Corfu – Medieval fortresses, Old Town labyrinth, and a Great nightlife

Historic Corfu Town blessed with Venetian grace and elegance, stands halfway down the east coast of Corfu.

Cityscape of Corfu Town, the capital of the island, Corfu, Ionian Sea Greece
Cityscape of Corfu Town

Kerkyra Town is a lively place, during the day a great many cruise passengers and other one-day visitors explore the streets of the old town; and at sundown the activities continue around the bar and restaurant areas. Corfu Town is the hottest in the Ionian Sea when it comes to dining, drinking, and dancing.

An old town with two names

The name Corfù is an Italian version of the Byzantine Κορυφώ (Koryphō), meaning “city of the peaks” referring to the two hills each topped by a massive fortress (Palaio Frourio) built to withstand Ottoman sieges. In between the two hills sits the Old Town a labyrinth of winding lanes, some with fine restaurants, great bars, and interesting shops, while others are quiet alleys with washing lines stretched from balcony to balcony. Corfu Town has some great museums, grand architecture, including the famous Liston archade, and no less than 39 churches.

The island of Corfu is bound with the history of Greece from the beginning of Greek mythology.  According to myth, Poseidon fell in love with the beautiful nymph Korkyra, daughter of Asopus and river nymph Metope, and abducted her. Poseidon brought Korkyra to the unnamed island and, in marital bliss, offered her name to the place: Korkyra, which gradually evolved to Kerkyra (Doric), the Greek name for the island. Together, they had a child, Phaiax, after whom the inhabitants of the island were named Phaiakes (Latin: Phaeacians).

The city of Corfu stands on the broad part of a peninsula, whose termination in the Venetian citadel is cut off from it by an artificial fosse formed in a natural gully, that now serves as a marina and is called the Contrafossa. The old town, having grown within the fortifications is a labyrinth of narrow streets paved with cobblestones. These streets are known as kantoúnia, many of which are too narrow for vehicular traffic.

The new citadel or Neo Frourio is a huge complex of fortifications dominating the northeastern part of the city; the huge walls of the fortress dominate the landscape as one makes the trip from Neo Limani (“New Port”) to the city, taking the road that passes through the fishmarket. The new citadel was until recently a restricted area due to the presence of a naval garrison, but old restrictions have been lifted and it is now open to the public, with tours possible through the maze of medieval corridors and fortifications. The winged Lion of St Mark, the symbol of Venice, can be seen at regular intervals adorning the fortifications.