Just off the northwest end of Greece’s mainland is the island of Corfu. Situated in the Ionian Sea, it has a rich history, including being controlled at different times by the British, French, and Venetians, before finally coming under Greek rule in 1864. The architecture and organisation of many parts of Corfu provide a strong indicator of its past.
In this article, we discuss the many interesting things to do while on the island.
Getting to Corfu
Corfu is a major island with a substantial land mass. It has pleasant weather that turns sunny and warm from late March and doesn’t let up until October. Flights are available from Bristol matching the seasonal holiday period for holidaymakers, though other major UK airports may have occasional flights out of season too.
When flying from Bristol in the late spring or summer, take advantage of Bristol airport parking deals to stow your vehicle. This means you don’t have to use public transport and can relax on your way to the airport. So, for parking at Bristol airport, use Bristol Parking (www.bristolparking.com) to book the parking space you need for when you’ll be out of the country. Then you’re all set.
Culture and Easter in Corfu
There’s a rich culture which you can see and feel while in Corfu. This is never more so than during the Easter week where the entire island comes alive in celebration during Holy Week. Palm Sunday is the start of the festivities. Many locals follow the ancient Venetian walls that surround the city while the Philharmonics play to show respect for the Patron St. of Corfu. The Mántzaros Philharmonic also performs a concert on the same night.
The Easter festivities continue for a full week with different things happening on each day. Thousands of tourists – both Greek and foreign alike – flood into Corfu to experience culture at its finest. Don’t be surprised if a clay pot lands on your head when walking near the brass band because locals have a tradition of throwing the pots down from their balcony overlooking the performance.
The Impressive Achilleion Palace
The Achilleion Palace is an impressive structure situated a few kilometres outside of Gastouri. It was constructed in 1890 using architectural cues that hark back to a Phoenician Palace. The architecture both inside and outside the building is just breath-taking. Rich in colour and grandeur, it has a courtyard and grand gardens with delightful views of nearby valleys and the Ionians Sea in the distance.
Ownership of the palace has changed hands several times over the decades. First Elisabeth, the Australian Princess, owned it, followed by her daughter, who later sold the property to a German Kaiser. It served as a military hospital during the first World War and was later used as an orphanage under Greek state ownership. The Axis Regime used it as a headquarters during the Second World War. Now it’s a fully restored museum that’s still impressive and definitely worth a visit to view it and soak up its historic significance.
Keen Photographers Should Head to Kanoni
Kanoni is considered one part of Corfu Town lying just south of it. There are plenty of artefacts found here by local people on a regular basis. The history of Kanoni goes back at least to the 8th century BC with visitors coming there having travelled from near Athens. It’s an interesting place to explore on foot with temples, churches, and a busy airport for plane spotters to capture some impressive YouTube video clips to upload.
Pontikonisi within Kanoni is an islet within an island. It has a unique position just off the coast of Kanoni and is ideal for eye-catching photography. The Panagia Vlacherna church takes up most of the land mass. It evokes a little bit of the feel of Venice with a boat trip to get there and the small location. Boats visit Pontikonisi regularly, as it’s only a five-minute journey.
The Spianada Square is an elegant central square for Corfu Town. Its name has an Italian origin. The square is the largest of its kind in Greece and has been present since the Napoleonic Wars. There are plenty of places to sit and eat. It has become a popular spot for local people to meet and discuss the day’s events.
Nearby to the square, there’s the Old Fortress, the Palace of St. Michael and St. George, and other historic attractions.
Palace of St. Michael and St. George
The City Palace – for short – has previously been a home of the Greek Royal family. It has a Neoclassical appearance that was the first of its kind in Greece at the time. There are extensive gardens with views out to the Old Fortress. The property now has the Museum of Asian Art housed there along with a modest café to grab a coffee or a Greek pastry.
The Old Fortress and New Fortress
The Old Fortress remains a busy place with tourists flocking to it. It’s close to a town that traces its history back to the Byzantine time. The Venetians started building the fortress in the 15th century and it was finally completed in the 18th century. The structures have since been destroyed, with new structures built by the British at a later time. The ancient tunnels still remain, however.
The New Fortress is less foreboding that the old one. It’s smaller and has no places for people to live there. Built several centuries after the Old Fortress was created, it has a dangerous moat to sink invaders, runs to two levels within the structure, and was completed when the walls around the city were erected.
Heading to the Beaches
There are a number of quality beaches on Corfu. So many, in fact, that you’ll probably never have to visit the same one if you don’t wish to. Here’s a sample:
Paleokastritsa – The west coast has Paleokastritsa with a beach, plenty of local resorts, copious shopping and tavernas to enjoy local bites. There’s also a well-known monastery that’s worth a visit too.
Issos – Next to the Korission wetlands, the Issos beach is an excellent one for families. It has lovely flowers and sand dunes all around it, making it a fun spot for younger kids who like to explore. There’re water sports at the beach, plus sunbeds to lay on and umbrellas to avoid the midday sun. It gets windy off the coast here, so kitesurfing and water sports are popular too.
Glyfada – The sandy beaches at Glyfada aren’t easily forgotten. It’s a picture postcard perfect spot. It’s got a strong following from the younger set and so gets a bit rowdy at times. The turquoise waters are the main draw here. It’s considered by many to be the prettiest beach location in Corfu.
As one of the larger Greek Islands, there’s no shortage of things to do while there. The history is impressive with beautiful buildings, ruins, and artefacts speaking to the history. The traditional cuisine is worth sampling too. Like the slow-cooked veal dish, Sofrito, with thick gravy and potatoes or really any local seafood or fish dish is usually excellent if it’s caught fresh that day. Be sure to plan your stay for long enough, as you won’t be able to fit everything in otherwise.
Have you visited — or plan to visit — Corfu?
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