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A holiday escape for an empress, a war office for a Kaiser, a military hospital and a casino – there’s far more than Greek history to the Achilleion Palace.

 

The palace, at Gastouri, about 10km south of Corfu town, was built in 1892 as a retreat for Empress Elizabeth of Austria, and is now a museum featuring portraits and exhibits from her possessions.

Apart from fascinating displays inside the elegant building, and its beautiful gardens, the mountainous position opens stunning views across landscape and sea, as far as mainland Greece.

There is limited car parking, but the village is on main bus routes, and there are some concessionary prices on the entry fee to the museum, which is open most days and has a refreshment kiosk outdoors. An audio guide is available, for which photo ID is needed.

A tour can be completed in less than three hours, and you might prefer to time your arrival for the afternoon, as coach parties tend to arrive in the mornings.

The most impressive statue in the gardens is an 11.5-metre figure of Achilles, in whose honour the museum is named, and others include the wine god Dionysus and English poet Lord Byron, who supported the Greek war of independence against the Ottoman Empire.

The museum houses a collection of Italian paintings, while statues inside include a brass representation of Hermes, the messenger of the gods, as well as the nine muses.

After Elizabeth, who also became Queen of Hungary by marriage, was stabbed to death in Geneva by an Italian anarchist in 1898, the palace was bought by Kaiser William II of Germany, who is said to have made battle plans for the First World War while staying there. During the war it was used as a military hospital, and became a casino in the 1970s.