The Achillion Palace is situated around 10 km south of Corfu town in the village of Gastouri, above the resort of Benitses.
The property was originally owned by Corfiot philosopher and diplomat Petros Vrailas Armenis and it was known as “Villa Vraila”. However during a visit in 1888 the Empress of Austria, Elisabeth of Bavaria, also known as Sissi, decided that it was the ideal location for her to build her palace in Corfu. The palace was designed by Italian architect Raffaele Caritto and built in 1889 and completed in 1892. It is a neo-classical style villa in the architectural style of Pompeii, although it includes elements of the Ionic, Roman and Aeolic traditions and has parallels to their imperial residence in Crimea.. The name “Achillion” was given by the Empress herself to honour Homer’s hero Achilles and in the garden you can find the famous ‘Dying Achilles’ statue. It was designed by Ernst Herter, a famous German sculptor and was created in Berlin in 1884.
Her obsession with ancient Greek tragedies and culture can also be seen elsewhere in the house from the statues to the paintings and fresco’s, the most famous one being the ‘Triumph of Achilles’ by Franz von Matsch, where Achilles is seen dragging Hector’s lifeless body in front of the Gates of Troy situated on the upper level of the main hall.
Elisabeth used to visit the place as a summer home visiting often until her assassination in 1898 by Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni.
After her assassination in 1898 the palace remained empty for some years and was eventually sold to the Emperor of Germany and King of Prussia, Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1907. Kaiser made many changes to the palace and gardens including the building of a stone jetty for his summer pleasure trips which now is called ‘Kaisers Bridge’ which was destroyed by the Germans as they could not get their tanks under it.
During the WW 1 it was used as a military hospital by the French and Serbian troops and in WWII it was used as a headquarters for the occupation forces. In 1962 the upper floors were converted to a casino and the ground floor became a museum.
In 1994 the palace was used for the European summit meeting and in 2003 it hosted the meeting of the European ministers for Agriculture and parts of the James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only was shot here. It is now open to the public as a museum, only certain sections of the house and garden are open to for public viewing.