Restaurants and Tavernas
An authentic taverna right in the old town. Sit under the amazingly sprawling grape vine and enjoy the fresh fish. The waiter may ask you to come to the kitchen to choose your own from the daily catch. The other local specialties are also very good. If tsigarelli is in season, give it a try; it’s a local green in a spicy red sauce.
A relative newcomer, having opened in 2015, Salto’s speciality is small plates and a fabulous selection of Greek wine. Allow yourself to be guided by the staff as they know their krasi [kra (like bra)-see] (Greek for wine). The menu is local mezzedes (think Greek tapas), often with a modern slant.
Going strong for 150 years, this taverna was formerly patronised by the Durrells and Anthony Quinn. The sign outside is in Greek, so just follow your nose to the traditional grill for souvlaki, pork chops and swordfish. Like Taverna Ninos, dishes are roasted in advance and you can order cafeteria-style - don’t let that tradition put you off, these places often have the oldest chefs, someone’s yaya (Greek for Grandma) cooking away in the old style. Warm service and tables outside make this an excellent spot for people-watching.
This classy Italian restaurant, which has premises on both sides of the street, won the 'Best Italian Restaurant in Greece' award for its homemade gnocchi, tortellini and ravioli. Eat on the street or inside, and try the panna cotta.
The Venetian Well easily boasts the most romantic and authentically Corfiote location in all of Corfu Town. The food is fancy and of great quality. Sit outside, the interior decor is miles away from the charm of the outside tables in their beautiful square.
Romantic rustic-inspired Italian tavern. It has a concise menu, pasta and mains (no pizzas). Their recommended dish is pasta pollarollo.
On majestic Liston is this elegant, olive-hued grand dame, with a Mediterranean menu of pasta, salads and specialties such as veal sofrito (veal cooked in wine and garlic) and Corfiot rooster (chicken cooked in tomato sauce). Add to this warm service, chandelier-lit ambience and a range of microbrews, and you can see why it's always busy.
I have eaten at Ninos so many times that they are almost offended when I pass by and don’t sit down. It’s a tiny place, frequented mostly by locals. The food, like at Chrisomalis, is served cafeteria-style, choose it and they bring it to the table. If they have the zouzoukakia (pork meatballs in red sauce), get them. I've just had the Sofrito and broad beans in red sauce and they were both great. The roast lamb and potatoes is also a strong choice.
THE GYROS PLACE
I don’t even know the name of it; it’s the pita place on the little square with the well. [Go down the street with the steps for a sidewalk, turn left at the bottom and then stay left and you’ll basically walk right into it. It’s a few shops down from Bristol.] For me it’s a chicken gyro pita (yee-ro pee-ta) with everything and a cold beer.
TAVERNAKI TIS MARINAS
Restored stone walls, hardwood floors and cheerful staff lift the ambience of this taverna. Check daily specials or choose anything from mousakas (baked layers of eggplant or zucchini, minced meat and - unauthenitcally - potatoes topped with cheese sauce) or grilled sardines, or even a steak. Accompany it all with a dram of ouzo or tsipouro (a spirit similar to grappa).
Bars and Cafes
BRISTOL - very popular, strong drinks, great for people watching.
MIKRO CAFE - so close the flat, and the garden tables may be the best location of any cafe seats anywhere.
DIMITRIS - Down the road from Porta Remounda, Dimitris’ Bar is tiny, has a beautiful brass bartop, and Dimitri himself is lovely. Makes a fine gin and tonic.
AZUR - Perched on the sea side of the city ramparts, this chic place will make you all the latest cocktails and has the best chips in town, somewhere between a french fry and a potato chip. Good place for an Apperol Spritz
OLD FORT CAFE - Located inside the actual Fort, they sometimes have live music performed by bands made up of students and profs at the local music academy.
CAVALIERI ROOFTOP TERRACE - another great location. Don’t eat there, the food is not good, but a glass of wine and that view makes for a good start to an evening.
Supermarkets & Food
There are several supermarkets around the area of Evraïki. The closest is Ionian. It is remarkably well-stocked despite its size, and can be found by crossing the church square (passing by its large main door) and going down the stairs with the music school on your right as you descend. Make a left onto the road at the foot of the stairs and follow it past the pizza place on the right and the cake shop on the left. Across from the cake shop there is another set of steps heading down to the right. The supermarket is on the left at the bottom of those stairs.
TOWN MARKET or "LAÏKI"
For fruit or vegetables or fish or meat, I recommend going to the ‘laïki’, the town market.
To get there, keep going past the supermarket as above, make a right onto the main road Evgeniou Voulgareos and follow it until it ceases to be pedestrian-only (you’ll pass Marks and Spencer on the right) and then make a right onto Lochagou Spiridonas Vlaikou. The market is about 50m up on the left. There is also a butcher and fishmonger on that street as well as inside the market itself.
The market is open every morning except Sunday. It is open on some afternoons as well, but with a half-hearted and vacant atmosphere.
DIMITRA MARKET AT SAN ROCCO
There is a larger supermarket 'Dimitra' on San Rocco square. I can be reached as if you're heading to the Laiki market above, but continuing on Evgeniou Voulgareos for one more block, then turning right when the street hits the square. The Dimitra is about 35 meters to your right (past the bakery and the butcher).
FRUIT & VEG STAND
If you need a few fresh fruits and vegetables and don't fancy the walk to the Laïki, there is a great little fruit and veg stand just down from Mikro Café. Turn left out of the main lobby door and then left again down the little alley beside the apartment building. Follow the path until it ends at a narrow pedestrian street, turn right, you'll pass a bookshop in an elegant building with an arcade. The garden seating for Mikro Cafe will be on your right, turn left until you get to the main road of Nikiforou Theotoki, the fruit seller is about 30 meters up on the right side, past the little church sitting obstinately in the middle of the street.
There is so much to say about Greek wine, and I am no expert, so this is only my two-cents' worth about what's available on the island.
You'll find a decent selection of wines at supermarkets above. If you really want to delve into greek wines though, I recommend the wine shop on Nikiforou Theotoki. (Go to Mikro Café and then turn left at the stubborn church; it's a few shops down in the arcade to the left). I recommend the white Assyrtiko from Santorini, which usually can be relied on for a dry, mineral finish.
For other Greek varieties, I've found that some reliable producers are: Alfa, Manousakis, Gerovasiliou, Biblia Chora, but it's worth it to get stuck-in and just try!
Please note that Greek wine isn't made in the volume of French, Italian, or Spanish wine so tends to be a little expensive by comparison.
Lastly, Corfu does make some wine. My experience is that if it's a local taverna owner's home variety, it can be drinkable - if you're not expecting oaky, French complexity. It will be fresh, fruity, and much better after the second glass. If you can find what the locals call 'black wine' (mavro), give it a try, it's a beautiful deep purple colour and it can be quite good.
However, if you're offered the local, bottled, Theotoki, I would politely decline, unless your cooking with it... and maybe not even then.
When I first started coming to Corfu, you could 'prasini' (green aka Heineken) or 'kokkini' (red aka Amstel), but things are so very different now. Not only has Fix started making beer again (an old Greek beer from the 50's resurrected), but there's also Mythos, Alpha, and a few other Greek beers.
Corfu itself now also has its own microbrewery Corfu Beer, located in Arilas, in the north west of the island. They offer a white beer, a pilsner, an IPA, a red ale, a dark bitter, a lager, and Ionian Epos, 'a double fermentation beer, with the addition of pure flower honey'. They even offer a revamped version of the Corfiot spin on ginger beer 'tzitzibira'. Recommend you give them a try, because you can get Heineken anywhere (if for some reason you wanted to...)
Myrto Zirini Ceramics
Myrto Zirini is a ceramic artist based in Corfu, Greece since 2012. She studied interior design and architecture in London where she also worked for 3 years. In 2004 she returned to her home city of Athens and worked within architecture and design in multiple areas – urban/public spaces, architecture and interior design (with aka lab architects) down to the smaller scales of exhibitions, furniture and graphic design. She has also taught at the MA interior design course at Vakalo Art & Design College in Athens.
You can see some of her work in the flat; obviously, I'm a big fan.
Located in a tiny arched shop on Guilford Street, Volto Design sells 100% handmade shoes and premium hand crafted bags designed and made in Corfu.
Salty Bag makes purses, bags, and other accessories from used sailcloth. The designs are modern, surprisingly elegant, and the material is environmentally friendly.
The best beaches are located away from the bustle of Corfu Town, so if you're after wide stretches of soft sand, you are in for a trip. There are some lovely little swimming spots in and around Corfu Town, some, like Faliraki, have the charm of a community lido (with nearby cafe and bar), and others, like Mon Repos, seem to have been forgotten by time. I offer my thoughts below and also often include the notes of the website In-Corfu.com, which offers more in-depth information and useful charts about the quality of the beaches, entry fees, etc. I highly recommend visiting that site for its wealth of information and useful photos.
The closest place to the flat for a dip, Faliraki is nestled below the old city walls. It's one of my personal favorites for many reasons, most of which are described on the In-Corfu.com website:
'One of the oldest public bathing spots. Well before Corfu became a tourist destination this was the place to be seen in the summer. Today it offers town dwellers, local and visiting a place to spend the day by the beach with all the comforts you may need. The beach is small but clean and with a fantastic view of the Old fortress while the large pier helps accommodate more people than the beach would otherwise be capable of.
The cafeterias remain open throughout the evening and well into the early hours of the morning thanks to the view and lack of city noise, despite being so close. It also one of the best places to enjoy the sunset, sunrise and if around at the right time moon rise. Not bad for such a tiny spot.'
Mon Repos - BEACH
When I think of Mon Repos, it is usually of the park area (see below), but it would be remiss to mention Mon Repos Beach, which is easily accessed near Anamomilo
Right at the entrance of Kanoni peninsula is a small stretch of sand creating a very desirable beach mostly thanks to its location, which is probably why it was taken over by the municipality and developed to offer everything a family would need to spend a day at the beach, with food, drink, and entertainment for kids as it is in the heart of one of the most densely populated areas of town.
It is also one of the very few beaches on the island which an entry fee (1.50 euros), all be it a very modest one which goes towards the maintenance of the place and the pier which serves an extension of the beach and access to deep waters as the waters are quite rocky so walking to depth can be uncomfortable.
Mon Repos - Park
I have covered Mon Repos in a later section (in Museums & Other Attractions), but Mon Repos park has earned a special mention for me as a swimming spot. If it's a day of swimming that I'm after, without going off to one of the big sandy beaches in the south or the rocky coves of the north, Mon Repos park is where I go.
The undulating pier is a perfect example of what makes Mon Repos so beautiful. In places, its massive paving stones have subsided slightly into the soft sand below, giving it its characteristic waviness. This balance between nature, human intervention, time, and neglect is why this swimming spot will always have a place in my memory.
'...it does have something very special. The aura of its surroundings and remoteness, despite its proximity to town is quite unique. Surrounded by lush vegetation and a deep forest, the only access to this spot is through a narrow path from the palace, a good 20 minute walk from the nearest parking point. These 'obstacles' and the lack of any facilities are enough to deter most people who are spoilt for choice when it comes to comfortable beaches, makes this one of those special places where one can really come close to nature in a uniquely tranquil location yet so accessible.
If this place is indeed to you taste go prepared with everything that you may need for your stay since all you will find is nature.'
Museums & Other Attractions
MUSEUM OF ASIAN ART
The Museum of Asian Art in Corfu is the only museum of this kind in Greece. It is housed in an imposing neoclassical building near Liston promenade, Espianada square, in the Palace of Saint Michael and Saint George. This building was constructed between 1819 and 1824 by the British and initially served as the residence of the British High Commissioners of the Ionian islands. Later, it became the seat of the Ionian Senate, the Ionian Parliament, and the headquarters of the Chivalric Orders of Saint Michael and Saint George (in the mid 19th century), from where it took its name. When the Ionian islands were united to the Greek state in 1864, this building was used as a summer residence by the Royal Family. However, it lost its place as a royal residence because the King preferred to spend his summer months in Mon Repos palace (see below). The Palace of Saint Michel and Saint George was mostly used as an office by the King rather than as a residence. In 1967, the Palace was given to the Municipality of Corfu and housed the Archaeological Museum for some years and, until 1974, it was the Sino-Japanese Museum. Later on, the Sino-Japanese Museum was turned into an Asian Museum to host the collection of Gregorios Manos, an ambassador who had donated to the Municipality a great range of Asian items and works of art. The exhibits of this museum were enriched with the collections of N. Hatzivassiliou, Ch. Hiotakis and some others. The exhibits include items from China, Japan, India, Pakistan, Korea, Siam, Tibet, Nepal, Cambodia and Thailand. Among the items displayed, you will find Samurai armor and weapons, masks of the No theatre, Chinese porcelain and bronzes, pieces of sculpture, and ceramics. These exhibits are displayed in five rooms. The ground floor of the museum used to be the hall of the Ionian Senate and the portraits of the Senate's presidents hang there. On the second floor, we find the throne room, the ball room and the dining room, with the medals of the Chivalric order painted on the walls. This museum also hosts some other exhibitions from time to time and organizes other cultural events.
The neoclassical palace of Mon Repos sits atop Analipsis hill on the Kanoni Peninsula on the southern outskirts of town. It is surrounded by an extensive, wooded parkland estate. A small but very beautiful palace, this is the house where Prince Philip was born in June 1921. It houses the Museum of Palaeopolis, with entertaining archaeological displays and exhibits on the history of Corfu Town. Paths lead through lush grounds to the ruins of two Doric temples; the first is truly a ruin, but the southerly Temple of Artemis is serenely impressive.
It is on the sea and ten minutes walk through down the paths through the laurel wood, is a particularly beautiful stone pier, which has an undulating shape from past subsidence. It is a lovely spot for a dip.
Take a picnic and plenty of water, as there are no nearby shops. Bus 2a goes to Kanoni from the Spianada (€1.70, every 20 minutes), but it's walkable, if you bring your swimsuit for a plunge to relieve the heat.
I love to walk through the market. Greek tomatoes might be the best in the world, so doing a little shopping for the ingredients for a greek salad is worth it. If you can find sikomaïda (spiced, fig paste, flavoured with pepper and ouzo), give it a try; it’s not for everyone but I think it’s great.
The Old Fortress of Corfu is one of the most impressive fortification works in Europe. It is the first thing you see as the ferry approaches Corfu. It stands on the eastern side of the town, on a rocky peninsula jutting out into the sea. This fortress is called Old in contrast to the New Fortress (of Saint Mark), that was also built to protect the town from enemies and pirates. This fortress was constructed by the Venetians in the 15th century on the site of a former Byzantine castle. To make it more secure, they made an artificial fosse and thus they separated the fortress from the mainland. The fortress was connected to the land by a movable, wooden bridge. In 1819, the British replaced this bridge with the present stable pathway, which is 60 m long and stands 15 m above the fosse, locally known as contafossa. The entrance to the fortress is available across from the Spianada, the famous square of Corfu. The entrance is arched and has a Venetian symbol above it, carved in marble. After the entrance, there are two rooms on both sides that now host the Byzantine Collection of Corfu and a gift shop. A few steps away, there is another fosse of 22m, now dry, that was used as an additional protection measure. After the entrance, on the right, there is the small chapel of Madonna del Carmine.
The huge building in front was constructed by the British in the 18th century to host the barracks, but now it houses the Public Library of Corfu, which houses rare manuscripts and editions. Two stone stairs lead to a high spot, where there is a beautiful polygonal well dating from 1732. The highest point of the fortress is a tall clock tower, which takes about 20 minutes reach. Historians believe that there used to be an ancient temple there. Also, some accounts of the Medieval times inform us that this peak, named Citadella, was inhabited and had some houses, churches, water cisterns and storehouses for gunpowder. In fact, in 1499, 1800 people were living in Citadella. Unfortunately, an explosion in 1718 destroyed a large part of it and the church of Agioi Apostoli. The view from there is incredible.
On the eastern side of the fortress, there is a flat square, used today for cultural events. Here you'll find the church of Saint George, built by the Venetians in the style of an ancient temple. This is actually the only church in Greece that has been constructed according to the Doric style. Above this square, there is a cafeteria. For more than four centuries, this fortress had been the symbol of the Venetian occupation in the Ionian islands and today it is one of the most impressive sights on Corfu.
NEW FORTRESS (FORTRESS OF ST. MARK)
The Fortress of Saint Mark in Corfu is also referred to as the Fortress of San Marco. It was built by the Venetians and is strategically located in close proximity to the Old Harbour of town. It was constructed over a long period (1576 and 1645). Construction of this impregnable fortress was completed soon after the infamous Turkish invasion. The design and construction of the Fortress was undertaken by the renowned Italian military engineer, Ferraute Vitteli. The fortress played a pivotal role in protecting the town of Corfu and its residents. The entire fortress is an intricate network of compartments and galleries. The ramparts were built by the French and completed by the British. The fortress has a dry moat that meanders along its western side which is typical of the 17th century architectural style. The moat begins from the current location of the fruit and vegetable market and finishes at the New Harbour. Of particular significance are the two winged lions of Saint Mark, which are the official emblem of Venice. The two main gates of the fortress have withstood the ravages of time and are still very well preserved. The first gate faces to the Old Harbor's square while the other faces south.
ST. SPYRIDON CHURCH
The church of Saint Spyridon was initially built in Sarocco square, Corfu Town. However, in 1590 it was erected in its present location. Its design is typical of the Venetian architecture that dominates the Old Town of Corfu. Its bell tower is the highest in town. Saint Spyridon is considered the keeper of Corfu. According to legend, he has saved the island four times from Ottoman invasion, one of the reasons that this church is so beloved. Spyridon, often shortened to Spyros, is a very common name on the island and the locals will still refer to their saint protector in an oath. The church, which is located just behind The Liston, holds the supposed remains of the saint. According to the local customs, his remains are carried around the town of Corfu in a litany four times a year to celebrate his miracles (Palm Sunday, Good Friday, August 11th, first Sunday of November). The litanies are accompanied by local bands and they remain a strong tradition on Corfu.
During the First World War, the island served as a refuge for the Serbian army that retreated there on Allied forces' ships from a homeland occupied by the Austrians, Germans and Bulgarians. During their stay, a large portion of Serbian soldiers died from exhaustion, food shortage, and various diseases. Most of their remains were buried at sea near the island of Vido, a small island at the mouth of Corfu port, and a monument of thanks to the Greek nation has been erected at Vido by the grateful Serbs; consequently, the waters around Vido Island are known by the Serbian people as the Blue Tomb after a poem written by Milutin Bojić following World War I.