Zakynthos is proud of its long and sometimes turbulent history. Over time, many influences have molded Zakynthos into the island it is today. The island has a number of good museums that tourists can visit, to learn all about many aspects of Zakynthos history, including Ancient History, Greek Life, Folklore, Maritime History, The Natural World, Notable island residents and War History. There is something for everyone!
Aristeon Olive Oil Museum is located in Lithakia. Part of a traditional family olive oil business, the museum gives visitors a step-by-step tour through the process of producing olive oil from original eighteenth century wood presses, to the modern day machines that are now used. Visitors learn all about the history of olives, olive oil pressing and the production of traditional Zakynthian olive oil. The museum also has examples of ancient olive trees and equipment that would have been used during past production processes.
Botega Folklore Museum is located in Orthonies, a small village in the north of the island. A folklore museum, Botega takes visitors back in time to traditions of eighteenth century Zakynthos mountain villages, and the people who used to live and work in them. There is a house, accompanied by an old stone mill, as well as examples of every day traditional Greek items, such as tools and personal belongings. The museum also has an old press that would have been used for olives. Alongside the museum is a café where visitors can buy, or taste, traditional Greek products.
The Byzantine Museum of Zakynthos is located in Solomos Square, Zakynthos Town. The largest museum on the island, it highlights the extensive Byzantine history of the island, as well as the post Byzantine era. It was rebuilt in 1950’s, as the original building was destroyed during the Great Ionian Earthquake of 1953. The museum is a great step into the past, one that helps the visitor view the island as it used to be, with wooden icons, frescos and other artefacts dating from the fiftieth to seventeenth centuries. Some of these items have come from sites on the island that no longer exist or are mere ruins. There is also a great collection by artists Damakinos, Doxaras, Kallergis, Koutouzis and Tzanes, making it a perfect opportunity for art lovers to enjoy something they love too.
The Cultural and Agricultural Museum (also known as the Vertzagio Folk Museum) is in Pigadakia close to Alykes. Visitors can learn all about the important cultures and traditions of rural Greece; most notably of Zakynthos itself. The museum contains a traditionally recreated house inside which is a bedroom, kitchen and dining room. The rooms are furnished with every day traditional Greek items that would have been used but past occupants. Some of the items date back to the sixteenth century and are very rare, including working tools and an old press that was used for grapes and olives. The museum was created in 1998 by Spiros Vertzagias, whose family has lived and worked on the land for over five hundred years.
The Museum of D. Solomos an A. Kalvos is in St. Marcos Square, Zakynthos Town. Created in 1959 the museum is dedicated to two eminent artists/poets Andreas Kalvos and Dionysios Solomos who were both born at the end of the 1700’s and died in the 1800’s. As well as being the final resting place for their tombs, the museum also highlights some of their work, as well as other notable art, pottery, sculptures, weapons and ancient musical instruments that belonged to wealthy families that used to live on the island. At the entrance to the museum is a sprig of holly. It is rumoured that it came from a holly bush that stood on Strani Hill, a place where Solomos wrote “Ode to liberty”, part of which was used in the Greek National Anthem.
The Exhibition Centre of National Marine Park is in Dafni, Vasilikos. In 1999 a National Marine Park was created in Zakynthos in order to try and manage and protect the Mediterranean Seals (Monachus Monachus), the islands famous endangered Loggerhead turtles, and the diverse flora and fauna. An Exhibition Centre was also set up in Dafni dedicated to the education and protection of the National Marine Park. It has information about the Loggerhead turtles, including their lives, habitat, nesting sites and various restrictions that operate on surrounding beaches of Laganas Bay and Vassilikos peninsula. The Centre also provides visitors with a wealth of information about the islands traditional fauna and flora via a virtual eco tour. On the eco tour visitors can ‘travel’ their way through the Marine Park to get a better idea of the delicate habitat and why its protection is so important.
Helmi’s Natural History Museum is in Ayia Marina village, in central Zakynthos. Opened in 2000, the museum is dedicated to highlighting and educating visitors about flora, fauna and the general plant/animal life of the island. Set in a traditional building, the museum has around 1,500 interesting examples of minerals, rocks and fossils taken from various places across the island. These examples have helped people to get a better idea of the islands geological past. In the museum, visitors can also learn about the delicate ecosystem of Zakynthos as well as where the diverse flora and fauna can be seen in its natural environment.
History War Museum is located in Laganas at the Galaxy Beach Resort Hotel. This museum specialises in the history of war with lots of interesting displays, memorabilia and exhibits that reflect well known wars that have taken place in recent history. Some of the displays have combat scenes from the Korean, Vietnam and Second World War, with authentic vehicles, artefacts and other historical items that were used during those battles. It’s a really interesting museum for visitors who like learning about these periods of history or who want to know more about what happened during these wars. It’s also a great learning resource for children. The museum is open daily and there are also guided tours.
The House of Foscolo is located in Zakynthos Town. This small museum, built in 2016, is dedicated to Zakynthos’ famous Italian poet Ugo Foscolo, who was born on the island in 1778. The Foscolo House is on the site of his original home which has now restored as a replica. There is a small plaque on the wall outside, as well as a monument of a partially seated/laying male figure with wings, on a pedestal, made of white marble; a tribute to the late Ugo Foscolo.
The Museum of Gregory Xenopoulos is located in Zakynthos Town. Born in the 1800’s, Gregory Xenopoulos was an important figure in Greek history as both a playwright and novelist. This small museum is dedicated not only to Xenopoulos, but to his family too. There are many personal items, as well as furniture, that show how the family would have lived, but the highlight is the important collection of writing items that belonged to Gregory Xenopoulos himself, such as photographs, manuscripts and early publications.
The Naval Museum (also known as the Milano Maritime Museum) is in Tsilivi. The Museum highlights the lengthy maritime history of Zakynthos, from ancient seafaring days right through to modern times. It was opened by the Navy and has an extensive number of displays that include the evolution of maritime history and details about maritime transport. There are also many artefacts including, books, photographs, historical documents, uniforms, models and other interesting Naval pieces. An important part of the museum is a documentary and information on HMS Perseus, a submarine that sank between Zakynthos and Kefalonia during WW2. The museum is also a confirmed Greek Ministry of Education source for educational visits.
Roma Museum (also known as the Mansion of the Roma family) is located in Zakynthos Town. A rarity on the island, the Roma Mansion is one of the few buildings that survived the Great Ionian Earthquake of 1953. Originally built around 1660 by the Vice-Consul of England, the Roma Museum gives visitors a good impression of how the islands aristocracy would have lived. Rooms are large and beautifully decorated. There are many paintings and portraits, as well as a library and weapons. It’s a very different view of Zakynthian past, but one that helps to explain another side of the island, a time overseen by other rulers, politics and wealth
The Town Hall Library (also known as the Municipal Library) is in Solomos Square, Zakynthos Town, and has been the keeper of books, and old papers for centuries. It is thought that the library dates back to 1628 and over time, items were donated by residents to make up what was an important and extensive collection. Sadly the original library, which held many books, archaeological collections and important papers relating to Zakynthos, was destroyed by the 1953 earthquake and subsequent fires. Many items were lost, but through perseverance and tens of thousands of donations, the library has since been rebuilt and now holds not only books but local paintings, papers and a gallery containing old furniture and other items.