12 Venetian Castles to Visit in Greece

Exuding the aura of a bygone era when knights in shining armor rode horses on cobblestone paths, Venetian rule over various parts of Greece has left its mark in the form of romantic fortresses and castle-like structures that survive until today. Here are a few to look out for during your travels to Greece:

  1. Astypalaia Castle – The houses within this Cycladic island’s trademark structure were until the 19th century Astypalaia’s only settlement. Standing between inhabitants and pirate invaders, the castle served as a protective barrier against unwanted intruders.


  1. Bourtzi in Nafplio – Meaning “tower” in Ottoman Turkish, Bourtzi was built on a tiny islet across the town of Nafplio, which served as the first capital of the Hellenic Republic. Built in 1473, Bourtzi was a fortress protecting the area from sea invaders until 1865 and was then used to house the executioners of Palamidi Castle prisoners.


  1. Kythera Castle – Dating back to the 13th century, the castle of Kythera island, also known as the Fortezza, provided a clear look into the Ionian, Aegean, and Cretan seas from its strategic position. The castle itself was at points in time ruled by the Venetians, French, Turks, English, Germans, and Italians.


  1. Fortezza of Rethymno – A citadel built to protect the interests of the Venetians in Crete, the castle of Rethymno dates back to the late 16th century and remained inhabited until the early 20th


  1. Frangokastello in Crete – Dating back to the late 14th century, Frangokastello is remotely situated on the south coast of Crete and is known as the location where Greek rebel Daskalogiannis was captured in 1770. It is also known to be haunted by the ghosts of Greek soldiers who gave their lives for the Greek War of Independence.


  1. Kales Fortress in Crete – This 13th century portside fortress in Ierapetra was built to protect the area from pirates and sea invaders. Today, it stands as a local monument, and some claim it was actually built by a Genoese pirate called Enrico Pescatore.


  1. Kastelli of Pyrgos in Santorini –This fortress could only be accessed by one entrance called the “Porta.” Today part of the structure remains, and if you visit, aside from a great panoramic view, you’ll find quaint winding alleys with traditional residences, cafes, shops, and churches.


  1. Nafpaktos Castle – Situated at the top of a hill overlooking the seaside town of Nafpaktos off the Gulf of Corinth, this well-preserved five-level fortress partially existed since ancient times and was further constructed by the Venetians in the form seen today.


  1. Kastro of Naxos – Built on a hill some 30 meters above sea level, the pentagon-shaped castle of Naxos island was erected by conqueror and Duke Marco Sanudo in the early 13th The castle to this day serves as a residence for a number of families and also houses in a four-level tower, the Byzantine Museum of Naxos.


  1. Old Citadel in Corfu –Connected to Corfu by a short bridge, the Old Citadel, known as “Palaio Frourio,” was built throughout the ages by various island inhabitants and today mainly reflects the influences of Venetian occupants. Accessible to visitors, this structure was fortified as a defense mechanism against Ottoman invaders. South of the hill lies the Church of St. George, built in the shape on an ancient temple, with six Doric columns.


  1. Palamidi Castle in Nafplio – The 999-stair climb to the top of Palamidi Castle in Nafplio is well worth the time and effort. From here, you’ll get a simply breathtaking view of Greece’s first capital, Bourtzi Castle in the distance, and a seemingly unending blue sea. Palamidi Castle is also the location where Greek War Hero Theodoros Kolokotronis was kept imprisoned. His jail cell is actually open to visitors.


  1. Monolithos Castle in Rhodes – Situated on a steep rocky formation, this 15th century structure housed knights that protected the area from invaders. Offering a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean, the fortress ruins still host the two small medieval chapels of St. George and St. Panteleimon.