CORFU ISLAND | GREEK ISLANDS | IONIAN
There is an exceptional variety of beaches in Corfu, from tiny coves to beaches with sand or pebbles stretching for miles and from isolated to jet-set beaches. We selected eleven, judging by their natural surroundings, conveniences as well as the numbers and sort of people who frequent them.
Originally the plan of Corfu town was drawn up according to the defensive requirements of the times. As it grew, the town clustered round the Spianada (Esplanade): Campiello, Agion Pateron and Agiou Athanassiou quarters, and gradually extended to the suburbs of Garitsa, Mandouki and Sanrokko. The sight of the buildings as a whole constitutes an impressive blend of different western architectural influences.
WHAT TO SEE & DO IN CORFU TOWN
SPIANADA AND LISTON
The open space known as the Spianada is Europe’s second largest square, and for Greece both the biggest and loveliest. It was initially for defence purposes, being bare ground between the citadel and the town. It became a square in 1628 and is now the spot where three of Corfu’s major historical periods can be distinguished: in the Old Fort (Palio Frourio), the Venetian; in the Liston arcade the French and in the Palace (Anaktora), the English. Another relic of the past is the cricket matches which still take place on the grassy space. The circular monument in the Ionic style on the south side is the rotunda commemorating Maitland, the first High Commissioner from 1816-24. In the Spianada in summer the Philharmonic and the bands play in the open air for Corfiot and other music-lovers. The Liston with its cafes all in a row is the Greek equivalent of the rue de Rivoli in Paris or the Piazza San Marco in Venice. It consists of multi-storeyed buildings with arcades and Venetian lanterns. They were built in the Napoleonic days (1807-1814) by the French to serve as barracks. There was a time when only those families recorded on the lists of the nobility, Liste d’ Or (Libro d’ Oro), were permitted to promenade there, whence its name (list on).
THE OLD FORTRESS
The best known of the Venetian citadels, this one is closely linked with Corfu’s history. The Venetians also constructed the sea-water moat, the bastions – designed by Martinengo and Savorgnani – and a network of underground galleries for communication between the forts. There were several buildings in it, mainly houses of the aristocracy. Today it contains one of the island’s finest and largest churches, Agios Georgios, built by the British in 1840, a basilica with six external Doric columns and which can hold 4,000 people.
Palace of SS Michael & George – Museum of Asiatic Art
An English, Georgian neo-classical building on the north side of the Spianada, it is said to be the oldest public building of modern Greece. The country’s only Sino-Japanese Museum and the Municipal Gallery are housed there. The museum has interesting exhibits from Asian countries, and examples of Chinese art from the Neolithic era to the Ming dynasty. In front stands the statue of Sir Frederic Adam in recognition of this High Commissioner’s work for the benefit of the island.
AGIOS SPYRIDON CHURCH
The church of Corfu’s patron saint, whose feast day is on 12 December. Most impressive is the towering belfry of the basilica, of 1590, the marble rood, the frescoes, dedications, and relics of the saint in a sarcophagus of 1770, in gilt and with precious stones. These relics are closely linked to the island’s history and religious life.
An old part of town crammed with multi-storeyed buildings, an endless maze in which it is a pleasure to wander aimlessly. Go by the square of the church of the Panagia tis Kremastis where the Venetian decrees were executed. Take note of the fine church of the Kremasti with its majestic exterior and grand interior, the stone altar screen with a carved vine in relief, and icons in the Italian manner by Spyros Sperantzas (1771). In front of the church there is a Venetian well-head of 1699, one of the nine cisterns providing water for the citizens when under siege in the years of Venetian domination. Not far is the Church of Agios Nikolaos, the cathedral of the Great Elders of the Church. The icons of SS Theodora and Kerkyra are attributed to the Cretan painter Tzannes.
BYZANTINE MUSEUM IN THE ANTIVOUNIOTISSA
Tel. 0030 2661038313
8 am-2:30 pm, closed Mondays and holidays
In Campiello on the Mouragio, in the third side street of Arseniou Street, housed in the renovated late 15th c. church of the Panagia tis Antivouniotissas. It is a basilica in the Ionian island style. The museum, opened in 1984, has icons of the Post-Byzantine period from the 15th to 19th c.
CHURCH OF AGIOS ANTONIOS & ANDREAS (14th c.)
At 115 Theotoki St., this is the oldest church of the Venetian town. It was rebuilt in 1753, when its aspect was radically altered. Its superb marble altar screen cost 2,110 ducats in its day.
THE NEW FORTRESS (Neo Frourio Agiou Markou)
It is considered one of the major specimens of the technique of fortification architecture. Smaller than the old fortress, it is on two levels, of which the lower protected the harbour and the higher the surrounding countryside. It was partly this fort and partly a tempest which prevented the Turks from capturing Corfu in 1776 and halted their expansionist drive to the West.
MOUSTOXYDI STREET (Plati Kandouni)
It is considered one of the major specimens of the technique of fortification architecture. Smaller than the old fortress, it is on two levels, of which the lower protected the harbour and the higher the surrounding countryside. It was partly this fort and partly a tempeThis Broad Lane (Strada Larga) was once much wider. Along it you can see the building of the Ionian Parliament, once the chamber of deputies and where the union of the Ionian Islands with Greece was voted on 23 September 1863. Nearby is the mansion of the noble Ricci family from whose balcony, at Carnival time, judges observed the horsemanship contests among the members of the aristocracy.st which prevented the Turks from capturing Corfu in 1776 and halted their expansionist drive to the West.
TOWN HALL SQUARE
A lovely square in the centre of the Old Town. The town hall (San Giacomo, 1693) is one of the finest buildings of the Venetian period. Once a club for the nobility, it was converted into the Opera of the Orient, the first in modern Greece, in 1720, and became the town hall in 1903. The Venetian church of 1632, dedicated to San Giacomo, is the Catholic cathedral. There are some good restaurants in the square.
Tel. 0030 2661041552
Monday-Friday 10 am-1 pm, closed on holidays
It houses an extensive collection of old and contemporary Greek and foreign banknotes. You can also see the first banknote issued by the new Greek state under the Kapodistrias government, value 100 phoenix!holic cathedral. There are some good restaurants in the square.
On Kapodistriou Street, it was once a Venetian barracks and in 1841 became the seat of the first Greek university, which had operated in the Old Fortress from 1824.
At 120 Kapodistriou Street, a Venetian building and modern Greece’s oldest cultural foundation, of 1836. It has a well-stocked library with rare manuscripts, etchings and paintings. In Kapodistriou Street. A splendid architectural specimen, built in 1840, with a marble facade, Corinthian pilasters in rose-coloured stone, with capitals. It now houses the interpreters’ and translators’ department of the Ionian University. Greece’s first prime-minister Ioannis Kapodistrias was born in 1776 in the house which formerly stood on this site.
OUTSKIRTS OF CORFU TOWN
Tennis Club area, on Petrou Vraila & 3 Armeni Sts
Tel. (0661) 30680
8 am-2:30 pm, closed on Mondays and holidays
A number of finds excavated on the island are exhibited. Among others, you will see the imposing and huge pediment of the Gorgon from the temple of Artemis, the head of the statue of Menekrates, a limestone pediment from Figareto and the Archaic lion of Menekrates.
CHURCH OF THE APOSTLES AGIOS IASON & SOSSIPATROU
Corfu’s oldest church, of the 10th c., is in the suburb called Anemomilos. The church is cruciform, with an octagonal dome and fine masonry, containing large movable icons. It is said that the wife of the Despot of Mystra, Thomas Paleologos, is buried in the precinct and according to a tradition, the raised stone blocks reaching into the sanctuary behind the screen are the tombs of the two saints.
This is the small peninsula in front of the lagoon of Halikiopoulou and the airport. First enjoy the magnificent view, pictured on many of Corfu’s postcards and then follow the flagged path leading to a concrete bridge crossing onto the island with the Vlahernas monastery.
It was built before 1685 and began to decline in the 18th c. This is where to go to have the best view of Pontikonissi or to take a boat to the picturesque little island itself.
Corfu’s emblem, famous from the Swiss artist Boecklin’s painting The Island of the Dead, and where you’ll see the 11th c. Byzantine church of the Pantokrator.
Formerly the summer residence of the High Commissioner Sir Frederic Adam and later of the Greek royal family, it is 65 acres of earthly paradise. The grounds are on Corfu’s archaeological site of the ancient city Paleopolis and important finds were made in its NE edge, such as ruins of the Doric temple of Apollo Korkyraios (5th c. BC), the island’s founding deity. The greatest temple of the island, of the 7th c. BC, dedicated to Hera once stood here but has now disappeared.
Corfu’s ancient city, opposite the villa Mon Repos. Very few ruins survive of what were an odeon, an agora, an aqueduct with tall arches, major naval installations, ports and docks and large public baths, of which some remnants can be seen. The basilica of Paleopolis, Agia Kerkyra, is the island’s oldest Christian monument, dating to the 5th c. AD. It suffered extensive damage over the years, the worst from shelling in the second world war. Parts from a Doric temple of Artemis (580 BC) discovered nearby next to the monastery of Agion Theodoron were used in its construction.
Reached by boat from the old port (1 n mi) Its ancient name was Ptihia and it once played an important part in Corfu’s defences. It was first fortified by the French in 1797-1979 and made impregnable by the British in 1814-1864. The fort was however eventually blown up, according to the provisions of the treaty of the union of the Ionian Islands with Greece. Today it is a tourist resort.
CORFU TIPS & INFORMATION
HOW TO GET TO CORFU
By air from Athens, El. Venizelos airport, with Aegean Air.
From Thessaloniki, Makedonia airport, with Aegean Air.
By sea from Patra. Port Authority of Patra, tel. 0030 2610341002, 2610341024, 2610341046.
By car from Athens, by ferry between Rion – Antirion, and Igoumenitsa – Corfu, or by ferry from Patras to Corfu in 9 hrs, Patras Port Authority, tel. 0030 2610341002.
By intercity bus (KTEL) 100 Kifissou Ave., Athens, tel. 0030 2105246805.
CONNECTIONS FROM CORFU
By ferry from Corfu to Paxi, Palaiokastritsa, Sagiada Thesprotias, Albania and Italy. In the summer to Cephalonia.
Corfu Port Authority, tel. 0030 2661032655.
HOW TO GET AROUND IN CORFU
We suggest you hire a car or scooter for two or three days. But be careful, because although the roads are good they are narrow.
BEST SEASON TO VISIT CORFU
All year round for Corfu town and our excursions, if you don’t mind rain. For sea bathing, from June to September.
At Easter and Carnival Corfu has much to offer because of the many cultural and religious events.
OTHER THINGS TO DO IN CORFU
Corfu Sound & Light: At the Old Fort. Information, Corfu Tourist bureau, tel. 0030 2661037638.
Platyteras Monastery: At the edge of Corfu town, in Mandouki. It contains excellent icons and the tombs of Kapodistrias and Tzavelas.
Corfu Casino: Hotel Corfu Palace 2, Dimokratias Ave, tel. 0030 2661046941
Carriage Ride: Starting from the centre of the Spianada. It’s not cheap but worth it on the first day for an impression of the Old Town Corfu.
Corfu Golf Club: On the plain of Ropa at Ermones, tel. 0030 2661094220,
Athens, An 18-hole course, PAR 72, length 6,803 yds/6,221 m. Suitable for beginners (coaching given) and advanced players.
There is a cafe-bar, restaurant and shop with equipment for rent.
CORFU FESTIVITIES AND LOCAL EVENTS
The processions in honour of St. Spyridon: Holy Saturday, Palm Sunday, first Sunday in November and 11 August.
Corfu Festival: In September, with concerts by orchestras and soloists, ballet, opera and theatre companies from Greece and abroad.
Carnival: The last three Sundays of Carnival in February and March.
Petegoletsa: A tradition for the last Thursday of Carnival when the matrons
of Corfu town come out onto their balconies and gossip in the local dialect. Breaking the pots: On the day before Easter at 11 in the morning the bells of Agios Spyridon sound the summons and from the balconies of the houses in the Old Town, empty or full pots of water, are thrown down into the street. This is said to be an ancient-Greek custom symbolizing the first resurrection
(purification) of souls.
Barcarole: On 10 August, illuminated boats in Garitsa Bay re-enact the legend in which Saint Spyridon chased away the Turks who were besieging the town.
Celebration of Union with Greece: 21 May.
Cricket: Matches in the lower Spianada on summer afternoons.
Concerts – Events: Open-air concerts by the local bands, ballet, theatre, etc.
LOCAL FOOD & PRODUCTS OF CORFU
You should try all three of the best-known Corfiot specialities: Pastitsada, macaroni with beef in a tomato sauce; bourtheto, fish in a hot red sauce and soffrito, veal filets with garlic and parsley in a tasty sauce seasoned with vinegar.
WHAT TO BUY IN CORFU
Buy some kum-kwat (kumquat) liqueur made from a miniature Japanese orange which was imported by the British from China.
CORFU USEFUL TELEPHONES NUMBERS
Corfu Town Hall 0030 2661039553
Corfu Tourist Police 0030 2661030265
Corfu Tourist Information Bureau 0030 2661037520
Corfu Tourist Agency 0030 2661021251
Corfu Police 0030 2661039509
Corfu Hospital 0030 2661036044
Corfu Taxis 0030 2661038811