Things to Do and See
The capital city has a multitude of things to do and see both day and night for tourists and locals.
Strada Marina (Marine Drive), the street that encircles the harbour, is the busiest part of the town. Its innumerable cafes, restaurants and shops attract visitors and locals alike. The street starts at Solomos Square and runs as far as the church of Agios Dionysios (St Denis), the patron saint of the island.
Solomos Square is a wide-open space facing the sea and surrounded by magnificent buildings with arched windows and arcades, such as the Zakynthos Museum of Post-Byzantine Art and the Municipal Library. Nearby, is the church of St Nikolas “on the mole”, a Renaissance style building from the 17th Century with a Byzantine style belfry. In the centre of the square stands a statue of Dionysios Solomos, the national poet of Greece.
In the evenings this part of the city is busy with children enjoying the open space to run around and play and adults watching them whilst enjoying the cafes and restaurants.
From Solomos Square, moving towards the interior of the town, is the historic Square of Agios Markos (Saint Mark’s). This paved central square is also busy with cafes and restaurants. Here you will find the Catholic church of St. Mark’s and the museum dedicated to Dionysios Solomos, the poet Andreas Kalvos and other eminent Zakynthians.
From St Mark’s Square starts Alexandrou Roma Street, which runs through the centre of town. Do not neglect to venture down Alexandrou Roma Street, the capital's commercial centre, with the numerous shops, coffee shops and pretty archways throughout.
If you look up towards the skyline behind the town you will notice a very interesting and quaint area called Bochali. Home to the ruins of an ancient Venetian castle, Bochali has an amazing panoramic view over the capital, the Ionian Sea and nearby towns. Bochali will charm you with its quiet, narrow lanes, its old houses with gardens drowning in Jasmine and Bougainvillea, and the authentic coffee houses and restaurants where you will hear traditional Zakynthian music. The hill of Strani (Lofos Strani) was where Dionysios Solomos was inspired to write the lyrics for the Greek national anthem, and if you take a stroll through Bochali you can understand where he got his inspiration from.
Churches and Monasteries
Throughout the whole island you can find churches and monasteries some dating back to the 15th Century. Two of the most well-known are:
Agios Dionysios (St Dennis) Church in Zakynthos Town is the most famous in Zakynthos, especially as it was one of the only churches to have survived the earthquake in 1953. Erected in 1948, the church holds a large collection of icons representing the saint's life, including his silver coffin which houses his mummified remains. The bell tower is modelled on that of San Marco in Venice and is a tribute to the Venetian architectural legacy on the island.
In the village of Anafonitria you can visit the monastery, which dates back to the 15th Century, and was where St Dionysios (St Dennis) lived most of his life.
Navagio / Shipwreck Beach
Navagio, or Shipwreck, as it is more commonly known, is the islands most renowned and famous beach and is one of the most photographed spots in Europe. It is situated within a unique landscape surrounded by white rocky slopes and the amazing turquoise waters of the Ionian Sea. The beautiful beach with its crystal blue waters and white pebbly beach cannot fail to charm you. The Shipwreck can only be reached by boat.
The Blue Caves are situated on the northern coast, near to the village of Volimes. You will be amazed by the colours that are created by the sunlight that beams through the roof of nature's most wonderful arches. Here you can witness every conceivable shade of blue on the cave walls, created by a combination of the remarkable geological formations and the deep clear sea reflecting off of the walls.
Keri Lake / Keri Village
Limni Keri (Keri Lake) is a pretty little harbour that offers stunning views out to sea with the back drop of the hills and mountains. The view from the lush green Keri Village is also an impressive sight, with its stone houses and narrow lanes, offering a unique and wondrous view of traditional Greece. Here you can marvel at the sunset over the Ionian Sea where the colours of the sunset will mesmerize you.
Take a boat trip to the Keri Caves which are only accessible by sea. They are located in the south-west of the island. Along this part of the coast there are many caves both large enough for boats to enter whilst others are even difficult to swim into.
While visiting the caves it is possible to go for a swim and also see the many small beaches of the Cape of Marathia.
In this area there is also Mizithres which are two outcrops of rock in the sea which are named for a Greek cheese due to their shape.
Marathonisi is a small island in the Bay of Laganas, it is shaped very appropriately like a turtle, as this is one of the many beaches used by the Caretta-Caretta turtle to lay their eggs. It is located in the National Marine Park and there are certain restrictions with regard to access to the island.
It is surrounded by crystal clear deep waters and there is a soft sandy beach and sea caves to explore.
The island is uninhabited, but has an abundance of wildlife. Access to this island is only by boat.
The sea turtle Caretta-Caretta seeks refuge on the southern sandy beaches of Zakynthos, mainly in July and August, in order to lay her eggs. Caretta-Caretta is a protected species and the Greek government has created a National Marine Park in the gulf of Laganas, with the express purpose of protecting this rare species of sea turtle. During the night, when everything is calm, the turtle emerges from the sea and digs a hole in the sand to keep her 120 eggs for 55 days. When the time comes, the little turtles leave their nest and make their way across the beach following the moonlight and into the sea. When the female turtles are full grown they will return to the same beach to lay their eggs.
Vasilikos has some of the most awe-inspiring beaches on the island, situated on a peninsula on the southern coast of Zakynthos. It is a coastal village full of olive groves plus the long white sandy beaches are home to the island's most famous resident, the Caretta-Caretta turtle.
It is a mountainous area with a long winding road leading to the southern-most point with breathtaking scenery at every turn.
Wine is an integral part of life for the Greeks and the Zakynthians are no exception to this. There are many wineries located on the island that have been producing wine for decades and most are family run businesses.
The best way to learn more about the Zakynthian wines is to take a tour of one, or more, of the wineries. Find out the history of winemaking on the island, acquaint yourself with the process of making the wine and then the experience of tasting the wine to sample the end product.
The grounds and buildings of most of the wineries are also very traditional and enable you to enjoy your surroundings and admire the architecture as well.
Another agricultural product on the island is olives, which are used to produce the award winning Zakynthian Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
The olives are picked in the winter months from the end of October onwards and are then taken to the olive factories to be made into olive oil.
A lot of families on the island have their own olive groves to make the oil for themselves, but there is also a lot of olive oil produced for commercial purposes.
There are many olive factories on the island and most of them are open during the summer months for visitors to learn about olives, olive oil and how it is made. You can find out about the history of olives on the island and see the machinery used in the process. You will also learn the difference between the different types of olive oil available on the market.
Your visit will end with a tasting session, where you get to sample olive oil the way the Greeks eat it, on fresh bread.
Skinari and Agios Nikolaos
Skinari is located at the most northern tip of the island and has lots to offer visitors. There is a working lighthouse which sits on the edge of the cliffs and ensures safe passage to boats between Zakynthos and Kefalonia as well as watching over the boats travelling around the island.
There are also incredible photo opportunities looking over towards the neighbouring island of Kefalonia, which appears to be very close and also over to the mainland of Greece.
Close by is the small port of Agios Nicholaos, where the daily ferryboat to Kefalonia leaves from. Also there is a beach ideal for swimming or sunbathing.
You can enjoy a relaxing meal or refreshments at one of the restaurants or café bars which line the port road.
Away from the tourist areas, some of the hidden treasures are to be found in the numerous mountain villages on the north and west side of the island. This is where you will experience the more traditional side of Zakynthian life: appreciate the architecture of the buildings; see the small churches; meander along the small cobbled streets; sample some of the delicacies at the village bakeries; sit in the village squares and enjoy the tranquility; admire the flora and fauna in the gardens and wide open spaces and most of all be surprised by the magnificent views in every direction.