The town of Lefkada, especially the part of the old city around the central market street, is itself an outdoors museum of architecture, history and culture. You can entertain and educate yourselves by strolling around the traditional houses, museums, libraries and religious monuments that are scattered in the town, and, at the same time, enjoy your coffee, sweet and food at the narrow streets and the seaside of Lefkada.
Go Lefkas recommends some routes within the town, full of historical elements, which will help you learn more about the points of interest that you visit.
1st Route: Religious Monuments
The first route that we suggest starts from the western entrance of the town and the open parking space next to the building of the Municipal Cultural Centre and finishes at the same place. It lasts about one hour and ten minutes during which you will have the chance to see some of the most important religious monuments of the town.
Go across the entrance of the parking space and follow the central road “Ogdois Merarhias”.
At the first small street that you are going to come across, namely Agiou Antoniou Street, right after the Court Hall, turn right and immediately left. You will reach the ruined church of Agios Antonios.
(The temple was destroyed by an earthquake on the 30th of June, 1948. Only a part of the sanctuary is still standing. It was built in 1717. The original church was made of wood and after its demolition in the beginning of the 19th century it was rebuilt with stone. It took its final form and size in 1841. It was a chapel of the Cathedral Church of Evaggelistria. The Lefkadians idiomatically call the church “Ai Anton’s o Pera” to discriminate it from “Ai Anton’s o Oksou” that is located at the hill of “Lamia”, just before the entrance of the island)
Return to the central road, turn right and continue your route by staying on the right side of the street. After the local office of the Public Power Company and between a small street (Agiou Panteleimonos Street) and the central “Pefaneromenis” Street you will find the church of Agios Panteleimon.
(It is a chapel of the church “Panagia ton Ksenon”. The original temple was founded in 1730. It was destroyed during the earthquakes of 1769, 1825, 1869, 1897, 1938 and it was rebuilt five times. In 1986, after the selling of the rest of the temple’s property and the expropriation of a large part of the estate during the construction of the “Ogdois Merarhias” road, the heirs of the church’s last owners donated the remaining part of the plot to the ecclesiastical council of the parish of “Panagia ton Ksenon” on the condition that a small church would be rebuild in the name of Agios Panteleimon. The founding took place in April, 1992, and the church was inaugurated in October 1995).
Continue your route following Ogdois Merarhias Street until you reach the edge of the central market street of the town (Pedestrian Street) at the square of Agios Minas.
Then turn right and follow the road that leads out of the town towards Nydri. When you reach the fork in the road you will see a small plaza with the busts of Petros Filippas Panagos and Xenophon Grigoris.
Take the left branch (Xenophonta Grigori Street) and stay on the right side of the road. At the end of the stone fence, after the entrance of the technical office, where there is a home supply shop, turn right on the small street and then take the right branch on the fork of the two alleys. Thus you will reach the ruins of the sole Anglican Church on the island.
(The construction of the church began in 1862, but after the departure of the English and the Union of the Ionian Islands with Greece in 1864 construction works stopped and the temple remained unfinished. The stone fence of the churchyard had been built with ancient materials and the large stones came from ancient Nirikos on the hill of Koulmos).
Get back to Ogdois Merarhias Street through Ioanni Gazi Street and continue your route to the east. The road that you are walking is now named Iroon Polytechniou Street.
Stay on the right side of the road and turn right on the third road that you will walk by (Lefkata Street). After a few metres you will come across the temple of Agios Vissarion that is located at the neighbourhood of Agia Kara.
(It was built in 1744 after the plague outbreak that hit the island. In 1743 the Bishopric of the island summoned the monk Matthaios Douskiotis to bring the miraculous relic head (kara) of Agios Vissarion to the island in order to eliminate the plague that had caused many victims. The relic head reached the island on the 11th of August 1743 and after the eradication of the plague, the monk himself built the holy temple at its modern location. For some time it hosted the relic head. Then the church was given to the monastery of Agios Georgios of Mount Skari and later to the monastery of Faneromeni. It was ruined by an earthquake in 1948 and rebuilt in 1977).
Get back to Iroon Polytechniou Street but this time head to the west, the opposite direction from the one you used to reach the site. Go across the road on the right side to reach the beginning of the central market street of the town, at the pedestrian street and the church of Agios Minas.
(It is a parish church. It is considered to be the most significant temple of the town with a marvellous wood carved templon, icons made by Konstantinos Kontarinis and Ioannis Roussos, oil paintings by Nikolaos Doxaras, Nikolaos Koutouzis, Spyridon Ventouras and others.
On the 27th of April 1707, Andreas Kontarinis and other residents of the town applied to the High Commissioner of Lefkada in order to get a plot to build a church dedicated to Saints Minas, Vincent and Victor. This was because during the big earthquake of the 11th of November (the name day of these saints) a large plane tree that had been standing at this plot was thrown down. An icon of Saint Minas was found in its roots while the High Sea Commissioner Petros Vagdariv saw a vision of three men fighting with the clouds.
The original temple was very small and was built within just four months. It was renovated and acquired its modern dimensions in 1724. The beautiful templon, probably a work of artisans from Zakynthos, must have been constructed between 1724 and 1730 and it is a typical sample of baroque style. “Ourania” is a work of Nikolaos Doxaras, the bishop’s cathedra and the two oratories, made of walnut, are works of Ioannis Vrettos from 1935. The Epitaph (1818) and the wooden candelabras are works of Efstathios Prosalentis the Elder.
The grave of Athanasios Psalidas, a scholar from Epirus who had been the headmaster of the town’s high school, is located inside the temple. The oratory of Saint Minas is based upon an ancient capital from an early Christian temple).
Now you can continue the tour on the paved pedestrian street of the town’s central market.
Here you can observe the houses of the old town on both sides of the road that preserve the traditional features and are constructed with the unique in Greece antiseismic method that aims to improve their durability. The town, also known as “Hora”, is a typical example of a medieval city that expressed at the time of its construction (Venetian Rule) the feudal way of administration based on which the town’s main urban design was shaped. The plaza in the centre of the old town with the central commercial street and the peripheral seaside roads north and east comprise the main axis along with numerous small streets, small plazas and beautiful churches.
Walking down the market street you will see the church of “Isodia tis Theotokou” on your right hand.
(It was founded in 1720 as an originally small temple and became a collegiate church [until 1969/7]) on the 25th of March, 1721, when its icons were probably completed. It assumed its present size at the end of the 18th century. The modern icons are works of S. Devaris, S. Ventouras, I. Roussos, S. Stampoglis, S. Gazis, T. Papantonis, and D. Kampisos-Mpelos from the beginning of the 19th century. The latter also made the bishop’s cathedra. Its first tower bell was constructed either in 1842 (not the contemporary one) or in 1720 along with the building of the church. It was rebuilt many times [1869, 1886 etc]. In 1886 the women’s quarter was constructed, Its chandelier is of Russian art and was bought on the 20th of July, 1852).
Right after the church of Isodia you can enter the narrow Konstantinou Grapsa Street, located directly opposite the temple, and visit the cathedral church of the town, namely Evaggelistria.
(The original temple was built in 1689. Then it was given to Archbishop of Lefkada, Anthimos Marinos in 1696 to become the cathedral. There was also a Catholic Altar so that catholic priests could also hold services. The catholic altar was preserved until 1723 when a Catholic Temple was built at the square. The small church collapsed in 1704, 1743 and 1769. During the time of the plague epidemic, in 1743, there was a graveyard in the churchyard, where many victims of the plague were buried. There was even a ditch around it that separated it from the neighbouring plots. Later, a bigger temple was built by the Archbishop Meletios Konidaris and it took its modern dimensions in 1856. It assumed its contemporary shape in 1950, after the damages that it suffered because of the 1948 earthquake. Its templon is a work of Efstathios Prosalentis Junior, made in the late 19th century, just like the Pulpit and the Bishop’s Throne. The icons are works of A. Rystos, N. Papanelopoulos and S. Kompisos-Mpelos).
Return to the central market street of the town via Mitropoleos Street and just a few metres away, on your right hand, you will see the church of Pantokrator
(A private church of the Valaoritis and Stavros families. It was founded in 1699/1700 after a request from residents of the town who wanted to build a temple dedicated to Christ Pantokrator in remembrance of the liberation from the Turks on the 6th of August 1684. It collapsed and suffered damages many times due to earthquakes. In 1830 it assumed its modern dimensions. The contemporary façade of the temple is a work of the 1869 reconstruction. Many significant Lefkadians are buried in the garden of the church, such as Moshos Valaoritis, Markos Alex. Halkiopoulos, Andreas Stavros, D. Petritsopoulos [son of Petro-Pavlos], Petros Petritsopoulos [son of Dimitris], while behind the Holy Sanctuary there is the grave of Aristotelis Valaoritis. The artworks of the temple were made by Ventouras, D. Kalyvokas, K. T. Ioannitis and others. The templon is the work of an unknown artisan, probably after 1850 and it is the first neoclassical iconostasis on the island).
The church is not open to the public.
Keep walking down the market street and turn right on the second corner to visit the parish church of Agios Nikolaos.
(It is one of the largest temples of the town. It was founded in 1687. The Zampelis family were one of the original founders. It was rebuilt many times [1704, 1730 and 1769] and it assumed its modern dimensions in 1825. It was the only temple that remained standing after the 1869 earthquake. Some of the icons of the original church are kept in the island’s Museum. The icons are works of Ventouras, Roussos, Gazis, Stamoulopoulos and Hrysolouras. The Bishop’s Throne is a work of Vrettos).
On the right side of Zampelion Street, right across the church, there is the northern facade of the old Zampelis Mansion. Zampelis was one of the most important families on the island. Amongst the family members there were authors, scholars, judges and poets, as well as some of the first members of “Filiki Etairia” (Society of Friends) in Lefkada.
If you keep walking down Zampelion Street you will reach the square of Panos G. Giannoulis and the church of Agios Dimitrios, which is, however, not open to the public.
(It is one of the smallest churches of the town. It was founded in 1678/8 after the request of the abbot of “Kokkini Ekklisia” (Red Church) Theofanis Danias was a metochion of the monastery since 1704. The temple was destroyed and rebuilt many times [1704, 1811, 1830 etc] and acquired its present shape in 18255. The bishop’s throne was probably painted by Panagiotis Doxaras in 1721/22. The templon was a work of Prossalentis from 1870 or 1880. The are also artworks by Doxaras, Kampisos-Mpellos and Patsaras)
Then follow Zampelion Street to the east and you will reach the eastern coast of the town (Golemi Street), where you will turn left. If you keep this course you will come across the TAOL supermarket and the Coastguard Headquarters. You are already in the neighbourhood of “Piso Molos”.
Right behind the Coastguard Headquarters, on Acarnanias Street, there is the next temple that is accessible to the public, namely the church of Agios Haralampos.
(It is a chapel of the parish of Agii Anargyri. It was founded in 1743, destroyed in 1825 and assumed its modern dimensions in 1836. The templon is a work of either Prosalentis or Father Efstathios. The bishop’s throne is a work of S. Maratzos).
Continuing from there along Acarnanias Street, turn right at the point where the road’s name changes into “G. Katsi Street” and you will reach the end of the road and Lafcadio Hearn Street. The fourth house on your right hand was the place where the national poet of Japan was born and lived his early years, as it is written on a plaque. The small alley on your left will lead you to the central square of the town.
It is a large open space with cafés and restaurants that attracts both the locals and the visitors of the island. It is the centre spot of many events.
On the western side of the square you can see the church of Agios Spyridon.
(It was founded in 1685 by the families of Tsarlampas, Marinos, Psomas and Petritzopoulos. The temple collapsed in 1704 and in 1825 amongst many other times. In 1836 it was rebuilt into its contemporary dimensions. It was ruined once more in 1849 and was reconstructed all over again. The last structural interventions were performed in 1948. The templon was made in 1736 by Ioannis Groppas, an artisan from Zakynthos and the icons were works of Tomaso Gen, Giorgos Hrysolouras and others). The church is not open to the public.
Exactly at the end of the square, turn left after the building of Agios Spyridon and follow Verrioti Street to the west.
On your way you will come across the church of Agia Paraskevi.
(The original church of Agia Paraskevi was located at the western neighbourhood of the castle of Santa Maura since the 16th century but was demolished by the Venetians in 1714 or 1715 and was rebuilt in 1720 on the current location. It acquired its modern dimensions in 1836. The templon is a work of D. Plsilianos, D. Loupis and I. Livadas (1734-1735) and was covered with sheets of gold in 1775 by S. Devaris. The bishop’s throne and the icon of Agia Paraskevi were made by N. Papanelopoulos. There are also artworks of Tomaso Gen, E. Staikopoulos, D. Kalyvokas, Ourania Gazi and others).
The church is not accessible to visitors.
Verrioti Street will lead you to the temple of the Birth of Virgin Mary (“Panagia ton Ksenon”) at the square of Marka.
(It is a parish church. It was founded in 1718, reconstructed in 1785 and acquired its modern size in 1836. The templon was the first work of E. Prosalentis, while there are also noteworthy pieces of art by Ioannis Roussos, S. Devaris, S. Ventouras, V. Sideris and others. The people of Lefkada named it “Panagia ton Ksenon” (Mother Mary of Foreigners) because it was the parish of all the non-Lefkadian civil servants. An important renovation that lasted for three years took place after the earthquake of the 14th of August, 2003, with the collaboration of the Ecclesiastical Council, the Bishopric and the 8th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities).
Finally, just a few metres to the north, across the square of Marka, you can visit the church of Agii Anargyri.
(It is a parish church, built in 1725. It assumed its modern dimension in 1837. The bishop of Arta, Daniel Katohianos Arakliotis, who died in 1853 was buried in the centre of the temple. The temple has works of S. Gazis and M. Lefkas, E. Tzanes, S. Ventouras and others. There are also relics of Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Stephen and Saint Stylianos).
From the square of Marka and the church of “Panagia ton Ksenon” take the Mayor Giannoulatou Street and you will return to the starting point of your tour, the Municipal Cultural Centre of Lefkada.
2nd Route: Museums, Libraries and Parks
Beginning from the same starting point of the first route, namely the open parking space next to the building of the Cultural Centre, Go Lefkas suggests an alternative course around the town, this time concerning the museums, libraries and parks of Lefkada.
Start the tour by visiting the museums that are hosted inside the building of the Cultural Centre.
The Archaeological Museum of Lefkada has been housed in the ground floor of the building since 1999.
It hosts all the archaeological findings from the broader region of ancient Nirikos and the excavations in Nydri, the “Pig Cave” of Evgiros, the “Badger Hole” at Fryni, Meganisi and other parts of the island. The exhibits cover a long time period from the Middle Palaeolithic Age until after the Late Roman Years. It consists of four halls that host exhibits from the public and private life of the island’s residents since the beginning of history, resources and texts of ancient literature evidences and findings about the deities of Lefkada, findings about the burial customs and findings of W. Dörpfeld’s excavations, who devoted many years of his life and career supporting his theory that Lefkada was actually the Homeric Ithaca.
The ground floor also hosts a unique museum in Europe, dedicated to the national poet of Japan, Lafcadio Hearn, who was born and lived his early childhood in Lefkada. The museum named Lafcadio Hearn Historical Centre was inaugurated on the 4th of July 2014. It includes the poet’s early editions, rare books, Japanese collective items, photographs, texts and exhibits from significant moments of his extraordinary life. The exhibits were donated to the museum by the collector Takis Efstathiou.
Staying on the ground floor, you can also visit the “Takis Efstathiou” Hall, which is dedicated to the collector who gave pieces of his collection so that the “Lafcadio Hearn” Historical Centre could be created. The hall hosts paintings of great Japanese artists, silkscreen prints of Stamos, Hrysa, the sculptor Theodoros and Lekkakis, culture and art books, posters etc.
Furthermore, check the nearby Exhibition of Micro Engraving and Ex Libris that was presented by the Municipal Cultural Centre of Lefkada in 2005 and 2008 with the organisation of the International Trienale of Micro Engraving and Ex Libris. It is about high quality modern micro engraving ex-libris under the themes of “Book” and “Music”.
You can also admire works of Lefkadian, Greek and international artists at the Lefkadian Art Gallery.
On the first floor of the building there is a very special and purely Lefkadian museum that waits for you to visit it. It is the Museum of Mementos of the International Folklore Festival. It was inaugurated on the 16th of August 2017 and includes objects that are either directly connected with the festival events or are parts of commemorative presents of the dance groups that participated in the festival. In the main space of the floor there are big pictures of dance events of the festival. Special banners with texts in Greek and English introduce the visitors to the theme and the character of the exhibition. The spaces of the museum are organised into thematic subsections. In the first hall there are traditional costumes from Lefkada, photographs about the festival and a special projection screen. The next two halls host traditional costumes of dance groups from countries of the European continent, the Balkans and the Middle East and traditional costumes from exotic countries, accompanied by musical instruments and other mementos. Finally, there special spaces where items from the collection of Antonis Tzavelekis, the founder of the Festival, are exhibited.
Next you can leave the building of the Cultural Centre and walk across to the western side of the road.
Follow the first road (Mayor Giannoulatou Street), next to the town’s nurseries and you will come across the church of “Panagia ton Ksenon”.
On the right side of the temple there is the square of Marka that hosts two important buildings concerning the island’s culture and literature, namely the Public Library of Lefkada and the “Haramoglios” Special Lefkadian Library.
The Public Library was founded in 1953 is housed in the old neoclassic mansion of the Zoulinos family, a historical listed building constructed in the end of the 19th century. Its entrance is located on Rontogianni Street, at the back side of the building, as seen from the square of Marka. The library is housed on the ground floor and hosts more than 60,000 publications. It also holds a collection of engravings from the 17th century made by the Italian geographer Vincenzo Maria Coronelli (1650-1718).
The collection of post-Byzantine icons and relics from churches and monasteries of the island is housed on the first floor..
A few metres east of the library, still on Rontogianni Street, you can see the house where Aristotelis Valaoritis was born..
Return to the square of Marka, where there are two sculptures, the bust of the historian Nikos Svoronos (a work of Memos Makris) and the National Resistance Monument. In front of you there is the building of the Senior Citizens’ Centre.
Look for the next building, with an entrance on An. Skiadaresi Street, in order to visit the “Haramoglios” Special Lefkadian Library. It a library dedicated to Lefkada as its single theme, which was honoured by the Academy of Athens in 1987 and got a position in the Guinness Book of Records in 1994 for being the largest single thematic library. It has a collection of about 40,000 works of 810 Lefkadian authors and more material that covers 60 subjects about Lefkada. It was the life’s work of Aristotelis Haramoglis (1919-2003) who, from 1973 until his death in 2003, collected all kinds of material in print that related to Lefkada and its people, whatever had been written by Lefkadians but also every publication that had some reference to Lefkada or its people
Just across the entrance of the “Haramoglios” Library, on the first floor of the Senior Citizens’ Centre there is the “Nikos Svoronos” Library. It consists of thousands of books, documents, press cuttings, rare pamphlets and newspapers from the WWII and the resistance against the dictatorship of 1967-1974 as well as unpublished doctoral theses.
On the ground floor of the building that hosts the “Haramoglios” Library there is the “Theodoros Stamos” Art that hosts exhibitions of paintings, engravings, sculptures, etchings, photographs, sketches, prints etc all year long.
Through Skiadaresi Street you can reach the town’s central market street. Then turn left.
Going down the market street, just after two small streets, turn left to reach the renovated house of Angelos Sikelianos. Its yard hosts the small garden-theatre of the town.
Return once more to the central market street and turn right on the next road (Ioanni Flogaiti Street) following the sign to reach the small, private Museum of Phonograph and Old Items of Dimitris Katopodis, located on Kalkani Street. Amongst its exhibits there are items such as phonographs, music records, rare utility items, decoratives, tools, small boxes, seals, bank notes, needlework, traditional musical instruments, jewellery and vintage postal cards.
From there and via Kalkani Street you can reach the town’s central plaza.
From the road on the left, next to the church of Agios Spyridon (Verrioti Street), follow the signs and take the small street on your left hand, behind the temple (Stefanisti Street) to visit the “Pantazis Kontomihis” Folklore Museum of the “Orfeas” Music and Literature Club. It was founded in 1978 and consists of more than 1000 exhibits that are typical of the tradition, the culture, the expression and the history of Lefkada, as well as a series of urban exhibits and tools of abandoned crafts.
From that point follow the road to the seaside (the name changes into Pinelopis Street). On the first alley left (Kontari Street) you will find the building of the Philharmonic Society of Lefkada. The Philharmonic Society of Lefkada was established in 1850. It is the oldest club of the region and the second oldest Philharmonic Society in Greece. In 1864 the Society’s band played for the Union of the Ionian Islands with Greece, in 1986 it participated in the Olympic Games of Athens, in 1906 it took part in the Intercalated Games (the sole philharmonic society from the Ionian Islands) and in 1983 it was honoured with the award of the Academy of Athens. In the ground floor of the building there is a museum, open to the public, with many old sheets of music, musical instruments and suits of the Philharmonic Society of Lefkada, as well as archival and photographic material from its long history, honorary plaques, awards etc.
From there you can reach the western coast of the town and then move eastwards until you arrive at the space in front of “Lefkas” Hotel. There is the Poets’ Park or Valaoritis’ Garden or Boschetto. It hosts the busts of Aristotelis Valaoritis, Angelos Sikelianos, Lafcadio Hearn, Kleareti Dipla-Malamou, Dimitris Golemis, as well as the 1897 War Monument. It was created by the English. Originally this was the site of the Municipal Garden. In the old days there was a platform that the Philharmonic Society used for its summer Sunday concerts. It also hosted theatrical plays, poetic nights and other events.
Now you can enjoy your coffee or your food at one of the many cafés or small taverns of the town.
3rd Route: A Tour in the Historic Centre of Lefkada
The map of the suggested route
Your tour begins at the Archaeological Museum and Cultural Centre of Lefkada, a culture and art point of reference. Then you can enter and wander around the historic centre where you are going to discover the narrow streets and the “Agora” (Central Market), the special architecture of Lefkada. You will end up to “Boschetto” or Poets’ Park, a place of remembrance, full of images from the old town. Walking along the channel and the lagoon you will return to the starting point or you will begin a new excursion to the castle of Santa Maura, “Gyra” and the beach of Ai Giannis.
So let’s go!
The Archaeological Centre and Cultural Centre of Lefkada is a work of the architect N. Valsamakis. It is an architectural proposal that had won the award in a contest and was materialised to house the old Town Hall. Nowadays it houses not only the archaeological collection of Lefkada but also the historical centre of Lafcadio Hearn, the Municipal Art Gallery of Lefkada and the collection of mementos of the International Folklore Festival.
Leave behind the open theatre and walk along the lagoon, the “Great Dock” of the western coast, on Angelou Sikelianou Street. In the background you can see the castle of Santa Maura (the second seat of the island after the ancient city of Nirikos). On one side there are the small boats and the lagoon, on the other side there is the front of the buildings with the old low houses that reveal the relations of the region and the Lefkadian architecture with the sea.
On your right hand there is the neighbourhood of “Pouliou”. Turn to the small street named Panos Lavranos, at the ground house with the hanging coloured pumpkins. The buildings are single-storied or two-storied and stand harmoniously according to human proportions. You will come across Frynis Street. If you go right you will reach the small plaza of “Pouliou” with its water fountain. On the left you can again observe old buildings made of stone and wood. The colours of the facades and the patina of the materials give a special dimension to space. The vertical small streets are named after the islands of Psara and Hydra.
Amaxikis Street. “Amaxiki” is the name of the historically third capital of the island, at the modern location. The initial conception and the urban planning date back in 1726 by the Venetians. The small street starts very narrow from the seaside, following a curve shape, slowly becomes wider as you turn from Frynis Street and leads to a more central point, at the church of “Panagia ton Ksenon” and the square of Marka. Here you will see important public buildings such as the Public Library of Lefkada, the “Haramoglios” Special Lefkadian Library, the “Nikos Svoronos” Library, the “Theodore Stamos” Art Gallery and the church of Agii Anargyri.
The square of Marka and the straight, broad road of I. Marinos and the extension of the streets of Tzavela and Mayor Giannoulatou are part of a subsequent urban design by the English that dates back in 1827. Follow I. Marinou Street and observe the larger buildings such as the house of Aravanis family that faces the square of Marka and the house of the Roussopoulos family (1870) that faces the square of Zampelios.
Crossing the square of Zampelios you can see the Municipal Historical Archives of Lefkada that are housed in the building of the former courthouse. This building and its nearby twin one of the old high school were designed and built at the same time after the earthquake of 1825 by the English rulers (1830). Both buildings have been closely connected to the educational history of the island.
The cathedral church, one of the town’s monuments, stands adjacent to the southern side of the old high school’s garden. Mitropoleos Street holds a more commercial character. Just before you enter the central market street you can see the liquor company of Fragkoulis (established in 1945) where the traditional liqueur of Lefkada, namely “Rozoli” is made.
Now you are standing on one of the most central and busiest parts of the town, the bazaar, the spinal cord of the urban plan. On your left hand there is the temple of Pantokrator (1699). The national poet Aristotelis Valaoritis is buried at its yard. On the opposite side, the house of the Fragkoulis family (1890) stands dominant with its ornate railings. You can walk beneath the consecutive loggias that facilitate the pedestrian circulation on rainy or sunny days.
At the corner of the National Bank you can turn left on the peaceful small street of Agii Anargyri. There are mansions and smaller houses of folk architecture that preserve the character of the old town. Walk behind the church of Agii Anargyri and return to the familiar square of Marka for a brief stop. Researching the libraries you can discover traces of the history and memories of the town. At the square of Marka there was once an outdoor marketplace shaped according the English proposal in 1825. Later on, in the 1950s, there was an elementary school located at the centre of the square.
Your tour will continue on Captain Rontogianni Street where the main entrance of the Public Library is found. Once it was named “Street of Roses” (calle delle rose) and later “Street of Hermes”. This is the location of the house where Aristotelis Valaoritis lived (1824-1879).
Turn left along the backside of the building of the central market street, on Philharmonikis Street. Colours and yards comprise the picture at this narrow street that will lead you to the garden-theatre and the museum of Angelos Sikelianos. If you look back at the market street you will spot the bell tower of Agios Nikolaos, a point of reference in the old town.
Cross the pedestrian street and visit the church of Agios Nikolaos. The temple was built in 1687. In 1704 it collapsed and was reconstructed. During the earthquake of 1825 it was ruined and in 1830 it was rebuild in its modern form. Right across the church’s main entrance there is the house of Zampelis family, a typical example of local architecture. It is a historic building, because, apart from being the residence of two great personalities such as Ioannis and Spyridon Zampelis, it also served as a school, the seat of the Philharmonic Society and an office hall before being totally abandoned.
Walk down Konstantinou Kalkani Street, parallel to the central market street. Observe the materials of the facades. The buildings’ ground floors are made of stone and the first floors are made of wood. The facades are often covered with thin metal sheets instead of wooden planks to protect the wooden beams. It is a light, practical, cheap and effective material.
It would be a mistake not to pass by the churches of Agios Georgios and Agios Ioannis. Therefore, you should turn right at the house of Devaris family, the preserved building at the corner, on Panou Politi Street. Soon you will reach the churchyard of Agios Georgios. The ochre on the breached plaster, the cobbled plaza at the entrance and at the exterior of the church’s sanctuary and the bell tower at the end of Mytika Street form an artistic image.
In the background you can see the masts of the sailing boats. The city blocks are long and narrow. The small streets look like thin nerves on the body of the settlement that reach the sea at the eastern dock, the “small pier”, from where the ships to Mytikas, Kalamos and Meganisi used to depart. The modern marina of Lefkada is located at the site of the old “Saltpans”.
Walk again towards the historic centre via Meganisiou Street that will lead you to the church of Agios Ioannis. The public space that is open in front of the church looks like an outdoors theatre and the surrounding houses look like the scenery of the historic town. The water fountain is nowadays just a decorative feature of the plaza, but in the old days it used to be the public spring that supplied the surrounding area with water. Right on the back there is the Konstantinou Mahaira Street that will lead you to Lafcadio Hearn Street and the house where the national poet of Japan dwelt.
With a small manoeuvre, first to the right and then to the left, you will face the central square of Agios Spyridon, a place of meeting, living and enjoying! Just try to imagine how the voice of Maria Callas sounded when she sang in the summer of 1964 during the Literature and Art Feasts at the central square of Lefkada!
The original concept of the city planning by the Venetians was to have the central plaza (where there was a catholic church) together with Agios Spyridon and the market street as the centre of the settlement, surrounded by a circular road. This road starts and ends at the central square. On the northern part, a second circular road, almost parallel to the first one, follows the same round route. The rest of the streets stretch out from these ring roads radially. On the map they look like rays that radiate from the centre.
It seems appropriate to begin the description of the round course from the sanctuary of Agios Spyridon on the side of Verrioti Street, which used to be the old market street. You will see the building of Kopsidas’ bakery, the old notary’s office and shops. On Stefanitsi Street you will see the Folklore Museum of Orfeas on the left side and the building of the Philharmonic Society on the right side. If you continue straight ahead for just a little longer, you will see the old pastry shop, the tailor shops and the old tavern of Regantos. The facades are neat, the windows have French lites, and everything is arranged on human proportions. On the corner of Mihail Sikelianou Street and Verrioti Street, where the paintings and frames gallery is located, turn right and you will reach the parallel ring road, namely Spyrou Gazi Street. It is a quiet small street with low houses that look similar and different at the same time, composing an ensemble of unique folk architecture. You can make a brief stop at the Philharmonic Society and, if you are lucky, you may have the chance to hear the sounds of the wind instruments. Then you can leave the melodies behind and walk on Kontari Street with a view of the lagoon. The consecutive narrow-faced, two-storied buildings express the minimal architecture of the town.
On the right side of the seaside there is the preserved house of the Mamaloukas family, which is now renovated, while nearby you can also see one of the most typical houses of Lefkada, the so called “photographer’s house” (before 1948) on the corner of Pinelopis and Sikelianou Streets. It is narrow-faced, two-storied, always neat and full of flowers, with a small balcony that faces the lagoon and the castle. It suits perfectly the image of its owner!
Pinelopis Street is a small road with two characteristic ground floor buildings with yards, full of light and flowers. At the Boutique Hotel Aigli mansion there is a hidden inner yard full of plants, a small oasis within the historic centre. Walk left, between the house with the bougainvilleas and the guesthouse, and you will find yourselves right behind the old Averoff hotel. It is also a characteristic structure, because of the use of the acute angle of the plot and the height of the building.
Now you are once more on the central pedestrian street. From the point of the old water fountain until the bridge (ponte) the street is called “Wilhelm Dörpfeld”. You will end up at “boschetto” and “ponte” and you will notice the remains of the foundations of the old Turkish aqueduct that supplied water on the other side to the castle of Santa Maura. Nowadays the stone foundations serve as resting points for the birds of the lagoon. You can also take a rest at the Poets’ Park, a place of remembrance and honour of the historical personalities of Lefkada.
Then you can walk by the channel and the lagoon and return to the starting point.
*The third route-tour at the historic centre of Lefkada is a study of Mrs Noni Oikonomopoulou (Architectural Engineer) whom we deeply thank for her assistance in our effort.