Corfu Old Town

The Old Town of Corfu stands out as a distinct cultural gem of Greece, boasting a character and charm that sets it apart from any other destination.

The architecture of the Old Town has been influenced by the Byzantine and Venetian periods, while in combination with the narrow cantounia (cantounia called by locals the narrow, cobbled streets), the laundries spreading over the neighborhoods, the small and large squares that flood the town, and the music from the windows of the philharmonic orchestras, make up a magical scene.

Most Old Town visitors notice the Italian influence that pervades the historic center since it reminds them of classical Italian neighborhoods. Corfu was under Venetian domination for 400 years, allowing it to flourish and escape from the Turkish yoke.

According to UNESCO, the Old Town Historical Center has been one of the most important World Heritage Sites since 2007. The two historic forts, the Old (Fortezza Vecchia) and the New (Fortezza Nuova), which are remnants of the Venetian era, surround the town center – the Old Fortress to the east and the New Fortress to the west. They were essential fortifications to protect the Old Town from attacks, mainly by the Turks.

You can enjoy a fantastic first view of the fortresses from the sea as they loom exuberantly among the traditional buildings if you arrive on the island by boat or see them from above if you decide to arrive by air.

Corfu’s Old Town makes you feel like you’ve traveled back in time. Life began many centuries ago in the Old Town between the two imposing fortresses. Over time, the population increased, and the inhabitants had to build houses with more floors without changing the traditional architecture.

These stone houses have wooden attics and handmade tiles. Although some of them were damaged during the Second World War, the charm and atmosphere of the Old Town have been preserved intact. When you walk through the alleys of the historic Old Town, you feel like you are in a fairy tale from another, very distant era.

The island of Corfu drew the interest of many conquerors throughout the centuries, as its strategic position in the Mediterranean made it an essential hub of trade and political activity. The passage of many nations and cultures is evident in many aspects of the town, including its architecture, shaped by the colonialists and conquerors who have come and gone from the island over the years. Corfu’s Old Town buildings are a rare fusion of architectural elements with a distinctive character, revealing the island’s Venetian, French, British, and Greek cultural past.

Corfu’s Old Town is charming and enchanting, especially at night when the main streets are illuminated, and the atmosphere becomes livelier. The oldest and most charming neighborhood of the historic Old Town is undoubtedly Kabiello. The narrow cantounia combined with the tall buildings create a romantic atmosphere. The neighborhood is filled with carved wells, picturesque squares, and some of the island’s most beautiful and ornate balconies.

Between Kabiello, located north of the historic center, and the more southerly Spilia district of the Old Town, one street stands out: Filellinon Street. On this street is the oldest building on the island, built in 1497 and still standing there today. Rumor says that its balcony is like the Juliet’s Balcony.

Walking through the Old Town’s streets, you will realize you are in an open museum, where each building is a work of art. But the wave sounds of the sea near the buildings bring visitors back to reality as a subtle reminder that the Old Town is not just a fairytale tourist spot but a real living web of history and culture.

Whichever route you take through the historic center, you will end up at the stunning Spianada Square, an unavoidable stop during your walk for coffee, a drink, ice cream, or lunch. Spianada is the largest square in Corfu and the entire Balkan Peninsula, combining striking beauty and historical significance. Its name comes from the Venetian word “esplanade,” which means square or promenade.

During the Venetian period, the colonialists carried out a large demolition project to obtain an extensive area for the cannons of the Old Fortress, thus facilitating the town’s resistance to enemy attacks. Therefore, the famous Spianada Square was later built in this area.

On the square’s north side, there is the most historic cricket ground in Greece, which the English introduced during the English rule. Corfu is the heart, the headquarters of Greek cricket. In Spianada, on 23 April 1823, this noble sport was first introduced by officers of the British Navy.

Today, Spianada is a diverse and vibrant area offering many activities. Here, visitors can enjoy religious ceremonies, such as the celebrations of Saint Spiridon with processions, and various recreational activities, such as concerts of the Philharmonic Orchestras, the Carnival, and cricket matches.

During a walk in Spianada, you can see monuments that represent the history of the area, such as the statues of D. Solomos, N. Mantzaros, and N. Theotokis, the latter in honor of the Union of the Ionian Islands with Greece. Also, one of the most famous historical monuments in this square is the Maitland Pavilion, or Rotunda, created in 1816 in memory of Sir Thomas Maitland, who was appointed Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands.

Of course, since we are talking about walks and entertainment in the historic center, this description must include the famous, multi-photographed gem that completes the image of Spianada, the Liston. This famous pedestrian walkway, a remnant of French rule, is the work of French engineer Lesseps, who inspired its construction from the Rue De Rivoli in Paris, hence the archways (the volta as we call them here in Corfu). Liston features many restaurants and cafes, the favorite haunts of local Corfiots for years. “Liston” refers to the large marble slabs to pave the streets. “Far el liston” means “to walk around the square.”

At the end of Spianada and Liston, you will find yourself in front of an imposing architectural gem that will take your breath away: the Palace of St. Michael and George. It is one of the most important monuments of the period of British rule in Greece and belongs to the neoclassical style of its time.

The “Palace of Saints Michael and George” was a building that served many purposes during its history. Initially, it served as the residence and office of the English Commissioners and as the headquarters of the order of the same name. Later, it housed the Senate and the Ionian Parliament before the union of the Ionian Islands with Greece in 1864.

After the union, it was used for a few years as an exhibition space for the archaeological collection of Corfu. Today, it hosts the Museum of Asian Art and the Municipal Art Gallery. “Palace of Saints Michael and George” is essential to Corfu’s history.

To discover every aspect of Corfu’s Old Town’s historic center, you must walk for hours. But apart from endless walks through the cobbled streets, you can taste its history by a short ride with your rental car. Making your way around the square with your rental car, you’ll see many sights, such as the church of Panagia Antivouniotissa and the Byzantine Museum. At the same time, if you continue under the “Palace of Saints Michael and George”, you’ll find yourself at the ancient gate of Agios Nikolaos and the Old Port at your leisure.

Select Dates
Select Dates
Select Dates