I love Corfu not only for the amazing beaches but also for the sights, attractions and great food. You can easily visit for ten days there without getting bored!
Last year I visited one of the most famous islands in Greece, Corfu. Corfu and the other Ionian Islands have been renowned since antiquity for their beauty, part of the attraction that has now made them internationally famous as summer resorts. Corfu is the northernmost of the Ionian Islands, extending southward from Greece’s border with Albania along the coast of Epiros.
The island is long and narrow, extending for some 70km north-west to south-east, tapering from a width of 30km in the north to only 4km in the south. It is divided by two mountain ranges into three regions: the northern, central and southern. The northern region is divided into two parts, with Oros to the east and Gyros to the west. The central region of the island, Mesi, is made up of a mosaic of high hills and small plains. Lefkimi, the southern region of Corfu, is almost entirely a monotonous plain, whose fertility makes it the principal agricultural region of the island.
Corfu with its amazing sand and pebble coasts, rich history, and intoxicating mix of monuments has always attracted holidaymakers from all around the globe. The Island has been conquored by the British, French and Venetians, who stayed for nearly 400 years. British and French influences can be seen in Corfu’s atmospheric Old Town, while the sociocultural impact of the Venetians can be seen all around the island.
Corfu Town – A little bit of history!
Corfu Town, the Greek Kerkyra, is the capital and principal port of the island. The town is on the east coast of the Mesi region, directly across the strait from the Greek–Albanian border, built on a promontory that forms the southern horn of a great gulf whose northern side is formed by the massif of Mt Pantocrator. It has a population of some 30,000, making it the largest town in the Ionian Islands, as it has been since antiquity when it was the city-state of Kerkyra.
My Top 5 Corfu Town Sights & Attractions
1. The Church of Agios Spyridonas
The church of Agios Spyridon stands in the midst of another old quarter south of Campiello. The main entrance is on Odos Spyridon, a street that leads westward from the Esplanade, the guiding landmark being the extremely tall belfry of the church, the highest on the Ionian Islands. The church was built in 1589, replacing an earlier chapel of Agios Spyridon in the Sarokka quarter, destroyed when the Venetians began building their new fortifications after the Battle of Lepanto. The church is a single-nave basilica, its belfry, and clock tower surmounted by a red dome, reminiscent of the bell tower of the Greek Orthodox church of San Giorgio dei Greci in Venice, built at about the same time.
2. The Museum of Asian Art
The Museum of Asian Art is the only institution of its kind in Greece. It was originally founded in 1927 as the Manos Collection of Sino-Japanese Art, after the donation of 1,500 objects by Gregorios Manos. After the donation of collections of objects from various places in Asia by Nikolaos Hadzivassileiou, Harilaos Chiotakis, and others it was renamed in 1974 as the Museum of Asian Art.
3. The New Fortress – Fortress of Agios Markos
The fortress was built by Marshal Schulenburg after the Turkish siege of 1716. The Fortress of Agios Markos Is located at the western end of Odos Nikiforou Theotoki street, as it opens into the plateia known in English as Harbour Square. The New Fort connected the two lines of fortifications that the Venetians began building after the Battle of Lepanto, with one set of walls stretching along the sea and the other extending in a great arc around the landward side of the city.
4. The Town Hall
The Town Hall of Corfu was originally constructed between 1663 and 1693. It is a marble and stone made building that dominates in the square of the Town Hall. The Town Hall is one of the best and most impressive Venetian architectural structures in Corfu. The building in the past served as both a club for the noblemen and the Noble Theatre of Saint Giacomo. It was turned into a town hall in 1903.
5. Old Fortress
The Old Fortress of Corfu is the first thing you will see as the ferry approaches the island. It is located on the eastern side of the town on a rocky peninsula that gets into the sea. The Fortress is one of the most impressive fortifications in Europe and it is called Old in contrast to the New Fortress (of Saint Mark), that was also built to defend the town from enemies and pirates.
Corfu Beach Guide – My favorite ones!
Northwest Corfu Beaches
The most popular coats are the ones of Sidari and Canal D`amour, Peroulades and Loggas, and Agios Stefanos at Northwest Corfu. Porto Timoni is also a fantastic beach but it is not easily accessible, as visitors have to take a 20 min walk to get there. Agios Georgios of Pagoi is also a spectacularly beautiful beach inside a huge horseshoe shaped-bay. It’s a lovely beach but the water is very cold, so do not be surprised if you freeze the first time you go swimming!
West Corfu Beaches
The west part of Corfu features probably one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe, Paleokastritsa. Paleokastritsa offers stunning views and crystal clear waters but it is always very busy. If you want to truly enjoy your time there, you need to arrive there relatively early and also bring with you a sun umbrella and a folding chair.
Just below Paleokastritsa is Ermones, this beach is made up of sand and shingles and can be found on the edge of the Ropa valley, it lays 15 km northwest from the town. Glyfada is also a very popular and busy beach, which is a 35 minutes drive from Corfu Town. Other options are Pelekas, Kontogialos, Gialiskari Beach, and the huge and busy beach of Agios Gordios.
If you are looking for small and peaceful beaches, then Vagonaki, Paramonas Prasoudi, Kanouli, Gardiki, and Alonaki make a great option for relaxing. In the south-west, around 20 km from the Old Town, Chalikounas and Issos offers a unique experience as the whole landscape there looks like the Sahara Desert.
Southeast Corfu Beaches
Of all the beaches I have been to on the southeast Corfu, the two that I enjoyed the most are Halikounas and Benitses.
Chalikounas Beach is located close to the lake Korission in the southwest part of the Island and offers breathtaking views and crystal clear water. The area is surrounded by a lavish green forest of Cedar and Juniper trees. The beach is also child friendly and ideal for Kite surfing & Windsurfing.
This spectacular sand and pebbles beach is located just 12 km south of Corfu Town. Benitses attracts many swimmers and sunbathers and becomes really busy during the weekend as it is the favorite destination of Corfiots. The beach and its surrounding area are very well organized. Holidaymakers will find water sports, cafes, bars, taverns, fast food restaurants, and plenty of accommodation options.
Pelekas, a village noted for its superb setting high in the hills above the west coast of Corfu. One famous spot near Pelekas is the Kaiser’s Throne, so-called because Wilhelm II loved to sit there and enjoy the view during his vacations on Corfu in the years 1908–1914. Visit Pelekas for the stunning sunsets and for a 360° view over the island.
North of Benitses there is a turn-off for Gastouri, a place that Margaret Hopkins, in her excellent book on the island, describes as having ‘long had the reputation of having the prettiest women, the most beautiful costumes and the best dancers of any village on Corfu’. As the road enters the village it brings one to the Achilleion, a grandiose palace standing on a hilltop above Benitses.
The Achilleion, which is supposed to be a recreation of an ancient Phaeacian palace, was built during the years 1888–1892 for the Empress Elizabeth of Austria, the beautiful but ill-fated wife of the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph. After Elizabeth’s death, the palace passed to her daughter, but it was little used during the following decade. Then in 1908, the Achilleion was bought by Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Angelokasto – Krini
The road to Paleokastritsa passes through Krini, a hamlet in the hills above Akri Falakron, the third cape south from Akri Drastis. At Krini a track leads seaward towards the cliff-top site of Angelokastro, the principal medieval site on the western coast of Corfu.
South of Agios Mattheos there is a turn-off to the right that, after a short distance, leads to the ruins of a medieval fortress known as Gardiki Castle. This was built in the fourteenth century by one of the Despots of Epiros, either Michael I or Michael II. The fortress consists of eight towers connected by curtain walls to form an octagonal enclosure, with decorative courses of ceramic tiles set into its structure, along with fragments of ancient buildings that once stood in the vicinity.
Kanoni can be found south of the Palaiopoli peninsula. There you can visit the monastery of Vlacherna and also the world-famous Pontikonissi.
Mon Repos is located around 3 km from the Old Town of Corfu and it can be visited on foot. There is no need to get a taxi as it is worth walking this 3 km to enjoy the breathtaking view. Mon Repos served in the past as the summer residence of English high commissioner F. Adam and of the Greek Royal family. The beach at Mon Repos is also a good option if you do not want to travel to the other more remote beaches.
Corfu Shell Museum
The Corfu Shell Museum is not only unique to Greece but to the whole of Europe. The museum is dedicated to shells and other treasures of the Deep. It contains thousands of exhibits and a great collection of exotic souvenirs,
I do not want to get into a lot of detail but given that I have also lived in Corfu as a student for almost five years, I would like to provide a few very useful tips
Try something local: While being in Corfu, do not forget to look for good places to try Sofrito and Bourdelo.
Try fish: You are on a Greek Island! The best thing to eat is fresh fish!
Icecream: In Corfu Town, there are many places that make ice cream the Italian way (Gelato).it is a bit expensive but it’s worth paying for it. I personally loved it!
Coffees: For those that have not visited Greece before. Try Frappe, Fredo, and Freddo Cappuccino, as they are all fantastic coffees to have during the summertime. My personal favorite is Freddo Cappuccino!
TripAdvisor: Even if you like it or not, Tripadvisor has to become your best friend for locating the best restaurant, coffee place, pizza places, etc. I would also advise you to pay more attention to reviews about the food and service and not so much about the location. It is very rare to find a restaurant or a tavern with great food and also located on a perfect spot. Even if you do, the prices will be very high.
Nightlife: There are plenty of options everywhere in Corfu. I personally like to go out to Corfu Town either in Dassia or Ipsos. Sidari and Archaravi have great nightlife too but they are very far to visit if you do not live there.
About The Author, Stefanos Anastasiadis: I love writing about my favourite travel destinations and about home repairs in my personal blog HomeAdviceGuide. I studied in Corfu Information Science and since then I always try to come back to enjoy the amazing Corfu Town and the lovely beaches of the Island.
I write only when I feel the need to and mostly after I visit a new place. I understand how important it is for holidaymakers to find accurate information about each travel destination, this is why I always try my best. My Macbook and my camera are my best friends and this is why I always carry them with me wherever I go.