The Achilleion Palace: explore the Princess Sissi’s Palace in Corfu

Esculturas de mármore nos jardins do Achilleion.
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How is the Achilleion, Sissi’s Palace in Corfu? Incredible is an understatement… but at this moment the Palace is closed for renovations and you can only visit the gardens.

During a visit to Corfu, I had the privilege of exploring the Achilleion as part of an MSC cruise tour, which also included a visit to Corfu’s historic center.

So, here’s everything you need to know if you’re considering a cruise stop in Corfu and one of the options is a tour to Sissi’s Palace.

Of course, this information is also relevant if you’re in Corfu and need suggestions on what to see and do.

This tour turned out to be excellent, so I’m sharing with you all the information you need to know about this destination.

This is because the magnificent Sissi’s Palace, or Achilleion, in Corfu, Greece, was the highlight of this cruise stop.

Escadaria no Palácio da Sissi, com pintura de Aquiles vitorioso.
Staircase in Sissi’s Palace, adorned with a painting of victorious Achilles.

In other words, upon closely observing the architecture of the Achilleion, one can discern the meticulous design aimed at evoking the grandeur of the mythical Phaeacian palaces, focusing on the legendary hero Achilles from Greek mythology.

Therefore, in this article, besides describing the unique features of Sissi’s Palace, I outline what you can expect to find on a tour or excursion of this kind.

So, get ready to immerse yourself in the magnificence of the Achilleion and discover how this gem in Corfu transcends its historical function, becoming a memorable experience for all who visit.

The Achilleion: Everything about Sissi’s Palace in Corfu

Fachada do Palácio da Sissi em Corfu, Grécia.
Facade of Sissi’s Palace in Corfu, Greece.
Magnífica escadaria central no Achilleion.
Magnificent central staircase at the Achilleion.
Estátua de bronze de Aquiles vitorioso, nos jardins do Palácio da Princesa Sissi.
Bronze statue of victorious Achilles in the gardens of Princess Sissi’s Palace.
Interior do Palácio da Sissi, em Corfu, Grécia.
Interior of Sissi’s Palace in Corfu, Greece.
Decoração no interior do Palácio da Sissi, em Corfu.
Decoração no interior do Palácio da Sissi, em Corfu.
Pormenor do teto do Achilleion.
Detail of the ceiling.

The Achilleion is a remarkable palace in Corfu, built specifically for Empress Elisabeth of Austria, better known as Sissi or Sisi.

Construction of this building began in 1890, at the suggestion of Austrian consul Alexander von Warsberg, who sought to provide a summer retreat for the empress, deeply affected by the tragic loss of her only son, Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria, in 1889.

The choice of location for this symbolic palace fell on Gastouri, a village about ten kilometers from Corfu.

I found the choice of location excellent, as it sits on a hill with a panoramic view of both Corfu and the Ionian Sea in the background!

Vista a partir do Palácio da Sissi em Corfu.
View from the Sissi Palace in Corfu.

The architectural design of the Achilleion was meticulously crafted to evoke the atmosphere of an ancient palace of mythical Phaeacia, focusing on the Greek hero Achilles, who lends his name to the palace.

In fact, Empress Elisabeth of Austria, known for her profound admiration for Greece, often chose Corfu as her recurring holiday destination, in addition to trips to Madeira Island, in Portugal.

To celebrate this affinity for Greek culture, Princess Sissi commissioned the construction of a palace that reflected this passion. And thus was born the Achilleion, the Palace dedicated to Achilles!

It also served as a hospital during World War I and as a headquarters during World War II, meaning it had different purposes over time.

Despite years of neglect, the Achilleion has been restored and has become one of the most visited places in Corfu.

What is Achilleion known for?

Pintura de Aquiles no interior Achilleion, o Palácio da Princesa Sissi.
Painting of Achilles inside Achilleion, Princess Sissi’s Palace.
Escultura de bronze de Aquiles vitorioso.
Bronze sculpture of victorious Achilles.
Retrato da Princesa Sissi.
Portrait of Princess Sissi.

The Sissi Palace in Corfu, or Achilleion, is known for its beautiful sculptures and paintings depicting the theme of Achilles.

Achilles was a hero in Greek mythology, known for his role in the Trojan War and as the central character in Homer’s Iliad.

Now, the Achilleion features a rare sculpture of Achilles: Achilles Dying, or Achilles in his death throes.

Typically, the warrior Achilles is depicted in all his glory, so an image of the hero moments before his death is quite uncommon.

Estátua de Aquiles moribundo, no Achilleion (Palácio da Princesa Sissi em Corfu).
Statue of Dying Achilles at the Achilleion.
Aquiles moribundo no Estátua de Aquiles moribundo, nos jardins do Achilleion.
Dying Achilles statue in the gardens of the Achilleion.

Another highlight of the visit to the Sissi Palace in Corfu is observing the sculptures, of the hero Achilles as mentioned before, but also of other Greek deities.

In other words, throughout the property, there are gardens and corners adorned with beautiful marble sculptures.

Esculturas de mármore nos jardins do Achilleion.
Marble sculptures in the gardens of the Achilleion.
Pátio interior no Palácio da Sissi, em Corfu.
Interior courtyard at the Sissi Palace in Corfu.

I also found it interesting to see bathtubs incorporated into the garden’s decoration, which were used for the princess to bathe. Indeed, the empress was known for taking many baths.

Remember that at that time, bathing was not a common practice.

Banheira da Princesa Sissi no Achilleion.
Princess Sissi’s bathtub at the Achilleion.

The open spaces and terraces overlooking the sea are truly delightful, and I must emphasize, richly adorned.

Inside the Palace of Sissi, the grand staircase marks the entrance for visitors.

The rooms are open to the public, who can appreciate the decoration, that is, the exhibited art pieces.

I also enjoyed seeing documents and letters on the walls that tell not only the history of this incredible palace, but also the history of its inhabitants.

Is it possible to visit the Achilleion independently?

Entrada para o Achilleion, em Corfu.
Entrance to the Achilleion in Corfu.
Estátua de Aquiles a morrer, no Palácio da Princesa Sissi, Corfu.
Statue of Achilles dying, at the Palace of Princess Sissi, Corfu.

As I mentioned earlier, I visited the Palace of Sissi in Corfu on an MSC cruise tour; however, I believe it’s perfectly possible to do this trip independently.

This is because there are several taxis available at the cruise port that passengers can use for this tour.

But to ensure everything goes smoothly, remember to confirm the ship’s departure time so you don’t risk missing it.

Inform the taxi driver that you need to be at the port at the agreed time. Also, negotiate the price before the trip.

By the way, generally, it’s worthwhile to do the tour on your own if you’re a group or family of 3 or 4 people.

Other stops on the Sissi Palace tour

O que fazer em Corfu, Grécia.
Best Things to Do and See in Corfu, Greece.
Visitar Corfu, na Grécia.
Visit Corfu, in Greece.
Centro histórico de Corfu, Grécia.
Historic center of Corfu, Greece.
Ruas de Corfu.
Streets in Old Corfu.

The highlight of this MSC cruise tour was undoubtedly the visit to the Achilleion, Sissi’s Palace. However, two more stops were included in this excursion.

Therefore, we also had time for a walking tour of the Old Corfu, with some free time to explore at our own pace.

Furthermore, before returning to the ship, we made a stop at a viewpoint to see another tourist attraction in Corfu: Pontikonisi, also known as Mouse Island.

Ilha Pontikonisi, em Corfu.
Pontikonisi island, in Corfu.

The island’s name comes from its shape, resembling a small rodent, so don’t worry if you thought there were many rats on the island or something similar!

Nevertheless, from the viewpoint overlooking Pontikonisi, we witnessed an impressive airplane landing, as the runway of Corfu Airport is very close to the water, giving the sensation that the plane will crash.

Furthermore, it’s the perfect spot to see the Holy Monastery of Panagia Vlacherna.

Aeroporto Internacional de Corfu-Ioannis Kapodistrias (CFU).
Corfu International Airport – Ioannis Kapodistrias (CFU).
Holy Monastery of Panagia Vlacherna, Corfu.
Holy Monastery of Panagia Vlacherna, Corfu.

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