greece

 Nafpaktos Castle 

Nafpaktos Castle is one of the beautiful, well-maintained castles of Greece overlooking the bay of Patras. The castle had 5 defensive walls, 2 of which go down to the sea.

Centuries ago the entrance to the Gulf of Nafpaktos was a battleground of an important naval battle – the battle of Lepanto in 1571. After the end of the Revolution War, not just the castle but also the town became part of the Greek state and today it is a well-visited archaeological site. 

Castles of Peloponnese

Upper Corinth

Also referred to as Acrocorinth, this is a monolithic rock that towers over the ancient city of Corinth in Greece. Acrocorinth is considered one of the most important medieval castle sites of Greece. In 1965-66 the bridge over the dry moat and the guardhouse at the entrance were restored.

 

Venetian Castle of Methoni 

This beautiful castle on a rock right on the sea is a fortified city that was built by the Venetians in 1209 A.D. The castle comes complete with an artificial moat. During the Byzantine years, it was a harbor and used as a base to attack the vandals of North Africa. 

Part of the castle comprises the spectacular sea gate, 2 square towers of 16 meters that are linked with a platform crowned with bastions and the ruins of a cemetery for British prisoners from the Second World War. 

Karystos Castle 

The castles of Greece are often found on hills and this castle is found just 4 km from Karystos, with the first fort being found on a hill known as Montofoli and built by the Byzantines in 1030. The castle, perched on rocks, overlooks the bay of Karystos and occupies the foothills of Mt Ochi. 

At the foot of Mount Ochi lies the emblematic Castello Rosso.  This castle was built in 1030 AC as a small fort and later transformed into a castle. Its name, related to the red color of the stones used for its construction means Red Castle.  Today the castle is a major attraction.  

Frankish Villehardouin castle — Kalamata 

The castle was built by the House of Villehardouin in 1210 and always an epicenter of attention with its 2 fortifications and an inner fortress. Inside the castle is a theatre that hosts cultural events.

Old Navarino Castle 

This old medieval castle also has some amazing views and hikes. The coastal town of Pylos is where you will find the ruins of the 13th century Old Navarino Castle.

It was built by the Franks and has endured many attacks before being taken by the Venetians in the 15th century. Unfortunately once Pylos Castle was built nearby, the old Navarino castle fell to ruin. 

Nafplio Castle  – Bourtzi and Palamidi 

Nafplio is the main port of the eastern Peloponnese and a wonderfully picturesque city with archaeological findings dating to the Mycenaean years. Bourtzi is considered a landmark of Nafplio, built on the islet of St. Theodoroi in 1473. 

Today a number of musical and cultural events are held at the Venetian castle during the summer. Palamidi is a baroque fortress in the city of Nafplio and was finished being built between 1711 and 1714. Palamidi is one of the most beautiful and well-preserved castles of Greece. 

Mystras Castle

Mystras lies in the southeast of the Peloponnese overlooking Sparta. It’s a fortified town on Mt. Taygetos. The inhabitants of Mystras started moving to Sparta leaving just the beautiful medieval ruins behind in a stunning landscape. Mystras is a fantastic archaeological site and a Unesco World Heritage Monument. 

Monemvasia Castle 

Monemvasia is situated in the southern Peloponnese –  another medieval fortress-city and the town walls and some Byzantine churches remain from the medieval period. Both town and fortress were founded in 583. The castle of Monemvasia is built on a tiny island linked to the mainland. The main street, Kalderimi, has plenty of cafes and restaurants. There are also many churches inside the castle.

Castles of Crete

Fortezza Rethymnon 

The pentagonal Fortezza fort is found on the hill of Palekastro next to the town of Rethymnon, Crete. The first foundation stone of the fortress was laid in 1573 and has 4 bastions – St. Luke, St. Paul, St Elijah and St. Nicholas. Inside the fort there are a church, barracks, hospital, storage rooms and the theater Erofili which hosts events. 

Aptera Fortress

This is a fairly new castle and therefore its condition is also quite good. The castle has been built on a hill 12 km east of Chania and close to the city of Aptera. Known as the fort of Koules, it was built after the  Cretan Revolution of 1866. 

Koules Fortress Heraklion 

The 2-storey Fortress of Koules in Heraklion Crete is impressive to look at, surrounding the harbor of Heraklion, Crete. It was built in the 13th century by the Venetians to store foodstuffs and military supplies. 

An earthquake destroyed the castle in 1303 but was restored from 1523-1540. Today the ‘many-times-restored’ Koules Venetian Castle is visited by thousands of people every year. 

Gramvoussa Fortress

The highest part of  Gramvousa island is where the Venetian built Gramvoussa Fortress is situated. The impressive castle was built between 1579 and 1584.

Today Grambusa or Gramvoussa is unpopulated, but in summer there are one-day cruises that stop at the island for about 90 minutes and there is time to hike along the steep, winding path to visit the castle.  

Kales Venetian Fortress Ierapetra 

The town of Ierapetra lies on the southeast coast of Crete and the fort Kales was built in the 13th century by the Venetians and overlooks the harbor. The whole idea of the fortress was to protect the town from its enemies. Like many of the other castles, it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1508.  To this day, the Kales Venetian Fortress is an archaeological site. 

Spinalonga

It’s amazing that lepers were once kept on the island of Spinalonga right up till 1957. Known as the island of outcasts, in 1579 the Venetians built a fortress on the ruins of an ancient acropolis. Today throngs of tourists visit Spinalonga by boat as it is the most popular archaeological site in Crete. 

Castles of the Dodecanese

Rhodes Castle 

This beautiful 14th-century castle of Rhodes is actually a medieval city surrounded by walls and is beautifully preserved. The castle is designed around a large courtyard with huge towers and walls. 

It took on its current look when knights occupied the island from 1309 until 1522. The Rhodes earthquake of 226 BC damaged the fortifications, but it was restored and is a major tourist attraction today.  

Castle of the Cyclades Islands 

Naxos Castles

There are more than 20 towers on Naxos Island but not all of them are operational – some of them are museums while many are in need of restoration. 

The castle of Chora is the most well known medieval monument of Naxos and has two entrances. Inside the castle are a number of medieval buildings such as a boarding school as well as the School of Commerce. There are other castles on the island such as the Venetian castle of Belonia.

Paros Naoussa Castle

This Venetian castle is situated in the port of Naoussa and was built in the 14th century. The fortress has always been used as a watchtower providing a good view of the Aegean Sea. Only some of the fort survives. In the area of the port there are some trendy fish taverns and bars. To reach the ruins of the castle, you have to walk on a wall partly washed over by waves and this is awesome on a hot day.

Kimolos Castle 

The castle on the small island of Kimolos was created in the 16th century with the idea to house sailors. In 1638 the island was looted and the castle destroyed. To this day the inner castle is in ruins. You’ll also find the island’s oldest church within the castle dating back to 1592. You can reach Kimolos by sea from the port of Piraeus.

Santorini Castles

When visiting the island of Santorini there are no less than 5 castles to visit. The castles were built in 5 settlements of the island – Pyrgos, Emporio, Oia, Imerovigli and Akrotiri. The purpose of the castles was to protect the inhabitants from pirates.  

Skaros

It is thought that this castle is the most important on Santorini . There is a coastal path that allows you to reach the rock of Skaros and which takes you as far as Oia.The rock was inhabited in medieval times, and was known as Epano Kastro, built in the Byzantine years. 

Castle of Pyrgos

Pyrgos is a must-see village when visiting Santorini. The castle of Pyrgos was also built for protective purposes, being possibly the most recent castle built, which was around 1580. 

Venetian invaders constructed the castle as protection from the pirates and is similar in looks to the fortress of Skaros. The castle is well-preserved and there are two beautiful churches inside the castle. 

Castle and Tower of Emporio

The castle and tower of Emporio are found on the south part of Emporio village and was built in the 15th century. The interior is a labyrinth with very narrow streets. It is well maintained and a well-known landmark of Santorini. There are some stylish churches inside the fortified settlement that date back to the 16th century. One of the notable characteristics of the castle is the big towers known as Goulas.

The castle of Akrotiri is found on the south of the island and close to the Red Beach. It is thought that the castle was built in the first century of the Venetian rule. The fortified settlement was constructed around the defensive tower.The 1956 earthquake ruined the castle but the tower was restored. There are guided tours where you can hear about the history of the tower

Castle of Agios Nikolaos in Oia

This castle is known for its captivating sunsets. The Castle of Agios Nikolaos is named after a church carved in a rock and dedicated to Agios Nikolaos. It was built in the 13th century, standing high to serve as an observation point.

After the earthquake of 1956, part of the fortified settlement collapsed and there is only a part of the watchtower left. Today the castle is a museum as well as a musical instrument workshop. 

Castles of the Ionian Islands 

Castle in Lefkada

The castle of Santa Maura is an impressive medieval building – a fortress in Greece and located on Lefkada Island. It was besieged no less than 12 times in 7 centuries.

Part of the castle was completed way back in 1302 AD by Giovanni Orsini. From 1566-1571 it was reconstructed, giving it its heptagonal shape. Inside the castle there are 200 stone houses, a couple of schools, 3 mosques, 2 baths and a seminary. Today the castle is open to tourists and offers different cultural events during the summer.

Castle of North Aegean

Mytilene Castle

Also, a fortress, the castle of Mytilene is located in Mytilene on the island of Lesbos. It’s a large castle and well maintained.  It is believed the 6th-century castle may have been built on top of a fortress but the interior is undergoing excavations by the Canadian Archeological Institute.

There are buildings from the Archaic-, Classical periods and medieval times. Space has been created inside to host cultural events.

Summing up:

The castles of Greece are indeed fascinating and many have played a protective role from the attacks from pirates.

Each of the castles are steeped in history and some have had extensive renovations. Many of them are open to tourists. If you’re looking for a bit of thrilling history in Greece you might want to seek out the amazing castles of Greece. 

 

 

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