Corfu: Main Sights
The Greek Island Kerkyra
Whether you are looking for exciting water-sports, rest and relaxation, historical sights or cultural indulgence, there are a number of places to visit on Corfu that will keep everyone occupied. The island is small and easy to get around, so you can plan something different from one day to the next and really feel you’ve made the most of your holiday in Corfu.
If you find the time to get to Kalami Beach, you will find it is one of the loveliest beaches on the island. Whether you are a sun-worshipper who simply wants to soak up some vitamin D, or if you after some thrills and spills, you will definitely enjoy the delights of Kalami. There is a large watersports section where you can go banana boating, hot-rod riding and doughnutting/ ringo-ing. You can also take water skiing lessons, starting from beginners levels, with qualified instructors registered with the British Water Ski Foundation who will look after your safety. A water skiing lesson for a beginner starts at 30 Euros for half and hour and is great fun. If you already know how to ski you can take a 15 minute tow for around 20 Euros. The doughnut rings are also hilarious fun, especially if you get a few of you towed at once – you end up capsizing each other! Look to pay around 10 – 15 Euros per person, the price is reduced with the more participants and is suitable for children. Safety standards are very high, with insurance included in the price. Your instructors will take time to make sure your jacket fits well and will take heed of how bumpy a ride you’re after! This beach really does have something for the whole family, and there are a good selection of eateries nearby which will come in handy after all that exercise.
Enjoy a little bit of Corfu’s history together with a relaxing visit to another of Corfu’s beautiful beaches. The little resort of Paleokastristsa on the west of the island has retained a lot of tradition and character over the years and is less touristy than some of the larger resorts. It is relatively easy to get to; the journey takes just over half an hour from Corfu Town on a local bus and will cost you under 2 Euros. The beach itself has beautiful clear and shallow water that makes it perfect for swimming. Nearby you can also catch boat trips which will take you to the sea caves; these make a pleasant afternoon excursion in the summer, as you can sit back and sunbathe as you tour the rocks. Standing on higher ground above the beach and town is the pretty Panagia Theotokos Monastery which is certainly worth a visit. This monastery, which dates back to the 13th century will give you a taste of traditional Corfu with its strong Catholic roots. If you tour around the buildings you will see the beautiful vegetation surrounding this little religious retreat, including a variety of flowers and plants, and ripening grape vines. Inside the dark buildings you will find many religious artefacts, traditional contraptions and an old superstitious wishing well.
Nobody would recommend Corfu as highly as the Empress of Austria, Elisabeth von Wiltelsbach, known as ‘Princess Sissi’. This princess, and later Queen, who reigned in 1892, was a huge fan of the island and believed it was the best place to rest, revitalise and restore one’s health. After the deaths of several of her loved ones, Sissi chose to have a palace built on Corfu where she could enjoy its beautiful countryside on one side and the Ionian sea on the other. She was also highly interested in Greek mythology and liked to study it whilst staying on the island. The palace itself is based in Gastouri village, 10km from Corfu town. You’ll find that homage to Grecian mythology is everywhere; majestic pillars make an impressive entrance, while the garden is filled with graceful statues in the form of Apollo, Aphrodite and Sappho. You can also see portraits of the lady herself inside the palace, along with artefacts from her era. The village surrounding the palace is also very pretty, with olive groves, orange plantations and the bakery there comes highly recommended for freshly baked bread. Several bus tours go to Sissi’s Palace, but it is nice to visit it at your own pace on a hot summer’s afternoon.
Palaio Frourio translates as ‘The Old Fortress of Corfu’, and the name rather gives away the nature of this imposing historical attraction. A great place to visit for anyone wanting to get away from the beach and indulge in a bit of culture and sightseeing instead. This 6th century fort is located on an island to the east of Corfu Town and is architecturally stunning, having been extended by Venetians in the 14th century and then the English in the 1800s. This fort is actually quite remarkable, it is one of the main reasons why Corfu was never conquered by invading Turks both in the 1500s and 1700s. Unfortunately, like so many buildings and pieces of architecture on the Greek islands, World War II was responsible for much devastation and loss of history. The views from the top of the fort are lovely with panoramic sea and countryside and you should spend some time walking around the walls and grounds of the fort. The cost of entry is 4 Euros for an adult and you’ll receive a little brochure explaining the history of the site. You’ll find guidebooks and souvenirs on the outskirts of the fort as well as a Byzantine museum that includes displays of parchment, well-preserved artwork, Corfu’s oldest map, paintings from the 1st century, and floor mosaics which belonged to Corfu’s original capital city and date back as far as 750BC. It is also worth seeing nearby Church of Ayios Georgios, built under English rule during the 17th century, which is quite lovely to explore with its pillared entrance and temple-like frame.
This is described as being one of the most popular beaches on the island, and is a famous European naturist destination. The quality of sand on this beach is excellent and is described as exceptionally soft and perfect for families. It also feels very much secluded and undisturbed, with very few buildings or tourist stretches impinging on its tranquil atmosphere. You will find a couple of huts selling refreshments though, which are much appreciated in the heat of the Grecian summer. The official car park is a bit of a distance from the beach and visitors should therefore expect a little walk to get here. The high cliffs that form the background to the cliffs make this an especially dramatic sight and are one of the reasons why the beach is so popular. Its secluded location makes you feel you are very much ‘back to nature’ which is why is has become so popular with naturists. That being said, if you make a trip here, expect there to be a number of nudist sunbathers. There are a number of local buses that go to Mirtiotisa beach, with the last one departing at 20:30 for Corfu town, which is about 15km away. September is a great time to go as the vibrant local festival “panighyri” is celebrated at the Monastery on the 24th of September.
If you get the chance to visit this beautiful and historic town, you will experience the kind of cultural buzz that will inject some energy back into your beach holiday. This lovely city, which is the largest in the Ionian islands, is a melting pot of ancient civilisations; everything from the Romans to the Normans to the Venetians and the Franks. You will see signs of these earlier inhabitants all over the city – in the architecture and the customs. The most important part of Corfu Town’s heritage, however, is that this city was never occupied by the Turks which makes it very different from so many Grecian towns you might have visited. There is a wealth of history to find here, from the elegant courtyards nestled between Greek tavernas, or the Byzantine churches and Italian architecture. The town is made up of maze-like pathways which give it its character and quirkiness. Traditional local items you’ll find amongst the stalls include lace, wild honey and figs. If you are looking for a little more action, Corfu Town offers you a number of activities, including some great shopping, colourful markets, clubs and bars. Sharing more in common with an elegant Italian town than a traditional Grecian capital, you can also access the exclusive protected area of the ‘old town’ which is a real trip into Corfu’s cultural past and offers some stunning views of the breathtaking Ionian Sea.
A good place to keep the kids entertained! Adults will also find this great fun. If you’ve not been to an Aqua park before, you can expect some colourful slides, thrilling flumes and a lot of soaked people running around. The Corfu Aqualand is an excellent example of a top class water park; over 75.000 square metres provide you with ample parking spaces and ample thrills and spills within the park grounds. Catering for adults and children with a wide variety of shoots and flumes, the whole family will be able to enjoy themselves here. There are also a variety of green parks dotted around with deckchairs for guests to take a break and sunbathe. You will find refreshments on hand should you build up an appetite after all that energetic fun. The lifeguards are in abundance and are all fully qualified. The water itself is constantly changed and filtered to meet a high standard of hygiene. The park is easy to get to and you can get a good price if you book your transport and entry ticket at the same time. You will find that most resorts will offer a coach transfer. Prices are around 30 Euros per adult and 24 Euros per child, children under 4 go free. This park has good facilities for handicapped visitors as well.
Grotto Boat Tour
This is a great way to combine a spot of sunbathing with a relaxing trip around some of Corfu’s stunning and mysterious caves. Take a boat (6-8 people, 8 Euros pp) from Paleokastritsa beach and enjoy the sights of Corfu’s pretty coastline as you make your way towards the caverns. See if you can spot the profile of a monkey in the rocks as you scour the beautiful landscape and hills that surround the bays. You should also be able to see the Monastery of Panagia Theotokos and a 12th century fort in the distance. The caves themselves are eerie and colourful, with the walls a deep scarlet because of pigmentation in the stone. The water in the dark caves is incredibly blue, with one of them called The Blue Eye because it seems to be illuminated by a blue spotlight. There is a great deal of Greek mythology surrounding these beautiful natural formations, including the Nausica Cave, in which, legend has it, Odysseus was found by the King of Phaeacian’s daughter. The boat trip is a great opportunity to enjoy the sun with the respite of the cool sea breeze. Be careful that you take sunscreen with you as, apart from when you are in the caves, you are very exposed to the direct sunlight.
But you told us there were no trains on Corfu! – we hear you cry. This vibrant tourist train that we have in mind will certainly not get you to any destination very quickly – in fact, it doesn’t even have tracks. For 4 Euros, however, it will drive you through some lovely sightseeing spots where you can see some of Corfu’s impressive history and cultural sights. Departing hourly from Corfu Town, near the old fort in Spianada, you will pass through Garitsa Bay, Corfu’s oldest University, and drive all the way to the Byzantine Church of St. Jason and St. Sosipater where the train will stop and let you wander around. You will then go through Corfu’s original city Paleopolis, built in 750 BC. The train then takes you through the lush greenery of Mon Repos Park which is perfect to come back to if you fancy a walk in some of Corfu’s finest countryside. Neoclassical Palace is located here which was where England’s very own Prince Philip was born. You will then be taken back past Garitsa Bay again and into Corfu Town where the ride ends. Overall, this is a really pleasant trip that is very relaxing and reasonably priced – considering how much you get to see. Taking the tour at night can be especially rewarding because the buildings are lit up which gives them a real majesty and character.
Museum of Asian Art, Corfu Town
A museum that really is ‘one of a kind’, you can find this lovely neoclassical building, built by the British in 1819, in Espianada square near the Liston promenade. Though it has been used for several purposes since it was first built, including as the HQ of the Ionian Parliament, it is now dedicated to a wide collection of Asian art donated by ambassador Gregorios Manos. This collection was later added to by N. Hatzivassiliou and Ch. Hiotakis. You can find some famous artefacts and works of art from all over Asia, including Korea, Tibet, Siam, Japan, China, Pakistand, Nepal, Thailand and Cambodia. See some fantastic articles including beautiful Samurai weapons and armour, theatre mask, sculptures, Chinese porcelain and fine bone china, along with various ceramics and bronze pieces. If you step out of the museum, you also have the chance to experience some of the history of the building and all its other uses throughout the last 200 years. Walk around the ground floor, for example, and admire the exquisite portraits of the Senate’s presidents which are featured here. Or take a look around the magnificent ball room and throne room on the second floor where you can also take a look at the displays of medals of the Chivalric order. This museum is something truly different to experience on this little Grecian isle; it pays homage to another culture that has influenced the character and heritage of Corfu.
Archaeological Museum, Corfu Town
If you fancy seeing some ancient Greek architecture, complete with its legends and lore, look no further than the Archaeological Museum. Originally the museum was built in 1967 to display the Gorgon pediment of Artemis’ temple (585 B.C) which had been excavated earlier in the century. However, the museum has now grown and houses exhibitions from Corfu’s original city, the ancient findings from Cassiopi (town in northern Corfu) and excavations of Thesprotia. You can see a vast selection of artefacts displayed here, including Roman statues cast in bronze, funeral offerings from a number of eras, including the Classical and Hellenistic, and a large collection of coins from the ancient worlds. You can also examine some beautiful pottery and statues from the 6th century B.C. There are other pediments and artefacts from various temples including Dionysos and Artemis, and a rather charming marble head of famous historian Thucydides. Take a look at the exhibits from Paleopoli and Cassiopi which include bronze surgery instruments, bone tools and oil lamps. The museum comes with fantastic reviews for being a highly interesting attraction on the island – the mixture of well preserved articles and sculptures, together with the well-known and fascinating Greek mythology, makes it very accessible as well. Children will no doubt find the magnificent temple pediments exciting, with their wild monsters and crouching lions. This museum is certainly a popular cultural excursion for all the family.