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Old Town of Corfu

By Simina

What is Old Town of Corfu?

The Old Town of Corfu dates to the 8th century BC. It was fortified starting in the 14th century AD by the Venetians, who ruled it for 400 years. Its strategic location at the entrance of the Adriatic Sea made it important as part of the Venetian Empire’s defense against the Ottoman Empire. In addition to its Venetian influence, particularly in terms of its fortifications, the town blends French, British, and Greek architectural influences, each of which ruled it for a time after the Venetians.

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View of Corfu Old Town from the water, with a sailboat in front of the coastline.

This historic Old Town is set between two forts and has well-preserved medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque elements. It has a lot of neoclassical architecture, some of which dates to its Venetian period and some of which was added in the 19th century, including significant changes to the fortifications carried out by the British.

Why is Old Town of Corfu a UNESCO World Heritage site?

Old Town in Corfu is designated as a UNESCO site due to its exceptional universal value as a testament to the island’s rich history, cultural heritage, and architectural significance, both from its period as a Venetian port city and constructions from its later British period.

UNESCO’s website notes that “The urban and port ensemble of Corfu, dominated by its fortresses of Venetian origin, constitutes an architectural example of outstanding universal value in both its authenticity and its integrity.”

A small plaza with buildings around it of 5-6 stories with porticos along the ground floor. Crowds of tourists.

What can you expect on a visit to Old Town of Corfu?

I visited the island of Corfu in Greece last September without knowing too much about the island and what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised by its beauty and history!

When visiting the Old Town, you will find pretty narrow cobblestone streets that will transport you to a different era in time. Furthermore, you´ll love the colours of the buildings, the welcoming locals, and the charming shops and cafes that line the streets.

Here are some of the must-see attractions in the Old Town:

  • Spianada Square: a pretty plaza in front of the Old Fortress.
  • Liston Promenade: a pretty pedestrian street in a French style, at the western edge of Spianada Square.
  • The Old Fortress: A 15th-16th-century Venetian fortress that replaced an earlier Byzantine fortress on the same site.
  • The New Fortress: Built by the Venetians in the 16th century, but added to by the British and French.
  • The Museum of Asian Art: a collection of art from all over Asia, housed in what used to be the Palace of St. Michael and St. George.
  • The Archaeological Museum of Corfu: housing many archaeological finds from all over Corfu.
A peninsula in the sea, with a hill on it and a fortress on the hill.
The Old Fortress.

Not far from the Old Town, you´ll find amazing sites like these:

  • Mon Repos: a 19th-century villa built for the British High Lord Commissioner and later used by the Greek royal family.
  • Vlacherna Monastery: a very picturesque little church on an small island connected by a causeway. It’s a good planespotting location too because it’s just past the end of the runway of Corfu’s airport. The causeway next to it is known as the Corfu Airport Planespotting Spot.
  • Anemomilos Windmill: a reconstruction of a traditional grain mill, and a pleasant place to walk along the water.
  • The Royal Palace of Achilleion: the palace built for Empress Elisabeth of Austria, also known as Sisi.
A small stone-paved plaza with pastel-colored buildings around it.
Heroes’ Square.

Is the Corfu’s Old Town worth visiting?

Yes, it is definitely worth visiting. I fell in love with the hospitality of its people, the delicious food, and the architecture and that’s why I decided to stay on the island of Corfu for a week! If you can´t visit further inland, I would recommend you spend at least two days in the Old Town.

Corfu’s Old Town is great for history and architecture lovers. Furthermore, I encourage you to spend more time discovering the island as a whole because the pristine beaches, its history and attractions won’t disappoint you! 

Book a hotel in the Old Town, and then go to another hotel elsewhere on the island. Or use the map below to look at your options for accommodations.

Tips for Visiting the Old Town of Corfu

One tip for visiting the town is to wear comfortable walking shoes to navigate the cobblestone streets. Also, consider an early morning visit to the most visited attractions in order to avoid crowds. 

Don´t forget to wear sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun, especially during the peak hours. Lastly, be respectful of residents, as the Old Town is not just a tourist destination but also a residential area. 

Take a small-group walking tour of the Old Town, or, better yet, try a food and cultural tour.

While the islands tend to be cooler than the mainland, it can still get very hot in the summertime, and crowded too. The best time to visit Corfu is in the spring or fall, outside of European school vacations.

Think about visiting other UNESCO sites in Greece as well, or take a ferry across to Albania.

Where is Corfu’s Old Town?

Corfu is located in the Ionian Sea, off the coast of both Albania and Greece. The city of Corfu, including the Old Town, is located about midway down the island on the east coast.

The island of Corfu is accessible by air arriving at Ioannis Kapodistrias International Airport or by sea, taking a ferry from mainland Greece or Albania.

Once on the island, to arrive at Corfu Old Town, you have two options: by car or public transportation. Compare rental car options here. Limited parking is available, so checking for paid parking facilities is advisable when you book your hotel. There is a bus system all over the island that is fairly reliable.

For more information about Old Town in Corfu see the Visit Corfu website.

Text and photos provided by Simina of Travel with Simina, a travel blog helping travellers plan trips and discover authentic local experiences in Greece, The Netherlands, Spain and elsewhere in Europe. Connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.

Text: Old Town of Corfu, Greece. Images: above, the old fortress; below, a city square.
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Have you been to Corfu? If so, do you have any additional information or advice about this UNESCO World Heritage site? Please add your comments below!

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