The Castle of Ioannina - Experience the cultural heart of the capital of Epirus

Castle of Ioannina

If one could fit Ioannina into a postcard, it would be a landscape with damp, blackened castle walls and yellowed leaves on the wet ground.

The Castle of Ioannina - the city's cultural heart - is essentially all that remains of the old Ioannina and is still the living cell of the town today that never ceases to arouse the interest of locals and tourists.

With three main gates and some smaller entrances scattered around the perimeter of the walls, every visitor can visit the Castle and journey through time, experiencing the city's past, as reflected in the buildings and neighbourhoods of the Ioannina Castle State.

Starting from the gate of Ai-Georgi next to the small church, where St. George of Ioannina was martyred and turning left on the cobbled stone pavement, you walk through the remains of the old Jewish quarter of Ioannina.

After a while, on your right, you will see the large, heavy metal door of the Synagogue of Ioannina, the largest Synagogue in Greece. If the space is open, you can see the small courtyard and the interior of the historic Synagogue of Ioannina, which captures the history of the Jewish community of Ioannina.

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Continuing your tour of the Castle in the narrow streets behind the Synagogue, you reach the large lakeside entrance of the Castle State, which is strictly used only by the residents' vehicles. From there, you go uphill towards the Aslan Pasha Mosque.

The mosque currently houses the Municipal Museum of Ioannina on the first rocky acropolis of the Castle and is visible even from specific points inside the city.

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At the same time, the lake in the background creates the well-known nostalgic frame of the era that has made Ioannina famous everywhere.

Stepping inside the mosque, you step back in time and get a taste of the city's multicultural past through the museum's few but rare exhibits that range from liturgical objects of the three monotheistic religions to textiles and Ottoman documents.

The view of the lake basin around this point is simply breathtaking. And if you do get rain, don't panic at all. The rainy scenery with the mist over the lake is even more fascinating.

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Descending from the first acropolis of the Castle of Ioannina, you wander through the cobblestones between restored and unrestored houses - silent remnants of the city's past - until you reach the second acropolis of Its Kale, better known in Greek as the inner tower.

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Here, the first thing that catches your attention is the openness of the space with the Fethiye Mosque in the background, the walled tomb of Ali Pasha and the Byzantine Museum building on one side, while on your right, a few remnants of the past mighty Sarai of Ali Pasha, which today is only preserved in engravings by European travellers, create an image that summarises the history of the city.

The Byzantine Museum (right), the Fethiye Mosque and the Tomb of Ali Pasha on the left/Photo: Amalia Kovaiou
The Byzantine Museum (right), the Fethiye Mosque and the Tomb of Ali Pasha on the left/Photo: Amalia Kovaiou

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It goes without saying, of course, that the view from this point is more than magnificent because it combines the three frames of the city of Ioannina in one frame.

On the one hand, in the background, the modern Ioannina with the apartment buildings soaked in humidity and on the right, the rural landscape of the lake with Mitsikeli and Tzoumerka creating an aesthetic and somewhat melancholic panorama, entirely original by Greek standards.

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Museum of Silversmithing - Objects crafted with an emphasis on details/Photo: Amalia Kovaiou

Staying at the citadel of Its Kale and going down the slight slope that once led to the Ottoman dungeons, you are right in front of the Ioannina Silversmithing Museum.

The most recent museum in the city that records the history of the most famous profession of Ioannina is a modern Thematic Museum right inside the walls of the castle, which combines atmosphere with knowledge.

Through exhibits that capture the history and development of silversmithing in Ioannina from the Ottoman years to the present day, the museum aspires to save and highlight the city's valuable historical heritage, leaving a rich legacy to future generations.

From here, following the dark, dank entrance that was once full of dungeons and prisoners, you come out to the large lakefront of the city, where you can take a pleasant walk in one of the most loved and photographed spots of Ioannina.

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