Corfu Town, known as Kerkyra in Greek, is the adorable and very walkable capital of the island of Corfu. While it doesn’t have the kind of historical cache of Athens, there are still some beautiful sights to see in town. Just as relaxed as other parts of the island, perhaps the best thing to do is idle around the shops and indulge in long relaxing dinners. But in case you need some pointers, here are some things to do and sightseeing ideas in Corfu Town.
Wander the Old Fortress
The Old Fortress of Corfu juts out on a peninsula to the east of city center. Originally constructed by the Venetians in the 15th century to protect the city from invaders and pirates, it stands as one of the most impressive monuments on Corfu. The fortress is surrounded by a small moat that you must cross over to get inside the fortification. Tickets are €6, and the site is also included in the €15 city ticket that includes other sights in town such as the Antivouniotissa Byzantine Museum, the Archaeological Museum of Corfu, and the Museum of Asian Art. However, if you enter after closing time, you can still wander the grounds for free or access the restaurant at the Corfu Sailing Club. It is a spectacular place to catch the sunset.
The ticket gives you entry into some of the surviving structures of the Old Fortress and the exhibits housed inside. These include the Church of St. George, the ancient military hospital, and the archives which include paintings, sculptures, and important documents. You can also climb to the top of the lighthouse where you can get a 360-degree view of Corfu and the surrounding seas.
Check out the New Fortress
The New Fortress was built in the 16th century to serve as a stronghold to the west of the main part of Corfu Town. It was originally connected to the Old Fortress, allowing people to move freely and safely between the two points. Now you can access one from the other by taking a stroll through the city that takes no more than 20 minutes, which is probably one of the longest walking distances in Corfu Town. Almost everything takes 12 minutes or less on foot. The New Fortress doesn’t have the kinds of exhibits you’ll see in the Old Fortress but walking around the outer walls provides great views of the other side of Corfu including the Old Port. Entry is free.
Hit the beach
Although Corfu Town doesn’t have the best beaches on the island (not by a long shot), there are some decent spots in town to get some sun and splash around in the refreshing Ionian Sea. Perhaps the nicest and closest to city center is Faliraki Beach, which is publicly accessible although there is a beach club perched on the terrace that offers food and drinks all day long. The beach has convenient steps to get down into the water and a great view of the Old Fortress. I recommend getting there early to grab a lounge chair, but you can always sit at the bar or a table and leave your towels and bags there while you take a dip.
For other areas in town where you can lounge by the water, check out more beaches in Corfu Town.
Visit the Palace of St. Michael and St. George
This headline is somewhat misleading as the palace now holds the Museum of Asian Art. Why would you visit a museum of Asian art in Greece? The answer is air conditioning. It was originally built as the home of the British Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands, and even without going inside, the palace showcases impressive neoclassical architecture and has nice gardens that are free to visit. Even if you don’t care about Asian art, since it was also once used as the royal residence for the king of Greece, there are some stunning interiors like the throne room.
See the city’s museums
If you’re interested in learning more about local history, there are a couple of museums that may interest you and can keep you out of the blistering afternoon sun. The Archaeological Museum of Corfu includes a collection of ancient Greek art and sculptures that have been discovered around the island.
The most famous church in Corfu can also be found in Corfu Town, The Church of Saint Spyridon, where his crypt and relics can be viewed. It is an active church so entrance is free, but you should be respectful of people coming to pray.
Many Europeans have different reasons to come to Corfu for its history. Serbs can find a bit of WWI history at the Serbian Museum of Corfu, dedicated to the 150,000 soldiers who came to Corfu in exile when the Austro-Hungarian army attacked. Visitors from the UK may be interested in visiting the Mon Repos Estate, where Prince Philip was born and where many Greek royals spent their summers. The villa has seen better days, but you might be interested in the exhibit inside if you want to learn more about the villa and Corfu Town.
I spend most of my money on experiences and not things, so it’s a rarity when I am truly impressed by a city’s shopping, but Corfu’s shopping scene is an absolute joy. The Corfu Old Town Bazaar is made of a series of adorable winding streets just opposite Spianada Square. Here you’ll find excellent shopping that includes Greek and Corfiot delicacies, pottery, leather, jewelry, clothes, accessories, soaps, art, and souvenirs. Corfu Town is a great place to arrive when you’ve forgotten some essentials at home like sunglasses, towels, or a hat. Everything is reasonably priced, and shopkeepers aren’t predatory, which makes shopping more enjoyable.
An interesting stop if you’re in the market for olive soap is Patounis’ Soap Factory, which offers free tours on the hour to explain a little bit about the soapmaking process.
Take a mini cruise around Corfu Town
One of the highlights of Corfu Town, albeit a delightfully silly one, was taking a sunset cruise on the Black Rose Pirate Ship. The popular Corfu sightseeing cruise really leans into its theme with garish decor that includes skeletons and pirate flags. You can even don some accessories like hats and fake swords to get into the theme – of course, this is a family friendly cruise. But it never hurts to get in touch with your inner pirate, regardless of your age. It lasts around an hour and 15 minutes and it’s only €10 so it’s probably one of the cheapest things you can do in Corfu. The sunset cruise is the same price and offers some pretty stunning views, not only of the main sights of Corfu Town but of the airport where you can see planes taking off and landing.
Eat and drink to your heart’s content
Though there is good food all over Corfu, you’ll find that many of the restaurants in the beach villages around the island have more generic beach town fare. When it comes to cuisine, Corfu Town really shines. Not only will you find excellent local dishes at various price points, but also incredible Italian food – I’m very vocal about the fact that Greeks wipe the floor with Italians when it comes to pizza and pasta.
My two best recommendations, where we returned more than once, are Abakas and Margherita Pizza. Abakas offers some amazing versions of Greek classics like pastitsida and feta and honey pastries. At Margherita Pizza, you can have some top-tier pizza and pasta – it’s probably not every day you see someone shave an entire truffle on a pizza. And while their specialty pizzas are stellar, the carbonara pasta is the star of this restaurant. Both spots have outdoor seating where you can people-watch for maximum dining enjoyment.
Another great dining area is just off Dimarchiou Square down Gkilford Street. The cozy eateries with sidewalk seating make this one of the most picturesque streets to come have a drink or a meal in Corfu Town.