A majestic fort, romantic trails and beaches where the greenery merges with the sapphire sea
Corfu, the Grand Lady of the Ionian, is identified by a series of mythical images: Nausica, the daughter of King Alkinoos, the man who saved Odysseus when he was shipwrecked in the Country of Phaeacians (which many have identified as the island of Corfu); Sissi, the sad Empress of Austria; the Achilleion, the palace she built. Majestic images: Mon Repos, the 19th century summer residence built for the British High Commissioner; the Kaiser’s Observatory, where Wilhelm II looked out at the sea.
Equally majestic are the iconic city mansions of Corfu, the Liston Arcade and Spianada Square – the largest in the Balkans. Venetians, English, French, Russians, Greeks: all lived and flourished here, and left their traces on the island’s numerous sights and attractions. They sculpted a diverse culture that you will discover in every musical note of Corfu’s marching bands, in each glass of kumquat liqueur, in the labyrinthine alleyways of Campiello, in every love affair that ignites in the Canal d’Amour. Corfu – or Kerkyra as it is known in Greek – will seduce you.
What to do in Corfu
Corfu’s historic centre: a scene out of a classic film
Unesco has declared the island’s historic centre a world heritage site. The stately buildings with neoclassical influences will dazzle you: The Palace of St Michael and St Georgiou, the Liston Arcade, the Reading Society, the Catholic cathedral, the Maitland rotunda, the Ionian Parliament, the Kapodistrias family mansion. In the famous alleyways of Campiello, with clotheslines hanging above you, and in the opulent hotels with their VIP guests, you will feel like a star in a period movie.
The city’s keepers
On the eastern side of the city, the rocky shore crowned by two low peaks gave the name Koryfo (Κορυφώ) – Corfu (meaning peak) to the island. You enter the Old Fort (Palaio Frourio), built in the 13th century, via a bridge over a seawater moat. It includes the Porta Sopranza, the British barracks, two winged lions of St Mark, the Madonna del Carmine, the Savorgnan bastion, the Tower of Sea and the Tower of the Land (Castel del Mar, Castel della Terra), and the British-built church of St George which resembles a Doric temple.
It’s an open-air museum, and each sight is a journey through time. Towering above the northwest border of the capital, the other guardian, the Neo Frourio (New Fort), is a masterpiece of military architecture built by the Venetians between 1572 and 1645. It is a fortress with planes and angles reminiscent of Picasso and Braque’s Cubist periods.
Photogenic attractions: Cannon and Mouse islands
The trademark of Corfu are actually other islands: the diminutive Pontikonisi, which translates as Mouse Island, just large enough to hold the Pantokrator monastery. Right next to it, the famous islet Vlacherna, with its 17th century monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway. Mass is held here on Easter Monday.
A miracle of nature: the beaches of Sidari and Canal d’Amour
If you swim in the Canal d’Amour, the myth says you’ll find your soul mate. The natural passage created by the smooth rocks is like a tunnel. In Sidari you’ll enjoy two more spectacular sand beaches with sandstone formations.
Mythical resorts: Paleokastritsa and Angelokastro
In the most famous tourist resort of Corfu, the lush greenery blankets six rocky coves. Some scholars maintain that this was the site of the mythical palace of King Alkinoos, where Odysseus stayed. The Monastery of Panagias was founded in 1225. It reaches as far as the famous Angelokastro, built early in the 12th century, with its church of Agia Kyriaki hidden in a small cave.
Easter in Corfu: one of the most beautiful in Greece
A popular destination in Greece, Corfu gives you so many reasons to visit it. One of these is its very special, and world-famous, Easter celebration. The Philharmonic Society of Corfu accompanies the procession of the mummified body of the island’s patron, St Spyridon, as it is carried around the city on Good Friday. On Holy Saturday it rains botides – clay jars thrown in the streets from people’s balconies. Don’t get too close! Easter in Corfu is something you should experience at least once in your lifetime.
Achillion Palace: the consolation of an empress
The island’s imperial past could be the reason that Corfu is considered one of the most glamorous and luxurious destinations in Greece. Empress Elizabeth of Austria-Hungary, the legendary Sissi, chose Corfu to build her palace, a place where she found consolation after her son Rudolph’s suicide. It is an elegant Pompeian-style building with luxurious, neoclassical living rooms. In the beautiful gardens you’ll admire the famous statue of Dying Achilles.
Mon Repos: the dream of an aristocrat
British High Commissioner Frederick Adam built this summer residence for his Corfiot wife, Nina Palatianou. Situated in a landscape of rare beauty, it occupies the site of ancient Corcyra, as the city was then called. The villa houses the Palaiopolis museum and botanical gardens with more than 2,000 rare kinds of plants that came all the way from the British colonies.
Beaches of all kinds
Glyfada, Dasia, Ermones, Paleokastritsa, Sidari, Kavos (famous for loud parties), Kontokali, Benitses, Halikounas. The list of beaches is endless. Isolated picturesque coves or large and crowded beaches with beach bars, tavernas, shops and watersports. Many beaches boast luxury hotels as well.
Hidden gems of Corfu
Sail away … to the Diapontia islands
A favourite destination for mariners, the Diapontia islands north of Corfu are ideal for diving and fishing. Culinary miracles
Pastitsada, sofrito, bourdeto: you can enjoy these regional delicacies of Corfu in home kitchens, traditional tavernas and restaurants. They will enrich your holidays with the aromas and flavours of the Ionian Sea.
The footpaths of Corfu
Get to know the island’s rich flora and fauna and old settlements by foot or bicycle. Among the hidden gems are: Pantokratoras, the southern part Corfu next to the saltwater lake of Korission, the area of Palaiokastritsas, and the northern side of the island towards the saltwater lake Antinioti – all wonderful routes that will fill your holidays with unique moments.
This post is also available in: Greek