Downtown Lefkada A Little Venice
Lefkada, the capital of the island welcomes the visitor at the end of the causeway that leads to the floating bridge and to the Greek mainland. Actually downtown Lefkada is the main street, Ioannou Mela (its name is Doerpfeld near the seafront) and in fact it is an extension of the causeway. Also it links the north part of the town with the south part where the Agios Minas church is.
While the unsuspected visitor walks in the main street soon he will find on his way many old churches of the 18th century. Actually quite a few of them are also in the nearby alleys. Venetians have built the majority of them during their rule on the island. It is recommended to visit those in the main street as their paintings and murals are from famous painters of that era. Below is a picture of the cathedral church of the town.
Main street and alleys architecture
The main street plays the role of a “tree trunk” in terms of city architecture. Similarly the alleys of the town play the “branches” role and link the west waterfront with the east one. There the visitor discovers the big Marina of the island. With a 650 yachts capacity and quite a few café bars and restaurants, it’s a town inside the town.
Surprisingly the visitor very soon will also discover that he can easily cross the town in almost fifteen minutes. Of course, there was a reason for this. The town was built in accordance with the Venetian architecture and was rebuilt again after the 1825 devastating earthquake. Then they built the town from the beginning and according to British anti-seismic specifications. Also that time there weren’t any decent sewage piping systems. A good ventilation of the town from all the horizon’s directions was an over and above criteria where to build each house.
Back to now, the shopping in the main street is a unique experience as the visitor can find everything from a fruit or a fish market to souvenirs and local products even a happy feet fish spa !!
The main street is also the venue of local Lefkadians in the evening. At the weekends during 70’s and 80’s it was the future brides’ street!! Single Lefkadian women used to dress themselves very officially with some very impressive clothes so to attract the eyes of the chosen one. They used to walk along with their parents up and down the main street hoping to seduce the future lucky groom.
All the houses have a unique architecture. The ground floors are made from stones and the upper floors have a light wooden construction for anti-seismic reasons. The upper floors’ external side is covered by metal sheets from tin to protect them from humidity. Usually they paint each house in a different colour. For this reason and because of so many flowers falling down from picturesque balconies, downtown Lefkada has a unique colourful appearance !!
In the main street and close to the seafront the visitor finds the heart of the town. It’s the main square with its Agios Spyridon church. Lefkadians use to meet here, to hear gossips about the talk of the town usually with their families and only in sunny days. Also there are many restaurants and cosy cafeterias here. The place is ideal either for a coffee or for a sweet chocolate crepe. It is strongly recommended for families with kids.
Fancy bars are close to the square and if you are looking for night life, here they offer you the first drinks of a big promising night. Later on you can bear to the west seafront in Sikelianou street to cosy bars and clubs to spend the whole night there. Otherwise if you prefer tasting the Greek Lefkadian kitchen there are quite a few ouzeri with Greek ouzo and “meze” in the south of main street. Also traditional Greek taverns in the nearby alleys await you there to discover the local kitchen.
Around downtown Lefkada there are also other worthwhile places to explore. From the south entrance of the town and in 3 km approx. you can visit the picturesque Faneromeny monastery. It is very old, dating from the 17th century. Its most notable feature is the Holy picture of Panagia (Virgin Mary) Faneromeni, the protector of the island. Also the stained glass windows and the peacefull courtyard worth the visit there. The view from up there is breathless and there is also a little zoo, ideal for kids.
Just prior the floating bridge and on the side of Greek mainland there are the ruins of Santa Maura castle. The Orsini family constructed this castle in the beginning of the 14th century. Today the castle is a venue for summer festivals and live concerts.
Finally, a sandy stripe of land called Yira,
surrounds the picturesque lagoon in front of the town. There, in spring time, some rare species of birds find food and shelter. It is also ideal for an evening walk. The visitor can enjoy a stroll from Santa Maura castle,
walk along Yira and finish this lovely experience at a seaside café on Agios Ioannis beach. Just on time to adore the magnificent sunset from the beach.