Castle of Ioannina

The oldest Byzantine castle in the country also serves as the emblem of the city and acts as a reminder of both the glory and hardship that Ioannina has enjoyed and endured over centuries. A truly impressive structure, it encompasses 200 acres with the perimeter of its walls spanning 2000 square meters. It was first built under the supervision of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I in 528 A.D. in an attempt to raise the empire’s defence system in the event of an attack as well as to house the empire’s administration centre.

 

However, it eventually fell into the hands of successive conquerors and ironically reached its height during the centuries of rule under the empire’s mortal enemy, the Ottoman Turks. Mosques and harems were added within the castle walls and eventually the Christian inhabitants were thrown out following a failed peasant rebellion. 

 

Today the castle walls still house the remains of numerous historical buildings as well as winding, romantic streets lined with cafes, restaurants, boutique hotels and shops. Some of the notable surviving structures include the Acropolis of Its Kale, Soufari Serai where ruler Ali Pasha housed his cavalry riders, the tomb of Ali Pasha, the cook shops of the castle as well as the beautifully restored mosque of Fetiye Cami. The Byzantine and Ethnographic museums can also be found within the castle walls and are certainly worth visiting.  


Within the Fortress of Its Kale stands this impressive mosque. Its current structure was commissioned by Ali Pasha in 1795 to replace the older version built 1430 on top of the ruins of an old Byzantine Church.
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Ali Pasha’s body is buried in front of the Fetiye Mosque and his grave is located within an intricate iron cage.
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This mosque, also known as the Mosque of Ali Pasha, was built in 1618, almost 200 years before its namesake came to power in the region.
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The Kahal Kadosh Yashan synagogue known as the “old synagogue” can be found within the castle’s walls along Justinian Street. Its foundation is believed to date back to the Byzantine period.
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This impressive building is located in the eastern section of the castle. It was built in 1818 and was used as Ali Pasha’s cavalry school.
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Below the Tower of Voihmoundou lies the infamous vault of Ali Pasha. The ruler’s fortune was said to be incomparable to any of its time and has yet to be found.
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The Acropolis of Its Kale makes up a large section of the castle and within it lay the Fetiye Mosque, the graves of Ali Pasha and his family as well as several former residences within the castle. The remains of the buildings which housed the castle guards and army advisors still exist here.
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The former residences of Pasha Kalou can be found along the northern side of the castle. This is where the Aslan dynasty lived out over a century of drama before ceding power to Ali Pasha’s family. The views over the lake and island are most impressive here.
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Next to the Mosque of Aslan Pasha are the remains of the castle’s kitchens, where Ali Pasha’s decadent meals were once prepared. They were built towards the end of the 18th century and today a small cafe operates from this space.
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The remains of the only church that operated within the castle walls during Ottoman rule lie behind the vault of Ali Pasha.
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At the central gate of the castle you’ll find the impressive clock tower built by local architect Pericles Melirritos during the rule of Osman Pasha from 1897 - 1905. It was constructed to celebrate the anniversary of rule under the Sultan Abdoul Hamit Han and contains inscriptions from the Koran.
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Ironically, next to the church of Agios Anargiros are the remains of the infamous harem of Ali Pasha. It has been said that here, Ali the womaniser had 300 women coming from all parts of the Ottoman Empire.
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Other Activities for Ioannina
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