Corfu Old Town: Time travel, in an era of grandeur and romance
The Old Town of Corfu, built in the 13th century, is a characteristic part of the fortified architecture of the island. Initially, it was an extension of the town that existed within the walls of the Old Fortress. Then, after the New Fortress was built on the other side, the Old Town was found bordered by these two very impressive fortresses!
Between the Old and the New Fortress, there is a colourful and noisy area (the Old Town) that retains its historical character, with a typical medieval road planning and majestic architecture of the 17th and 19th centuries!
Venetian mansions, neoclassical buildings and plain houses of the time, are mixed through narrow and irregular cobbled streets (cantons), forming small neighbourhoods, each with a small square, a stone well and a secret church.
The romantic ambiance in the Old Town will travel you back in time to an era of grandeur. Stroll through the alleys, admire the mansions with the ornate balconies and decorations, explore the facades hidden behind the climbing pink bougainvilleas, and when it’s time to rest, enjoy your drink or food at one of the many cafes/restaurants in the area.
in the Old Town of Corfu:
- The Old and the New Fortress, marking the area Spianada, the largest square in the Balkans
- The Garden of the People, at the edge of Spianada, next to the palace
- Liston, the most famous pedestrian street of Corfu, for a walk, coffee and food
- Campiello, one of the most beautiful neighborhoods of Corfu
Buildings in the
Old Town of Corfu, worth visiting:
- The famous Palace of St Michael and St George, where kings used to live
- The Town Hall, once a noble club and theatre (San Giacomo)
- The Ionian Parliament, a neoclassical building with columns, that is now a museum
- The Ionian Academy, an 18th-century Venetian building that is now a university
Museums to explore
in the Old Town of Corfu:
- The D. Solomos Museum, that is dedicated to the Greek poet who wrote the National Anthem
- The Byzantine Museum, located inside a church and exhibiting more than 100 icons from a large period of three centuries
- The Museum of Asian Art hosted in the Palace, exhibiting 10,000 works of related art
- The Banknote Museum, on the 1st floor of the Ionian Bank, with a collection of all the banknotes issued by the modern Greek state.
- The Reading Society, the oldest cultural institution of modern Greece, with rich printed material on the history of the Ionian Islands.
The most important architectural construction of Corfu, which will fascinate you with its imperial grandeur
Corfu has had a tradition as being a place of choice for high officials’ permanent or summer residencies, thanks to the strategic location, the climate, the cosmopolitanism and the aristocratic nobility of the island.
Among the famous officials who distinguished the island for all the goods is had to offer, was empress Sissy, who would eventually decide to build her own summer residence in Corfu. And what a building that would be!…
Her residence was built to the standards of an amazing mansion, combining ancient Greek elements with Renaissance and European imperial elements in a glorious Pompeian style. And although it was intended as a country house, the palace was dedicated to Achilles (main hero of Homer’s Iliad, whom the empress especially admired), from where the palace also gets its name (Achillion).
Built on the green hill of Gastouri, a village 10 km southwest of Corfu town, with stunning views to the North and South (Chalkiopoulou Lagoon, Kanoni and Pontikonisi), the Achillion Palace will amaze you already upon your arrival at the entrance of the endless stepped gardens that are full of palm trees, exotic flowers and age-old trees, as well as large statues of the Greek archaic type.
Inside the palace, the visitor finds himself in front of a majestic staircase. To the right of the entrance stands the portrait of Empress Sissy, and to the left, a luxurious marble fireplace. The space is decorated with bronze statues, smaller statuettes and plaster sculptures. The gaze, however, is instantly drawn by the roof, where the “Four Seasons” of the year are magnificently depicted.
Going up the stairs to the 1st floor, you “bump” into the “Triumph of Achilles”, an oil painting that is a pole of attraction in the palace. Apart from oil paintings and frescoes, the palace also has amazing murals, such as “The Trial of Christ” in the catholic chapel located in the palace, which should not be missed.
After the death of empress Sissy, the Achillion became the property of the last emperor of Germany, Kaiser Wilhelm II, who was also an admirer of ancient Greek mythology.
In the halls of the palace, in addition to impressive and unique works of art, you will also have the chance to see personal objects and heirlooms of these two imperial figures.
The Achillion Palace operated for some time as a foreign-owned casino, but since 1994 it has been operating as a museum owned by the Greek State.
The popular tourist resort with unexplored beaches and impressive sea caves
Paleokastritsa is a popular tourist resort, 25 km from the city of Corfu, formed by impressive geological formations that are consisted of green capes, small coves, protected beaches and magnificent sea caves.
It is considered one of the most beautiful areas of Corfu, offering a variety of accommodation, hotels, taverns, restaurants and cafes, and the chance to rent boats for nearby excursions and diving.
In Paleokastritsa you will find organized beaches accessible on foot, but should you visit the place do not miss the chance to explore by boat the smaller “hidden” beaches scattered around the area, as well as the impressive nearby sea caves, such as the Cave of Nafsika, St Nicholas, the Blue Dragon Eye and La Grotta!
There is a hill overlooking Paleokastritsa, where you can get by hiking through the village of Lakones. From there you can capture the panoramic landscape of Paleokastritsa as an image from a postcard!
One of the most important Byzantine castles on the top of a steep slope, overlooking the entire island of Corfu
Angelokastro stands majestic at the top of a steep slope, in a strategic position from where the castle guards would supervise the entire island of Corfu!
A proud symbol of the Byzantine era, it was once the westernmost bulwark of the Byzantine Empire and the Despotate of Epirus, where Corfu belonged until the middle of the 13th century.
Well-preserved exteriorly, considering how old it is, the small castle welcomes visitors through the arched gate that crowns the entrance. Inside, also preserved in a good condition, are two churches dedicated to the Archangels Michael and Gabriel. The castle also features another well preserved – built into a cave church, that is dedicated to Agia Kyriaki.
Angelokasto is 10 km from Paleokastritsa. By road, you can reach through the village of Krini, following the signs to the foot of the hill, where there is a parking lot. From there you have to walk uphill for 20 minutes.
Note: You can only visit the castle on morning hours – tickets are issued at the foot of the hill.
A rocky islet-landmark for Corfu, that is accessible by boat
Pontikonisi is a small, but impressively densely rocky islet, which stands almost flat (!) at the entrance of the Chalkiopoulou lagoon, opposite the airport of Corfu.
It is a popular landmark for the island and the first landscape the visitor gets to see as the plane lands. It is said that the islet has taken its name from its shape (the exact translation of Pontikonisi is Mouse Island), but in reality, it looks more like a garden-raft in the middle of the sea rather than a mouse.
Of the houses it once had, only one monastery with a church dedicated to the Transfiguration of the Savior has been preserved, standing out all white in the middle of the lush rocky islet.
You can admire it from the facing area Kanoni, drinking your coffee or having lunch, or you can visit it by boat. Itineraries are very frequent and throughout the day, both at Easter and in the summer.
The oldest village of Corfu and a protected monument waiting to be discovered
Palia Perithia is an abandoned stone-built village of medieval architecture, in the municipality of Thinalia, located 50 km from the town of Corfu.
Hidden on the slopes of Pantokratoras, the highest mountain of Corfu, at an altitude of 420 m., it is considered a top unexplored destination of historical interest.
Arriving on the road outside the village, do not be surprised if you see only the bell tower of the church of St. Jacob of Persia located at the entrance. To “dig out” the village, you have to look behind the huge trees.
This was, after all, the intended purpose behind its location, to remain hidden from would-be invaders, at times when the pirates were looting the villages of the island.
Stroll the cobbled streets of the village to explore the 130 stone mansions and the 8 churches surrounding it. Wandering around Palea Perithia you will feel the ambiance, but also the nostalgia of a bygone era.