Corfu Town is the capital city of Corfu island, one of the largest Ionian islands. If you’re interested in exploring cultural heritage in your trip to Greece, Corfu should be near the top of your list.
Bathed in vibrant colours, Corfu old town features ancient buildings on narrow streets that will send you whirling back in time. The charming architectural style rings true to Greece’s ancient roots.
Corfu Town is home to around 32,000 people, and, today, it possesses more of a cosmopolitan feel compared to other Mediterranean towns. The old houses and narrow lanes contrast with the more modern shops and Corfu Town nightlife.
The Old Town uniquely blends Greek culture with other notable cultures that have inhabited Corfu in the past. British, Norman, French, Italian and Roman influences linger here, hiding in plain sight. From historic landmarks, museums, and churches to interesting fusion cuisine, the Old Town has something that will pique the interest of any history buff. Offset by the sparkling blue sea and marvellous two fortresses, the Old Town is a scenic delight, rich in history.
Famous for its religious roots, Corfu Town is the final resting place of St. Spyridon, the patron saint of Corfu. The saint’s body remains encased in a glass tomb in the St. Spyridon Church where locals frequently visit to pray. Corfiots strongly revere this saint, and as such, several religious parades and festivals are held annually in his honour. Travellers and guests are welcomed (and encouraged!) to partake in these local celebrations to pay homage to St. Spyridon.
In addition to this church, Corfu Town has a beautiful orthodox cathedral named Agia Theodora Mitropolis Orthodox Cathedral. It was built 19 years earlier than St. Spyridon church, in 1577. There is also a Byzantine Church of St Jason and St Sosipater. This is filled with awe-inspiring icons and ancient frescoes. This church was built in the 11th century.
Lined with coffee bars, boutique shops, and restaurants, Corfu’s Old Town is a labyrinth of charming cobblestone streets. Completed in the 16th century, the Old Town is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its two Venetian fortresses and many points of cultural heritage. When night falls over the Old Town, lights from these fortresses illuminate the streets, bathing the town centre in a dreamy glow.
The Old Town is a lively place to be. With the booming nightlife, expensive hotels, and issues with parking, travellers often seek accommodation in smaller, quieter villages outside of the town centre. Because of this, Benitses has become an increasingly popular destination for tourists; it acts as the perfect base to explore Corfu island, without the troubles that come with staying in the bustling city centre.
The island of Corfu spans approximately 236 square miles and is located in the Ionian Sea, amongst the other Ionian islands, very close to the Adriatic Sea. It is off the western coasts of both Albania and Greece. Geographically, Corfu’s strategic position between these two countries has resulted in a rich history that combines influences from several cultures. The Old Fortress and New Fortress of Corfu Town bear testament to the island’s centuries of struggle with foreign occupants.
Both the old fort and the new fort of Corfu Town were designed by renowned Venetian engineers and, for four centuries, protected the maritime trading interests of the Republic of Venice from the Ottoman Empire. Over time, the two fortresses began to deteriorate. They were repaired and rebuilt several times; the most recent series of improvements occurred under British rule in the 19th century. As a result, Corfu’s capital has been officially declared a “castle city” (Kastropolis) by the Greek government.
From medieval times through to the 17th century, Corfu Town was recognised as one of the most fortified places in all of Europe. The security offered by the island was exploited by the Venetians in defence when the Ottomans invaded from the east. Corfu also repudiated several Turkish sieges before falling under British rule after the Napoleonic Wars. In 1864, Corfu was finally reunited with mainland Greece under the Treaty of London.
You can find evidence of the many different rulers of Kerkyra (Corfu) scattered throughout Corfu Town. For instance, the Museum of Asiatic Arts was originally a royal palace, built by the English. It was used as the official residence of the commissioner. After British rule, the Greek royal family occupied the royal palace for themselves. Today, the royal palace is a museum which hosts a variety of Asian art.
Talking of royal families, the English queen’s late husband, Prince Philip, was born in Corfu. He was baptised in St. George’s church in the old fortress in Corfu Town.
During the second world war, around one quarter of Corfu Town was reduced to rubble. Luckily, the majority of the medieval old city survived. Today, Corfu Town’s urban and port ensemble is a stunning architectural example of outstanding universal value, gaining international attention as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, “notable for its high level of integrity and authenticity.”
Corfu has always acted as a bridge between the east and the west, and Corfu Town is the melting pot of it all. Evidence of this is everywhere if you know where to look for it! Our guests are delighted to discover such a beautiful blend of cultures in addition to the natural beauty of the island itself. We hope we’ll have the opportunity to welcome you to Greece, Corfu, so you can experience this unique island for yourself!
As mentioned above, the heart of Corfu Town is an amalgamation of outside influences in combination with long-adored and revered Greek culture. A short walk from any of the beautiful French squares bursting with colourful flowers, visitors will discover beautiful Venetian castles and ancient Byzantine churches, brimming with history. The Old Town of Corfu also features a wide variety of charming shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, museums, and markets for visitors to explore.
The following is a guide to some of the most well-known and historically significant attractions of the town. If you have any questions about the attractions listed below, please contact our lovely reception staff!
The Old Fortress is perhaps the most well-known castle in Corfu, with a history that is intimately linked with the island’s history. Situated on a rocky peninsula, overlooking the Ionian Sea, the Old Fortress has been used as a stronghold by many peoples. It dates back to the Venetian Era, although it stands upon the grounds of the original Corfu city from Byzantine times.
Today, the Old Fortress is a source of pride for the locals and it’s visited by thousands of travellers every year. During the summer months, it is a host to both local and international artists who organise concerts there.
The New Fortress is located near the old harbour and, like the Old Fortress, it is of Venetian origin. Its construction began in 1577 under Venetian rule, and was completed in 1588. While this castle is significantly smaller than the castle at the Old Fortress, it hindered the Turks from conquering Corfu in 1716, which significantly altered the island’s history.
The Royal Palace was built in 1824 under British control. Today, it hosts the Museum of Asian Art, the Municipal Art gallery, and the 5th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities. Some of the most elegant monuments on the island are located here, as is the Municipal art café in the palace’s garden. The peaceful garden setting is reminiscent of some of Corfu’s other superb palaces, namely the Achilleion Palace.
The Town Hall building is located in the Michael Theotoki Square. It’s a 17th century building that features elements of traditional Venetian architecture. The building’s construction began in 1663 and was completed in 1693 by an unknown architect.
Located on the south side of the island, the Ionian Academy was established in 1808 and lends a youthful exuberance to the otherwise traditional Old Town of Corfu.
Esplanade Square, the central square of Corfu Town, is a beautiful place to enjoy an afternoon with a coffee. It was turned into a public square by the French, and today is frequently used for cricket matches. It claims to be the second largest square in all of Europe.
The Liston, built by French architects during the French occupation of Corfu, resembles the Rue de Rivoli. When it was first constructed, only the noblemen of the Libro D’ Oro were permitted to enter and walk along its streets. An exclusive list guaranteed the space would be used exclusively by the elite.
Today, the area is open to all and is marked by beautiful vaulted galleries, archaic archways, and hanging lanterns. Nearby coffee shops and restaurants are especially beautiful when illuminated by the setting sun.
The Square of the Saints contains three of the most important churches of Corfu. The Church of St. Spyridon, The Church of the Blessed Virgin of Strangers, and St. John Church line this holy space.
The Ionian Parliament, an important Corfiot monument built in 1855, is located on Moustoxidi Street. The inscription on the outside of the building commemorates the unification of the old state with the more recently established democratic state.
Housed in a 15th century church, the Byzantine Museum exhibits some marvellous examples of icon art from the 13th to the 17th centuries.
The Kanoni Peninsula is home to many prolific archaeological sites, and there is even a terrace nearby that offers a panoramic view of the bay and the nearby islet of the Mouse Island (Pontikonisi). The entire Kanoni area is a beautiful place to stroll around. It’s only 30 minute’s walk from Corfu Town centre and it has superb views of incoming and outgoing planes.
(tel.: +30 26610 30680) – 1 Vraila Armeni Street
The plot of land that shoulders the Archaeological Museum was donated by the city of Corfu with the intent of housing archaeological finds excavated from the Temple of Artemis. The museum was built between 1962–1965, but in 1994, it grew again with the addition of two more exhibition halls. Today, these exhibition halls contain the more recent finds from the ancient citadel of Corfu.
(tel.: +30 26610 30443)
Founded in 1928, the Museum of Asiatic Art maintains a unique collection of over 15,000 works of Asian art gathered from private collections. Today, the Palace of Saint Michael and Saint George house the Museum of Asian Art – the only one of its kind in Greece – which is solely dedicated to the art and antiquities of the Far East and India.
(tel.: + 30 26610 30674)
Established in the 15th century, this museum is actually a church dedicated to the Holy Virgin “Our Lady of Antivouniotissa.” This church is the oldest, best-preserved example of a church completed in a basilica style. The exhibitions house a permanent collection of artistically and religiously significant icons and heirlooms that span the 15th to 20th centuries.
(tel.: +30 2661 032783)
The Palace of Mon Repos is surrounded by grand gardens, and was constructed under British rule. Later, it would be used by Greece’s King George as a summer villa! It contains a large variety of exhibits including a number of archaeological finds, Byzantine remains, and as well as British paintings, furniture, and traditional dress. Nearby, excavated remains of Palaeopolis, the ancient city of Corfu await your exploration!
(tel.: +30 26610 41552)
Opened in 1981 by the Ionian Bank, and located in St. Spyridon Square in Corfu Town, the Numismatic Museum is the only one of its kind in Greece. It’s famous for the value of its comprehensive collection of banknotes that date from the nation’s founding to the present day. It also includes information about printing dyes, proofs, bank documents and stamps. All together, it is a rare collection of notes from all over the world.
(tel.: +30 26610 39779 / 33059)
The patron saint of Corfu, Saint Spyridon is believed to have saved the island four times from terrible danger, which garners a deep respect from locals. The saint’s remains are kept in the church and regularly carried in a procession during religious holidays. The church is completed in a Venetian architectural style, and its bell tower is the highest point of the old town.
A small beach with three bars that’s ideal for a little relaxation during your visit to Corfu Town.
More of a pebbly gulf than a beach, Kontra Fosa beach lies on the outskirts of the Old Fortress. It has no beach bars, nor any cafes, so make sure you bring your own refreshments. The good news is that you’ll likely have it all to yourself.
A hidden gem, Mon Repos beach is a secluded little beach around 20-30 minutes walk from the old town of Corfu.
Here’s a list of excellent Corfu Town restaurants to try delicious Corfiot food:
The vast majority of Corfu Town hotels feature free wireless internet access. As Corfu Town is so compact, they are all within walking distance of the centre, or perhaps a short taxi ride.
Options to stay in Corfu Town include: Hotel Cavalieri (for its awarded rooftop restaurant), Corfu Palace Hotel (for the phenomenal architecture), and Mayor Mon Repos Palace Art Hotel (for its outdoor pool and stunning view over the Greek mainland).
However, an even better option would be to travel a mere 12km south of Corfu Town and stay in Bella Vista Beach Hotel and Studios in Benitses. A quieter village, away from the craziness that comes with being in the city centre, Benitses has its own beach, restaurants and sites in addition to those of Corfu Town. It’s a fantastic place to escape to for some peace and quiet after a long day exploring.
All rooms at Bella Vista feature free WiFi and a flat screen TV with satellite channels. There is breakfast included, and it’s a homemade buffet of delicious Greek treats. A popular hotel among couples, Bella Vista has everything you need for a Corfu Town getaway, without the downsides of actually staying in the busy centre. Buses run frequently and are cheap.
A stay in Benitses will enable you to see more of our beautiful island and get to know Greece a little better.
We hope you will be visiting Corfu Town sometime soon, and we look forward to welcoming you to Bella Vista!