Zakynthos, with its emerald colour is the place that combines everything. Because of the Venetian domination, trade and its geographical location which encouraged its cultural and artistic development, Zakynthos had a major influence on the evolution of Greek culture and was the homeland of great Greek poets and writers, such as the national poet Dionysios Solomos, the prose writer Grigorios Xenopoulos and many others.
The incomparable nature, the extraordinary marine landscapes, the night life and its good tourist infrastructures have made the island of Zakynthos one of the favourite island destinations in Greece.
Places of interest
Built at the foot of a green hill, the city of Zakynthos or Chora was destroyed by the 1953 earthquake and was built again on the foundations of the old city, maintaining its stately appearance. Central point and meeting place is the immense Dionysios Solomos Square, on the seafront, surrounded by the neoclassical buildings of the Byzantine Museum, the Cultural Centre and the Public Library.
Next to it, the medieval church of San Nicolás del Muelle, built in 1561, occupies a special place in the hearts of the inhabitants, as it was here that the island’s patron saint, San Dionisio, served as a priest. The large cobblestone street of Rome is the commercial center of the city, and an ideal place to have a coffee or simply watch the people, the shop windows, and do some shopping.
This bustling street was named after the Mansion of Alexandros Romas which is located at perpendicular Louka Karer 19 and is open to the public to take you on a tour of the ancient aristocratic way of life in Zakynthos.
A museum that deserves your attention, with an extraordinary collection of icons dating from the Byzantine era to the 19th century. You will also see wooden altarpieces, frescoes from the 12th-13th centuries, pictorial masterpieces by great artists of Zakynthos from the 17th-18th centuries, sculptures from the Hellenistic, Byzantine and post-Byzantine periods. In the museum there is also an impressive and detailed model of the city of Zent as it was before the earthquake.
Museum of Solomos, Kalvos and Celebrities of Zakynthos
Located in St Mark’s Square, it houses the tombs of the two great poets of Zakynthos, Dionysios Solomos (1798-1857) and Andreas Kalvos (1792-1869), as well as a significant number of Solomos’ manuscripts and personal objects. The museum also has collections of portraits of Zakynthos’s celebrities, coats of arms of noble families and photographs, furniture and period clothing. www.museumsolomos.gr
Museum “Grigorios Xenopoulos”
Dedicated to the famous Greek writer, this small museum houses personal objects of Xenopoulos, editions of his works, volumes of the magazine “The Instruction of the Children”, photographic material, and objects, furniture and household items of the Xenopoulos family. Address: Gaita street, Faneromeni area, www.zakynthos-net.gr/xenopoulos/index.htm
The destination par excellence for leisure and tranquility, with its narrow streets and its impressive view over the city and the sea, its beautiful cafes and restaurants where you can enjoy the local flavors.
Located on the top of the green hill of Bochali and offers an extraordinary view of the city. It is built on the ruins of the ancient acropolis (Psofida), and its walls, which are almost intact, were completed in 1646. Above the outer door you will see the coat of arms of Venice with the lions of St. Mark, and inside the castle you will have the opportunity to enjoy a 360 degree view over the entire southern part of the island.
The Monastery of St. George in Gremna
Built in a wooded village next to the mountain village of Anafonitria, the beautiful monastery was built in 1568 and renovated in 1856. A little further from the monastery is the “balcony”, a natural terrace that reveals the image of the famous “postcard”: below it is the famous Navagio (Shipwreck), the very white beach whose emblem is the rusty ship that carried contraband tobacco and ran aground in 1982.
The Keri Lighthouse
In the southwest of the island is the maritime town of Limni Keriou. From there you can visit by boat the uninhabited Marathonisi, a version of the Caribbean in the Heptanese, with its very white beach and turquoise waters. The mountainous Keri, a traditional village with narrow streets and old houses around the secluded central square, is worth a stroll. Walk to the Lighthouse to enjoy the stunning view of the high seas and the sunset. If you descend further, you will see the Myzithres, two huge conical rocks rising from the sea and showing the entrance to the Keri Caves.
Zakynthos has dozens of beautiful beaches, some accessible by road and some only by sea, as well as extraordinary places to explore and dive. Most of the beaches are organized and many of them offer water sports.
Choose Makrys Gialos, Vasilikos, Porto Koukla, Alykanas and the charming Daphne. Don’t miss the Zakynthos ‘fjords’ on the west coast, Porto Vromi, Porto Roxa and Porto Limnionas, with their crystal clear waters and small caves.
On the extraordinary sand of Gerakas – as on most beaches in the south – you’ll find refuge for the sea turtle Caretta-Caretta to lay its eggs. Naturally, the star of Zakynthos’s beaches and one of the most famous in the world, the Navagio (Shipwreck), located in the northern part of the island, is a spectacle of very white rocks that meet the shimmering blue of the sea.
Near the Shipwreck are the famous Blue Caves with their clean waters and rocky passages. You can reach these two places only by boat. Excursions are organized from the city, and with small boats from Schoinari and Porto Vromi.
In downtown Chora, stores offer the latest in fashion, jewelry and accessories, and art objects. To give your shopping in Zakynthos a more local color, you will find extraordinary traditional products from small family businesses.
Buy wine and olive oil, especially if you arrive on the island at harvest time, when you can get freshly pressed green olive oil. Also buy the well-known oil cheese and the sweet traditions pasteli, mandolato and fytoura (based on honey, almonds or sesame).
From the Koiliomenos Women’s Rural Cooperative take home honey, pasteleli and trahanás. Good local wines are available at the Solomou wineries. Try the “Lianorongi”. Apart from the gifts of nature, Zakynthos is known for its weaving, and therefore it is possible to get genuine tablecloths, napkins and other textile crafts.
The quality of local products and the generosity of nature lend Zakynthos’s cuisine its particular flavour. Beyond the classic Mediterranean recipes, try the local specialities such as rabbit stuffed with oil cheese, the aromatic cauliflower sofigadoura with tomato and the delicious boutridia, a local version of baked vegetables including green beans, chard and okra.
Be sure to accompany your meal with the famous spicy oil cheese, which ripens in containers with olive oil, and culminate with the typical “frygania,” a dessert that resembles ekmek and is prepared, as its name suggests, with slices, milk and cream.
You will find good restaurants especially in the city of Zakynthos and Bochali, as well as in various areas such as Argasi and Vasilikos. For fun, there are beautiful cafes, restaurants and some bars in the city of Zakynthos, but if you want a more lively clubbing go to Argasi, the beach of Laganas and Tsilivi.
Every year the most important theatre performances of the year take place at the Flor del Levante in the extraordinary event called “Art Meetings in Zakynthos”, which are mainly scheduled at the Municipal Open-Air Theatre.
Interesting and romantic, the Ionian Festival of Classical Music “Pavlos Carrer”, held in July and August, is guided by the cultural tradition of Zakynthos with shows such as the concert with works by the great Zakynthos composer Pavlos Carrer, and the union of the world of classical music with new technologies and other arts. It is held in the open-air theatre of Dermatousa.
Among the most important local events is the festival of San Dionisio on August 24, where the relics of the saint are transferred from the monastery of Strofadia to the church of the saint, where they are today. The verbena lasts three days and culminates on August 24th with a magnificent procession and fireworks. The Dormition of St. Dionysius is celebrated with equal pomp on December 17th.
Giostra: If you want to see a real knights’ tournament, Giostra is one of the oldest events in Zakynthos, whose history dates back to the 16th century. It is a competition on horseback, with two trials. In the first, the ring test, the knight must manage to take a small wooden gallows ring on which he is tied. In the second, called the Moorish Mask, the knight must cut with his lance a feather found on the head of a human figure. This impressive feast is normally celebrated during carnival.
Please note that apart from the inhabitants of Zakynthos, knights from the rest of Europe, especially Italy, take part in the festival.
Most airlines land at “Dionysios Solomos” International Airport, which is located in the Laganas area, 6 km from the city. The airport has been renovated relatively recently and has a duty free shop, a cafeteria, a restaurant and a car rental agency.
For your transfers you can choose between a taxi or a private car.