Corfu is home to lush green scenery, idyllic pine-framed white-sand beaches, historic landmarks and a fascinating food culture that blends sun-ripened Mediterranean produce with influences from the Venetians, who ruled Corfu in the late 1700s and left their pasta traditions behind. It is the second biggest Greek Island in the Ionian Sea and is easily reached from Italy by ferry or from the rest of Europe by aeroplane. Here’s why you should make Corfu your next holiday destination.
The Old Town provides a journey into history. The Liston, an arcaded pedestrian street built during French rule in the early 1800s, was modelled on the Rue de Rivoli in Paris and is a good place to start your exploration. From here, walk to the Spianada – the largest square in Greece and, arguably, Corfu’s liveliest spot. It’s opposite the old Venetian Fortress, a peninsula castle built during the 18th-century occupation of Corfu. Next, stroll the narrow alleys of medieval Campiello, to admire the tall, narrow Venetian buildings or visit some of the museums in the area, including the living history museum Casa Parlante and the Corfu Museum of Asian Art.
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Connected to Corfu by a pedestrian bridge, Vlacherna Monastery is on the picturesque, tiny islet of Pontikonisi (Mouse Island). This landmark – a small, whitewashed building shaded by just one cypress tree – was built in the 17th century and functioned as a nunnery until 1980. Another unique place to discover is Palaio Frourio, a Venetian fortress just east of Corfu Town. When the Venetians took over the island in the late 1700s, they turned the citadel into an artificial island to protect it against three violent Ottoman sieges.
Set your sights on Rovinia, a wonderful beach in Paleokastritsa, 20km (12mi) from Corfu Town, which offers a spectacular landscape of abundant plants and trees, clear turquoise waters and white pebbles. Acharavi, meanwhile, is a wide golden sand beach in the north of the island, famous for its shallow waters which makes it a top spot for families. On the southwest coast of Corfu, Marathias is another long sandy beach with clear waters. Nab a sun lounger and a go on the volleyball court.
Towards the north of the island, the imposing rocks of Cape Drastis have made this one of the most visited spots on the island. Here, a collection of small sandy beaches and tall white cliffs create a striking contrast against the green shrubbery and sapphire sea. Then there’s the seaside resort of Paleokastritsa, often described as the prettiest corner on the island. It features several beaches and bays, coves and caves with cool, emerald waters, all of them quite safe for kids.
Palia Perithia is the oldest settlement on Corfu and now a ghost village, dating from the 14th century. It’s built on the slopes of Mount Pantokrator, once a strategic position for protecting against pirate attacks and sieges. Only a few elderly inhabitants remain. Most of the population abandoned the hamlet to settle in the more touristy coastal areas. Another picturesque village is Lakones, set on Mount Arakli. The small settlement brims with tavernas and cafes with terraces overlooking the Ionian sea and the coast. There are also several souvenir shops selling traditional Corfiot products and souvenirs.
The Carnival of Corfu, which takes place in February or March, is a popular celebration which attracts tourists and locals alike. The Liston and Spianada host the Great Parade, which sees people singing and dancing through the streets in colourful Venetian costumes. A month or so later, Easter is perhaps the most heartfelt celebration in Corfu. Several rites take place during the whole Easter week, but the ones on Holy Saturday are the most distinctive. These include the solemn procession and the moment when Corfiots throw large clay jugs from their balconies, which smash on the ground as all the church bells toll in joy.
Proud of their island and their traditions, locals would first address themselves as Corfiots and then as Greek. Thanks to their culture, rich past and traditions, Corfiots are hospitable and welcoming to visitors. As a general trait, they enjoy long conversations in any given cafe, taking life at an easy pace, one step at a time. Spending time with the locals in Corfu will usually involve dancing, singing and playing music, plus plenty of eating and drinking – always in good company.
This is an updated version of an article originally by Ethel Dilouambaka.
Excited to start planning your trip? We’ve got your accommodation sorted, from the best hotels in Corfu to top-rated luxury hotels, and you can even book right here on Culture Trip. You can then spend your days lounging on the most beautiful beaches in Corfu or discovering the top things to do & see on the island. By night, enjoy a handcrafted cocktail at one of the best bars in Corfu.
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