The Complete Guide to Corfu Town

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Corfu Town is the capital of Corfu island and one of the most beautiful cities in Greece.

Don’t miss a visit to Corfu Town if you’re in the area! Here’s what to expect:

What Is Corfu Town Like?

Buildings on the Liston.

Corfu Town has one of the best-preserved historic quarters in Greece so it’s a great place if you love history or just soaking up the atmosphere somewhere lovely.

It’s a dense tangle of narrow streets (called kantouna) and tall buildings in autumnal colours with painted shutters and wrought iron balconies. 

The city is understandably popular with the island’s tourists – most will take at least a day trip during their visit. Additionally, Corfu Town is a major cruise port for ships travelling between Greece and Italy.

So there is no shortage of souvenir shops and restaurants aimed at tourists. The main tourist area is well kept, with flowers and plants out on the street and (unusually for Greece) some attempt at even paving. And there are endless scenic cafes.

But at the end of the day it’s still largely populated by locals and students so it doesn’t feel like a Disneyfied version of Greece. There are plenty of authentic tavernas and businesses to be found in the backstreets. 

The Architecture of Corfu Town

Pink walls of a neoclassical building on the Spianada.

Corfu’s old town (campiello) is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list  and dates back to the 8th century BC  (although if you like older history you’ll find some ruins outside the town on the Kanoni peninsula, which is where the original settlement was located)

Corfu has always been a strategically important location at the entrance to the Adriatic and as such been occupied by many powers over the centuries, notably:

  • Romans
  • Normans
  • Neapolitan Angevins
  • Venetians
  • French
  • British (also known as the Ionian State period, under British Protectorate)
  • Greek independence in 1829

The layout, tall buildings, public spaces and fortifications that you see are Venetian. Perhaps this is why it feels so Italian sometimes.

But in fact many of the buildings themselves were rebuilt by the British in the neoclassical style. You might feel a sense of déjà vu if you’ve been to Valletta – both stone and stonemasons were imported from Malta.

Corfu Town has flashes of stately grandeur left over from French and British rule, and many elegant buildings and monuments from the neoclassical era after Greek independence.

There are three forts remaining in Corfu Town and the Venetians were responsible for most of their ingenuity. The star attraction – and the one you’ll see in photos – is the Old Fortress (or Paleo Frourio).

What to See in Corfu Town

Exterior details of the Museum of Asian Art.
Museum of Asian Art.

Most of the main sites are clustered together on the east coast of the city – the Old Fortress, the Spianada, the Liston, and Museum of Asian Art.

The smaller museums and churches tend to be tucked away in the back streets of the Old Town.

Old Fortress

Corfu's Old Fortress.
Corfu’s Old Fortress.

Corfu Town’s impressive Old Fortress is built on a promontory which is separated from the rest of the city by a canal (Controfossa). The site was originally home to a castle built by the Angevins but the Venetians almost completely rebuilt it and added the fortifications.

The almost-impregnable design of the fortress was key in repelling Ottoman invasions in 1537, 1571, and 1716.

To pass over the canal and onto the site you must buy a ticket – see the Greek Culture site for details, a standard adult ticket is €6. There is a special city ticket available which covers the Old Fortress and several key museums for €15, valid for 3 days.

Once inside the site there are several buildings including the Byzantine Collection, the Lighthouse, the Old British Hospital, the Holy Church of Agios Georgios, and – charmingly – the music department of the Ionian University.

(If you’re looking for a small temple-like building that you’ve seen in photos then that’s the Holy Church which was built by British soldiers in 1840 in the Greek revival style)

Mandraki Marina and the Corfu Sailing Club are also located on the promontory.

The Liston and the Spianada

The Liston.
The Liston.

The Liston is an elegant arcaded promenade housing many cafes right next to the Spianada.

If you do one thing in Corfu Town it should be taking coffee or an aperitif at a shady table here.

The Spianada.
The Spianada.

The Spianada is the name for the large grassy park which sits between the Old Fortress and the rest of the city. It’s the largest public square in Greece and famously home to a cricket pitch which is still used today.

The Maitland Monument

Maitland Monument.
Maitland Monument.

The Maitland Monument (or Rotunda) is a great example of a neoclassical monument built by the British in the city. It was built to commemorate Sir Thomas Maitland, the first Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands. You’ll find it in the south end of the Spianada.

Holy Church of the Virgin Mary Mandrakina

Holy Church of the Virgin Mary Mandrakina.
Holy Church of the Virgin Mary Mandrakina.

At the north end of the Spianada you’ll find the very pretty Holy Church of the Virgin Mary Mandrakina. It dates back to the 18th century and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary as the patron saint of fisherman.

People’s Garden

People's Garden.
People’s Garden.

The entrance to the People’s Garden is next to the Holy Church of the Virgin Mary Mandrakina.

It’s a very pretty landscaped garden which wraps around the Museum of Asian Art. You can walk through it to reach Faliraki Beach and several beach bars.

Museum of Asian Art

Museum of Asian Art.
Museum of Asian Art.

The Museum of Asian Art (and next to it the Municipal Gallery) is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city (and is also a popular photo spot for couples and Instagrammers).

Originally the Palace of St Michael and St George, it was built in 1815 by the British to be the residence of of the Lord High Commission.

The Museum founded in 1928 and houses art collections from China, Japan, Nepal, Tibet, and central Asia, as well as visiting exhibitions.

Standard adult tickets are €6, it’s also included in the special ticket.

Next to the Museum of Asian Art is the Municipal Gallery of Corfu which contains works by the most famous local painters of the 19th and 20th century

Faliraki Beach

Imabari Seaside Lounge.
Imabari Seaside Lounge.

Behind the Museum of Asian Art is Faliraki Beach, the most photogenic swimming spot in the city. You won’t find much sand here but it has a platform area for sunbathing.

It’s home to a church and several beach bars, the most well known of which is Imabari Seaside Lounge.

To reach the sea you’ll need to walk along past the Gate of St Nicholas and enter via the beach bars.

From Faliraki you have an excellent view of the north side of the Old Fortress.

Old Town

Metropolitan Church of the Virgin Mary.
Metropolitan Church of the Virgin Mary.

Time to delve into the labyrinthine streets of the Old Town.

The city has surprising number of museums considering its size, though perhaps not surprising given its history. Culture vultures will find plenty of interest.

There are over 40 churches in Corfu Town, you’d be hard pressed to visit them all on one trip. Some to keep your eye out for include:

One pretty spot inside the Old Town is Platia Dimarchio, or ‘Town Hall Square’. This small square is home to the San Giacomo Theatre and numerous restaurants with shaded tables amongst the greenery.

New Fortress

New Fortress.
New Fortress.

The New Fortress, so called simply because its newer than the Old Fortress, is located to the north end of the Old Town not far from the Old Port.

It dates back to the Venetian period but the existing buildings were constructed by the British. 

The New Fortress has recently been restored and opened to the public (except on Tuesdays) although there’s not much to it beyond the walls of the structure. But it has excellent views and is sometimes used for concerts and exhibitions. Admission is free.

In case you’re wondering, Corfu Town’s third fort became the island’s prison. Allegedly there were once underground tunnels connecting all the fortresses including defences on Vido Island.

On the east side of the New Fortress is Corfu Central Market where you’ll find fresh fish sold in the mornings, and also one of the biggest car parks near the Old Town.

Old Port

Old Port.
Old Port.

North of the New Fortress is Spilia Square and the Old Port which is now a busy harbour. This is where you’ll find the city’s small boats – fishing boats, excursion boats, water taxis to Vido islands, and private motorboats.

Vido and Lazareto Islands

Vido Island.
Vido Island.

Vido Island is a small island with a sombre history. It was called Ptichia in ancient times and for a long time formed part of the city’s defences, sometimes as a prison.

During the invasion of Serbia in WWI Vido served as a hospital and quarantine for Serbian soldiers. Over 5000 people were buried at sea when mortality rates (mainly from typhoid) outstripped space on the island.

There’s a memorial on the island and you can learn more about this period in the Serbian Museum in the Old Town.

These days the island is peaceful, with peacocks wandering in the woods. It’s popular with locals looking for a quiet spot to bathe and has a simple taverna. Boats to Vido leave from the Old Port.

Lazareto is an even smaller uninhabited island in the bay, closer to Kontokali than Corfu Town. It was used as a quarantine station and later as a concentration camp for prisoners of the Greek National Resistance movement. It has since been declared a historic memorial site.

Garitsa

Nautical Yacht Club.
Nautical Yacht Club.

Immediately south of the Spianada you’ll find the Nautical Yacht Club and its restaurant/bar NAOK. There’s a small (very small) beach here too.

Just outside the Old Town you’ll find a few things of interest:

Garitsa is the name for the neighbourhood and bay south of Corfu Old Town. It has a much more laid-back and local vibe, although there are a few big hotels along the waterfront road. The walk around the bay to Garitsa is pleasant and there’s a narrow public garden with trees and play areas. It’s popular with local families.

At the end of the road is a windmill and Nautilus restaurant/bar. Many walk out to the windmill in the evening for a sunset drink or dinner in one of the area’s tavernas.

This is the oldest part of the city and if you keep your eyes open you’ll find ancient ruins such as the Temple of Artemis and the Christian 

The Mon Repos Estate is south of Garitsa. This beautiful 19th-century villa is famously where Prince Philip was born. These days it houses an archaeological museum. Entrance is free. There are a few small ancient ruins in the grounds. It’s harder to find, a little worn, and less impressive than the more popular Achilleon Palace but provides a nice shady walk for those staying in the city.

There’s also a lovely beach here (and a proper beach, not like the platforms at Faliraki) – look for the Royal Baths Cafe and Beach.

Garitsa is also the gateway to the Kanoni Peninsula. Lush and hilly with lots of hotel tucked away. From Garitsa you can walk or take the bus down to the end of Kanoni where the airport runway meets the sea. It’s a spectacular place to sit and watch the planes land. There are several cafes well set up for this past-time such as Cafe Kanoni.

There’s a small harbour at the tip of the peninsula which is connected by a causeway to the area of Perama and also to the picturesque Vlacherna Monastery on a tiny island. Beyond Vlacherna is Pontikonissi (Mouse Island), a small wooded island with a chapel. Boats will take you out from the harbour.

Garitsa Bay.
Garitsa Bay.
Douglas Obelisk.
Douglas Obelisk.
Tomb of Menekrates.
Tomb of Menekrates.
Vlacherna Monastery.
Vlacherna Monastery.

Where to Stay in Corfu Town

Inside the Cavalieri hotel.

With its enchanting atmosphere it’s no surprise many will want to stay in the Old Town. Mostly you will find self-catered apartments for all budgets, with the more expensive ones right on the Liston looking out to the New Fortress. Try Liston Town House if that’s what you’re after.

There are a few hotels where you’ll find an old-school charm (though don’t expect high luxury):

For more space (or parking) you’re better off staying outside the city. In Garitsa Bay you’ll find the new boutique hotel Acanthus Blue as well as the 5-star old stalwart the Corfu Palace and Casino. At the far end of Garitsa is the 4-star Mayor Mon Repos Palace Art Hotel.

There’s not too much choice in Corfu Town though, compared to the rest of the island. Many who enjoy being close to the delights of the city stay in one of the coastal suburbs slightly further out – Benitses, Kanoni, Perama, Gouvia – and make use of the bus service.

Food and Drink in Corfu Town

Treats in a Corfu Town bakery.

If you’ve only got time for one meal in Corfu Town book a table at top restaurant Venetian Well, or head up to the rooftop restaurant at Cavalieri Hotel for its views.

The old town streets are packed with restaurants and tavernas offering the Greek standards as well as local specialities, bakeries, and shops selling produce from around the island. Tired of Greek food? There are plenty of Italian restaurants and fast food.

Foodies will want to check out the Corfu Food Tour.

Don’t miss the Corfiot ginger beer or the liqueur made from the kumquats which grow here so abundantly. 

Best Activities and Excursions

Small boats in Gaios, Paxos.
Small boats in Gaios, Paxos.

There are numerous tours of Corfu Town available including:

Beyond the city:

Day trips to Albania aren’t up and running again yet but it’s possible to take the ferry over to Sarande.

Achilleon Palace, a 19th century royal retreat just south of Corfu Town, is easy to access on the bus but is also included on many tour itineraries. 

How Far is Corfu Airport from Corfu Town?

Corfu Ioannis Kapodistrias Airport is literally just outside the city. You can walk into the centre in 25 minutes if you don’t have much luggage. A taxi is €10-20 depending on the time of day.

Blue city bus number 15 connects the airport with the KTEL bus station (for inter-island buses) and San Rocco Square (for city buses) and the port.

You can buy a ticket from the kiosk outside the airport by card or cash, or from the driver in cash.

For more information read How to Get Around Corfu By Bus.

KTEL Green bus terminal.
KTEL Green bus terminal.

How to Get to Corfu Town

Corfu Town is located in the centre of Corfu’s east coast:

  • From Kassiopi: 1 hour drive
  • From Paleokastritsa: 25 minute drive
  • From Sidari: 50 minute drive
  • From Acharavi: 55 minute drive
  • From Kavos: 1 hour drive

Corfu Airport is served by both domestic and international budget and charter airlines – check Skyscanner for deals.

See Ferryhopper for local ferry routes and information.

Parking in the Old Town itself is limited but the main car parks are at the Spianada next to the Central Market. There are lots of small parking lots outside the Old Town as well as free parking on the roads – try alongside Garitsa Bay.

The largest car park is at the New Port (you can hop on the bus into town if you don’t fancy the walk). 

Read more about Corfu: 

Corfu – A Quick Island Overview

Where to Stay on Corfu: Ultimate Beach Resort Guide

How to Get Around Corfu By Bus

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