The Achillion Palace and the Archaeological Museum

Not everyone who travels abroad for a Villa holiday will want to spend their days by the pool lying in the sunshine. Some people are more interested in getting out and about and visiting places of historical interest. The beauty of taking a Corfu villa holiday is that because the island is relatively compact, it is very easy to get around. Many of the most historic places to visit are located close to major centres of accommodation, so at a pinch, it is still possible to take public transport if hiring a car is out of the question. What makes a Corfu villa holiday unique is that the island has something for everybody, from beach lover to culture vulture.

The Achillion Palace

The Achillion Palace is located in Gastouri, which is just outside the resort of Benitses. The Palace can be reached by heading towards Corfu Town on the main coastal road. It takes approximately 30 minutes to drive from Dassia. The beautiful building was built between 1890 and 1892 on the instruction of the Empress Elisabeth of Austria, after one her many visits to Corfu. Empress Elisabeth, also known as Princess Sissy, appears to have been obsessed with the Greek hero Achilles. She commissioned various statues of the dying hero which can be found dotted around the gardens surrounding the Palace. Perhaps the most imposing statue is the huge and magnificent statue of Achilles Triumphant which gazes out over the majestic views.

Sadly Princess Sissy did not live long enough to fully appreciate her handiwork, as she was assassinated in Geneva in 1898. Thereafter the Palace remained empty until 1907. It was then purchased by Kaiser Wilhelm 11 of Germany. The Kaiser removed two of the statues of Achilles, but did rearrange the magnificent gardens, and built the House of Knights in compensation, which he used to house his battalion. During the Great War, the Palace was used as a hospital and headquarters. It only became the public estate we know today after the end of the Second World War.

The Palace is well worth a visit, but it’s worth noting that it can get very busy, and anyone arriving after midday would be well advised to take some water with them. It can get very hot during the summer, and though there are a couple of tavernas nearby, these get very busy indeed.

The Archaeological Museum

The Archaeological Museum was built between 1962 – 1965, on a site that was donated by the Municipality of Corfu. The building was eventually inaugurated in 1967. The principle reason for its construction was the exhibition of the impressive Gorgon-Medusa pediment from the “Great Temple” of Artemis, constructed around 585 B.C. The pediment was excavated in 1911 near the monastery of Aghioi Theodori. It is the oldest stone pediment ever recovered from a Greek Temple. The Museum also has artefacts dating from prehistoric times and from the 6th and 7th centuries, perhaps the most famous piece of all being the Menecrates Lion. There are bronze and terracotta statues dating from both the Archaic and Roman eras, along with funeral pieces from the Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic eras from the cemeteries of Garitsa and Almyros, as well as a bountiful collection of ancient coins.

You can find Corfu Town’s Archaeological Museum, on the main boulevard along the waterfront. Although it is small, it is well worth visiting particularly for those villa holiday-makers who want to see the more of the historical side of Corfu. The Museum is open between Tuesdays and Sundays, between 8.30 am 15.00 pm.

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