The Venetian Castle is one of the best things to do in Zakynthos thanks to its close proximity to the capital of the island, Zante Town. After many earthquakes have damaged similar sights around the island of Zakynthos, the Venetian Castle still stands as a good example of Venetian architecture in the Ionians and is an interesting sight to check out.
In this post, I’ll shed a little bit of light on this lesser-visited sight in Zakynthos including how to get there, how long to stay and how much it will cost (spoiler alert, it’s free).
See Also: The Ultimate Guide to Greece Travel
Where is Zakynthos?
Zakynthos is a small island about 20 kilometres off the westernmost point of the Greek Peloponnese mainland and just under 250 kilometres west of the capital of Athens. This island is one of the best places to visit in Greece thanks to its bustling tourism scene, great restaurants and nightlife and spectacular Ionian beaches.
The island can be reached by a ferry from Kyllini (7 sailings per day), or by direct flight from Athens. There are also a few direct flights from major European cities like Amsterdam, Rome and London but these only run in the summer (high season) months.
About The Venetian Castle in Zakynthos
- November 1st – June 30th: Every day from 08.30-15.00 except Mondays
- July 1st to October 31st: Every day from 08.00-19.00 except Mondays
If you’re staying in Zante Town (the capital city of Zakynthos), then it would be a shame not to head up the hill and check out this 15th-century castle.
The castle itself is situated in a lovely pine forest on a high hill above the city and the harbour below and it not only offers spectacular views of Zakynthos and the Ionian Sea, but it’s also a great example of Venetian architecture in the Ionian.
The location is quite tranquil and is very quiet compared to the bustling port town below.
History of The Venetian Castle
The castle was almost completely destroyed by the Turks in 1460 but was repaired and eventually completed by the Venetians in 1646 AD. As you walk in the main entrance, notice the Winged Lion Of Saint Mark on the arch above the former gate.a h This is a symbol of the Venetian Empire and their rule in the Ionians.
The castle was once the central capital of the island, but today you’ll see quite a bit of damage from earthquakes and a history of war attacks and pirate raids on the fortress.
In 1812, when the British Empire took over the Ionian Islands, they used this castle and its fortified position to build barracks and powder stores and it was once the house of the British Parliament in the Ionians.
Inside the castle walls were the remains of many Byzantine churches such as the Church of the Savior (San Salvatore) which dates back to the 12th century AD. There’s also the 14th century Church of Saint Francis and the Church of Santa Barbara.
How To Get To The Castle
The Venetian Castle of Zakynthos is located at the top of Bohali about 2 kilometres from Zante Town. The easiest way to get here is by car. If you’ve rented a car for your stay in Zakynthos, then you can drive from Zante Town to the castle in about 5 minutes, walk around it for an hour or two and then continue exploring the island.
If you don’t have a car, it’s only about a 20-minute walk from the town, but you’ll be climbing up about 125 meters (410 feet) so be sure to bring some water. If you’re visiting Zakynthos in the summer, I’d recommend going in the early morning or late afternoon as it’s extremely hot in Zakynthos in the middle of the day in the summertime.
Cost To Enter The Venetian Castle Zakynthos
The Venetian Castle in Zakynthos is free to enter. There is no one there to guard the entrance and it is open until 3:00 pm or 7:00 pm (depending on the season). It’s not a major site in Zakynthos and because it’s so easy to walk here from the city, you won’t likely find the Venetian Castle on many tour itineraries.
Instead, just come here on your own time early in the morning or in the late afternoon.
How Long Should You Visit The Castle For?
The castle itself only covers an area of a few hundred meters so you don’t need that much time to visit it. While there are some lovely carvings on the walls and the remains of a few crumbled churches, there has been a considerable amount of damage to much of the main structure.
An hour or two will be more than enough to visit the Venetian Castle in Zakynthos. The view from the top of Bohali Hill is spectacular though, so you may want to bring a picnic and have a snack while looking out over the Ionian Sea and Zante Town from the castle viewing platform.
There are a few English signs explaining the main parts of the castle, but there is little else there to bring the place to life.
Main Areas To See in The Venetian Castle
The Venetian Castle sight isn’t a huge place to visit, so there aren’t too many main points of interest to stop and look at. Mostly it’s about just walking around and enjoying the peace and nature on Bohali Hill and of course, the view. Here are a few things to check out while in the castle:
The Venetian Entrance: At the entrance to the castle you will see the 17th-century Winged Lion of Saint Mark, which is a symbol of Venice and their rule on the Ionian Islands at that time.
The Viewing Platform: There is a large open area that hangs out over the cliff overlooking Zante Town and the beautiful Ionian Sea below. This is a great spot for photos and just chilling out and enjoying the view. This castle has historically protected the island from many pirate attacks and raids, so this platform would’ve been a great vantage point for the Venetian Army to watch for invaders.
The Prison Cells: Inside the castle, there are still the remains of some (albeit damaged) structures. Some of the more confined spaces you see are old prison cells, while other rooms were used as munitions storage areas.
Hotels Near The Venetian Castle Zakynthos
If you want to stay close to the castle, then you’ll want to stay in Zante Town. When searching where to stay in Zakynthos, you’ll probably find that Zante Town is one of the best areas to stay, along with the Laganas Beach area, and Tsilivi. Here are a few of the top-rated hotels in Zante Town.
Happy Owl Apartment: This little apartment is about 1.3 kilometres from Zante Town Beach and offers air-conditioned double rooms with kitchens, private bathrooms, flat-screen TVs and a nice terrace. It has 9.8 stars from reviews on Booking.com and is one of the top reviewed places in Zante town. See Prices on Booking.com.
Pheonix Hotel: One of the largest hotels in Zante Town, the Pheonix hotels has nice double rooms with private bathrooms starting at around $50 / night (depending on the season). They get 8.7 out of 10 stars from reviews on Booking.com and the hotel is very close to the center, and all the main sights in Zante Town. See Prices on Booking.com.
Yria Hotel: This quaint little hotel is located in the center of Zante Town about 70 meters from the beach. The rooms are all air-conditioned with private bathrooms and a balcony. The cost starts at around $33 / night (depending on the season) and they get 8.2 out of 10 on Booking.com reviews. See Prices on Booking.com.
While it would be nice if Zante Town put a little bit more effort into restoring and bringing to life this beautiful example of a castle from the time of Venetian rule in the Ionian Islands, it’s still worth a visit.
Due to the lack of audio guides and detailed information, you’ll have to use your imagination a little bit, but the view from the hill and the peaceful nature around the castle make it one of the best things to do in Zakynthos.
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