Last updated on May 29th, 2020 at 08:31 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 called Corfu, 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 deeply influenced by the 411 years of Venetian rule, it is the historic center of Corfu with the most sightseeing and monuments.
The modern city is in continuity and expands to the west and south beyond the new fortress.
What is Corfu Town like?
Corfu town does not look like any other Greek city since its architecture and most other elements that make up its cultural identity are 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 which are called Kantounia, of course without the canals of Venice.
There are also 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, but also monuments from the French occupation too, Liston to be one of them.
Old monuments of Byzantine origin are preserved, i.e the old fortress was originally fortified by Byzantines, as well as of other various conquerors who have passed from here during the island’s turbulent history.
The Old Town part is enclosed entirely by the walls of the two fortresses, the Old Fort on the East and the New fortress in the North and West, therefore 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
The most beautiful part of Corfu is the Old part of the city, with old tall buildings that are standing here for centuries and narrow alleys in between.
Buildings here are made by stone and wood and traditional roofs with tiles, The whole town has been declared a UNESCO-listed monument.
It is bounded on the east by the old fortress, at the North by the sea of the old port, and on the West by the streets of Akadimias, Gerasimos Aspiotis, Spyros Desyllas, and Spyros Vlaikos under the new fortress.
Districts of Corfu
Old Corfu town has 7 districts, Porta Remounta is the southern part near the sea of Garitsa, then we have Pentofanaro exactly at Liston area, Kofineta is west of the Palace of St. Michael and George, Agioi Pateres at the center, the Jewish sector almost under the new fortress, Spilia on the old port, and finally the district of Kampielo at the Northern part of the city.
Most of the old city streets have now become exclusively pedestrian streets and car traffic is made peripheral to the city, the only roads of the old city used by cars are Agoniston Polytechniou, Arseniou, Donzelot, and Zavitsianou streets.
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.
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 sadly 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 but they are a bit cramped and maybe not the most kid-friendly.
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 correspondingly small and not as good for swimming, especially when a ship goes by and the waves come crashing in.
However, it can be a pleasant spot to sit under an umbrella and look simultaneously 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)
Just in the Southside of Old Fortress and in close proximity, the entrance is free and you can use the dock for a dive, not a beach though.
Mon Repos Beach
Another spot used mostly by the locals for a quick dive is under the Mon Repos palace, it is looked 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.
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 very picturesque thought.
Buildings and Monuments in Corfu town
Below we will try to give a picture of the most important buildings or monuments that characterize the city and which must be visited by every visitor.
The presentation is following the time period that they were created.
Medieval and Byzantine Era
Undoubtedly the most important is the Old Fortress, a rocky cape, a natural fortress on the eastern edge of the Old Town.
It was used by the Byzantines already since the 5th century CE as a natural fortification for the first small medieval town.
Ancient Corfu, which existed on the Peninsula of Kanoni, was destroyed in 562 CE after an invasion by the Visigoths, and the few remaining residents found shelter in the old fortress where they built the first medieval city.
The Old Fortress was improved much later during the Venetian occupation.
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.
The new fortress was built between 1576 and 1588 on the hill of Saint Markos in the north of the city and 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 was 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, at the intersection with M. Theotoki street, we will meet the old building of the Town Hall.
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.
Just below, at 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 relatively short time that the French remained in Corfu, they left important signs of their presence here.
The most important and one of the most beautiful buildings in Corfu is undoubtedly the Liston.
Built to the west of Esplanade square, it consists of a series of buildings with arched galleries, and today it is the most cosmopolitan point of the city.
Initially, they were barracks for the French army.
British Sovereignty – The Palaces in Corfu (1814 – 1864)
During the 50 years of English domination of the island, many majestic buildings were built, most notably the imposing palace of St Michael and George on the northern side of Esplanade Square, which 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 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 as the first psychiatric hospital on Greek territory, 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.
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, surely there are dozens more, all together along with the historical heritage of this city make up one of the most beautiful and culturally richest cities in Greece.
Corfu is a unique town that today has become a very important UNESCO World Heritage Site.