Museums & Monuments
Byzantine Museum of Zakynthos
The Byzantine Museum of Zakynthos is in Solomos Square. You turn right after the entering, ascend to the upper floor and cross the entire length of the building before descending again to the entrance. The museum houses a rich collection of portable icons, a true panorama of ecclesiastical painting from the Byzantine years to the 19th century, with about a thousand religious paintings by post-Byzantine, Ionia and Zakynthian artists. Works are exhibited by Damaskinos, Tzanes, Kallergis, and Tsonis. Although the older exhibits in the museum are characteristic examples of Byzantine art, the works of Panagiotis Doxaras (1622-1700), who studied in Venice, are naturalistic style and belong to the Ionian Island School. Dixara;s son Nicholas continued in the Western tradition, as did Nikolaos Koutouzis (1741 – 1813), whose works can be found in the museum as well as in the church of Agios Dionisios. Templa (icons screens) from the churches of the Pantokrator and Agios Dimitrios can be found in the Museum, as well as parts of the exterior of Ayios Andreas of Volimes. In addition, Hellenistic and Byzantine sculptures and statues are also accommodated here.
[Solomos Square, Zakynthos | Tel.: +30 26950 42714 | Open daily except Monday 08:00-14.30]
Museum of Solomos, Kalvos and Eminent Zakynthos
The Solomos Museum houses the magnificent tomb of Dionisios Solomos (1798-1857) and that of the other great Zakynthian poet, Andreas Calvos (1792 – 1869). In the entrance is a piece of the holly bush on Strani hill in the shadow of which Solomos was inspired to write “Ode to Liberty” in May 1823 which later became the Greek national anthem, and his poem “The Free Beseiged” in May 1823. The rooms on the upper floor contain objects that had belonged to the great poet and other distinguished Zakynthian scholars as well as collections that have been donated to the museum.
[St Marcos Square | Tel.: +30 26950 48982 | Open daily 09:00-14:00 except national holidays]
Exhibition Center of National Marine Park
The Thematic Exhibition Center of the loggerhead sea turtle Caretta-Caretta is located in Dafni which is in the municipal department of Vasilikos. The landscaped area of the thematic centre, the exhibition and information material, the use of multimedia and memorabilia given, give visitors occasion for information and awareness on loggerhead sea turtles and its nesting beaches of Zakynthos.
Its role is not restricted to the study and promotion of Caretta caretta, but extends to the acquaintance with other priority species and endemic species of flora and fauna, found in Zakynthos, linked to the tradition and history of the island. The construction of the Thematic Exhibition Center has been funded by the European Regional Development Fund and from national resources.
On the ground floor of the new wing, which opened on November 12, 2000, houses the new museum - Sacristy of the Holy Monastery of Strofades and St. Denis. The Museum, a site of culture and historical memory, consists of icons and other relics of Christian art, derived mainly from the Monastery of Strofades.
[Monastery Strofadon | Tel .: +30 26950 48203]
Helmi's Natural History Museum
Helmis Museum of Natural History is the only one of its kind on Zakynthos. Its opening ceremony took place on the 10th of October, 2000 and the founder is Mr. Panayiotis Helmis. The Museum is located at Ayia Marina Village on Zakynthos island, in a beautiful, traditional building.
The Museum's collections include specimens from the flora and fauna of the Zakynthian nature like: rocks and minerals, plant and animal fossils, shells, fishes and birds. Educational material for children helps turn their visit into an amusing experience.
Milanio Maritime Museum
The Milanio Maritime Museum is located in Tsilivi (5 km. From the city). Presents nationwide exclusively through the gallery which has received many awards, the evolution of the Naval History of our Nation and the world premiere, the search for the "Greek medieval ships", thus gathering 4000 years history. Nautical objects renowned ships, photographic materials, uniforms, and historic treasures complete the unique historical record.
[Tsilivi | Τel.: +30 26950 42436]
There are many monuments to remember distinguished personalities of the past born or who lived in Zakynthos. The past has to be remembered and the people of Zakynthos display, especially in the big square of Solomos, many statues and busts.
Dionysios Solomos statue
Among those there is the statue of the national poet Dionysios Solomos at which base it is engraved a line of his poem “Hymn to Freedom”; the statue, representing the Glory to which the national poet is addressing his poems, is flanked at both sides by two cannons and the stele that remembers the writings of another poet very much loved by the people of Zakynthos, Kalvos.
Ugο Foscolo Statue
To remember Ugo Foscolo, famous Italian poet born in Zante in 1778, there is a bust in Solomos square that has been dedicated to him (below on the right).
It is also possible to see, in the street to him dedicated, the cenotaph of Foscolo with the statue of the “Weeping Angel”.
Strani hill is situated 2 km outside the city of Zakynthos. It is a green area slightly uphill. As you pass through the gate you will find yourself in a park surrounded by pine and olive trees. You can wander round this historical site or take a break on one of the benches.
It was here that Dionysios Solomos upon hearing the gun fire from the siege of Mesologgi felt inspired to compose the poems "Free Besieged" and "Hymn to Liberty", which later became Greece's National Anthem. A statue in his honour is erected here.
During the summer months the small amphitheater that you see here hosts plays and live musical events. The panoramic view is breathtaking. Surrounded by nature you will see houses merging from the valley of Zakynthos and the deep blue sea of Tsilivi.
Venetian Castle of Zakynthos
Set above Zakynthos Town in the region of Bochali, you will find the ancient Venetian Castle of Zakynthos. This is a wonderfully preserved park area, well worth a walk around. The exact date of construction of the Venetian Castle is unknown, but it is estimated to have been built in 1480. The area of the Venetian castle was built on the site of the Ancient Acropolis. During the Venetian rule, the Castle was the capital of Zakynthos island.
Soon after been built, the Venetian castle in Zante was destroyed by invading Turks. But, in 1514 it was repaired, again under Venetian supervision.
Over the centre of the main entrance gates, you'll see the sculptured crest of Venice, St Markos' Lion. It is clear as you walk around the castle grounds, with its huge stone walls, towers and cannons, that the castle was once a major source of protection to the people Zakynthos. The strong earthquakes that have frequently struck the island, have destroyed the fortifications so often that they had constantly to be rebuilt. The construction of the walls and the Fortress defensive system, which are still preserved today, was completed in 1646. The work was done by Venetian engineers and local builders, with great care and strong materials. At that same time the main stone-paved road was laid down, running to the coast. An important programme of conservation of the Castle was carried out by the English in 1812 while they were in control of the island.
In 1970-71 the Archaeological Service undertook the consolidation of those sections of the walls and gates of the Fortress which were in danger of collapsing. Recent excavations at the Venetian Castle have found monuments from the Byzantine period, including a church dated back to the 12th century.
Despite the wear and tear through the ages, even today when visiting the Venetian Castle, you will see ancient stone vaulted prisons, canons, and central foundations of the fortress itself, along with the remains of several churches.
Churches & Monasteries
St. Dionysios Church
This church, the biggest in the city, is dedicated to the protector of the island and it is located along the seashore of Zakynthos. It was built in 1948 and it resisted the earthquake in 1953, now its bell tower is very high and stands out among the different buildings recognizable as soon as you enter the port. Even if it hasn’t got any particular exterior characteristics, when entering you are impressed by the quantity of frescos, lamp holders and colours.
Among the artists that contributed to the magnificence of this church there are the painter Doxaras and the chaser Bafas who engraved the silver reliquary in where there are the mortal remains of Saint Dionysios. The bell tower, being surrounded by numerous bulbs, during the night it is enlightened creating a lovely view.
Church of St. Nicholas of the mole
This church located in Solomos square is the only building in Venetian style that survived the earthquake in 1953 and has been restored keeping its original characteristics. Originally the church had been built on an island connected to the mainland by a bridge, then the island joined the city. For many centuries the church belonged to the Sailors Corporation. Dated back to the 17th Century it is the most ancient building in Solomos square and it was built in renaissance style with the exception of the bell tower that is more Byzantine. Inside there are the liturgical ornaments of Saint Dionysios, the island protector, that for a period in his life gave his services to this church.
St. Markos Church
Very small it is the only catholic church of the island. Next to the Museum of Solomos and Kalvos, it looks like a single building since built with the same style. During the summer a Mass in English is celebrated every Sunday evening at 19.00.
St. Nicholas Kiliomenou Church
As soon as you reach Kiliomeno the majesty of the bell tower and the huge dimension of the church strike the visitor.The church and the bell tower are separated by a street and look like two different buildings even in the exterior aspect. The bell tower with a squared base has four floors and at the third it is possible to admire two arches and at the last, with and hexagonal base, numerous decorations in relief.
St. Mavra Church
Located in the centre of Macherado, it is very peculiar both inside and outside. In addition to the many frescos there is an icon representing the saint to whom the church has been dedicated; according to the legend the icon is dated back to the third century a.C. and comes from Egypt where Saint Mavra lived and underwent martyrdom.
Virgin Keriotissa Church
In the small mountain village of Kerì, south of the island, there is a very big church surrounded by a park.It is easy to be found since from the huge bell tower, the bell dongs are heard all over the town and stress the passing of the hours in a village where the time seemed to have stopped a century ago.
Church on the sea
In this very religious island you can find churches everywhere, even at sea…
Once in Agios Nikolaos, beach in the south part of the island (pay attention there is another town with the same name in the northern part) on your left you’ll notice a thong of land on which lies a small white church. The church has no name nor other information and it is not possible to enter but is open to celebrate weddings.
St. Elipsos Church
Along the road from Zakynthos to Kalamaki you may find, among the olive trees on the left, a small church risen up the hill; the small white and light blue bell tower with two small bells and a cross on the top plus a small part of the main body is what remains of the original church. It looks like a whole with the rock and this rends it unique and to be visited.
Virgin Skopiotissa Monastery
At the top of the Skopos mount, at the back of the town of Argasi, there is a small monastery castled build in honour of the Holy Mother in the 15th Century. From this monastery, surrounded by nature, it is possible to view the entire island, an unforgettable landscape that the Venetians appreciated and to which they gave the name of Belvedere. It was built on the ruins of the ancient temple of Artemis in Byzantine style; the cross plant and the interiors rich of frescos render the church very characteristic. The only problem is the road to reach the church that is not indicated and most importantly the last stretch is unpaved.
North of the island in a small village of the inland, Orthonies, it is possible to visit the monastery of the Holy Mother of the cave (Spiliotissa) that was built in the 16th Century. This monastery looks like if it has been built at the edge of a gully and it is surrounded by greenness and the landscape is rich in vegetation. In this moment is possible only to look at it externaly because the inside is not accessible.
To reach this monastery you have to pass the town of Kiliomeno and take a side road on the right. The road to be run is long but in the green with flowered fields on both sides. Once there you reach a small monastery founded in the 17th Century and dedicated to the Holy Mother. Not much remains of the splendour of the past but the feeling of peace here is complete.
St. George Krimnon Monastery
In the town of Anafonitria besides the Monastery of the Holy Mother there is the one of St. George Krimnon built on a promontory from where you can look at the sea. Entering the courtyard of the monastery it is possible to admire on the left the abodes of the resident inhabitants of the monastery, in the middle the tower and on the right a small church.
We do not know when the church was built, but it was destroyed by pirates in 1553 and then rebuilt in Venetian style. The circular tower was built to defend the monastery from assaults.
Virgin Anafonitria Monastery
Located in the greenness it is a stop for many tourists. The medieval tower of the 15th Century that you can see immediately at the entrance, is very interesting. The tower, in part destroyed, has at the top four arches and a cross and it is used as bell tower whereas in the past had been built as a defence.
Inside the church there is an icon of the Virgin dated back to the 15th Century and it is of high value, coming from Costatinopolis; there are many frescos on the walls too. Here St. Dionysios took refuge and lived as a monk.
As soon as you leave Macherado, going North you reach on the left the monastery of the Liberator Holy Mother (Eleftheotria). From outside it looks more like being in a castle than in a monastery and the towers battlements are very characteristic so as the white and red of the windows and the arches of which the building consists. The view from the monastery is toward the plain of Zakynthos and you are charmed by the rich vegetation. Today it is a nunnery that is possible to visit inside.
St. John Baptist Monastery
In the past this post Byzantine monastery, located on the mountain north of Alykes, in the past has been used for its position has a rest area for the pilgrims even though the masterpieces that are there are of great value. It is possible to see the icons of the famous painters Poulakis and Bafas and precious wood faldstools. The complex includes a simple abbey, a two floors building and a tower with circular base, built in the past as a defence.