It is one of the most famous sights, not only in Corfu but, in all of Greece. Achillion is the palace that was created, on the Corfiot countryside, by the empress of Austria-Hungary Elizabeth, known as Empress Sissy. It is located in Gastouri village, ten kilometers north-west of the of Corfu, among olive groves and the verdant nature of the island.
The design of Achillion is a work of the Italian architects Raffaele Caritto and Antonio Landi, in a Pompey rhythm. The edifice was created in 1890, funded entirely by empress Sissy, who proceeded to do so when, because of her fragile health, doctors recommended the ideal climate of Corfu. Achillion, dedicated to the demigod Achilles, is adorned with statues and art works from the ancient, Greek mythology.
After the assassination of Empress Sissy, Achillion was bought by the emperor of Germany, Wilhelm II, also known as Kaiser who visited it many times until the outbreak of World War I. In fact, the gigantic statue of Achilles which can be seen by the visitors in the yard of Achillion, which also has been inscribed with the characteristic sign: «To the Greatest Greek from the Greatest German», is his tribute.
After the war, the Greek state became the owner of Achillion which remained closed until 1962. Then it was given to a private company and operated as a casino, with intermissions until 1994 and since then it operates as a museum.
The imposing view of the building attracts visitors from the beginning: archaic columns, balconies, gables, frescoes and countless of statues adorn the yards and the vast gardens of Achillion, while offering magnificent view towards the Kanoni and Pontikonisi.,
The grand staircase greets visitors at the entrance. A bronze statue of Zeus and one of Hera adorn its base and also several smaller statues and plaster sculptures.
On the right of the entrance of Achillion there is the portrait of Empress Sissy, while on the left there is a luxurious, marble fireplace. One thing that also attracts the eye is the fresco on the roof, an exquisite art work of the Italian painter Galopi which allegorically depicts the «Four Seasons» of a year. At the end of the staircase there is a magnificent oil painting, which depicts the Triumph of Achilles in the battle with Hector, an art work of the Austrian painter Franz Matsch (1892).
The catholic chapel of Elizabeth in Achillion with its imposing mural that represents the Trial of Christ, one should not omit visitind, as well as the Elizabeth’s Room where many of her personal furniture and items are displayed, including among others, a painting that represents the arrival of Odysseus in the island of Faiakes and his meeting with Naussika.
Another room of Achillion is devoted to Kaizer, with his personal items, a portrait of himself, his office, the chair, which is shaped as a saddle and the porcelain stove, are some among others.
Coming out into the yards and the gardens of Achillion, it is sure that the interest of the visitors will not decrease: many statues and works of art adorn every corner.
Amongst them, stand out:
- The Nine Muses, marble statues which each one represent a Muse of the Greek antiquity
- The Three Graces
- The statue of the winged Hermes
- The Lodge of the Elders with 13 busts of ancient philosophers and the bust of Shakespeare
- Victorious Achilles, the biggest statue in Achillion, eight meters tall and built with brass which represents Achilles in the moment of his victory
The most valuable statue in Achillion is the «Dying Achilles» statue which represents the Homeric hero Achilles at the moment of his death as he tries in vain and in pain to remove the arrow of Paris from his heel. It is a work of Ernst Herter from 1884.
The outside areas of Achillion, filled with colorful flowers, palm trees, olive trees and exotic plants, end up in a balcony from where the visitors can admire the beautiful, verdant Corfu.
Hours of operation: 08:00-19:00. Sat., Sun. 08:00-14:30.