Achilleion: Sissi’s Palace Corfu Greece
Built in 1890 by the Empress Elizabeth of Austria, the Achilleion is a grand palace found in the quaint village of Gastouri in Corfu. Renowned for its grand features and expertly sculpted gardens, the palace attracts thousands of visitors each year. You can explore the palace and its stunning grounds at your own pace or book a guided tour if you prefer for a more detailed backstory on the landmark. The mythical architecture of the palace makes it look like it came straight out of a classic fairy tale. Inside, you’ll get to wander through the halls, explore the finely decorated rooms and marvel at all of the wonderful sculptures of ancient gods and wise philosophers.
Planning to visit the Achilleion Palace during your visit to Corfu? Here’s everything you need to know:
History of Achilleion
The history of Achilleion, which is also known as the Sissi Palace, dates all the way back to 1890. The palace was originally owned by Petros Vrailas Armenis, a well-known philosopher at the time. When the Empress of Austria visited Corfu in 1888, she fell in love with the palace and decided to make it her new home. The Empress lived a good life, but her story is cloaked in sadness and despair. In fact, locals often refer to her as “sad queen Sissi.” She had a very dominating mother-in-law and her mental health declined. Her son, Rudolf, had a suicide pact with his mistress and after his death, Elizabeth began suffering from depression and had a few minor breakdowns.
When she took over the grounds for the palace, she demolished the original house and built the Achilleion. She was well liked in the community and helped the local women receive clean water by digging a well in lower Gastouri. She sadly met her fate during a visit to Geneva, where an Italian assassinated her. Thus, the palace was left without an owner and was eventually converted into a museum.
What you’ll find in the Sissi Palace
Visitors must pay a small fee to explore the palace. You don’t have to book a private tour if you don’t want to, which is great if you’d rather uncover the secrets of the palace at your own pace. You’ll also get an audio headset, which will give you a detailed tour of your visit.
Before you start to explore within its walls, the grand palace has a lot for you to see on the outside. Cypress trees and exotic flowers surround the building, adding to the mythical atmosphere of the place. Sculptures decorate the exteriors and over in the ‘Peristyle of the Muses,’ a lush garden surrounded by towering columns, you’ll get to see the personal taste that the Empress had. When you reach the top floor of the gardens, you’ll discover a variety of statues including Apollo and Hermes.
One of the most famous statues in Sissi Palace is the ‘Dying Achilles’, which depicts the fatal scene when Achilles tried desperately to remove a piercing spear that has been lodged in his ankle. Many of the statues you’ll come across in the beautiful gardens are inspired by ancient Greek mythology, despite the fact that the Empress was actually a practicing Catholic.
When you enter the Achilleion Corfu, you’ll see the main staircase and a beautiful ceiling painting by the artist, Vincenzo Galloppi. To the right of the entrance is a stunning portrait of the Empress herself. On the other side of the room, you’ll find an epic marble fireplace with tiny statues decorating it nicely. One of the main attractions inside the Sissi Palace is the small Catholic chapel which has an impressive arched ceiling. You’ll also get to wander around the palace and explore many of the rooms, including the Empress’ chamber, which includes a wonderful painting of Ulysses.
How to Get to Achilleion
You’ll find Sissi’s Palace just outside the main tourist hub of Corfu Town in the village of Gastouri. If you’re driving, you’ll need to head 10km south of Corfu Town or around 3km north of Benitses. The best way to get there is to follow the main road from Corfu and eventually turning left at Ponti. It’s a twisting road with beautiful views of the surrounding olive groves. You’ll then reach Agios Deka, a small village on the outskirts of Gastouri. Look out and you’ll see traditional Greek homes with impeccable gardens. When you reach what looks like the end of the r