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Corfu Town: Wandering in The Charming Old City


Last updated on July 3rd, 2021 at 05:16 pm

The Old Corfu Town

Corfu Old Town is a beautiful medieval-style city influenced by the 411 years of Venetian rule. It is the old historic center of Corfu with the most sightseeing and monuments.

The heart of Kerkyra is the old city which is the easternmost part of the town, between the new fortress at the west and the old fortress in the East.

The modern town is in continuity to the west and south and expands beyond the new fortress, in 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 called Kerkyra, as the Greek name of the island.

Corfu Town Video

How is Corfu Town like?

Corfu 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 town has old tall buildings, separated by slopes and narrow streets called Kantounia, so it looks like a small replica of Venice but without the channels.

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

Old monuments of Byzantine origin are preserved with the best known to be 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. It is a densely populated city. Therefore Corfu offers many job opportunities for those who want to stay in it permanently. You can help yourself and find a job in Corfu.

The Old town part

Esplanade square from Cavalieri hotel's roof
Esplanade square from Cavalieri hotel’s roof

A photo from the roof of Cavalieri hotel shows a magnificent view of the Esplanade square and the old fortress of Corfu. The entire area from the 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 square, 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 in between.

Buildings here made of 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 Town Center

The old Corfu town part has 7 districts.

  1. Porta Remounta is the southern district near the sea of Garitsa.
  2. Pentofanaro is exactly in the Liston area.
  3. Kofineta, west of the Palace of St. Michael and George.
  4. Agioi Pateres is at the center of the town.
  5. Jewish sector almost under the new fortress.
  6. Spilia on the old port.
  7. 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 town center 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.

Scaramanga 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.

Are there any beaches in Corfu Town?

Of course, there are.

But, 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.

But let’s find out the most helpful things about them.

1) Faliraki

Faliraki from the old Corfu fortress
Faliraki from the old Corfu fortress

First is Faliraki, a public beach below the Palace, at Faliraki promontory, it’s also called Aleko’s baths.

A road leads down to it from Arseniou street.

There’s a small entrance fee but lower 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 spectacular views of the Palace, the Old Fortress, and the sea. There is a restaurant that serves food and drinks here, too.

2) The facilities of NAOK (Nautical Sports Club of Corfu)

Garitsa bay - The town from the old fortress
Garitsa bay – The town from the old fortress

What is NAOK?

Well, it is the Nautical Athletic group Of Kerkyra, An athletic club which deals with water sports such as swimming, rowing, sailing, and has offered a lot to Greek sports in recent years.

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.

3) Mon Repos Beach

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

4) Anemomylos

Flying over Anemomylos Garitsa
Flying over Anemomylos Garitsa

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.

Things to do and see inside Corfu town

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

We present them starting from the oldest.

1) Medieval and Byzantine Era

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

Without a doubt, the most important monument and the first that you must visit is the Old Fortress. It is a rocky cape, a natural fortress on the eastern edge of the 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.

2) 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 the Esplanade. The largest square in the Balkans.

Esplanade created after 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.

3) French Influences in Corfu town (1807 – 1814 CE)

During the short time that the French remained in Corfu, they left important signs of their presence with the most important of them the Liston. This series of buildings with arched galleries on the west of Esplanade square is with no doubt one of the most beautiful buildings in Corfu.

The center of Liston in Corfu town
The center of Liston in Corfu town

Liston today is the most cosmopolitan spot of the city while these buildings were the barracks for the French army back then.

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

Corfu town: St Michael and George Palace
Corfu 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, inside the area of Ancient Corfu.

During the British domination, the Ionian Parliament was built 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 that 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 also remain after the British left the island. Cricket for instance, which, on Greek territory, is played only in Corfu.

Gingerbeer and the Kum Kouat tree from China were brought here by the British. 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 make up one of the most beautiful and richest cities in Greece.

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

Roads inside the town market in Corfu
Roads inside the town market in Corfu

More in the Town of Corfu

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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).
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