The Best 24 Castles to Visit in Greece (Listed by Popularity)

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Throughout history, Greece has played a significant role in the growth of dynasties. It was home to the Byzantine Empire and later occupied by the Ottomans. During the Middle Ages, the Franks and the Venetian Empire laid claim to the territory. 

This rich and complex history allows tourists like you to explore several centuries in one trip. But it also means that there are hundreds of castles in the country. So we’ve compiled a list of the ten most famous castles in Greece and ten just as spectacular but less-visited spaces to get your planning jump-started.

The order of the list is based on the Google search volume of each castle = popularity.

1. Rhodes Castle

The view of Rhodes Castle from afar.
The view of Rhodes Castle from afar. 20160508-153646LC flickr photo by Luc Coekaerts from Tessenderlo shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

From 1309 to 1522, the Knights of St. John converted a Byzantine citadel into an impressive Gothic castle to serve as the administrative center for their Grand Masters. Rhodes Castle is among only a handful of Gothic constructions in Greece, which makes it one of the most popular Greek castles for visitors. It used to be located along with one of the most important trade routes in the area. The castle took severe damage in the 226 BC earthquake before being rebuilt by the Byzantine Empire.

More recently, it was a holiday residence for Italian fascist Benito Mussolini. Mussolini’s name was carved on a large plaque near the entrance to assert his dominance – you can still see it today. Since then, the Greek government has converted the castle into a museum open to all visitors.

2. Leros Castle

Leros Castle view at the hilltop.
Leros Castle view at the hilltop. The original uploader was Korydaliotis at Greek Wikipedia., CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ancient Greece is considered the advent of modern civilization, so it’s no surprise that Leros Castle is situated on the site of an ancient acropolis. The current building is a bastioned late-medieval fortification, one of the very first of its kind. 

The strategic importance of this castle rests in its promontory lookout, with a clear view of all the important harbors in the area. If you visit the castle today, you’ll be able to get a 360 view of the surrounding town as well. Leros Castle offers free access from the village of Leros, its rich history is showcased in the museum inside.  If you go in mid-August, you’ll find thousands of people climbing the 400 steps leading to this castle during the  ‘Feast Day of the Virgin Mary’. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in the region.

  • Location: Pandeli, Lero
  • Time built: 15th century
  • Architectural style: Late Medieval
  • Touring: Allowed. No official website.

3. Astypalaia Castle

The beautiful Astypalaia Castle at the top surrounded by nice structured buildings.
The beautiful Astypalaia Castle at the top surrounded by nice structured buildings. Gf uip, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Built atop Chora Hill, Astypalaia Castle has amazed onlookers since the 13th century. It used to serve as a protective shield for the city and now houses two churches: Panagia Castrani and Agio Georgios. The original construction was carried out with local ferrous rocks. 

While the Venetians had built Astypalaia in 1204, it fell victim to a power struggle between them and the Turks. The subsequent damage and repair work left its architecture a mix of the two regimes.  

An earthquake in 1956 caused damage to some of the original buildings. But the Greek authorities have since renovated the palace and restored most of its beauty. Nowadays, it’s open to visitors 24/7 and is an impressive sight to behold with the dark-stoned castle contrasting with the white houses surrounding it. 

  • Location: Chora, Astypalea, Dodecanese
  • Time built: 13th century
  • Architectural style: Venetian/Turkish
  • Touring: Allowed. No official website.

4. Molyvos Castle

The beauty of Molyvos Castle at the top.
The beauty of Molyvos Castle at the top. Photograph by Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net)., CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Known as one of the most well-preserved castles in the Eastern Mediterranean, Molyvos impresses with its fantastic views and lovely tourist attractions. Surrounded by lush pines and overlooking the Molyvos village, the castle is a must-visit destination if you’re in the area. With gorgeous views of the harbor and surrounding areas, the castle sits proudly atop its promontory as a symbol of ancient might.

The architectural style of this castle underwent many changes by the hands of various owners. Today, it can be visited for a small fee–you can experience its various levels and take in the views while enjoying some delicious local refreshments at the cafe. There’s a small informational pamphlet available at the entrance as well. The views make for an experiential Photowalk if you’re looking to take some great pictures.

  • Location: Mithymna
  • Time built: 13th century
  • Architectural style: Composite (Medieval/Byzantine)
  • Touring: Allowed. No official website.

5. Monemvasia Fortress

Worm's eye view of Monemvasia Fortress.
Worm’s eye view of Monemvasia Fortress. Monemvasia fortress flickr photo by byrdiegyrl shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

As one of Greece’s most important Medieval fortresses, Monemvasia resides 100 meters (328 ft) above sea level and spans a distance of 1 km (0.62 mile). Its location is uniquely mighty, as it is situated on a rocky outcropping that connects to the mainland via just a narrow road. Back in the day, this strategic location served as protection against barbaric raids. Today, it makes for an interesting destination visit. Its quiet charm and beautiful views enchant many visitors.

As for the history of this castle, a fortress has always been in place since 583 AD. It was originally constructed because the inhabitants of the island wanted protection against the Slavic/Avaric invasions from Greece. It morphed through several transitions until donning the rendition that we see today.

  • Location: Monemvasia
  • Time built: 583 AD
  • Architectural style: Greek/Medieval/Byzantine
  • Touring: Allowed. No official website.

6. Mystras Castle

The stunning view of Mystras Castle and its castle grounds from afar.
The stunning view of Mystras Castle and its castle grounds from afar. Joyofmuseums, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Mystras Castle, with its steep hillside location, was the center of power in a now-abandoned town near Sparta. The Frankish Prince of Achaea built it in 1249. Not long after he constructed it, the Greeks took control over the town and castle. 

This castle is significant because it symbolizes cultural exchange between the Franks and the Greeks. Additionally, it brought new art and influence to the area. Therefore, it is considered one of the most important Byzantine-era monuments within Greek lands today.

The town of Mystras was heavily populated up until the mid-1900s. Today, it is completely isolated, and the building is in ruins. It’s still one of the most beautiful castles to visit because tourists get to wander through those ruins, visit the grand throne room, and explore breathtaking frescos in Byzantine churches.

  • Location: Laconia, Peloponnese
  • Time built: 13th century
  • Architectural style:  Frankish
  • Touring: Allowed. No official website.

7. Koroni Castle

Koroni Castle's view at night.
Koroni Castle’s view at night. C messier, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In the 13th century, the Venetians reconstructed fortifications built in the 7th century at the southern end of the Peloponnese peninsula in southern Greece. They called the new structure the Koroni Fortress. It was taken over by the Turks in the 16th century. They carried out several renovations while giving it its own flair. Situated on an important marine trade route, this castle offers a magnificent view of the sea and has quite a peculiar architecture because of its various occupations.

Unfortunately, most of the castle has been lost over time. However, there are several notable spots to visit. For instance, the Agia Sofia and Agios Charalambos Church still stand tall, tombs and Turkish baths in the palace have been preserved, and there are even some Venetian reservoirs to be seen.

  • Location: Messinia, Peloponnese
  • Time built: 13th century
  • Architectural style: Venetian
  • Touring: Allowed. No official website.

8. Assos Castle

The view of Assos Castle ruins.
The view of Assos Castle ruins. Ruins inside Castle of Assos flickr photo by Henning Supertramp shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

This Venetian fortress is located in the western part of Greece, on the island of Cephalonia. It is a notable rendition of military architecture, constructed at the end of the 16th century. The main reason for this castle being built was because the other ones in the region were inadequate to defend the entire island from the threat of the Turks.

As a result, the architecture of Assos Castle was quite heavy and designed to be impregnable with its 2000-meter-long (6561 ft) walls and irregular rectangular form.

Assos Castle was also used as a political prison during World War 2. Today, it can be easily accessed – you don’t even have to pay an entrance fee. One simply follows the renovated stone path to the entrance and enjoys a serene day wandering through the ruins.

  • Location: Cephalonia
  • Time built: 1593
  • Architectural style: Venetian
  • Touring: Allowed. No official website.

9. Castle of Chios

The tower of Castle Chios.
The tower of Castle Chios. Katsiaryna Naliuka, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The site where the Castle of Chios is located has been inhabited since Hellenistic times, but the rendition that we see today was constructed in the 14th century by Martino Zaccaria, the ruler of the time. The castle was briefly held by the Byzantine Empire and even occupied by the Venetians in the 17th century. 

Culturally, the site is significant because the island itself is steeped in Greek legends. It’s the focus of the “Tale of Orion” and remains a study in antiquity surviving through the ages.

The castle was made into a monument and measures were taken to protect it in the early 20th century. The Chian society petitioned to demolish it multiple times after, but it still stands tall and proud even today. It’s open 24/7 and can be visited at any time.

  • Location:  Island of Chios
  • Time built: 10th century
  • Architectural style: Medieval Citadel
  • Touring: Allowed. No official website.

10. Castle of Mytilene

The strong walls of Castle Mytilene.
The strong walls of Castle Mytilene. ProtecTOR, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Covering an area of a whopping 60 acres, the Castle of Mytilene is one of the largest of its kind. The earliest mentions of this castle date back to the 6th century, but the earliest remaining architecture dates to the 14th century. It morphed through several renditions until the military version it donned in the 19th century. It is, however, said that the center of this castle was built upon the remains of an ancient acropolis.

The Byzantine architecture of the castle was the best of its kind back in the day, but these days, only three parts of it remain in a ruinous state. It has been declared a national monument since the ‘70s. After that, it has been studiously repaired and maintained to this day. It is also used to host several festivals every year.

  • Location: Lesbos
  • Time built: 10th century
  • Architectural style: Byzantine
  • Touring:  Allowed. No official website.

Planning to Visit Nearby Countries? Check Out These Best Castles Lists:

If you are a castle enthusiast, you must take out the time to visit these equally spectacular castles in Greece as well:

11. Castle of Nafpaktos

The entrance to Castle of Nafpaktos.
The entrance to Castle of Nafpaktos. Entrance tower of Nafpaktos castle flickr photo by Spiros Vathis shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

The origins of Nafpaktos Castle are buried in ancient times, but its Byzantine era expansions speak for themselves. However, the current rendition of the castle was carried out by the Venetians, it’s definitely one of the most beautifully preserved monuments of its kind.

All history and archeology buffs would love an extensive visit of the castle site, as there are still ruins of walls from the ancient era visible through certain parts of the castle. With cheap entry and accessible parking, it’s definitely a destination worth visiting.

12. Chlemoutsi Castle

The beautiful structure of Chlemoutsi Castle.
The beautiful structure of Chlemoutsi Castle. Roman Klementschitz, Wien, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The stunning Chlemoutsi Castle in Kyllini dates back to Frankish rule in the 13th century. Once they left, it housed the Byzantines and then the Ottomans. 

While there are Byzantine influences in the castle’s design, the breathtaking architecture has retained its French influence over the years. When the Crusader rulers of the Principality of Achaea came in the 1220s, it served as their main stronghold. 

Today, it is the finest preserved example of Frankish rule in Greece.

13. Fortezza of Rethymno

The beautiful view of Fortezza of Rethymno near the sea.
The beautiful view of Fortezza of Rethymno. Source: https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rethymno_Fortezza_48.JPG

The Fortezza of Rethymno was and still is one of the biggest fortresses built by the Venetians. In addition to its formidable structural strength, it could house the entire population of the town in case of an attack. Even so, the fortress was never battle-tested. 

The star-shaped exterior design is exquisite. Inside, the amphitheater of the Ottoman mosque of Sultan Ibrahim, the breathtaking architecture of the modern St Catherine Church, and displays of original 16th-century arms and ammunition are just some of what this fort has to offer. 

14. Gardiki Castle

The walls of Gardiki Castle with a mountain view at the back.
The walls of Gardiki Castle.Gardiki_Castle flickr photo by larrywkoester shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Considered a historical treasure in Greece, Gardiki Castle is one of the most important sites within the Ionian Islands. It’s believed to have been first constructed in the 13th century. However, archeological evidence suggests that the site has been occupied since Paleolithic times. From being used as a refuge by the Corfu people against pirates to being the center of many kurfuffles because of its strategic location, Gardiki holds its own as a significant historical hub. Today, the remains serve as a tourist attraction – especially if you want a serene day out.

15. Ioannina Castle

The kitchen and tower of Ionnina Castle.
The kitchen and tower of Ionnina Castle. 25739: the kitchen and a tower of Ioannina’s castle flickr photo by Panegyrics of Granovetter shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

The Castle of Ioannina is another Byzantine gem in the Greek lands. The original construction is overshadowed by the additions made by Ali Pasha, who owned it in the late Ottoman period. The castle’s heavy-set architecture may now be in ruins, but it still contains echoes of its long history as a defensive structure. 

These days, Ioannina Castle serves as an important tourist destination. People love soaking in the historical value and lovely views while learning about the rich culture.

  • Location: Ioannina
  • Time built: 10th century
  • Architectural style: Byzantine/Ottoman
  • Touring:Allowed. No official website.

16. Kalamata Castle

Kalamata Castle's view at the hilltop.
Kalamata Castle’s view at the hilltop. Koppi2, GFDL 1.2, via Wikimedia Commons

Residing on a rocky hill in the city of Kalamata, this castle sits where an ancient acropolis was centered before the Trojan War. The version of the castle that we see today was actually built in the 13th century by the Frankish occupation. It was held by them until being taken over by the Byzantine Empire in the 15th century and then the Venetians in the 17th century. Kalamata was eventually abandoned when the city expanded. Its ruins were liberated in the 19th century as the first act of Greek Independence.

  • Location: Kalamata
  • Time built: 13th century
  • Architectural style: Byzantine/Ottoman/Venetian
  • Touring: Allowed. No official website.

17. Kavala Castle

The stairs to Kavala Castle.
The stairs to Kavala Castle. DocWoKav, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Kavala Fortress was built in the 15th century by the Byzantines, however, what we see today isn’t remotely similar to its original design. Since the 1400s, the castle has undergone various additions and reconstructions – mostly attributed to the Ottomans and the Venetians. 

This blend of different centuries and construction processes makes Kavala one of the most beautiful castles to visit in Greece. 3D models and architectural tours help illuminate Kavala’s history, while an open-air theatre and plenty of areas to explore promise to entertain the tourists.

  • Location: East Macedonia and Thrace
  • Time built: 15th century
  • Architectural style: Byzantine
  • Touring: Allowed.

18. Methoni Castle

Methoni Castle near the seawater.
Methoni Castle near the seawater. Ronny Siegel, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the largest fortresses in Greece, Methoni Castle is truly enchanting. A fourteen-arch stone bridge connects the castle to the shore. It sits by the water in a picturesque town and is in incredible condition even today. 

Built in the 13th century, this castle was a symbol of pride to the Venetians. It has retained several inscriptions and emblems from that time. When the Ottomans invaded it, they did not destroy it. Instead, they built upon it, adding a fort to the castle, which served as a prison.

  • Location: Messenia, Peloponnese
  • Time built: 13th century
  • Architectural Style: Venetian
  • Touring: Allowed.

19. Yedi Kule

The castle grounds of Yedi Kule.
The castle grounds of Yedi Kule. Dosseman, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Yedi Kule is the old Ottoman name for Eptapyrgio Castle. The modern name means seven towers, odd considering the castle actually has ten towers. 

It was built (and then renovated & added to) between the 14th and 16th centuries by the Byzantines. In the 1890s, the Ottomans repurposed it as a prison, removing all the original interior buildings in the process. 

Since Yedi Kule is located on a hill, you can get a spectacular view of the Aegean Sea, the port, and the city during your modern visit.

  • Location: Upper City, Thessaloniki
  • Time built: 14th – 16th century
  • Architectural Style: Byzantine
  • Touring: Allowed.

20. Castle of Lepanto

Castle of Lepanto's view from afar.
Castle of Lepanto’s view from afar. KufoletoAntonio De Lorenzo and Marina Ventayol, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Castle of Lepanto is, by far, one of the best-preserved castles in Greece. The Venetians built this 5-story building, and the Ottomans later renovated it.

Several parties invaded the Castle of Lepanto throughout history. The Battle of Lepanto is the most notable among them. It saw the Habsburgs, Venetians, and Spanish band together to defeat the Ottoman Empire. 

In 1699, the Ottomans regained control of the Castle of Lepanto and maintained it until Greek independence in 1821. Today, the castle stands strong on a hill looking down on a beautiful harbor–which makes for an incredible view. 

  • Location:  Nafpaktos, Aetolia Acarnania
  • Time built: 15th century
  • Architectural Style: Venetian
  • Touring: Allowed.

21. Ioannina Castle

The beautiful structure of Ionnina Castle.
The beautiful structure of Ionnina Castle. Source: https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ioannina-Castle-Sots-13.jpg

The very first version of this castle may have been erected in the 6th century, according to experts. However, the earliest mentions only date back to the 10th century, and the current rendition is largely credited to the Ottomans (specifically Ali Pasha or the Lion of Yannina).

With two dominating citadels and a mosque, Ioannina Castle enjoys its tall perch upon a rocky outcropping. Today, this castle houses three museums and fascinates tourists with its gorgeous views of the surroundings.

  • Location:  Ioannina
  • Time built: 10th century
  • Architectural Style: Byzantine
  • Touring: Allowed. No official website.

22. Karytaina Castle

The view of Karytaina castle's ruins.
The view of Karytaina castle’s ruins. Pamputt, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A result of the Frankish occupation of Greece, Karytaina Castle was built on the behest of the French knight Geoffroy de Briel, who inherited 

it from his father, Hugo. It was also used as a shelter against the troops of Ibrahim Pasha. It held out strong and Pasha was not able to take it.

The cliffside location of the castle makes it quite a beautiful destination to visit. It’s certainly one of the most beautiful places to visit, even hosting several events including a Women’s Bazaar.

  • Location:  Karytaina
  • Time built: 13th century
  • Architectural Style: Frankish/Byzantine
  • Touring: Allowed. No official website.

23. Castle of Chalkis

The front entrance to Castle of Chalkis.
The front entrance to Castle of Chalkis. Joanna Voulgaraki, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Built in the city of Chalkis, this Ottoman castle sits on a site that was definitely fortified in the Roman era. The version of Chalkis that we see today goes by the name of “Karababa Fortress”, it was constructed by the Ottomans in order to keep out the Venetians.

The architecture of this castle is more English-inspired than Turkish, though it remained in Turkish hands until it was liberated by the Greeks in the early 19th century. These days, it’s an interesting destination for exploring the cultural and historical facets of the country.

  • Location:  Karytaina
  • Time built: 13th century
  • Architectural Style: European/Ottoman
  • Touring: Allowed. No official website.

24. Castle of Nafplio

The serene view of Castle of Nafplio from accross the water.
The serene view of Castle of Nafplio from accross the water. flickr photo by Rosino shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Located in the middle of the harbor in the coastal city of Nafplio, this fortress also goes by the name of Bourtzi Castle. Aside from its highly unique location, this building is rife with cultural extravaganza–definitely one of the most fantastic sites to visit when you’re in Greece.

Built by Venetians, it’s a study in drama as well as resilience. The epic defensive architecture is one of the best out there, and the fact that it feels as if it’s floating on the water gives it an extra touristy edge.

  • Location:  Nafplio
  • Time built: 1473
  • Architectural Style: Venetian
  • Touring: Allowed. No official website.

Conclusion

Greece has some of the most beautiful castles in the world. Each has a unique history and heritage. And the architecture is fantastic for each. Visiting this country gives you the opportunity to learn about a range of empires and how they lived. 

The Byzantines, Ottomans, Venetians, and even the Franks left their mark on Greece. Each castle offers a different perspective on a centuries-old era and its rulers. This is an ideal country to visit off-season & within a budget–without sacrificing on beautiful sites to visit!

Zunaira Ghazal
Zunaira Ghazal
Zunaira is an architect and designer on paper, but a writer at heart. She’s got a Bachelors in Architecture and a passion for traveling, both of which combine in her writings about timeworn castles and fortresses that have withstood the tests of time and stand proud to this day.

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