Corfu or Kerkyra is the capital of the island of the same name. A strategically very important hub at the entrance to the Adriatic Sea, it had a very exciting fate full of gunpowder…
The old town, Campiello, with its red roofs and wrought iron balconies, is a real magnet for history buffs.
And the city has something to tell, because the Venetians, the British, the French and others took turns here.
Corfu is a city with a special atmosphere and cosmopolitan spirit, which saw off many invaders but also took a lot from them. A true delight for lovers of history and relaxed atmosphere.
The only ones who never managed to conquer it were the Turks. Perhaps also because it is protected by two well-designed fortresses, which dominate the city and oversee the blue waters of the Ionian Sea.
Most of the sights are located in the city center, so walking through the narrow streets of the old town is a wonderful way to spend a day.
With obligatory refreshments such as cicibira or the famous red Corfu beer.
Here’s what you can expect in this wonderful city:
The imposing fortress, located on a rocky peninsula, is the first thing you see when you approach Corfu by ferry.
It was built by the Venetians, in 1546, on the foundations of the old Byzantine fortress, and then it was refined by whoever came after…
The old fortress is separated from the mainland by an artificial moat, which provided additional protection and is called “Contrafossa“. In some places, it is 15 m deep and 40 m wide.
The fort was connected to the mainland by a movable wooden bridge. The British replaced it with a permanent bridge that is 60m long.
This fortress, combined with an artificial moat, was impregnable for centuries.
There is a small Doric church built by the British, then a lighthouse from which you can see all the way to neighboring Albania, an old British hospital, etc.
Today, the fortress is on the UNESCO list of protected properties. In the summer, numerous cultural events are held here. The queues for the fortress are long so if you are only in town for one day you will have to choose what to visit.
Spianada, a large park between the Old Fortress and the rest of the city.
It is the only place in Greece where cricket is played. It is considered the largest square in Greece, and also the second largest square in Europe. There is no way you can miss it because it occupies a good part of the city.
The park also has a Rotunda or monument to the first High Commissioner, Sir Thomas Maitland. You will find it at the southern end.
The park adjoins the famous Liston, an elegant promenade with arcades.
It was built by the Venetians, but in the 19th century, the French brought Parisian chic based on Rue de Rivoli and gave it the shape we know today.
The French turned this part of the city into a public square, before that it was just an empty space for defensive purposes. Sometimes it is also called Lantern Street.
During the rule of the English, only those who were on the “list on” list could drink here, hence the name.
Today, here is the most important corso in Corfu, there are many cafes and if you should do only one thing in Corfu, it would be to drink at least one coctail or coffee in this place in the shade.
Said and done, more than once.
The new fortress of San Marco
It’s just a little newer than the old one.
It was built by the Venetians in the 16th century, to protect the city from the invasion of the Turks.
In order to get construction materials, over 2,000 houses and some churches were demolished.
The fortress itself is empty and there is nothing to see in it.
You can walk through passages and empty rooms.
Its main feature is the most beautiful view of the city, which can be seen as if in the palm of your hand.
From here you can see the island of Vido, as well as the island of Lazaretto. The fortress is not wheelchair accessible.
Today, in front of the fortress, the main market of the city is located, where you can buy the freshest fish or vegetables and fruits.
I watched the fort from the foothills and enjoyed the surroundings.
Below the fortress, there is an old harbor where you can find boats for fishing or for excursions. They can take you to a small island with a sad history, Vido Island.
During World War I, the island served as a hospital and quarantine for Serbian soldiers. Over 5,000 people were buried in the sea because there was no more room on the island itself.
There is also a memorial center that preserves the memory of these days of trials. I will write about my visit to the island in another post.
Lazaretto is an even smaller uninhabited island in the bay, closer to Kontokali than to Corfu Town. It was used as a quarantine station and later as a concentration camp for prisoners of the Greek national resistance movement. Since then, it has been declared a historical monument.
Corfu will always be special for the Serbian people.
It preserves the memory of the stay of the Serbian army and the Golgotha they went through to get here.
Church of Saint Spyridon (Áyios Spyrídon)
The highest place in the city, it can be seen at a distance of several kilometers. The dome resembles the dome of St. George in Venice.
It is dedicated to Saint Spyridon, who is the patron saint of the island. His remains are in this church.
Legend has it that a shepherd from Cyprus, named Spyridon, lived here in the 2nd century BC. He became a priest, and the locals believe that he saved the monastery from destruction several times.
His remains are brought out 4 times a year on major holidays. Spiros is the most popular name on the island.
Royal Palace: Museum of Asian Art
A symbol of British rule, the facade is decorated with Doric columns.
The palace was built in 1815. It was intended for use by the High Commissioner as well as the seat of the senate. Today, the museum of Asian art is located here, where there are Japanese prints, Chinese handicrafts and other treasures from the Orient.
This is the only museum in Greece, which is entirely dedicated to Asian art with over 15,000 exhibits.
People’s Park – a fairy-tale garden with an exceptional view
Behind the museum there is also a beautiful garden, which was built in 1833 and was forbidden to the public. Only the aristocracy could enjoy it here.
Later, the entrance became free for the plebs as well. That’s when it got its current name: People’s Park.
The garden is filled with rare plant species.
There is also the queen’s circular staircase, made of wrought iron, which was used by members of the Greek royal family to descend to one of the most beautiful beaches in the city, which is Faliraki.
In the 19th century, Faliraki beach was very popular with the nobility, who vacationed in Corfu. It is very close to all important places in the city and offers a fantastic view of the Old Fortress.
There is not much sand here, but there are sunbathing platforms. It used to be possible to enter only with iron steps, but nowadays it is very easy to enter from the lower side. It is considered one of the most photogenic places in Corfu.
Cervantes and Corfu
Few people know that the famous author of Don Quixote, Miguel Cervantes, spent a year in Corfu recovering from the injuries he received in the famous Battle of the Levant, which took place south of the island and in which he participated as a member of the Spanish Navy.
The Annunziata Church was the place where the fallen nobles were buried after the battle, it no longer exists. All that remains is its bell tower on which there is a plaque commemorating Cervantes’ stay.
On the boulevard, which surrounds Garitsa Bay, there is also a memorial to High Commissioner Howard Douglas, who greatly indebted the local population. During his reign, many roads, hospitals, cemeteries and prisons were built. A bank and a college were founded. Because of all this, the citizens of Corfu have not forgotten him. The monument is full of Greek and British symbolism.
Mill or Molino
The walk through the old town ends at the mill in the Garica district.
It is a copy of the former original, which was made by the Venetians many years ago. There were many mills all over the island, and this one has remained because it is visible and recognizable from all parts of the city.
Today, locals who hate to go further from the city bathe here.
In this place, the Sun stays the longest.
Locals gather here and eat fish. It is very cheerful even though the sea is not the most beautiful.
If you continue your walk, you will reach Mon Repo, the beautiful mansion where Prince Philip was born. I wrote about her here. If you really like to walk, the road will also take you to the monasteries of Vlacherna and Kanoni, which I wrote about here. But for this distance I still suggest that you use some means of transport.
Corfu also has its newer parts of the city which are a real joy for my wheelchair.
The crowd is not felt so much, considering that large cruise ships also dock here. The atmosphere is the most important thing on the island.
How much time do I need for the old town?
At least half a day, but if you plan to visit fortresses and museums, then one whole day.
What is the best way to get around the city?
On foot, all the attractions are quite close to each other.
Where to park?
In the old port is a good place. Parking can be a problem, but once you find a spot, you can walk everywhere and see a lot in one day.
When is the best time to visit?
Although Corfu is quite green from the summer heat, it won’t protect you even if you slip into the smallest alleys.
That’s why spring and autumn are the best times to visit.
Are there beaches in the city?
There are a few but just for a quick dip.
What souvenirs to bring from Corfu?
Kumquat is the trademark of Corfu, so there are liqueurs, candied kumquat, bonbons, spices, as well as olive products.
They offer oils and soaps as well as olive wood boards
Is it worth coming to Corfu?
Corfu is definitely worth a visit because in a small space you have a great mix of various historical influences, numerous restaurants and souvenir shops.
Corfu is not ideal for wheelchairs, but with the right help and preparation, you can put this island on your bucket list. I enjoyed my visit to Corfu and this is one of the places I could return to again.
Have you been to Corfu?
Did I miss something?
Traveled and enjoyed,