Corfu, Greece: Top Things To Do on the Beautiful Ionian Sea island

O que fazer em Corfu, Grécia.
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2024-05-23

Discover the best things to do and see in Corfu, Greece. Explore the UNESCO World Heritage historic center at a leisurely pace, absorbing the architectural details that distinguish it from other Greek islands. Dive into the paradisiacal beaches and sit at a terrace with a glass of ouzo in hand while watching the sunset…

Corfu promises memorable days to those who dare to spend time in this corner of Greece.

The island of Corfu, or Kérkyra, is part of the Ionian Islands region in Greece and is located off the coast of Albania. In fact, Albanian territory can be seen from this region, as it is only 3 km away at the closest point.

Despite being the most famous and most visited island of the Ionian Islands, it is rarely visited by the Portuguese, which is a shame because I think it’s an incredible place!

From reading this brief introduction, you must have realized that I loved visiting Corfu for many reasons. Therefore, if you are thinking about traveling to Greece, I recommend you read this article carefully to the end.

In other words, if you value exploring landscapes and enjoying beaches in tranquility, I recommend placing Corfu, Greece, at the top of your list of places to visit in Europe.

👉 Fun Fact: Did you know that Corfu was the only Greek island not conquered by the Turks?

Best Things To Do and See in Corfu, Greece

Centro histórico de Corfu, Grécia.
Explore the city center.

Here is a List of Things to Do and See in Corfu.

Before diving into the richness of the region, I would like to leave you with a challenge.

Do you know the origin of the name Corfu? Well, Corfu originates from Korkyra, who was a nymph.

Korkyra was abducted by Poseidon, the god of the sea, and taken to an island, which was then named Korkyra. This is the myth associated with the birth of the island’s name.

Explore the historic center of Corfu, a UNESCO World Heritage site

Ruas de Corfu.
Stroll through the streets of the historic center, known as kandounia. One of the best things to do in Corfu.
Old Corfu.
Old Corfu.

The historic center of Corfu is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Exploring the old town is a true journey through time, with its labyrinth of narrow streets, locally known as kandounia, where you can detect Venetian, French, and British influences.

However, I must say that the Venetian architecture, which seemed predominant to me, is truly fascinating, with colorful buildings and the typical wrought-iron balconies.

Varandas típicas em ferro forjado, no centro histórico.
Typical wrought-iron balconies in the historic center.

The Esplanade, or Spianada, is the largest square in Greece and is located in front of the Old Fortress. This vast green space is perfect for family strolls.

In fact, both locals and tourists take advantage of these well-maintained gardens to relax!

Additionally, spend some time walking along the Liston, a pedestrian area with elegant arcades.

It was built by the French and has sophisticated cafes, which are a bit expensive for my budget.

Explorar a zona de Liston.
Explore the Liston area.
Fazer compras na Rua Kapodistriou.
Shopping on Kapodistriou Street. Things to do in Corfu.

And if you enjoy walking, I recommend strolling along Kapodistriou Street.

This pedestrian street is where you will find traditional shops and local products, such as the famous Corfu olive oil.

To end this tour of Corfu’s historic center, I suggest visiting the Town Hall Square, or Dimarcheiou.

There you can admire the old Corfu Opera House, which is now the Town Hall, as this building completely dominates the square.

Stroll through the Old Fortress (Castle of Corfu)

O que fazer em Corfu: explorar a antiga fortaleza.
What to do in Corfu: explore the old fortress.
Entrada para o antigo castelo.
Entrance to the old castle.

There are many names for this area of Corfu: Old Fort, Palaio Frourio, ancient fortress, and even the old castle of Corfu. But one thing is certain, the Old Fortress is one of the main attractions of Corfu, Greece.

Built by the Venetians in the 15th century, it offers spectacular views over the Ionian Sea, as well as many places to explore, some unfortunately in ruins.

The Old Fortress is a Venetian fortress, dating back to the time when Venice ruled this territory.

The entrance to the fortress is through a stone bridge over a moat.

Right at the entrance, we find the majestic Chapel of St. George (Agios Georgios). This church, built by the British in the 19th century, resembles a Greek Doric temple, standing out for its classical architecture.

Agios Georgios, a Capela de São Jorge na Antiga Fortaleza.
Agios Georgios, the Chapel of St. George in the Old Fortress. Things to do and visit in Corfu.

Another point of interest is the Circular Tower of Versiada (Κυκλικός Πύργος της Βερσιάδας). This tower not only offers an incredible panoramic view but is also, in my opinion, the perfect spot for taking sunset photographs.

The Mandraki Gate is one of the ancient gates of the fortress. This historic gate connects the fortress with the old port of Mandraki, once an important trading point.

At the edge of the fortress lies Cape Sidero (Ακρωτήρι Σίδερο), which boasts an unparalleled view of the sea.

Moreover, the Venetian Lion of the Acropolis of the Old Fortress is a sculpture symbolizing the power of Venice. In other words, it represents Venetian strength and influence in the region for centuries.

Inside the fortress, it is also possible to visit the Pyritidapothḗkē, the old gunpowder magazine, and the old British hospital.

Explore the Temples and Churches of Corfu

Holy Monastery of Panagia Vlacherna, Corfu.
Holy Monastery of Panagia Vlacherna. Top things to do in Corfu.

There are no less than 37 churches in Corfu! Therefore, it’s not an easy task to talk about all the religious temples on the island. For this reason, I’ll only mention the most important ones.

Undoubtedly, the Church of Saint Spyridon is one of the most revered monuments. The patron saint of Corfu, Saint Spyridon, is buried here. His relic is carried through the streets in religious processions, attracting many faithful and tourists.

Another temple worth visiting is the Monastery of Panagia Vlacherna. Located on a small island connected to the mainland by a bridge, this monastery is a must-see!

The Metropolitan Cathedral of Corfu, also known as the Church of Saint Jacob and Sain Christopher, is another important place of worship. This Orthodox cathedral is known for its magnificent icons and frescoes.

On the other hand, the Church of Our Lady of Antivouniotissa, in the old town, is one of the oldest on the island. Now transformed into a museum, it showcases an impressive collection of Byzantine religious art.

The Paleokastritsa Monastery is another religious highlight. Founded in the 13th century and located atop a hill, it boasts simply stunning panoramic views of the sea!

Visit the Museums in Corfu

Conhecer a história de Corfu através dos seus museus.
Discovering the history of Corfu through its museums.

I must say I was pleased to find so many museums on the island of Corfu! I’ve shared before that I’m an unconditional museum fan, as I believe they’re the best way to get to know a destination’s history.

So, while in Corfu, here are my suggestions for museums to explore:

The Museum of Asian Art is one of the most important. Located in the Palace of St. Michael and St. George, it displays a vast collection of oriental art. This museum is unique in Greece, with pieces from China, Japan, India, and other Asian regions.

The Archaelogical Museum is another museum I think is worth visiting. I highlight the finds from the ancient city of Corfu and the impressive Gorgon Medusa. It’s the best way to learn about the island’s ancient history.

At the Museum of Palaiopolis – Mon Repos, located in the former summer residence of the British governors, you can see archaeological finds and artifacts from the ancient city of Corfu.

The Parlante Museum offers a unique experience, recreating the life of an aristocratic family from the 19th century with animated figures and sound effects. In other words, it’s a complete immersion into the era.

Finally, the Kapodistrias Museum is dedicated to Ioannis Kapodistrias, the first governor of independent Greece. It’s located in his family’s country house and showcases personal belongings as well as historical documents.

Visit the Achilleion, Princess Sissi’s Palace

Pátio interior no Palácio da Sissi, em Corfu.
Interior courtyard at Sissi’s Palace.
Decoração no interior do Palácio da Sissi, em Corfu.
Decoration inside Sissi’s Palace in Corfu.
Estátua de Aquiles a morrer, no Palácio da Princesa Sissi, Corfu.
Statue of Achilles dying at the Princess Sissi Palace. Attractions and Things to do in Corfu.
Interior do Palácio da Sissi, em Corfu, Grécia.
Interior of Sissi’s Palace in Greece.

I decided to talk about Sissi’s Palace in Corfu separately because I believe it’s truly worth visiting. It’s not just another museum in Corfu; it’s a genuinely special place.

The Achilleion is located in Gastouri, about 10 km from the center of Corfu, but it’s one of the most visited places on the island due to its architectural, cultural, and historical significance.

The Achilleion Palace was commissioned by Empress Sissi as a summer residence following the death of her son.

Recall that Empress Elisabeth of Bavaria, specifically Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie of Bavaria, also known as Sissi, was the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph I, adopting the title of Empress Consort of Austria.

The name Achilleion refers to Achilles, as the palace is dedicated to this warrior, with statues and paintings displayed throughout the property.

It served as a military hospital during World War I and as a headquarters during World War II. However, the main tourist attractions of the Achilleion are the palace’s monumental staircase and the sculpture of the dying Achilles, which is quite unusual.

👉 Learn more about the history of the Achilleion, Sissi’s Summer Palace, and take a virtual tour with me!

Exploring the events in Corfu during World War II

Escadaria no Palácio da Sissi, com pintura de Aquiles vitorioso.
Staircase at Sissi’s Palace, with a painting of victorious Achilles.

Here’s a historical itinerary to understand Corfu’s role in World War II!

During the war, Corfu endured occupations and bombings, leaving deep scars on the island.

In 1941, fascist Italy occupied Corfu. This occupation lasted until 1943 when the Germans took control. Sadly, the change brought new challenges and suffering to the island’s inhabitants.

The Allied bombings in 1943 were devastating. The city of Corfu suffered significant damage, especially in the old town area, as many historic buildings were destroyed.

To explore these events, I suggest starting at Spianada Square, where monuments and plaques commemorate World War II events.

Another important point is the Old Fortress, as this fortress was used by the Italians and Germans during the occupation.

Additionally, at the Kapodistrias Museum, although dedicated to Greece’s first governor, there is a section on World War II. Here, documents and photographs narrate the impacts of the war on Corfu.

Also, the Church of Saint Spyridon holds historical significance because during the war, this church was a refuge for many inhabitants.

For a complete experience, explore the streets of the old town. Many houses and buildings still bear the scars of war, silent witnesses to a difficult period.

Indulge in local gastronomy

Polvo grelhado.
Octopus for lunch. Top things to do in Corfu.
Tzatziki.
Tzatziki.

Cuisine in Corfu is a unique fusion of Greek, Italian, and Venetian influences. Typical dishes reflect the island’s rich history and culture, as well as what’s found in local markets.

Herbs, vegetables, olive oil, and fresh fish form the basis of Corfiot cuisine.

Let’s talk about typical dishes in Corfu, starting with Sofrito.

You’ll find Sofrito in many restaurants in Corfu. It consists of veal cooked in white wine, garlic, and parsley and is a classic of Corfiot cuisine.

Pastitsada is another traditional dish, where chicken or veal is stewed in tomato sauce and spices, served with pasta.

For seafood lovers, Bourdeto is a must-try! It’s a spicy fish stew, usually made with scorpionfish, with a rich tomato and pepper sauce.

Additionally, in restaurants, you’ll find classic Greek dishes like tzatziki (cucumber and yogurt sauce), moussaka (eggplant with minced meat), and souvlaki (grilled meat skewers served with pita bread).

I also saw plenty of grilled octopus, squid, and shrimp dishes, especially in seaside restaurants.

For a complete gastronomic experience, here are five recommended restaurants in downtown Corfu:

Discover the Paradise Beaches of Corfu

Praias de Corfu, na Grécia.
Beaches in Corfu.

Greek islands are synonymous with beautiful beaches, right? Well, Corfu, in the Ionian Sea, boasts about 117 stunning beaches worth exploring!

In Corfu, you’ll find breathtaking beaches, often without the crowds. Many tourists come on cruises and depart by day’s end, leaving the beaches more serene. Hence, Corfu’s evenings are particularly pleasant!

Moreover, cruise ships don’t dock every day. Most visitors flock to the center, leaving the rest of the island less crowded. This makes Corfu a perfect destination for those seeking quiet, natural beaches.

Here are the most beautiful beaches in Corfu, in my opinion:

  • Barbati Beach: Close to Corfu’s center, this beach has the warmest water on the island and few tourists. Ideal for a relaxing day.
  • Palaiokastritsa Beach: Located in the northwest of Corfu, this hidden gem offers a monastery from 1225 and caves to explore. Perfect for adventurers.
  • Sidari Beach: Situated in the north of Corfu, Sidari is a small village with fewer than 400 inhabitants. Its beaches boast clear waters and fine sand, perfect for a day of relaxation.

It’s important to remember that while nudity isn’t allowed in Corfu, topless sunbathing is accepted on many beaches.

Exploring Corfu’s beaches is an unforgettable experience. The combination of natural beauty, crystal-clear waters, and tranquility makes this island a true paradise.

Accommodation in Corfu, Greece

Vista a partir do Palácio da Sissi em Corfu.
Staying at a seaside hotel in Corfu, Greece.

If you prefer a luxurious seaside hotel, both the Restia Suites Exclusive Resort – Adults Only (5 stars) and the Grecotel-LUXME Costa Botanica (5 stars, ALL INCLUSIVE), as well as the Roda Beach Resort & Spa (5 stars, ALL INCLUSIVE) are excellent options.

However, if you prefer budget accommodation, the Corfu Room (3 stars) is a very affordable option.

Check out the map below with all accommodations on the Island of Corfu:

Everything you need to know before visiting Corfu

Where is the island of Corfu located?

Visitar Corfu, na Grécia.
Visiting Corfu, Greece.

It’s located in the Ionian Sea, on the northwest coast of Greece. Its strategic location, near the coast of Albania, has made it a meeting point for various cultures throughout history.

It’s quite popular as a cruise destination.

It’s the second largest of the Ionian Islands, one of the greenest and, they say, most beautiful in the archipelago.

How many days are needed to visit?

Ilha Pontikonisi, em Corfu.
Pontikonisi Island, in Corfu.

I believe that 2 or 3 days are enough to visit the main tourist attractions of Corfu, such as the magnificent historic center, or Corfu Old Town, as well as some beaches in the area.

However, if you want to get to know Corfu more deeply, which I highly recommend, you will surely find enough reasons to stay a week in Corfu.

Corfu’s cultural characteristics are quite distinct from the rest of Greece, making it a truly fascinating place!

So, if you have the opportunity, reserve a week to discover the beautiful region of Corfu, and you will see that you will thank me!

Is it worth renting a car in Corfu?

Turistas a visitar Corfu, na Grécia.
Tourists visiting Corfu, Greece.

Yes, it is definitely worth renting a car in Corfu, despite buses being available throughout the island.

For the average traveler, it’s very easy to get around by car on the island since the roads are acceptable, although narrow in some areas.

The same cannot be said for taking the bus, as besides having strict schedules, they do not reach all places.

Therefore, I recommend renting a car upon arrival at the airport.

The following car rental companies offer pick-up at Corfu airport: Alamo, Thrifty, Addcar, Avis, Enterprise, Hertz, National, and SIXT.

Additionally, there are car rental companies that, although they do not have offices at the airport, offer free shuttle service to the offices and, for that reason, can offer more attractive prices.

In other words, for those who prefer budget car rental, I recommend checking prices with Dirent a Car, Centauro, or A2S Car Rental.

👉See how much it costs to rent a car on the Island of Corfu.

How to go from UK or US to Corfu?

Aeroporto Internacional de Corfu-Ioannis Kapodistrias (CFU).
Corfu-Ioannis Kapodistrias International Airport (CFU).
Apanhar o ferry para a Olha de Corfu, na Grécia.
Taking the ferry to the Island of Corfu, Greece.

To go from Portugal to Corfu, you can choose either by air or by sea.

Corfu Ioannis Kapodistrias International Airport receives regular flights from Athens and various European cities, especially during the summer season. However, there are no direct flights from Portugal to Corfu.

Additionally, there are frequent ferry services connecting Corfu to other Ionian Islands, such as Paxos, and to the Greek mainland, including the city of Igoumenitsa.

What islands are part of the Ionian Islands archipelago?

Descansar à sombra nas praças gregas.
Relaxing in the shade in Greek squares.

The Ionian Islands archipelago comprises six islands:

  • Corfu;
  • Paxos;
  • Lefkada;
  • Ithaca;
  • Cephalonia;
  • Zakynthos;
  • Kythira;

Why is the Island of Corfu so Famous?

Ilhota entre Corfu e Albânia.
Islet between Corfu and Albania.

The island of Corfu is famous for its unique combination of natural beauty, rich history, and diverse culture, making it a sought-after destination for tourists from all over the world.

In terms of natural landscapes, the island is filled with stunning beaches featuring crystal-clear waters and golden sands. Additionally, its lush vegetation, mountains, and Hollywood-worthy scenery leave no one indifferent.

Moreover, the island has been influenced by various civilizations, including the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, French, and British. This cultural blend is evident in the island’s architecture, cuisine, and traditions.

I’ve mentioned the old town of Corfu before, a UNESCO World Heritage site, as well as historical monuments like the Old Fortress and the Church of Saint Spyridon, to name a few.

In short, there is so much to see and do in Corfu that visitors can easily spend a week exploring the island.

What is the Myth of Corfu?

Monumentos a visitar no centro histórico.
Monuments to visit in the historic center.

I recognize that I didn’t expect to associate the beautiful island of Corfu with mythology, so I was pleased when I learned about the Myth of Corfu, opening a window into an island of legends.

After all, the island of Corfu, also known as Kérkyra, is filled with ancient myths and legends.

According to Greek mythology, Corfu was where Poseidon, the god of the sea, brought his beloved nymph, Korkyra. Fascinated by the island’s beauty, Poseidon decided to name the island after her.

Although this story is one of the most well-known, it is not the only one!

Another important legend is that of Nausicaa, the daughter of King Alcinous of the Phaeacians. In Homer’s “Odyssey,” Nausicaa finds the hero Odysseus shipwrecked. Where? You guessed it, on the shores of Corfu.

Moreover, the Phaeacians’ hospitality helped Odysseus resume his journey home, and this story of welcome is a source of pride for the Corfiots.

Additionally, the island of Corfu is also associated with the mythical Garden of the Hesperides. This enchanted garden, filled with trees bearing golden apples, was guarded by the nymphs Hesperides.

The garden symbolizes the fertility and beauty of Corfu, attracting many visitors interested in history and mythology.

Another mythical location is Mount Pantokrator, the highest point on the island. It is said that from here, the Greek gods observed the world.

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