Metropolitan, multicultural Corfu is perhaps the Greek island with the most diverse history. Taking influence from the Venetians, French and British, whilst still retaining its Greek soul, this second largest of the Ionian islands has so much to offer. Whether you’re here for a remarkable, revered heritage, fascinating history, totally unique cuisine or simply to kick back on golden sands, there’s no chance of getting bored in Corfu. Quite the opposite, in fact. With so much to see and do, it can be hard to narrow things down to a manageable few. We’re here to help, with these; our 5 IDEAL things to do in Corfu, Greece.
EXPLORE THE OLD TOWN ON FOOT
Because, firstly, there is no other way! The whole of Corfu Old Town is pedestrianised, making it as lovely, hospitable and welcoming as that sounds. This UNESCO World Heritage Centre’s architecture is heavily influenced by the Venetians, who controlled Corfu for four centuries (interestingly, the Ottomans never did) and as such is very different visually to many other Greek islands. A stroll around these ancient streets is simply a brilliant way to spend a day. Make sure you check out the Church of St. Spyridon and the Church of St. Jason during your walk.
Continuing on foot, take a walk along the huge green space called the Esplanade (the second largest square in Europe and formerly used as a cricket ground by the British) to the Museum of Asian Art, which is not only an incredible building but also houses a huge collection of Chinese and Japanese paintings. After traversing the Esplanade and east of the old town, you’ll find the Old Fortress, a citadel built in the 16th century which has to be seen to be believed.
SAMPLE THE LOCAL DELICACIES
Corfiot cuisine has an identity all of its own, carrying the influences of Italy, the Levant, France, Greece and Turkey with dexterity, and merging them all together into something whole and unique. It’s full of fresh, locally grown ingredients and lashings of homegrown olive oil (there are an estimated 4 million olive trees on the island!) and deploys wine, garlic and dry spices like clove and cinnamon liberally.
An absolute must-try is pastisada, a Corfiot pasta dish influenced by the Venetians who long ago occupied the island. The sauce is familiarly Italian but flavoured with the spices of the Levant (as Venice was popular stop off on the trade route between the Middle East and Europe) including cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg, cumin and allspice. A little Corfiot flair is added to the recipe for good measure.
Sofrito (not to be confused with an Italian Sofrito) is another of the island’s delicious staples, and not to be missed on your holiday in Corfu. Here, thin slices of veal are covered in flour and slowly fried with lots of garlic, white wine, parsley and olive oil. The resulting tart sauce – it’s finished with a little balsamic vinegar – pairs brilliantly with the rich veal meat.
Being an island, there are also several signature fish dishes which make use of the surrounding sea’s bounty. Fish Bianco, which is white fish simmered in white wine and served atop a bed of potatoes flavoured with garlic, white wine and cloves, is splendid, and Bourdeto, a rich and spicy stew using scorpionfish (though stonefish, skate or octopus will do) is cooked in a tomato sauce with lots of hot red pepper and is traditionally enjoyed when all the family comes together with plenty of freshly baked bread. Heaven. And for dessert, seek out Sikomadia, a Crofiot dessert of sweet fig, which grow abundantly on the island.
SCALE THE ISLAND’S TALLEST PEAK, MOUNT PANTOKRATOR
Situated in the north-east, Corfu’s tallest mountain peak Mount Pantokrator is a hiker’s dream. The views as you climb up the mountain are breathtaking and the summit, home to a monastery which dates back to the 1300s, is worth every moment of short breath experienced on the ascent. From here you can enjoy panoramic views of the neighbouring island of Paxos and you can even see Albania on a clear day.
The road up is home to some remote dwellings including the traditional Greek villages of Spartilas and Strinilas which offer some respite and refreshments, as well as an intriguing look into the past. On the way down, be sure to sample the locally brewed sweet wine at one of the taverns to help you on your way.
You might be glad to hear that you don’t have to do this on foot; you can drive or even cycle the zigzagging roads to the top of the Mount if that’s more your thing. If you do choose to walk, the best place to start is Old Perithia (Corfu’s oldest village) from which a round trip will take around half a day.
REVEL IN THE DRAMA OF ANGELOKASTRO
If you haven’t peaked too soon and are hungry for another steep ascent capped off by stunning views, then Angelokastro may well finish you off; in the best possible way, of course. The Castle of the Angel stands at the top of a steep cliff with a sheer drop to follow, and surveys Corfu’s Old Town below. This isn’t one for the fainthearted, as the walk is on somewhat treacherous terrain, and bringing your walking boots and dose of bravery are very much recommended (even the drive, if you choose to, is hair raising). You’ll be richly rewarded at the peak, though, as this castle, close to the village of Krini, has one of the most dramatic backdrops we’ve ever experienced.
GUARANTEE A LOVE LONG LASTING AT CANAL D’AMOUR
Legend has it that every couple who swims here together, in the ‘Channel of Love’, is guaranteed to be together for eternity. While we can’t promise that you’ll find your one true love in these waters or that your relationship won’t end by the time you get home, we can be sure that you’ll fall head over heels for the beauty of this place. Indeed, with its beautiful sculpted sandstone rocks and gorgeous turquoise waters, it’s one of nature’s great masterpieces.
The waters are also said to have detoxifying and healing properties from the rich deposits of clay which form the rocks. Some even scoop up handfuls of clay and rub it all over their body, or give their lover sensual massage using it as a lotion of sorts. But that’s enough frolicking in the shallow water; many also come here to explore the exquisite caves nearby and to snorkel in the crystal clear water.
Looking for more tips on your Greek getaway? Check out these; our 5 IDEAL Greek islands to visit on your next holiday.