10 Top Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Corfu Town
Overlooking the turquoise-blue Ionian Sea, Corfu Town is the capital of the island of Corfu (Kérkyra). In a beautiful location on an eastern promontory, dominated by two sturdy fortresses, its lovely pedestrian-only old town is packed with elegant Italianate architecture (think wrought-iron balconies and terracotta rooftops), thanks to the period spent under Venetian-rule (1401 to 1797). Later, Corfu spent a period under British command (1815-1864), which has added some extra peculiarities to its cultural heritage. Several scenes from the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only (1981) were filmed here. Today, Corfu's old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
See also: Where to Stay in Corfu Town
1 Old Fortress (Citadel)
Especially imposing when viewed from the sea, the magnificent Old Fortress lies on a small, rocky peninsula, immediately east of the old town. Built by the Venetians in 1546 on the site of an older castle, it is accessed off the Esplanade via a bridge that spans a moat, the famous contrafossa, measuring 15 meters deep and up to 40 meters wide. Inside the fortress is a small church, in the style of a Doric temple, built by the British in the 19th century. From the highest point, marked by a lighthouse, you have spectacular views west over town and east across the sea towards Albania.
2 The Esplanade
Between the tightly packed buildings of the old town and the Old Fortress, the Esplanade (Spianada) is a vast green space and claims to be the second largest square in Europe. Corfu's main public gathering space, it is overlooked by the arcaded Liston, built by the French in the 19th-century, and home to a row of pricey cafés that are ideal for people-watching. Locals play cricket (a game passed down to them by the British) on the carefully tended lawns of the Esplanade, and there is also a bandstand where brass bands occasionally play.
3 New Fortress
An uphill climb past the open-air market selling seasonal fruit and vegetables brings you into the massive New Fortress, built in 1577 by the Venetians to protect the city against the Turks, making it only a little "newer" than the Old Fortress. Once inside, you are free to wander through the empty stone halls and passages and, best of all, climb to the top for amazing views over the terracotta rooftops of the old town and out to sea. The entrance ticket also covers a free drink at the small café.
Address: Plateía Solomou, Corfu Town (Kérkyra)
4 Church of St. Spyridon (Áyios Spyrídon)
A haven of peace and tranquility, just off the arcaded Liston, this church is named after Corfu's patron saint, St. Spyridon. Built in 1589, its red-domed bell-tower dominates the skyline from afar. Inside, in a low-lit side chapel decorated with moody frescoes, note a silver sarcophagus adorned with precious stones, enclosing the remains of St. Spyridon. A shepherd from Cyprus, Spyridon lived in the second century AD, and before he died, he became a bishop and began performing miracles. Since his remains are in Corfu, locals believe that his miraculous intervention saved their island from catastrophe on several occasions. The silver casket containing his relics is paraded around town to mark important religious festivals, and in tribute to him, Spiros is the most popular boy's name on the island.
Address: Agios Spiridon, 49100 Corfu Town (Kérkyra)
5 Mon Repos
Set in a beautiful park and approached along a winding tree-lined avenue is the Neoclassical palace of Mon Repos, birthplace in 1921 of HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. Built in 1831 for the British High Commissioner, it was later used as the summer home of the Greek royal family. Sadly, the palace is falling into a state of disrepair, and the garden is overgrown in places. Besides being a tourist attraction, it is used to host conferences. You'll find it in the Kanoni area of town, a pleasant 30-minute walk from the center, and also served by public bus.
6 The Church of Saints Jason and Sosipater
Close to Mon Repos, the tiny Church of Saints Jason and Sosipater is dedicated to two of St. Paul's disciples who brought Christianity to the island in AD 70. It is a typical example of 11th-century Byzantine architecture, based on a cross-in-square plan, and made of large blocks of stone, probably taken from nearby ancient buildings. Originally, the interior was entirely covered in frescoes. Unfortunately, these were whitewashed in 1820, but some fragments of the paintings remain. However, there is an impressive 18th-century iconostasis (the screen between the nave and the altar) and some beautiful religious icons.
7 Pontikonisi (Mouse Island)
South of the center, off the southern tip of Kanóni, two small islets rise from the sea. On the nearer one, reached via a causeway, is the small 17th-century Monastery of Vlakhérna, and beyond this is Mouse Island (Pontikonísi), crowned by a whitewashed Byzantine chapel and a cluster of cypress trees. A peaceful escape from the crowds, Pontikonísi is often featured on picture postcards. To get there, catch a boat from Kanóni harbor.
8 The Achilleion
The Achilleion lies 10 kilometers from Corfu Town. It was built in 1890 as a summer palace for the Empress Elisabeth of Austria, a tragic figure who was plagued by misfortune (her husband was unfaithful, and her son committed suicide) and was eventually assassinated in 1898. Often referred to by her nickname, Sisi, the empress had the villa decorated in pseudo-classical style, complete with grand sweeping staircases and frescoes. A state property since 1928, it is open to the public. Inside, you can see period furniture, paintings, and even some of Sisi's clothes, but for many people, the highlight is the garden, with 19th-century statues and lovely views towards the sea. You can pick up an audio guide (in various languages) at the entrance. It is connected to Corfu Town by public bus.
9 The Royal Palace: Museum of Asian Art
At the north end of the Esplanade is the former Royal Palace, a Neoclassical mansion built in 1816 for the British Lord High Commissioner. Abandoned in 1864 when the British left the island, it now houses the Museum of Asian Art. This remarkable museum contains a superb collection of Chinese, Japanese, and Indian paintings, porcelains, and sculpture, dating from the Neolithic era through the 19th century. There's also a pleasant courtyard café with amazing views across the sea channel to Albania.
Address: Plateía Spianáda, 49100 Corfu Town (Kérkyra)
10 Corfu Archaeological Museum
In a 1960s building, the Corfu Archaeological Museum displays archaeological finds from sites across the island, most notably from Kanoni, Corfu's ancient capital. The most important exhibit is the 17-meter-long Gorgon Pediment from the sixth-century-BC Temple of Artemis at Kanoni. Fully intact, it depicts a demonic-looking Medusa wearing a belt of intertwined serpents and flanked by a panther to each side. The museum is currently closed for renovation with an unknown completion date.
Address: 1 A. Vraila Street, 49100 Corfu Town (Kérkyra)
Where to Stay in Corfu Town for Sightseeing
For easy access to all the top attractions in Corfu Town, the best place to stay is near the old town or the Esplanade, where you'll also find the Liston, Church of St. Spyridon, and Royal Palace with the Museum of Asian Art. From the Esplanade, the Old Fortress lies a short stroll to the east. Hotels on the seafront within walking distance of these attractions are especially desirable. Here are some highly-rated hotels in these convenient and central locations:
- Luxury Hotels: Options for true luxury accommodation are limited in Corfu Town, but the elegant Corfu Palace Hotel, on the seafront, less than a ten-minute walk from the Liston, is one of the town's best hotels, with a spa, indoor and outdoor pools, and a Jacuzzi. Also on the seafront, steps to the beach, but about a 20-minute walk to Corfu Town, the adults-only Mayor Mon Repos Palace spotlights 18th-century antiques and is known for its friendly staff, ocean-view swimming pool, and well-appointed rooms with balconies. Near the heart of the old town, the great-value Bella Venezia Hotel, with free breakfast in a wisteria-covered garden, resides in an elegant Neoclassical mansion.
- Mid-Range Hotels: In a stately old building, a short walk from the ferry port, the adults-only Corfu Mare Boutique Hotel is a little far away to walk into town, but it offers contemporary-styled rooms, a gym, free breakfast, and an outdoor pool. On a busy road, a short bus-ride from the old town, the family-run Sunset Hotel has an outdoor pool and dated but clean rooms, while the City Marina Hotel, with sea views from the front rooms, is an easy stroll to the old town.
- Budget Hotels: Near the airport and about a 15 to 20-minute walk to the old town, the no-frills Hotel Bretagne and Dalia Hotel have simple rooms and helpful staff, while the Arion Hotel Corfu, a short stroll to the seafront, but a bus or taxi ride from town, has modern rooms and free parking.