Corfu Town is one of the prettiest and most romantic places in all of Greece. Named the “Greek Venice,” it’s located on the Ionian’s second biggest island and is filled with Byzantine, Venetian, French and British influence- this is felt throughout the Old Town which has, in its entirety, been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
From Venetian fortresses and British mansions to grand royal palaces and fine French arcades- a walk around the Old Town of Corfu is like taking a mini- stroll through Europe!
Things to See & Do In Corfu Town
The Old Fortress
The Fortezza Vecchia is located on a hill on the eastern end of the city. Stroll the canal, through the gates, and on towards the Church of St George, and from the top, you will enjoy the stunning views. Here you will also find a historic library, a Byzantine collection, and a café within the grounds, as well as a small marina.
Short walk west and you will arrive at the New Fortress (the Venetian’s 16th-century Fortezza Nuova), built on the hill of St Mark above the old port.
The Palace of St Michael and St George
Built by the British in 1815, this was once a British governor’s mansion and a summer house for the Greek Royal Family. Today, it houses the Museum of Asian Art, featuring Japanese, Chinese and Indian paintings, sculptures, and many other oriental treasures.
Corfu’s Town Hall (formerly a club for noblemen) is located at the town square, near the 16th-century Catholic Cathedral of San Giacomo. The town square and surrounding streets are filled with cafes, restaurants, bars, and boutiques.
There are close to 40 Greek Orthodox churches in Corfu Town with the Church of St Spyridon being the most famous; this 15th-century church with an impressive bell tower houses relics of the island’s Patron Saint and Protector, Agios Spyridon. Nearby is also the Byzantine Church of St Jason and St Sosipater; built in the 11th Century inside you will see icons and frescoes of Greek Orthodox Saints.
The Spianada Esplanade
The large grass-filled park between the Old Fortress and the Liston fountain has a lovely café and open areas, where events, concerts, and cricket matches are played.
Next to the Spinada is The Liston, the “French” part of town, a pretty promenade whose arcade is lined with chic cafés, restaurants, and boutiques. Although it dates back to Venetian times, it was the French, who gave it a Parisian feel, with its 19th-century colonnade modelled on Paris’ Rue de Rivoli.
The Archaeological Museum and the Byzantine Museum are definitely worth a visit. Heading north, you’ll find a museum dedicated to Greece’s national poet, Dionysios Solomos. Heading up to Nikiforou Theotoki Street, you will find the Casa Parlante, a 19th-century mansion that’s now a museum, bringing to life the Count and Countess, who called this manse home in the 1800s, by using robotic technology and animated figures.
Built in 1831 and set in a beautiful park, is the Neoclassical palace of Mon Repos, the birthplace of the late HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who was born in 1921. It has beautiful large gardens and artifacts and the walk leads you to a private beach.
As you wander around the Old Town, down the cantounia (pedestrianized little streets) you will come across an array of stores selling local products and delicacies, and open-air markets, where you can pick up some local, oil, honey, spoon sweets and liqueurs.
This is the oldest and most popular quarter where locals can be found socialising any time of the day. Featuring endless narrow cantounia, carved wells, pretty town squares, and grande buildings with balconies that are often decorated with bougades (pots) and ropes. From here make sure you visit the Venetian Well opposite the Church of Panagia Kremasti and the Metropolitan Church.
Corfu’s Jewish community, which dates from the 12th century, was persecuted during the Nazi occupation but played an important part in the island’s cultural and daily life. Originally, there were three synagogues in the Jewish Quarter. The only one surviving is the ‘Scuola Greca’ on Velissariou Street, built in the Venitian style in the 18th century, on the site of an older Jewish temple. The area is filled with rich history and is now alsohome to some great eateries that serve traditional local cuisine.
Eat and Drink
For coffee go to Josephine which is a cafe bar in Liston and was named after Napolean’s wife, Josephine. For drinks, head to Azur Bar in the city overlooking the sea and old fortress. Make sure you have a drink at the rooftop bar of the Cavalieri Hotel. For dinner, head to the Old Venetian Well in the old town and also dine at Rex Restaurant in the city behind Liston for traditional Corfu food.
How to Get to Corfu Old Town?
From the port
-To the New Fortress: 1.9km (bus No16). -To the Palace of St Michael and St George: 2.8km (bus No2).
From the airport
-To the Old Fortress: 2.5km. -To Spianada Square and Liston: 2.2km (bus No15 to Saroko Square and from there by foot).
*Main image courtesy of Cavalieri Hotel