The town of Lefkada, with its characteristic architectural style, its narrow lanes, well cared for courtyards and delightfully unspoiled aristocratic charm is what gives the visiting traveller a first impression.
We start our walk from the church of Agios Minas. Built in the early 18th century, it has a magnificent iconostasis carved out of wood with a gold leaf coating. The icons that adorn it were painted by some of the best hagiographers from the Ionian Islands, while its iron bell tower was built in the 1920s. In the past, the shops of the craftsmen of Lefkada as well as the caravansaries the villagers used for their animals were located in this area. The main business street of Lefkada, the bazaar as the locals call it, starts here.
Walking down the main street, the visitor comes across the characteristic buildings that nowadays house small shops and fancy coffee shops. The distinctive architecture of the city is owed to the cultural heritage of the Venetian conquerors and the intense seismic activity of the region. Most houses have two or three floors, a simple design and a light wooden construction. They are usually painted in bright colors.
The arcades that run along the sidewalk are a characteristic architectural feature of the town with a very clear renaissance influence. Most of them are made out of wood, while their arch shape allows the sunlight to enter the ground floor of the houses.
Our second stop is the church of the Presentation of Mary (1720 AD) with its traditional Ionian bell tower. The representation of the Second Coming at the top of its baroque iconostasis immediately catches the eye of the visitor along with the rest of the icons that were painted by well known hagiographers from Lefkada.
Continuing our walk on Ioanou Mela Street, we see on our right the church of the Pantocrator. The church was built in 1699 to commemorate the liberation of the island from the Turks, but because of the damages it suffered from earthquakes, it took its final form in 1830. Inside, there are some remarkable icons by Kalivokas and Ventouras, a baroque façade with gothic elements and it belongs to the Stavrou and Valaoritis families. It is not open to the public except from its celebration day (6/8) and the anniversary of the Union of the Ionian Islands (21/5) when you can visit it. Behind the chancel lies the grave of Aristotelis Valaoritis, a distinguished epic poet.
Detour on Markas
Markas (from the Italian word mercato which means public market) used to house the public market of the town. The people came here to buy fish, meat and vegetables. In the 1930s the Elementary School was built right across the church of Agioi Anargiroi and covered all the area in which the square now stands (it was demolished in 1986).
You will find here the three libraries of the town, the Stamos Hall and two noteworthy churches. First we come across the Stamos Art Hall which is dedicated to the Lefkadian expressionist painter Theodoros Stamos. Throughout the year, the hall hosts painting, engraving, sculpture and photography exhibitions. Charamoglios library is located in the first floor of the same building. It is an archive at least six centuries old which contains 40.000 book titles whose subject is Lefakda and its people. It was established in 1991 by Aristotelis Charamoglis and is included in the Guinness record. On the other side of the street, you will find the library of the world renowned historian, N. Svoronos. It has books, rare pamphlets and newspapers as well as unpublished doctoral dissertations.
You will also see two sculptures on the square, the bust of Nikos Svoronos and the National Resistance Monument. Every July, the Festival of Lefkadian Cuisine is held here.
Down the street, on you left, you can see the church of Agioi Anargiroi. It is a typical example of a Lefkadian church with a tall wooden iconostasis and renaissance paintings by the painter Sp. Gazis. On the other side of the street, stands the Public Library of Lefkada. It is housed in a two story neoclassical building with a beautiful garden that was built as the residence of the Zoulinou family at the end of the 19th century. It was subsequently used by the National Bank of Greece and then became public property. There is a large number of books and print material in its collection, as well as a significant number of post-byzantine icons that exemplify the Ionian style of hagiography practiced by Doxaras, Rousos, Patsaras, Gazis, etc.
Our next stop is the church of Panagia ton Xenon (Foreigners) which is dedicated to the Nativity of Virgin Mary. The church was built in 1718 and the title “of the foreigners” refers to the residents of Lefkada who were of different origin and used it as their parish.
We continue on I. Marinou Street. After 3 minutes of walking we find Zabeliou square.
The building we see on our left, right after the square, was built circa 1830 and initially housed the middle school, afterwards the Courts and the Town Hall and is now used as a training center and a storage space for the archives of the Municipality of Lefkada since the 1930s. Its twin building was for many years a High School, then an Elementary School and now houses the Social Grocery Shop and the association Nea Chorodia.
Turning left, we come across the Cathedral (I.N. Evagelistrias). It was initially build in 1689 but took its final form in 1886. We highly recommend you to make a stop here in order to marvel at its impressive neoclassical iconostasis and the magnificent icons around it. The small alley next to the Cathedral will take you back to the main promenade.
Detour on the church of Agios Nikolaos
Halfway on the main promenade, we turn right on Zabeliou street. Here we see the church of Agios Nikolaos. It was built in 1687, has an impressive iconostasis and icons by Ventouras and Rousos.
Down the road we see an abandoned building, the house of the Zabeli family. It is one of the oldest houses in Agia Mavra –built in the 18th century- and its dynamic architecture will certainly astonish you. The members of the Zabeli family were born in this house (important writers, historians, jurists, members of the Filiki Eteria, etc.). Later, it housed the Elementary Schools and the Philharmonic of Lefkada. Continuing our walk, we reach a small square where we see the busts of the Panos brothers and Mitros Gianoulis, fighters of the National Resistance.
The church of Agios Demetrios is located here which used to be the glebe of the Red church. It took the form it has today in 1825 and its iconostasis has icons by the hagiographer Doxaras. The church is not open to the public.
We continue in Zakinthou Street until we reach Golemi Street.
We see a traditional house with a pozzo (a second floor that extends to the outside). The influence of the architecture of Epirus and Macedonia is evident in the old houses of the town of Lefkada.
We walk across the street and head towards the marina.
One of Lefkada’s most recent acquisitions is the marina, the most modern in Greece, situated on the east side of the town. Its mooring capacity is for 620 boats and its buildings comprise a control tower, a multi-purpose building, sailing club offices, a complex of offices and shops, a small hotel, a boat repair and maintenance facility, parking for 455 cars, winter mooring for 300 boats, a road network and a green belt. It has a 1700 metre - long breakwater and 940 metres of floating wharfs. It is a town within the town of Lefkada with its own life, bars and restaurants also frequented by non boat - owners to enjoy its comforts and the picture of the liquid mirror of the channel reflecting the rosy fingers of the sunrise and the mystique of the moonlight.
From the marina to the central square
We return from the marina, we pass Golemi Street, continue in Mytika Street, turn on Filippa Street and find the Phonograph Museum. It is a small private museum which was created by the local collector Takis Katopodis (Delimaris) and its exhibits include phonographs, vinyls, rare objects of use as well as ornamental objects, coins, stamps, photographs.
We keep going straight and after 2 minutes we reach the central square of Lefkada. Around the square we see beautiful examples of lefkadian architecture, such as the three story building of the Stamatopoulou family (1853) in the northwestern corner of the square. Up until 1942, there was also in the square a traditional building that was used by the Omonia club. The Italians, who had changed the name of the square to Piazza della Vittoria, requisitioned the building in 1942 to house their officers’ club, and in 1943 it was burned down by the big fire that started from the club. Various public events take place in the square such as the orison during epitaphs and litanies, concerts by the philharmonic orchestra, party rallies, etc. Maria Callas sang here on August 1964, accompanied by a piano, in the International Folklore Festival.
In the southwestern corner of the square, stands the Church of Agios Spiridon. The church was established in 1684 by the ruling class of Lefkada. It is a basilica without a dome and a uniform space with evident influences from Venetian architecture. The church is not open to the public.
In the alleys of Lefkada
Wondering around in the alleys of the town of Lefkada that encircle its core is an experience that will remain unforgettable to anyone who visits Lefkada. Standing right in front of the church of Agios Spiridon we take the alley on its right.
In no time, we find –on Stefanitsi Street- the Folklore Museum of the Musicophilological Group Orpheus which is housed in the restored building owned by the association (it has been characterized as an architectural example of the British period).
In the museum you will see more than 1000 objects of use from Lefkada’s agricultural life, tools from professions that are now obsolete, traditional costumes, etc.
Very close to the Folklore Museum, on Kodari Street, stands the building that houses the Philharmonic Society of Lefkada. The Philharmonic Society was established in 1850 with the initiative of the Lady Dorina Kalkani-Peritsopoulou, Aristotelis Valaoritis and other eminent citizens of Lefkada. The Philharmonic has more than one thousand members and it’s the second Philharmonic to have been created in Greece. In the ground floor of the building, there is a small museum you can visit which has many photographs, old musical instruments, old philharmonic uniforms as well as orchestral scores.
We return now from Stafinisti Street, take the Philharmonic Street to find Cyprus Street where the Agelos Sikelianos Museum is located, which was established in 2017 in the house the world renowned poet and writer was born. It is not another souvenir museum but a remarkable museum of international standards which sheds light into the ideas, the personality and the life of the famous lyrical poet. The Kipotheatro (garden theatre) is located in its court where concerts, theatrical plays and dance performances take place during the summer.
We now head west and come across the church of Agia Paraskevi and then the church of Panagia ton Xenon. We take Dimarchou Gianoulatou Street and after a five minute walk we encounter Lefkada’s Cultural Center.
The cultural center of Lefkada
The cultural center houses in its premises the Archaeological Museum, the Lefcadio Hearn Historical Center, the traditional art collection of the international folklore festival, the Takis Efstathiou Hall as well as the Ex-libris exhibition.
The Archaeological Museum is small but important as it includes exhibits from the Middle Paleolithic Era up until the Roman times. The majority of the exhibits come from the excavation of the German archaeologists Wilhelm Dörpfeld, who supported the theory that Lefkada is the Homeric Ithaca. The exhibits were excavated in various locations of the island: in the ancient capital Nirikos and the nearby areas, in Choirospilia caves (in Evgiros, a village in the south part of Lefkada), Asvotripa (in the village of Frini which is very close to the town), in Chirotripa (area of Apoplena village), in the caves of the Nymphs in Agia Kiriaki, in the cave of Boliatso (in the central and mountainous region of the mainland), in the burial tombs (of Early and Middle Bronze Age) in Nydri, in the cemeteries of the ancient town of Lefkada, in the Skari mountain, in Meganisi, etc.
In the ground floor of the Cultural Center you will find the Lefcadio Hearn Historical Center, the first museum in Europe dedicated to Hearn (Yakumo Koizumi). With the help of photographs, documents, exhibits and interactive applications, the visitor can become acquainted with the most important moments of Japan’s national poet, as well as with the civilizations of Europe, America and Japans from the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century.
The traditional art Collection of the international folklore festival includes items that are directly connected to the long trajectory of the International Folklore Festival such as traditional costumes from various countries, embroidery, musical instruments, flags, medals, traditional music cassettes, etc. Its purpose is to showcase the multidimensional intercultural bond that has been developing for over 50 years between Lefkada and the hosted countries.
In the Takis Efstathiou Hall, the visitor has the opportunity to see rare texts, photographs and exhibits of Lefcadio Hearn which belong to the collector T. Efstathiou.
The initiative to launch the Ex-libris exhibition (high quality modern micro engravings – ex libris), which is located in the basement of the Cultural Center, belongs to the Lefkadian engraver Giannis Gourzis and the collector Vasilis Zevgolis. It is a unique and virtually unknown form of art for the Greek public which was presented by the Cultural Center of the Municipality of Lefkada in 2005 and 2008 through the organizing of the International Trienale of Micro Engraving and Ex Libris.
Angelou Sikelianou Street
Exiting the Cultural Center, we take Sikelianou Street and head east. Along the street we see restaurants and coffee shops and at the end (in our left) we can see the lagoon.
We can make a stop in the picturesque small bridge or go to the other side and rest for a bit in the benches. Close to the bridge, we can see the brosketo, the small park with the busts of the important literary figures that were born in the island such as Aristotelis Valaoritis, Agelos Sikelianos, Lefkadios Hearn, Dimitris Golemis and Kleareti Dipla-Malamou. In the last years, it has been named the Poets’ Garden.
By Effie Barla