Greece has been a major crossroad for civilizations over the centuries.
And most of them left their mark on the land, adding to the amazing natural beauty of the greek landscape. During the Medieval times and the Byzantine period, Greece was occupied by Francs, Ottomans, and Venetians. These cultures deeply influenced the country and its people, while leaving behind their trademark structure. Castles!
Castles, fortresses and castle cities can be found in almost every corner of Greece. Some of them are well-preserved while others lie in ruins. Greece features over 800 such castles, and each one narrates its own tale of old. Are you ready to listen to their stories?
Check out ten imposing Greek castles, fortresses and castle cities!
#1. Palamidi Fortress, Nafplion
The impressive fortress of Palamidi, looms over the city of Nafplion, Greece’s first capital. It is huge, well-maintained and an exquisite example of Venetian fortification architecture in Greece. It was built in 1714 by the Venetians, in just three years, giving them a significant vantage point, since visibility of Nafplion, the small fort of Bourtzi, the fortress of Acronafplia and the entrance to the gulf, is immaculate from its ramparts.
#2. Palace of the Grandmaster, Rhodes Island
In 1988 UNESCO declared Rhodes a “World Heritage City”. This was mainly due to its castle and the medieval city built inside. This fantastic site is one of the largest and best-preserved castles in Europe and took its current form under the rule of the Order of Saint John knights, from 1309 until 1522.
#3. Monemvasia Castle City, Peloponnese
Within the medieval walls of Monemvasia (Malvasia), you can discover one of the best-preserved castle cities in Greece. It’s most distinguishing feature is that the whole city is literally snuggled into a rock, less than a hundred feet off the coast. Dozens of churches, traditional houses, fountains, paved narrow streets are kept in remarkably good condition, giving off a pure and unique feeling of a medieval village. Adding to your medieval experience, no cars are allowed inside the castle.
#4. Mystras Castle City, Peloponnese
The castle city of Mystras is an awe-inspiring experience. Ruined Byzantine churches and palaces, houses and bridges, built on a mountain slope, tell the story of the city that flourished as the capital of the Byzantine Despotate of Moreas and crowned the last emperor Constantine Palaiologos. Turks and Venetians took turns in occupying it from 1460 onwards until its release in 1821. Besides the majestic sights and knowledge you could gain from a visit to Mystras, it’s the feeling of walking in a vivid and very special monument, that you will ultimately take away with you.
#5. Mesta Castle Village, Chios Island
The fantastic island of Chios features a unique village-castle of the Byzantine period (14th and 15th century), going by the name of Mesta. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has undergone but a few changes ever since. Its streets are very narrow, and the outer houses feature no doors or windows on the outside, effectively forming a castle wall! This type of fortress architecture was purpose-built for protection against frequent attacks by pirates and Turks. In the center of the village lies a defensive tower, a type of Acropolis, which the inhabitants used as a shelter in case of attack.