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Corfu Town: The Captivating Old City of Corfu

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Last updated on June 24th, 2020 at 06:28 am

The Town of Corfu is a large urban area that fils the center of the island’s east coast. It is the only city and the capital of Corfu island, and it is named with the same name as the island.

The heart of Corfu town is the old part which lays at the easternmost of the city. Between the new fortress at the west and the old fortress in the East.

A beautiful medieval-style town influenced by the 411 years of Venetian rule. It is the historic center of Corfu with the most sightseeing and monuments.

The modern Corfu town is in continuity and expands to the west and south beyond the new fortress.

Corfu Town Video

What is Corfu Town like?

Corfu town does not look like any other Greek city. Its architecture and most other elements of its cultural identity are not so Greek but influenced by many conquerors who ruled the island through the centuries.

The Venetian character remains unchanged due to the preservation of almost all the Italian architecture buildings scattered all over the place. Corfu is a City with old tall buildings, separated by slopes and narrow streets called Kantounia. It looks like a small replica of Venice but without the canals.

There are important signs and remnants left after the 50 years of British domination. With the palace of St Michael and St George to be the most important. Also monuments from the French occupation too, Liston to be one of them.

Old monuments of Byzantine origin preserved. The old fortress fortified for the first time by the Byzantines. Also, various other conquerors during the island’s turbulent history left their marks.

The whole Old Town part is inside the walls of the two fortresses. The Old Fort on the East and the New fortress in the North and West. Thus it is called Kastropolis (A town within castles) and is the only one of its kind in Greece.

Corfu Town’s wider urban area today is inhabited by some 45,000 inhabitants. While the Venetian style old town part has about 20.000 residents.

The Old Corfu town part

Corfu town from Cavalieri hotel's roof
Corfu town from Cavalieri hotel’s roof

A photo from the roof of Cavalieri hotel that shows a magnificent view of the Old town of Corfu. Showing the entire area from Cofineta district at the North up to the sea of north Garitsa bay. You can see the Palace of Saints Michael and George at the far North of the vast Esplanade square, the square with the kiosk in the middle and the majestic Old fortress Eastwards.

The most beautiful part of Corfu is the Old part of the city. With old tall buildings, standing here for centuries, and narrow alleys between.

Buildings here made by stone and wood and traditional roofs with tiles. The whole town declared a UNESCO-listed monument.

It is bounded on the east by the old fortress and at the North by the sea of the old port. On the West by the streets of Akadimias, Gerasimos Aspiotis, Spyros Desyllas, and Spyros Vlaikos. The road under the new fortress.

Districts of Corfu

Old Corfu town has 7 districts.

  • Porta Remounta is the southern district near the sea of Garitsa.
  • Pentofanaro is exactly at the Liston area.
  • Kofineta, west of the Palace of St. Michael and George.
  • Agioi Pateres is at the center of the town.
  • Jewish sector almost under the new fortress.
  • Spilia on the old port.
  • Kampielo in the Northern part of the city.

Most of the old city streets have now become only pedestrian streets and car traffic is peripheral to the city.
The only roads of the old city used by cars are Agoniston Polytechniou, Arseniou, Donzelot, and Zavitsianou streets.

Map with the Old part of Corfu town
Map with the Old part of Corfu town

The Modern City of Corfu

The new city expands to the west of the New Fortress and the old town.

It looks completely different from the old part as it is dominated by cement buildings and the roads are larger.

Skaramanga building - The Italian school in Corfu
Scaramanga building – The Italian school in Corfu

But even here, Old neoclassic buildings and other monuments are not missing.

Examples are; The building of the 1st Gymnasium that used to be the Scaramanga building that once housed the Italian School.

The Marasleion Mansion on Alexandra Avenue that houses services of the City Hall.

The Villa Rosa, a beautiful but abandoned and almost destroyed house beyond San Rocco square.

Some very old Churches of the many that exist in the town and many more.

Beaches in Corfu Town

Corfu Town is not the best place for swimming.

Although there are a few smaller “city beaches” in the city, they are a bit cramped and not the most kid-friendly.

Faliraki

Corfu - Faliraki from the old fortress
Corfu – Faliraki from the old fortress

First, there is a public beach below the Palace, at Faliraki promontory. It’s also called Alekos beach.

A road leads down to it from Arseniou street.

There’s a small entrance fee but smaller than that of Mon Repos.

The beach here is small and not as good for swimming, especially when a ship goes by and the waves come crashing in.

Yet, it can be a pleasant spot to sit under an umbrella and look at the Palace, the Old Fortress, and the sea. There is a restaurant with good food here, too.

The facilities of NAOK(Nautical Sports Club of Corfu)

NAOK - The town from the old fortress
NAOK – The town from the old fortress

NAOK facilities are close to the Southside of Old Fortress. The entrance is free and you can use the dock for a dive, not a beach though.

Mon Repos Beach

Another spot used by the locals for a quick dive is under the Mon Repos Palace. It looks more like a beach but not very nice. Is it called Mon Repos and the entrance is at the south end of Garitsa bay, close to Anemomylos.

Anemomylos

Flying over Anemomylos Garitsa in Corfu
Flying over Anemomylos Garitsa in Corfu

Also, Anemomylos is a place for swimming inside Corfu town. Although you can’t call it exactly a beach, rather than a rocky area with some shingles. The area is a very picturesque place thought.

Buildings and Monuments in Corfu town

Below we give a picture of the most important buildings or monuments that characterize the city. They must be visited by every visitor.

The presentation is following the period that they created.

Medieval and Byzantine Era

Old fortress in Corfu town from Faliraki
Old fortress in Corfu town from Faliraki

Without a doubt, the most important monument is the Old Fortress. It is a rocky cape, a natural fortress on the eastern edge of the Old Town.

The Byzantines used it already since the 5th century CE as a natural fortification for the first small medieval town.

Ancient Corfu, on the Peninsula of Kanoni, destroyed in 562 CE after an invasion by the Visigoths. The few remaining residents found shelter in the old fortress where they built the first medieval city.

The Old Fortress improved much later during the Venetian occupation.

See more about the Old Fortress and its history.

Corfu town of the Venetian Period (1386 – 1797 CE)

Great city features of this very important period are the New Fortress and the vast Esplanade Square.

Corfu new fortress
Corfu new fortress

The new fortress was built between 1576 and 1588 on the hill of Saint Markos in the north of the city.
Its walls then reached the sea up to Garitsa bay at the south, thus defending the whole of Corfu from the west.

The construction of the fortress resulted in the creation of Esplanade. The largest square in the Balkans.

Esplanade created due to the demolition of about 2.500 houses in front of the Old Fortress. This was done to create a defensive zone in front of the old fortress and to find building materials for the construction of the New Fortress.

Leaving Esplanade and Pentofanaro, south of Liston, we follow Evgenios Voulgaris Street. Αt the intersection with M. Theotoki street, we will meet the old building of San Giacomo.

The building was built in 1663 to become the noblest arcade of “loggia Nobili”. Later this beautiful building housed the San Giacomo Theater and today the Corfu Town Hall.

Αt the junction with Vrachlioti Street, almost at the center of the old town, we find Annunziata, in fact, only the bell tower of a church built at the end of the 14th century and dedicated to the Annunciation, remains.
Annunziata is a monument of pan-European importance.

French Influences in Corfu (1807 – 1814 CE)

During the short time that the French remained in Corfu, they left important signs of their presence here.

Corfu Old Town - The centre of Liston
Corfu Old Town – The center of Liston

The most important and one of the most beautiful buildings in Corfu is with no doubt the Liston.

Built to the west of Esplanade square, it consists of a series of buildings with arched galleries. Today is the most cosmopolitan point of the city.
They were the barracks for the French army back then.

British Sovereignty – The Palaces in Corfu (1814 – 1864)

Corfu Old Town - St Michael and George palace
Corfu Old Town – St Michael and George palace

During the 50 years of English domination of the island, many majestic buildings were built.

The imposing Palace of St Michael and George on the northern side of Esplanade Square was built in 1819.

Also outside the city is the Mon Repos palace, in Kanoni and in the area of Ancient Corfu.

During the British domination, the Ionian Parliament was built and operated. It is at the junction of Moustoxi and Napoleon Zambelli streets. The building was built in 1855 and is dominated by the 4 Doric style columns on the entrance.

At that time the British cemetery was constructed as well. The first psychiatric hospital on Greek territory too.
But also smaller buildings such as the round peristyle of Thomas Maitland. A round kiosk with 20 Ionian style pillars, it was designed by the engineer George Whitmore. This peristyle was built on top of Sterna (cistern) in the upper square.

Sunday walk at Sterna in upper Esplanade - 1900
Sunday walk at Sterna in upper Esplanade – 1900
Sterna at upper Esplanade today
Sterna at upper Esplanade today

Some British habits have also remained after the British left the island. Cricket for instance, which, on Greek territory, is played only in Corfu.

British rulers brought here the Kum Kouat tree from China, also Gingerbeer. They also built the aqueduct and many other infrastructure projects.

These are a few attractions that the various conquerors left in Corfu town. There are dozens more.
All together along with the historical heritage of this city makeup one of the most beautiful and richest cities in Greece.

Corfu is a unique town that today has become a very important UNESCO World Heritage Site.

See more Inside Corfu city

Mon Repos Palace in Paleopolis Corfu
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Mon Repos Palace is a neoclassical building at the east of Paleopolis, the Corfu ancient city. Built at 1830 by the British Commissioner Sir Frederick Adam in the beginning of the peninsula of Kanoni opposite the... Read More

The Bell Tower of Annunziata in Corfu
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Annunziata, a monument of pan-European significance. At the intersection of Evgeniou Voulgareos and Vrahliotis streets in Corfu, is the Annunziata, a church devoted to the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary as well as to Santa... Read More

Ancient Corfu Sites of Paleopolis
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If you fancy a journey in your imagination explore the site of the ancient city of Corfu, known as Paleopolis (Old City). It was discovered after archaeological excavations during the last century. The city was founded in the... Read More

Corfu Town in the Winter
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A stroll through the old part of town in the evening once the visitors have departed reveals a completely different place to the thriving metropolis seen on a summer's morning. Leave the Esplanade and walk... Read More

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