While Corfu’s beaches are the main draw for the crowds of visitors who come to the island every summer, the main town of Kerkyra (often referred to as Corfu Town) is a place that continually surprises those who take the time to explore its attractive streets and buildings. Its rather strange mix of influences is in no small part due to the many powers who have held sway in the Mediterranean over the past few centuries, with the Venetian, French and British legacies particularly obvious.
With boutique shops, artisan workshops, and cafes and restaurants which range from traditional to very trendy, Corfu Town has plenty to offer and whatever your tastes it is worthy of at least a day of exploration while on the island. Here are a few of the historical highlights:
The Spaniada and the Liston
The Spaniada or Esplanade is an attractive park area in the centre of town. Along one side of it is a pastel colonnaded arcade known as the Liston. It’s no accident that it looks a lot like a Parisian building, with the arcade having been designed during the time of French rule in 1807 as a replica of the Rue de Rivoli in Paris. During its early years it is said that the French nobles lived here and only the ‘listed’ families were allowed to wander in and around the arcade. When the British took over they went to the trouble of bringing cricket to the Spaniada and the pitch is still there, although games are no longer played given the heavy traffic just beyond the short boundaries of the ground.
St Spiridon’s Church
This is the most prominent Greek Orthodox church in the town and home to the relics of the much revered Saint Spiridon. The relics are housed in a crypt behind the iconostasis. Look out for the coat of arms of the House of Romanov, evidence that the church was under the protection of the Russia Empire for most of the 19th century. The church is an important site of worship for followers of the Orthodox faith and while it’s open to all, visitors are asked to respect the many worshippers who come to pay homage to the saint.
The Old and New Forts
There are two forts standing guard over the city and both are worthy of exploration. The Old Fort dates back to Byzantine times, its construction was largely Venetian and yet the building you see today were constructed mainly by the British. The Old Fort is a popular site for open-air concerts and artists’ exhibitions and it was also a location for the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only. The New Fort is more easily accessible from the town and although it’s smaller it offers fabulous views of the town and the coast.