17 Best Sights in Corfu Town, Corfu

Archaeological Museum

Fodor's choice
A makeover and extensive remodelling have brought the island's flagship museum into modern times. Partly using interpretive panels and video screens, the lower floor takes you through the ancient history of mankind in Corfu and how it is revealed by way of the various finds, from stone-age culture through the development of society and skills. This area also tells the story of archaeological discoveries, with contemporary photographs and documents from a succession of digs, including the one that uncovered the museum's star attraction, the Medusa, on display as the centerpiece of the upper floor. This massive bas-relief once formed the pediment of the 6th-century BC Temple of Artemis at Kanoni, but nowadays, the snake-coiffed figure---one of the largest and best-preserved pieces of Archaic sculpture in Greece---is housed in a vast open-plan area that affords visitors a dramatic encounter. Other exhibits are arrayed thematically and stylishly throughout the four main spaces, each one focusing on a distinct aspect of life in ancient times.


Fodor's choice

This medieval quarter, part of a UNESCO-designated World Heritage site, is an atmospheric labyrinth of narrow, winding streets, steep stairways, and secretive little squares. Laundry lines connect balconied Venetian palazzi engraved with the original occupant's coat of arms to neoclassical 19th-century buildings constructed by the British. Small cobbled squares with central wells, watched over by old churches, add to the quiet, mysterious, and utterly charming urban space. If you enter, you're almost sure to get lost, but the area is small enough that eventually you'll come out on one of Corfu Town's major streets, or on the sea wall.

Church of St. Spyridon

Fodor's choice

Built in 1596, this church is the tallest on the island, thanks to its distinctive red-domed bell tower, and it's filled with silver treasures. The patron saint's remains—smuggled here after the fall of Constantinople—are contained in a silver reliquary in a small chapel; devout Corfiots visit to kiss the reliquary and pray to the saint. The silver casket is carried in procession through the town four times a year. Spyridon was not a Corfiot but a shepherd from Cyprus, who became a bishop before his death in AD 350. His miracles are said to have saved the island four times: once from famine, twice from the plague, and once from the hated Turks. During World War II, a bomb fell on this holiest place on the island but didn't explode. Maybe these events explain why it seems every other man on Corfu is named Spiros. If you keep the church tower in sight, you can wander as you wish without getting lost around this fascinating section of town. Agiou Spyridonos, the street in front of the church, is crammed with shops selling religious trinkets and souvenirs.

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Corfu Market

San Rocco Fodor's choice

Picturesquely located in the dry-moat outer defenses of the New Fortress, Corfu's public market is laid out in an attractive, traditional design. The stalls showcase local produce, specifically fruits and vegetables (some of it ecologically grown), fresh fish, and local foodstuffs like olives, dry pulses, wine, and packaged goods. Two coffee bars in the central "square" provide refreshment at very low cost. It's a far cry from the supermarket!

Corfu Museum of Asian Art

Fodor's choice

It may seem a bit incongruous to admire Ming pottery in an ornate British colonial palace as the Ionian Sea shimmers outside the windows, but this elegant, colonnaded, 19th-century Regency structure houses the Museum of Asian Art, a notable collection of Asian porcelains, Japanese ukiyo-e prints, Indian sculpture, and Tibetan temple art. The building was constructed as a residence for the lord high commissioner and headquarters for the order of St. Michael and St. George; it was abandoned after the British left in 1864 and renovated about a hundred years later by the British ambassador to Greece. After visiting the galleries, wander in the shady courtyard behind the palace, where you may have trouble tearing yourself away from the fairy-tale view of the lush islet of Vido and the mountainous coast of Albania. Don't miss the Municipal Gallery.

Corfu Reading Society

Fodor's choice

The oldest cultural institution in modern Greece, the Corfu Reading Society was founded in 1836. The building, filled with books and archives relating to the Ionian islands, is only open in the morning, stands behind the Palace of Saint Michael and Saint George and has an impressive exterior staircase leading up to a loggia. Inside is a book lover's delight, with 19th-century decor that is evocative testimony to the "English age" that gave Corfu so much of its character.

Kapodistriou 120, Corfu Town, Greece
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free for scholars, Closed Sat. and Sun., Mon.–Sat. 9:30–1

The Esplanade

Fodor's choice

Central to the life of the town, this huge, open parade ground and park just west of the Old Fortress is, many say, the most beautiful spianada (esplanade) in Greece. It is bordered on the west by a street lined with Venetian and English Georgian houses and a famous arcaded building called the Liston, built by the French under Napoléon and meant to resemble the Rue du Rivoli in Paris. Cafés spill out onto the passing scene, and Corfiot celebrations, games, and concerts take place here; at night, lovers promenade and children play in this festive public space. Sunday cricket matches, a holdover from British rule, are occasionally played on the northern half of the Esplanade, which was once a Venetian firing range. Standing in the center is an ornate Victorian bandstand and, just south of it, the Maitland Rotunda, a circular Ionic memorial built in honor of Sir Thomas Maitland, the not-much-loved first British lord high commissioner who was appointed in 1814 when the island became a protectorate of Britain. At the southernmost tip of the Esplanade a statue of Ioannis Kapodistrias, a Corfu resident and the first president of modern Greece, looks out over Garitsa Bay. Kapodistrias was also, unfortunately, the first Greek president to be assassinated, in 1831.

Antivouniotissa Museum

Panagia Antivouniotissa, an ornate church dating from the late 15th century, houses an outstanding collection of Byzantine religious art. More than 50 icons from the 13th to the 17th century hang on the walls. Look for works by the celebrated icon painters Tzanes and Damaskinos; they are perhaps the best-known artists of the Cretan style of icon painting.

Casa Parlante

A highly educational experience as well as an entertaining one, a visit to this living history museum allows you to meet three generations of a noble Corfiot family and their servants. The Count and his kin are not flesh and blood but realistic animated figures who occupy an old town house, fitted out with authentic 19th-century furniture and artifacts. A guided tour of the apartment, with intelligent and informative commentary that includes each character's backstory, brings Corfu's urban past to life, some of it rather graphically.

Catholic Church of Ayios Iakovos

Built in 1588 and consecrated 50 years later, this elegant cathedral was erected to provide a grand place of worship for Corfu Town's Catholic occupiers. If you use the Italian name, San Giacomo, locals will know it. When it was bombed by the Nazis in 1943, the cathedral's original neoclassical facade of pediments, friezes, and columns was practically destroyed; only the bell tower remained intact. It's now been restored. Mass takes place daily at 7 pm in high summer and at 10:30 am on Sunday. Across the road is a former Venetian-built theater. Note the carvings and bas-reliefs on the walls.

Dimarcheiou Sq., Corfu Town, 49100, Greece
No phone

Church of Ayios Iason and Ayios Sosipater

The suburb of Anemomilos is crowned by the ruins of the Paleopolis church and by the 11th-century Church of Ayios Iason and Ayios Sosipater. It was named after two of St. Paul's disciples, St. Jason and St. Sosipater, who brought Christianity to the island in the 1st century. The frescoes are faded, but the icons are beautiful, and the exterior is dramatic among the unspoiled greenery. It's open most mornings. This is one of only two Byzantine churches on the island; the other is in the northern coastal village of Ayios Markos.

Anemomilos, Corfu Town, 49100, Greece
No phone
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Donations accepted, Daily 9–2

Holy Trinity Church

Established in 1870 after the end of the British Protectorate (1815–1864), this Anglican church continues to serve the needs of the English-speaking community. All denominations are welcome to services and to other religious events and social activities in its sphere. Sunday morning service takes place at 10:30.

L. Mavili 21, Corfu Town, 49100, Greece
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Donations accepted, Closed Mon, Tues.–Fri. 10–1, Sun. services at 10:30 am

Jewish Quarter

This maze of streets was home to the area's Jewish population from the 1600s until 1944, when the community was decimated, most sent to Auschwitz by the occupying Nazis. Fewer than 100 of 3,000 Jews survived. At the southern edge of the ghetto, a 300-year-old synagogue with an interior in Sephardic style still stands.

New Fortress

Built during the period 1577–78 by the Venetians, the so-called "New" Fortress was constructed to strengthen town defenses—only three decades after the construction of Venetian fortifications on the "Old" Fortress. The French and the British subsequently expanded the complex to protect Corfu Town from a possible Turkish invasion. You can wander through the maze of tunnels and fortifications; the dry moat is the site of the town's fish-and-vegetable marketplace. A classic British citadel stands at its heart. The summit offers a fantastic view over the rooftops of the Old Town.

Solomou, Corfu Town, 49100, Greece
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free, Daily 9 am–3:30 pm

Old Fortress

Corfu's entire population once lived within the walls of the Old Fortress, or Citadel, built by the Venetians in 1546 on the site of a Byzantine castle. Separated from the rest of the town by a moat, the fort is on a promontory mentioned by Thucydides. Its two heights, or korypha ("peaks"), gave the island its name. Standing on the peaks, you have a gorgeous view west over the town and east to the mountainous coast of Albania. A statue of Count Schulenburg, an Austrian mercenary who became a local hero in 1716 when he helped to defeat the invading Turks, stands at the fort's entrance; a plaque beside the statue tells Schulenburg's story. Inside, there's an exhibition of Byzantine art and a shop with museum copies, while a second hall hosts changing events. Most of the old Venetian fortifications inside the fortress were destroyed by the British, who replaced them with their own structures. The most notable of these is the Church of St. George, built to look like an ancient Doric temple. Near it, overlooking Garitsa Bay, there is a shaded café where you can sit and enjoy the splendid view.

Orthodox Cathedral

This small, icon-rich cathedral, called Panagia Spiliotissa, was built in 1577. It is sacred to St. Theodora, the island's second patron saint. Her headless body lies in a silver coffin by the altar; it was brought to Corfu at the same time as St. Spyridon's remains. Steps lead down to the harbor from here.

Corfu Town, 49100, Greece

Patounis Soap Factory

A Patounis has been producing olive oil soap by the traditional stamped method since 1850, and the family's factory—the only one left in Corfu—is listed as an Industrial Heritage site. It is also inscribed on the National Inventory of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Greece. Every weekday at noon, the current (fifth-generation) Patounis, Apostolos, runs an informative guided tour of the premises, during which you will see a demonstration of the traditional stamping and cutting process. You can also buy the merchandise, which is additive-free and hypoallergenic.