For most visitors that come to the Greek island of Zakynthos in the Ionian chain, the main draw is its eye-popping blue coves and dreamy beaches, specifically the famous Navagio Beach, known as shipwreck beach for the boat permanently beached on its sands. However, Zakynthos is not just rural scenery and famous beaches. While the diverse landscape of the island is all fine and well, many travelers arrive to Zakynthos by way of its main town, Zakynthos Town or Zante.
With a number of private villas for rent for weddings, corporate retreats and vacation getaways around Zakynthos, the capital and main port on the island, at some point or another, must be explored. While much of Zakynthos Town was destroyed in an earthquake in 1953, locals had the good sense to rebuild the city in its former architectural style left over from Venetian occupation. When you tire of the beaches of this Ionian island and crave a little city life, Zakynthos Town doesn’t disappoint.
What To See
Most travelers begin a trip through Zakynthos Town at Solomos Square. The picturesque square is home to a notable Byzantine Museum and also a bust to Dionysios Solomos, the national poet of Greece and also one of the island’s most famous natives. Zakynthos Town boasts Agios Markos Square as well, otherwise St. Mark’s Square. While it might bear many differences to the more famously known St. Mark’s Square in Venice, Zakynthos’ version does have a taste of the Venetian city with its Agios Markos, the Church of St. Mark. The church contains a belfry copy of the same one on St. Mark’s Church in Venice. The square is also home to the Museum of Solomos, dedicated to the island’s famous son.
The town also contains a Venetian castle, known as the Kastro. While ruined in structure, it lords over the town on a hill, almost standing watch on Zakynthos in the process. Located 2.7 kilometers from the center, the castle was built on the site of the old acropolis in town. It provides a peaceful place to ponder Zakynthos’ Venetian past amidst the pine trees.
Zakynthos Town also fills with a number of notable churches. Aside from Agios Markos, the town is known for its Church of Dionysios, located at the new pier of the port. The church contains the relic of the patron saint of the island along with amazing frescoes. Agios Nikoloas is also worth a gander for its Renaissance touches and Byzantine era belfry.
While the island is crawling with impressive views from its many rugged cliffs, Zakynthos Town also has its own perches to brag about to visitors. One of the best views in the area is up on Stranis hill. Just two kilometers from town, this perch inspired Dionysios Solomos to pen Hymn to Liberty, what would later end up being the Greek national anthem.
Even some of Zakynthos’ best views don’t come from the highest of perches. A stroll along Strata Marina, the coastal road, extends from the top of town down to the waterfront, presenting a fine stroll to soak up views of Zakynthos Town along the way.
Where To Eat
If you tire of making meals in your vacation rental, Zakynthos has a number of bars, restaurants and cafes along Strata Marina where you can take a night off from the kitchen. Agios Markos Square is also a good place to grab a cocktail or an iced coffee after a balmy Greek day. Right on the city’s outskirts is Malanos, a popular tavern serving up traditional Zakynthos recipes and specialties. In the business for over 30 years, this established tavern also fills glasses with locally produced wine.
Where To Shop
Just because you are on an island doesn’t mean you can’t find ample shops to do a little damage to your wallet. Zakynthos Town is obviously where you can find most of the shops on the island. Alexandros Romas Street in particular is a haven for shoppers. The street nearly cross the entire town and has been the main commercial center of Zakynthos for centuries. Today, it is still the main shopping street where jewelry shops, pottery and fashion boutiques abound.
Where To Stay
Zakynthos Town crawls with a number of hotels and private villas just beyond its limits. If you are in town for a wedding, event or retreat, there is a fine range of two, three and four-star hotels. However, the most appealing option around Zakynthos Town is to rent a private villa. Blue Cave Villas offer accommodations and services for whatever type of getaway you are plotting, from a full on wedding to a vacation rental. Located just 20 miles from town, the site features four villas for hire, which can accommodate 38 to 42 people in total. Amenities on site include private hydro massage pools, equipped kitchens and direct access to the sea.
Blue Cave Villas allow guests to head into the city life when they crave it and retreat to more private and remote digs when they are finished. The luxury accommodations are also right above the famous Blue Caves and a 20-minute boat ride to arguably Zakynthos’ main tourist attraction, Navagio Beach.
How to Get Around
One of the best ways to traverse Zakynthos Town is easily on foot. However, if you want to explore more of the island, your own wheels would be helpful. You can rent a car at a number of car rental companies in town. You can also take boat rides from Zakynthos port if you feel like taking to the seas to get from A to B. Zakynthos International Airport is also within close distance to town, serviced by a number of airlines largely with seasonal routes.
Have you been to Zakynthos Town? What were your favorite sights, eats, sleeps and shopping spots? Share your finds with us in the comments below.