Corfu Town is not only the capital of Corfu, but one of the most beautiful and elegant towns in Greece. Home the island’s airport and also the main port it is one of the largest towns in the Ionian.
No visit to Corfu is complete without time spent in this beautiful town – roaming the narrow cobbled streets and wide esplanades, visiting the numerous wonderful old buildings, churches or areas of interest. Many people, and not just locals, also look to buy property and settle in Corfu Town and its suburbs because of the wealth of amenities, facilities and places of interest it offers.
Built around a headland between two great Venetian coastal fortresses, the whole town has a unique blend of architecture attributed to the Venetians, the French and the British who have been the strongest influences in modern times. The historical center has distinctive Venetian architecture – tall, charming apartment buildings and houses with shutters and narrow balconies, cobblestone side streets, archways as well as the imposing Venetian Fortresses. In 2007, the city's old quarter was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List under the criterion that it constitutes an architectural example of outstanding universal value in both its authenticity and its integrity.
The Old Fortress
The Old Fortress is the best known and most famous in Corfu. Situated on a rocky peninsula, the castle dates back to the Byzantine period, but the main fortification and buildings inside were constructed by the Venetians. Unfortunately none of these buildings survived and those that you see in the castle today were constructed by the British.
Not far from the old harbour there is the New Fortress, which again, was constructed during the period of Venetian rule. This fortress is much smaller than the old one and is not as high. It consists of two levels. The lower level protected the harbour, the higher level, the city. The Venetian fortifications were later expanded by the both British and the French to help defend against a possible Turkish attack.
The French influence can be seen at The Liston – that was constructed in 1807 during French rule and said to be a copy in miniature of the rue de Rivoli in Paris. Today, a plethora of cafés set under the arches, offer a warm welcome to visitors to the island and local residents alike and from here you have a great view of the Corfu cricket ground. The love of cricket by the Corfiots is a British influence on the island dates back to the time of the British Protectorate.
Palace of St. Michael and St. George
Close to the Liston you find The Palace of St. Michael and St. George. The palace was constructed during the time of British domination in the island, with the foundation stone being laid on St. George's Day in 1819. After the union of Corfu with the Kingdom of Greece in 1864, the palace served as a royal residence until the 2nd World War. Miraculously it survived the Italian bombardment of the City, although it then suffered damage from its use as a temporary housing for the refugees from Epirus during the Greek Civil War. The palace interiors were restored by the Greek State in 1954 with the help of a private trust organised by the then British Ambassador to Greece , and today the palace houses the Museum of Asian Art.
Corfu Town Hall
The Town Hall in the heart of Corfu town started life as The ‘Nobile Teatro di San Giacomo’ (The Noble Theatre of Saint James of Corfu). Named after the Catholic Cathedral San Giacomo that was situated in an adjacent square, the theatre was established in 1693 and originally intended for use as a gathering place for the Venetian nobility living on the island. It was converted into a theatre in 1720 and became the first modern theatre to be established in Greece – it was also the center of Greek opera between 1733 and 1893. The theatre was replaced by the Municipal Theare of Corfu in 1902. The Municipal Theatre and its historical archives, many of which belonged to original Teatro di San Giacomo, were destroyed during a Luftwaffe bombing raid in 1943 – only the main stage curtain was saved and today it is found in the new Municipal Theatre of Corfu.
Trade and the selling of merchandise is nothing new, however, from as early as the 17th century, ships travelling around the Mediterranean would stop at the important Venetian port of Corfu introducing merchandise from all over the world and making the island one of the wealthiest markets in Greece as well as enriching the culture. Areas of Corfu town today still reflects the atmosphere of times gone by, with shops and galleries that offer a vast array of goods, including hand crafted jewelry, ceramics and wood carvings as well as locally produced wines, desserts and locally grown fruit like Kumquat. Corfu town is also well known for its daily fresh food market. Renovated in the past few years the market is located west of the historic town center close to the New Fortress – it is an amazing array of colours and aromas – fresh vegetables, fruit and fish are in abundance.
Mon Repos Palace
Situated just outside of the main Corfu town in the suburb of Kanoni, you find the stunning Mon Repos Palace which is surrounded by a magnificent park. The remains of the ancient town of Corfu have been found opposite the palace and archaeologists believe the palace has been built exactly on the site where the ancient city of Corfu used to be. The villa was built as a summer residence for the then British Lord High Commissioner of the United States of the Ionian Islands and his Corfiot wife. Since that time it has been used to house a school of fine arts, and after the island’s union with Greece in 1864, the villa was granted to the monarchy as a summer residence. During the 2nd World War and the Italian occupation, the palace became the residence of the Italian governor of the Ionian Islands. After the war, the royal family continued to use it as a summer residence until King Constantine II fled Greece in 1967. The villa subsequently became derelict, but it was restored in the 1990s. It is famous for being the house where Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh was born in 1921. Although its ownership caused a lot of debate between the Greek government and the former Greek royal family, today the villa and its gardens are the property of the Corfu municipality, and are used as an archeological museum.
Corfu Town Ports
Corfu has a long nautical history and this continues today – not only are there the marinas in Gouvia and Benitses and the many fishing harbours and shelters for boats and yachts in abundance around the whole island, but also those in Corfu Town itself. There is the main ‘New port’ which serves the commercial vessels, cruise ships and ferries as well as the ‘Old port’. The old port used to be the island’s main trading area until the new port was built, but now it serves smaller ferries and daily cruise boats. Directly below the steep walls of the Old Fortress, and just a stroll away from the main town center you will also find Mandraki Harbour – this is an old Venetian port constructed in the 15th century which today is the headquarters POIATH Yacht Club of Corfu (Hellenic Offshore Sailing Club) and IOK (Corfu Sailing Club). A few hundred metres south of the old fortress at the top end of Garitsa Bay you will also find NAOK (Nautical club of Corfu or the Navy Athletic Club of Corfu). Well protected by its pier it offers good facilities for sailing, rowing, water polo and swimming. At the southern end of Garitsa Bay you find Anemomilos (or windmill). The name comes from the reconstructed windmill which stands here and which is the windiest point of this side of the town. There is a pier situated here which offers a spectacular view of Garitsa bay, the town and Old Fortress. And which provides shelter to a number of small boats of a local club and also a landing point to the many yachts which anchor in Garitsa bay during the summer.