Corfu, or Kerkyra as is the Greek name for the island, is one of the island queens: Corfu is breathtakingly beautiful, with a long and amazing history, and iconic, unique architecture. The island culture is also a unique mix of the ubiquitous Greek culture mixed in with Italian and French in a way only the Mediterranean can balance.
It’s no wonder that Corfu is popular with tourists. Vacations there are flexible, as there is something for everyone. You can have it luxurious and cosmopolitan one day and adventurous and casual the next!
Here is everything you need to know to get the most out of your dream Corfu vacations!
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- Corfu Quick Guide
- Where is Corfu?
- How to get to Corfu
- How to get around Corfu
- Corfu’s climate and weather
- Brief Corfu history
- Things to see and do in Corfu
- Explore Corfu Town
- Visit the Achilleion Palace
- Visit Mon Repos
- Explore Kanoni and Pontikonisi (Mouse Island)
- Explore Angelokastro
- Enjoy Paleokastritsa
- Explore the Old and New Fortresses
- Visit Vidos island
- Visit the Church of St. Spyridon
- Visit the City Palace and the Museum of Asian Art
- Walk at the Liston
- A day trip to Paxos and Antipaxos
- Hit the beaches
- Enjoy the local cuisine
Corfu Quick Guide
Planning a trip to Corfu? Find here everything you need:
Looking for ferry tickets? Click here for the ferry schedule and to book your tickets.
Top-Rated Tours and Day Trips to Do in Corfu:
– From Corfu Island: Antipaxos & Paxos Blue Caves Boat Cruise (from € 34 p.p)
– From Corfu: Parga, Sivota and Blue Lagoon Full-Day Boat Cruise (from € 38 p.p)
– Olive Oil Experience – The Governor’s Olive Mill (from € 50 p.p)
– Corfu Town: Guided Walking Tour and Local Food Tasting (from € 80 p.p)
Where to stay in Corfu: Siora Vittoria Boutique Hotel (Corfu Town), Del Mare Beach Hotel (Sidari), Rapanos Apartments (Paleokastritsa)
You might also like my post: Where to stay in Corfu.
Corfu is part of the Ionian islands. It’s at the northernmost and westernmost point of the Ionian islands.
Corfu is at the entry point of the Adriatic Sea and quite close to mainland Greece.
How to get to Corfu
You can get to Corfu by plane and boat.
Because Corfu’s airport is international, you can fly directly to Corfu, especially during the summer months and the high season. You can also fly to Corfu from Athens’ airport or from the Thessaloniki airport. Corfu’s airport is 3 km from Corfu’s Chora, Corfu Town.
If you choose to go by boat, you can get one from the port of Preveza in the Epirus prefecture. You can also get one from the port of Igoumenitsa. If you are going to Corfu from Athens, you need to drive to Patra first, and then to Igoumenitsa. Alternatively, you can take the KTEL bus.
The boat trip lasts roughly 1 hour 30 minutes.
If you are in Italy, you can take the boat to Corfu from Venice, Bari, or Ancona at the very least. Usually, there are other Italian ports that have itineraries to Corfu.
How to get around Corfu
The best way to get around Corfu is by car. While there are buses and taxis that will take you to basic places but a car will give you more freedom, flexibility and will take you to more off-the-beaten-path places.
I recommend booking a car through rentalcars.com where you can compare all rental car agencies’ prices, and you can cancel or modify your booking for free. They also guarantee the best price. Click here for more information and to check the latest prices.
Corfu’s climate and weather
Corfu’s climate, like all of Greece, is Mediterranean. This means that Corfu gets hot and dry summers with relatively mild, rainy winters. The temperature during summer averages at 30-35 degrees Celsius but during heat waves, it can go as high as 41 degrees. During winter, temperatures average at 6-10 degrees Celsius.
It doesn’t get very windy in Corfu. Make sure when you are out in the sun to always be protected, as the sun is relentless.
The best time to visit Corfu is from May to September when the sea is warm enough to swim. But if you’re looking for festivals and traditional events, you might want to visit during Easter when the festivals, religious events, and local celebrations are truly flamboyant!
Brief Corfu history
Corfu, Kerkyra in Greek, has a history that goes far back into Ancient Greece. Legend has it that the island got its name Kerkyra from the nymph Korkyra. The god of the sea Poseidon fell in love with her and took her to the island that was named after her. From the union came children that later, legend has it, became the Phoenician people.
Corfu is mentioned in the Odyssey, as it is one of the islands where Odysseus ends up, shipwrecked and needing assistance.
Corfu is the only Greek island that was never conquered by the Ottoman Turks. Instead, Corfu was under Venetian rule throughout the Middle Ages. The name ‘Corfu’ appears during those times, from the Byzantine name “Koryfo” which means ‘island of the peaks’ after its two peaks of the Old Fortress. In 1797 Corfu became a French prefecture under Napoleon Bonaparte.
The island came under British rule in the 1800s until 1864 when Corfu, together with the rest of the Ionian islands, finally became part of the new Greek state formed after the Greek War of Independence.
It’s this history that gives Corfu its unique cultural flavor.
Things to see and do in Corfu
Corfu has remarkable diversity in sights and activities one can do, thanks to its size, the verdant nature that clashes beautifully with the Ionian blue of the sea, and its unique combination of cosmopolitan and picturesque tradition. No matter what style of vacation you prefer, however, here are some things you must see and do:
Explore Corfu Town
Corfu Town is the island capital and a wonderful mix of Greek and Italian architecture. Its unique style has been the inspiration of several classic Greek songs. It is also listed in the UNESCO list of world heritage sites.
With cobbled alleys, Venetian-style buildings in ochre, and warm yellow and characteristic shingle roofs, Corfu Town is an open-air museum of the island’s history. The beautiful neoclassical style mixes perfectly with the Italian approach to architecture, making walking its streets a treat.
Corfu Town’s verdant square, the Esplanade or Spianada, is the biggest square in Greece regarding its size. It is right before the Old Fortress of Corfu and features a ‘cricket court’. The love for the sport came from the British rule era of the island.
Visit the Achilleion Palace
The Achilleion Palace has a unique parentage. It was built in 1890 by the famous Austrian Empress Elizabeth or ‘Sisi’ as her place of refuge and respite after the death of her son.
The Achilleion is built in a neoclassical style, with the intent of recreating the feel and look of an ancient Phoenician palace. It is dedicated to the famous Iliad hero Achilles, hence its name “Achilleion”.
Visiting the Achilleion palace, you will enjoy its beautiful colonnades and sculptures, as well as the Imperial Garden with gorgeous views of the island.
After Sisi, the palace was sold to the German Kaiser and later bequeathed to the Greek State. It has served as a hospital during WWI and as an orphanage in the interim. During the German occupation, the Achilleion became an Axis Powers HQ.
Visit Mon Repos
The name of this neoclassical palatial mansion means “my rest” or “my time off” in French. It was built during British rule for a British official and his wife as a summer estate. It was later used by the Greek royal family as a summer palace. Mon Repos is where Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, and Princess Alexia of Denmark, were born.
Mon Repos is currently fully restored so you can enjoy it in its original splendor when you visit. Don’t forget to pay a visit to the museum housed within Mon Repos and its rare exhibits documenting life at the mansion, 19th-century artworks, and a unique historical photography gallery.
Explore Kanoni and Pontikonisi (Mouse Island)
Kanoni is an exquisite part of Corfu Town, very popular for taking gorgeous photographs. Kanoni means “cannon” in Greek and the name comes from the iconic cannon on top of Kanoni’s verdant hill. At its feet, you will find the picturesque, charming church of Panagia Vlacherna.
You can go to Panagia Vlacherna by walking a narrow 300 m corridor that connects the church islet to the rest of the island. Inside, you will be treated to a beautiful 17th-century wooden-carved iconostasis and frescoes.
From Panagia Vlacherna you can take the boat to Pontikonisi, or “Mouse Island”. It wasn’t named that way due to mice, but due to its being tiny, like a mouse! Pontikonisi is simply breathtakingly beautiful with its lush, deep green vegetation and its 13th-century church of Pantokrator right at its center.
Angelokastro, meaning “castle of the angels”, is one of the most important Byzantine castles of Greece, dating from before the 1200s.
It is situated at the highest peak of Corfu’s northwest shores. Angelokastro was pivotal in repulsing Ottoman attacks and protecting Corfu from Ottoman occupation and rule.
Explore the castle and its imposing structures, starting from its entrance’s domed gate.
Arguably one of the most famous villages of Corfu, Palaiokastritsa is right next to Angelokastro. Palaiokastritsa’s name literally means ‘old castle’, named after the imposing Angelokastro overhead.
It is extremely picturesque with six beautiful beaches, some of them sandy and some of them pebbly. There are several taverns and cafés for you to enjoy while at its edge, you can find the Monastery of the Virgin Mary. Within the monastery, there are several rare artifacts and pieces of the island’s heritage, from Byzantine icons to rare books and objects several centuries old.
Explore the Old and New Fortresses
Next to Spianada Square, you will find the Old Fortress. The Old Fortress is considered one of the most impressive examples of European fortress-work and building. If you arrive at Corfu by boat, the Old Fortress is the first thing you will see coming into the port.
It was built in the 15th century and fortified further in different stages up to the 19th century. You can get to the Old Fortress through the Contafossa, a 60 m long bridge made by the British in the 19th century to replace the old Venetian one.
Inside the fortress, you will find the old historical chapel of Madonna del Carmine, the Corfu National Library that houses several rare books and manuscripts, several remarkable castle structures such as a 16th century well, and the church of St. George, the only church in Greece built in the Doric style.
The New Fortress on the other side of town is smaller, built in the 17th century to further protect the town from pirates. It features a moat and two different levels designed to thwart raids. It has an intricate network of galleries and compartments.
Both castles have amazing views of the sea and island for you to enjoy.
Visit Vidos island
This solemn little island is right at the mouth of the port of Corfu. It is famous for the quarantining of Serbian soldiers during WWI, as Corfu sheltered many retreating troops and civilians as they fled the Austro-Hungarian forces. Visit the monument commemorating this event, as well as the Serbian museum in town.
Visit the Church of St. Spyridon
Built in Corfu Town in 1590, the church of St. Spyridon is a piece of architectural and decorative art. It is built in the Venetian style, with a bell tower that dominates over the Old Town segment of Corfu Town.
St. Spyridon is the patron saint of Corfu, said to have miraculously saved the island at least four times from the Ottoman invasion.
The church of St. Spyridon holds his remains in a special crypt. It is resplendent in its carved artwork and opulent iconostasis. Make sure to look up to enjoy the breathtaking ceiling.
Visit the City Palace and the Museum of Asian Art
The City Palace is also called the Palace of St. Michael and St. George. It is the first Neoclassical building to be built in Greece in the 19th century. Explore the opulent interior as well as the gorgeous Gardens.
At the Gardens, you will find stone aquariums, exotic plants, Venetian-style garden architecture, and a café with its own art gallery, known as the Art Café by the locals.
Within the City Palace, you will also find the Corfu Museum of Asian Art, where more than 10,000 artifacts of Japanese, Chinese, and Indian art are on display.
Walk at the Liston
The Liston is just a few meters north of Spianada and is one of the most beloved meeting places for locals and tourists alike.
The Liston is a wide, paved promenade. It was designed in the early 19th century during French rule, for the use and needs of the French troops housed there. The Liston is gorgeous, lined with great buildings of French and Venetian architecture for you to enjoy as you walk. There are also cafés for you to sit and enjoy the view.
One of the best things to do in Corfu is a day trip to the nearby islands of Paxos and Antipaxos. Highlights of this tour include a visit to the cute village of Lakka in Paxos island, entering the magnificent blue caves of Paxos, and swimming in one of Greece’s most stunning beaches, Voutoumi Beach in Antipaxos island.
Hit the beaches
Corfu is famous for its gorgeous and iconic beaches. Each one is beautiful, but make sure that you visit the most loved ones:
Canal d’Amour beach: Literally called ‘the channel of love’ and it’s near Sidari village, at the island’s northwest. It has a beautiful structure of narrow, water-sculpted rocks that lead out to the sea, just like a channel.
Palaiokastritsa beach: Emerald meets sapphire at Palaiokastritsa’s gorgeous beach which is popular for diving and snorkeling.
Glyfada Beach: This one is a wide, sandy beach that is also organized! You will find sunbeds and umbrellas there, as well as some other amenities. The lush vegetation touches the edges of the sand, and the rocky outcroppings make it very picturesque. This beach is popular with youth so expect it to be vibrant!
Issos beach: A unique beach located very near the Korissos wetlands area, Issos beach boasts great sand dunes and emerald waters. The beach is organized and has a watersports center. Take note that it can get windy, which is why it is popular for surfers and windsurfers.
Enjoy the local cuisine
Corfu’s unique tripartite heritage of Greek, French, and Italian, has yielded unique local dishes and delicacies you have to sample! Don’t miss out on:
Sofrito: This is succulent veal cooked slowly in white wine sauce and garlic, served with french fries or mashed potatoes.
Pastitsada: A popular casserole of veal or chicken or, more traditionally, rooster, cooked in tomato sauce with wine, onion, and a lot of spices, is served with a special kind of pasta.
Bourdeto: This dish is usually scorpion fish cooked in tomato with onions, garlic, and red pepper.
Kumquat products: Kumquat is a small orange-like citrus fruit brought to Corfu in the 19th century. Several liquors, jams, and sweets are made with it.
Pasta Flora: A great coffee pie made with jam, flaky and succulent.
Fogatsa: A type of fluffy, sweet brioche which is made especially during Easter.