It’s widely recognized that the island of Corfu is a highly sought after holiday destination for people from all walks of life. Named on many travel sites as one of the best Greek islands, the beaches, stunning scenery, family friendly atmosphere, and intriguing nightlife are all elements that come together to create this magical holiday haven.
The town of Corfu however may just be a reason in itself to visit this gem of the Ionian. Rightly called by the locals as just “the centre”, it is conveniently located in the middle region of the island, making it quite easily accessible no matter where you happen to find yourself.
Despite being quite a small island, the history of Corfu, and in turn its town, is rich. The island has been inhabited in the past by many colonies, the Romans, Byzantines, and the Venetians among them, and all of them leaving a distinctive architectural stamp in their wake.
In the words of Countess Flamburiari, “Corfu town is Venice and Naples, a touch of France and more than a dash of England, apart of course from being Greek”. The best place to witness this marriage of cultures is old town, Corfu’s very own World Heritage site. Deemed by many as one of the most romantic places to visit in the whole of Greece, the abundant cobbled streets of old town are the perfect place for lazy-day strolling, especially during or after sunset.
New town on the other hand is where most of the hustle and bustle of town life takes place. Centred around the square of Saroko, it is the area in which most of the high-end shops can be found. Although not as architecturally impressive or noteworthy as its older counterpart, new town still has the Corfiot charm about it and is a mandatory pit stop for almost all Corfu holiday goers as it is where the drop-off point for all the main bus routes is located.
A short walk away from Saroko square is the Esplanade and with it the Liston. Probably the number one meeting spot for Corfu locals, this sea of cafés is the perfect place to rejuvenate after a long day of sightseeing. Both the Liston and the Esplanade are family friendly, and dotting the Esplanade you will often find various vendors selling balloons or renting out bikes and electric cars for children. If looking for a less costly option to entertain the little ones, there is also a new playground situated not too far away.
If you are looking to get more of a sense of the town’s history, there are plenty of options for you. Corfu has seen many battles in its time, including what is thought to be the first sea battle in Greek history, which is why it is intriguing to bear witness to the town’s two imposing fortresses.
Although partly added to by the Byzantines, the older of the two fortresses is considered to be a product of the Venetians. After having successfully impeded several Ottoman sieges in its earlier years, the fortress now acts as a popular hang-out spot for locals and a must-see tourist attraction. It is also home to Corfu’s public library and a café, and plays host to many concerts and events.
The new fortress is strategically located near the old port and was designed by an Italian military engineer. Built in the 16th century, the building is described as an “architectural miracle”. Despite having witnessed several major battles in its time, including having withstood the bombings of World War II, the fortress still maintains its spectacular appearance and opens its doors to both locals and visitors alike.
One more impressive Venetian-style building that inhabits Corfu town is Corfu town hall. Having being worked on as a single story building in 1663, and completed in its entirety by the British in 1993, it is a nod towards the island’s succulent history. Initially designed as a meeting place for nobles, it was later transformed into a theater before becoming the town hall that it is used currently.
Inside the church are located the remains of the mummified saint, and several times a year his casket is walked through the streets in a parade that takes place in his honour.
It is tradition on this day to pay respect to the saint by kissing his feet, and it is said that any who do so shall receive his blessing. Those who wish to attend mass at the St. Spyridon church are free to do so, but are advised to dress accordingly.