The Top Things to Do and See in Corsica

Corsica is home to stunning Mediterranean views and beautiful, historic architecture
Corsica is home to stunning Mediterranean views and beautiful, historic architecture | © M. Timothy O'Keefe / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Josh Wright
3 August 2021

A five-hour ferry from Nice is all that separates beautiful Corsica from the mainland of France. Being geographically closer to Sardinia and Italy’s west coast means Corsica is imbued with an alluring Franco-Italian heritage. Yet, as the locals will be quick to remind you, Corsica also has a proud culture of its own. Explore historic sights like Maison Bonaparte and Bonifacio Citadel alongside the wild beauty of Monte Cinco on this Mediterranean island.

Go canyoning

Natural Feature
Map View
France, Corse du Sud, Propriano, beach Baracci
© JMOIRENC Camille / hemis.fr / Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo

Corsica’s varied terrain lends itself to a range of intrepid methods to cross it. At its heart, the island hides a complex of valleys and canyons that can be explored by climbing, trekking and swimming. While being able to swim is required, local canyoning companies boast high-level expertise to make even the trickiest of canyons accessible to all. This is thanks to a mix of adrenaline-infused dives, toboggans and Tyrolean traverses. The Baracci Canyon, near Propriano, is ideal for beginners as young as seven.

Listen to the Polyphonic Song Festival

Architectural Landmark, Natural Feature
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Polyphonic music comprises songs with two or more melodies, and in Corsica, this style is sung a capella to haunting effect. Believed to have originated from shepherds who would sing their tales from the mountains, this lasting musical tradition is celebrated annually. The Polyphonic Song Festival features an international line-up that can be heard across locations within the citadel of Calvi, including its atmospheric, 13th-century baroque cathedral.

Eat civet de sanglier (wild boar stew)

Restaurant, French
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Fans of France’s beloved Asterix comic strip can feast like the indomitable Gaul with wild boar stew, a signature Corsican dish. Slow cooked in a rich red wine and Armagnac ragu, the tender meat is served with melt-in-your-mouth bacon, onions and carrots. Corte’s A Casa di L’Orsu is one eatery that will happily dish it up alongside freshly-made tagliatelle. Make sure to follow it up with Fiadone Corsican cheesecake for dessert.

Visit Maison Bonaparte

Museum
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France, Corsica, Corse du Sud, Ajaccio, Maison Bonaparte Museum, Native Bedroom of Napoleon
© Christophe Boisvieux / Alamy Stock Photo
The birthplace of Corsica’s most famous son, Napoleon Bonaparte, has naturally become a site of great importance on the island. Now a museum, Maison Bonaparte is filled with preserved period furniture and the family’s personal possessions. The Bonapartes arrived in Ajaccio sometime in the late 15th century and owned the house from 1682 to 1923. Napoleon only lived here until the age of nine, but his status as such a prominent figure in world history has led to the Maison being classified as a historical monument.

Explore the Scandola Nature Reserve

Natural Feature, Park
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Comprising just under eight miles of Corsica’s northwest coast, the Scandola Nature Reserve has been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site for its rugged beauty and biodiversity. The best way to experience the area is by taking a boat from the port of Calvi to the north. The Colombo Line operates a three-hour boat tour that takes in the red cliffs and volcanic headlands of the coastline. Dolphins and sea eagles will join you, if you’re lucky.

Stroll around the Bonifacio Citadel

Museum, Architectural Landmark
Map View
Port and citadel of Bonifacio, Corse du Sud, Corsica, France
© Rainer Mirau / mauritius images GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Perched atop the white limestone cliffs of a peninsula with a sheer 70-metre drop below, the location of the Bonifacio Citadel is certainly dramatic. The fortification was founded in the 9th century as a first line of defence for Tuscany and was once joined to the island of Sardinia. Today, it’s a tangle of winding medieval streets, ancient churches and colourful houses. Watch yachts cruise past from Les Terrasses d’Aragon or rent jet skis to explore from the water.

Swim off the Désert des Agriates

Natural Feature, Park
Map View
Translucent turquoise Mediterranean sea lapping onto an almost deserted Ostriconi beach in the Balagne region of Corsica with the Desert des Agriates
© Jon Ingall / Alamy Stock Photo
The best way to explore the 15,000 hectares of protected wilderness is from the water – catch the shuttle boat from the port of Saint-Florent. Once fertile farmland, the area is now home to wildflower meadows and picturesque beaches, primed for swimming. One of the most beautiful is Saleccia, framed by pine trees. There are no facilities here, so make sure you bring food and water. Keep your eyes peeled for pagliaghji, stone huts that were once used as housing, barns or warehouses.

Marvel at the Palais Fesch Musée des Beaux-Arts

Museum
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Napoleon’s uncle, the cardinal Joseph Fesch, established this fine art museum – which is home to the largest collection of Italian paintings in France outside of the Louvre. Works by masters like Botticelli, Bellini and Titian are displayed, alongside important Napoleonic paintings and memorabilia. Join one of the guided tours, or immerse yourself further by booking a drawing workshop or tickets to a harpsichord concert. There’s even a comic book workshop for kids.

Buy honey at Le Jardin des Abeilles

Shop, Park
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This “Garden of Bees” is an unexpected attraction in Corsica. The Casalta family operate 400 hives, extracting six varieties of honey from their insect livestock as well as beeswax. Follow the wooded learning path – a glass beehive stands for inspection at a charming location next to the Prunelli River. Beauty, health and an assortment of sugary treats are available to purchase at their shop – plus the artisan ice cream is also worth a try.

Hike up Chapelle de Notre-Dame de la Serra

Hiking Trail, Natural Feature
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Corsica Madonna Statue Chapelle Notre Dame de la Serra near Calvi France Europe figure rock chapel religion
© Heeb Christian / Prisma by Dukas Presseagentur GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
It’s a long trudge up to this hilltop chapel overlooking Calvi, but you’ll be rewarded with magnificent panoramic views when you reach the top. You’ll be able to spot the azure waters of the Mediterranean, and the La Revellata lighthouse. Standing upon a large rock is the statue of Our Lady of the Serra, the static sentinel whose open arms welcome each pilgrim who journeys to the island. For an added incentive, local superstition claims that bringing the love of your life to the chapel will ensure many years of happiness.

Ponder the past at Filitosa

Archaeological site
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© Paul Arps/Flickr
Excavations at this enigmatic archaeological site began in the 1950s. Set in an ancient olive grove, its signature feature is the group of menhirs – megaliths, or standing stones – that are thought to date back to 1,500BCE. You’ll be able to spot representations of human faces, weapons and armour carved into the granite slabs. Arrow heads and pottery found here are suspected to be even older, around 3300BCE. Browse the museum and grab a lemonade at the on-site brasserie afterwards.

Alexis James contributed additional reporting to this article.

These recommendations were updated on August 3, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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