Venetian Castles & Forts in Greece

The Republic of Venice (697 AD to 1797) held a number of overseas areas and territories, especially in areas that are today’s Greece. These included the Ionian and Cycladic Islands, Peloponnese and Crete. Most of Venice’s overseas gains followed the end of the Fourth Crusade in 1204. The Venetians built many fortresses and castles to protect strategic routes and important lands, particularly in their clashes with the emerging Ottoman Empire, known as the Ottoman-Venetian Wars. The seventh and last clash between 1714 and 1718 resulted in an Ottoman victory and the end of Venice’s occupation of the Greek peninsular and islands.


Acrocorinth, the acropolis above the ancient city of Corinth, has structures that are almost certainly prehistoric in age. But the earliest securely dated fortifications date to the 4th century BC. Much of the ruins we see on the acropolis were built during the medieval: Byzantine, Ottoman, Venetian and Early Modern eras. The ruins within the walls surrounding the hilltop are from the Ottoman settlement. Amongst other features from different time periods, visitors can see the remnants of a mosque, fountains and houses.

Antirrio Fortress

Given the strategic location on the north side of the western entrance to the Gulf of Corinth, the fort has been important for the Byzantines to the Ottomans. The fortress is surrounded by sea on three sides and a moat on the fourth. It has been destroyed and restored numerous times. Much of what we see today was built by the Venetians, during their second period of occupation. This lasted until 1699 when it was surrendered to the Ottomans. Now in the hands of the Ministry of Culture and used for cultural events.

Fortezza Rethymno

Visible from most points around the city of Rethymno is the Venetian stronghold of Fortezza. It was built between 1540 and 1570 when the island was under Venetian rule to protect the commercial port against Ottoman attack. In 1646 Fortezza fell to the Ottomans. Besides the outer fortifications, a number of internal features have survived. These include the Ibraham Han Mosque and the late 19th century church of Agios Theodoros Trichinas. From the fort visitors get panoramic views of Rethymno and beyond.

Frankish Castle, Parikia

In the historical centre of Parikia is an area called Kastro (castle). Not much is left of that castle now, built in 1260 by the Venetian Duke of Naxos. What was the castle’s elliptical outline can be seen from above in the layout of the streets. The most striking physical remnant is a rectangular tower with some fragments of the castle walls. The tower and walls were constructed using dressed stone from ancient buildings. It is said that elements of the Temple of Athena are included in these walls.

Methoni Castle

Methoni Castle occupies the peninsular that juts out south of the town of Methonis. The Venetians built most of the castle and its fortifications, constructing these on earlier fortifications, the remains of which can be seen in places. A deep moat separates the castle from the mainland, which is spanned by a stone bridge with 14 arches. At the southern most tip of the peninsular is the Bourtzi Tower, a striking octagonal structure that is thought to have been built in the 16th century.

Patras Castle

The castle was built in 551 AD on the remains of the ancient acropolis. It has remained in constant, although control of the castle changed hands frequently, until World War II. War. The first castle was constructed using the remains of Classical period buildings. One of the stone pieces re-used was the bust of a Roman statue, now said to be a ‘maiden’ that guards the city against disease. It has been controlled by the Franks, Venetians and the Ottomans. Today the castle is used for cultural events throughout the summer.

Rio Castle

Also known as the Castello de Morea, the fort is on the southern side of the western entrance to the Gulf of Corinth – facing Antirrio Fortress. Built in 1499 on the site of an ancient temple (remains are still visible) by the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II. In 1687 it was taken by the Venetians who rebuilt it substantially. In 1715 the Ottomans recaptured and retained control until Greek Independence. Thereafter it was used as a prison. During WW2 it was used by the Germans as a military base.


Although the island of Spinalonga has a fascinating Venetian and Ottoman history, it is better known today as a result of being the setting of Victoria Hislop’s 2005 novel The Island, and adapted for TV. An island on which those who suffered leprosy were quarantined from 1903 to 1957. Now the island is a popular day trip for tourists to Crete. Besides the ruined features of the hospital, visitors can also explore the Venetian fortress – one of the most important in the Mediterranean due to its strategic location.

Venetian Castle, Naoussa

The fishing harbour of Naoussa has many Byzantine features. The port is dominated by a circular known as the Venetian Castle. A castle was built at the end of the 13th century and into the start of the next century. In 1500 a circular tower was added as a protective measure against pirates. The tower is all that remains of the castle, which was destroyed when the Ottomans conquered the island of Paros in 1537. Remains of the sea wall can be seen underwater at the tower, more recent buildings have been built over the rest.