Corfu Town, the hub of the island. A living, breathing museum wherever you turn in this bustling metropolis. With its architectural character heavily influenced by the Venetians, dating back to the late 1300’s during their 400 year rule. There is also influences from England as well as France throughout the town. Two castles enclose the capital, which is the only city in Greece to be surrounded in such a way. As a result it has been officially declared a ‘Kastropolis’ which translates to ‘Castle City’ by the Greek Government.
There is SO much to do and see in Corfu Town, an abundance of history and culture at your fingertips, it’s hard to know where to start. So we are going to break it down for you into what we think are some of the best places to visit when in the island’s capital.
As mentioned above there are 2 fortresses that sit on either side of the city. Palaio Frourio meaning Old Fortress built in the 14th century and Neo Frourio meaning New Fortress built between 1576 and 1645.
The entrance into the Old Fortess is just across from the famous Liston area, to get into the fort you must cross a short footbridge connecting the city to the fort itself. The fortress began construction under Byzantine rule and was completed under Venetian rule. Once inside the grounds there are a number of different buildings including a prison built in 1786 and later extended by the English to hold more inmates. There is also a military church as well as an old military hospital which has since been converted into a music school. You can take a closer look at real life previously used canons, see when they were last fired as well as some impressive stats on weight and distance. You can also visit the top of the Fortress and take in the impressive views of Corfu Town and the Ionian ocean that surrounds it.
The New Fortress is located near to the old port of Corfu Town. It was partially destroyed during the Second World War but still bears its paved access road and has many underground tunnels still running through to the Old Fortress and old Corfu Town. Views alone are a reason to visit this fort as you can look out from the top and see across to Vidos Island…(which I will cover further down).
You will probably have heard of the famous Liston, even if you haven’t had chance to visit it yet yourself. Built in 1807 by the French imperial commissioner Mathieu de Lesseps. It is now a much favoured spot for locals and tourists alike.
The Esplanade or Spianada is what the area as a whole is known as. The Liston is a long building running alongside the Esplanade, with its beautiful vaulted galleries, archways and hanging lanterns. It was designed to be a copy in miniature of the rue de Rivoli in Paris. You can sit here and while away the hours people watching, enjoying an iced coffee as the locals do. All of the cafes now offer food too. The cafes have spread across to the other side of the walkway running in the middle and can become very busy especially on weekends.
Mons Repos is situated just outside Corfu town a short drive from Garitsa bay on the Analipsis hill, near Kanoni area, in the middle of a beautiful setting full of greenery. It was built in 1826 by the British Commissioner Frederic Adams as a gift to his Corfiot wife, Nina Palatianou.
The palace was granted to King George I of the Hellenes as a summer residence, after the union with Greece in 1864. He named the villa Mon Repos meaning ‘my rest’ The royal family used it as a summer residence up to the end of monarchy in 1967. The palace became derelict, but was restored in the 1990s. Several royal births have taken place at the palace, including those of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh on 10 June 1921, and Princess Alexia of Greece and Denmark on 10 July 1965.
WALKING IN MON REPOS GROUNDS
Your journey from the entrance to the Palaiopolis Museum is full of treasures. Find the outdoor amphitheater named after Rena Vlahopoulou, “The Countess of Corfu”, and discover several archaeological sites both in the estate and in the surrounding area; there is currently an archaeological dig being conducted on a Doric temple found within the estate.
GETTING TO MON REPOS FROM THE OLD HARBOUR
The easiest and quickest way to Mon Repos is by walking up to Liston and catching the Blue City Bus number 2A to Kanoni, which should take about 10 minutes. Stop at Mon Repos and whenever you’re ready to come back, the buses run every 20 minutes to bring you back into Liston.
If you would prefer to walk, the distance from the Old Harbour to Kanoni is 3.2km approximately. Make the most of it by walking through Liston and take the coastal walk through Garitsa. It should take you about 1 hour to reach Mon Repos.
The Island of Vidos is just off the port of Corfu. It is less than a kilometer in diameter and a total of 143 acres. The Venetians who occupied Corfu from the 15th to the 18th Century constructed a large tunnel (or so we are told!) which connected the Old Fortress with “THE ISLAND OF VIDO” under the sea-bed. They sent all the criminals from the Old Fortress to the Vido prison which they had built.
In December 1916, 130,000 Serbian soldiers arrived on Corfu after their defeat by the Austrians and found refuge on “The Island of Vido” amongst the ruined British fortifications. Because of various diseases, lack of food and poor hygiene conditions 30,000 perished converting the island to an enormous cemetery.
Vido is a very good Island for the nature lovers. There are no vehicles allowed. there are plenty of rabbits, birds, lizards and snakes with walking trails around it and through the forest of cypresses. There are 3 sandy-pebble beaches, ruins of a small fort and the rest is covered by lush vegetation. There is one restaurant in front of the small dock when you arrive and a kiosk on the other side but both operate only during the summer.
The boat to the Island of Vidos leaves from the old port and it departs every hour and no prior booking is required.
Corfu Old Town
Corfu old town is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With a strong resembelence to Venice (without the water!), the houses are packed in forming lots of little back streets. This is the perfect place to find many traditional tavernas for an authentic Greek meal. The majority of the houses in the old part have been built using local sgtones, with wooden attics and handmade tiles. Fortunately the number of buildings damaged by the Second World War wasn’t too severe and the charm of the old town has been preserved.
During its history, Corfu island attracted attention of many conquerors for its strategic position into the Mediterranean sea. You can see this from the many different influences in the architecture around the town. The cobbled streets have a huge variety of tavernas, souvenir/gift shops as well as places to stop off for a drink on your travels.
The Church of Saint Spyridon
Located just behind the liston you will find the church of Saint Spyridon, named after Corfu’s patron saint. Built in 1589, it’s red-domed bell tower dominates the skyline of Corfu town. Inside the low-lit chapel you will find a silver casket adorned with precious stones, enclosing the remains of St Spyridon.
Spyridon, originally a shepherd from Cyprus, lived in the second century AD. Before his death, he became a bishop and began performing miracles. Since his remains are in Corfu, locals believe that he intervened and saved their island 4 times from catastrophe. The silver casket containing his relics is carried around the town in a very peaceful parade four times a year to celebrate his miracles (to mark each of the 4 times he saved the Corfiots from plague twice, famine & Ottoman invasions – Palm Sunday, Good Friday, August 11th and the first Sunday of November). The parades are accompanied by local brass bands and remain a strong tradition of Corfu. There are also certain times when his casket is open inside the church where you can visit him and say a prayer. In tribute to the Saint, Spiros is the most popular boy’s name on the island.
How To Book
You can go to Corfu Town by coach or by boat with San Stefano Travel. Our coach trip runs every Wednesday & Saturday (day trip) from 09:00 – 16:00 or every Tuesday & Thursday (evening trip) from 16:00 – 23:00. You are provided with a map and information about Corfu Town, where you will spend approximately 4 hours (free time) to see the sights and take in some Corfiot culture. It is a direct trip to Corfu town on our 16 seater air-conditioned mini bus with no pick-ups outside the village, meaning you are in Corfu Town within the hour.
The Corfu Town by Boat trip runs Mon, Wed, Thu & Sat (day trip) 08:15 – 17:00 or Friday (evening trip) 15:15 – 23:30. This boat trip leaves from Kassiopi and takes a cruise along the east coast. It goes down as far as the famous Mouse Island, which is a well-known landmark of Corfu. It then goes back on itself and docks at the Old Fortess. You come up into the centre of Corfu Town right in front of the Liston area. You have approximately 3 hours of free time in Corfu Town before sailing back to Kassiopi. On the day trip you will stop off for a quick dip along the east coast after a hard day of shopping and sightseeing.
You can book these trips at our office, on the main road to the beach.