Corfu is a very green island and a mixture of the civilisations that
have passed through at various times. Corfu town impresses and charms
the visitor with its two forts, narrow streets, tall houses, arcades,
Venetian-built Town Hall, church of Saint Spyridon (the island’s patron
saint), flower-filled gardens, and balconies with their superb
Flooded with sights, Corfu is small paradise on Earth. From Paleokastritsa to Kanoni, from Achillion to Pontikonissi (Mouse Island)
and the northern coast, one will find crystal clear water, scenic coves,
greenery and vegetation that ‘sinks’ into the deep blue sea. On this
cosmopolitan island it is easy to combine a professional business trip
with luxurious relaxation.
Palace is situated high up in the village of
from Corfu Town. It originated at the end of the 19th
century when Empress
Elizabeth of Austria
(1837-1898) built the Palace. The Empress, known as Sissi, had grown to
love the island during her numerous visits, and she set her mind on a
residence that resulted in the fairy-tale Achillion Palace being built
between 1889 and 1891 by the Italian architect Rafaelo Carito.
Sissi was fascinated by
the mythology of Ancient Greece; she especially admired Achilles, and
dedicated the palace to him. The
statue of Achilles dying, as well as many others, which represents gods
and heroes from Greek mythology, embellishes the Palace garden. Sissy
did not live long to enjoy her creation. She was assassinated in Geneva
(1898) and the Palace remained empty until 1907, when Kaiser Wilhelm II
of Germany bought it.
The Kaiser removed the
two statues of Achilles, built the House of the Knights, in order to
house his battalion, and he rearranged the gardens. During the World
Wars, the palace was used as a hospital and headquarters. After World
War II, Achillion became a public estate.
Inside the palace, one
can admire the fresco of the reception chamber showing Achilles dragging
the dead body of Hector in front of the Trojan walls.
Today the Achillion
Palace is one of Corfu’s most popular sights and its visit is a
genuinely unforgettable experience.
Church of St. Spyridon
at the far end of the square of the Ionian Bank, the
Church of St.
Spryridon is by far the most venerated place of worship on the island.
It shelters the body of St. Spyridon, the patron Saint of Corfu and one
of the great Saints of Greek Orthodoxy, and in consequence draws a
constant stream of pilgrims from all over Greece all the year round.
The church was built in
1589, but most of the decoration, as well as the big bell-tower, were
completed a few years later. It is a single-nave
basilica, a type prevalent in Corfu; two white marble railings, made in
Venice in 1852, separate the main nave from the raised area in front of
the sanctuary. Imposing silver and gilt lamps and massive chandeliers
presented to the church as pious offerings hang from the ceiling.
Byzantine Church of Pantocrator at Mouse Island
small Byzantine church dedicated to the Transfiguration of Christ
crowns the tiny islet at the entrance to the lagoon of Chalikiopoulo opposite
Kanoni. It is in shape of a Greek cross with an octagonal dome in the
centre, and has one central three-sided apse behind the altar. It can be
dated to the eleventh or twelfth century.
The Monastery of the Blessed Virgin
The Monastery of the
Blessed Virgin stands on a rocky peninsula, on
Coast of the island in the village of
According to tradition,
a monk built the monastery
in the thirteenth century. It now consists of the church in the centre,
surrounded by an extremely picturesque complex of courtyards, rows of
monks’ cells, oil-presses, archways, store-rooms and abbot’s quarters.
There is an open terrace and a garden on the south side of the church,
from which the view sweeps on a magnificent panorama of rocks, hills and
an open sea.
Corfu Town itself is a
remarkable city to visit. With a Venetian and French influence, it has
many buildings and walks to admire. The Venetians ruled Corfu from 1386
to 1797 and the architecture has a strong Italian influence, with little
squares and ornate Venetian wells nestling below elegant churches and
The most elegant of the
Venetian buildings is the historic City Hall, in baroque style. It was
first built between 1663 and 1691 as an open arcade and a sheltered
meeting-place for the nobility. It is built of hard limestone and is
decorated on its two main frontages with stone masks and medallions
bearing various historical inscriptions and symbols. In 1720, it was
converted into the theatre ‘San Giacomo’.
Liston, with arcaded buildings on the north side of the Lower
Esplanade were planned during the Imperial French Occupation. Begun
in 1807, they are reminiscent of the larger and longer ‘Arcades’ of the
Rue de Rivoli in Paris, which were built at about the same time. There
are many cafes and bars here where you can watch the world go by.
Palace of St. Michael and St. George
Palace is generally considered the finest of the British buildings in
Corfu, stands along the northern side of the Esplanade.
The design and
supervision was constructed by Sir George Whitmore
and drawn in a
Georgian style, and is was the first neo-classical building in Greece.
The Palace was inaugurated on St. George’s Day, 1823. It was the
official residence of the Lord High Commissioner and was at the same
time the seat of Order of St. Michael and St. George.Since April 1981
the robes, medals and other insignia of the Order are displayed in
special showcases in the throne room of the Palace.
Society of Corfu
This society is the
oldest Cultural Institution in modern Greece, founded in 1836. It
contains a unique library dealing with the history and culture of Corfu
and the other Ionian Islands.
the northern end of Capodistria Street is the Capodistria
Mansion, which is an outstanding example of neo-classical architecture.
It was built in 1853 for a brother of John Capodistrias. The building,
with its marble façade and Corinthian pilasters of pink stone from local
quarries, is considered one of the most beautiful in Greece.
In the little paved
square off Nikiphorou Theotoki Street stands the handsome
building of the Ionian Bank, built in 1846. A complete collection of
Greek and Ionian paper money from 1839 up to the present day is on
display in the first floor of the building. At the extreme end of
Moustoxydi Street stands the historic Ionian
building in neo-classical style, with a Doric portico.
The Old Fortress
consists of two peaks that were for many centuries topped by
castellated towers. The eastern one was used as a powder magazine and
the western one was first fortified by the Byzantines in the second half
of the twelfth century. Between the sixth and thirteenth centuries the
town of Corfu lay within the walls of the Byzantine fortress. Later, a
new town was built outside the fortress.
The Church of St.
George was built in the eighteen-forties. The frontage, consisting
of six Doric columns and a pediment, is typical of the simplified
classicism of the time. The church was turned over to Orthodox cult at
the end of British Protectorate.
An artificial canal
separates the fortress from the town, which is named “El Bazaro”. The
two castles still dominate the fortress but the medieval town within the
fortress is not shown, although there were five hundred and fifty houses
at the time.
The New Fortress
New Fortress was built on the hill of St. Mark between 1572 and
1645. The British built the surviving buildings within the fortress.
Among these are the ‘defensive’ stone building, and the brick building,
now housing the Corfu Naval Station. The entire structure is
honeycombed with an interactive network of vaulted chambers and
galleries, stairs, ramps and ventilation shafts. There are two gates;
the eastern one is topped by a beautiful relief of the winged lion of
St. Mark, the emblem of Venice.
MUSEUMS TO VISIT
The Archeological Museum
entire ancient finds of the island, mostly of the archaic period, are
kept in the New Museum overlooking the
The most impressive exhibit is the west pediment of the Doric Temple of
Artemis dating from 590-580 B.C.; it is one of the largest
surviving sculptural groups of its kind in Greece and dominates the main
hall. Other interesting exhibits include the sixth century funerary
capital of Xemvares. Also worthy of note in the anteroom is the
‘boustrophedon’ inscription, forming an epigram in Homeric hexameters
and dating from the early sixth century B.C.
The Museum of Asian Art
rich and highly interesting collection of objects d’art, mostly Chinese
and Japanese, is on display on the first floor of the Palace of
and St. George.
This collection was
presented to the Greek Government in 1928 and consists of 10.000 items.
The collection includes some beautiful bronze wares of the Chou
(1027-256 B.C.) and Han (206 B.C.- 220 A.D.) dynasties.
The classical period of
Chinese art is represented by a great variety of porcelain of Sung
(960-1276), Ming (1368-1644) and Ch’ing (1644-1912) dynasties. The
Japanese collection contains much more porcelain ware, wooden masks of
the “No” theatre, suits of Samurai armor, Utamaro woodcuts, beautiful
eighteenth century silk and rice paper Kakemonos, and books illustrated
with prints. The collection has been recently enriched by a donation,
comprising four hundred and fifty interesting items from Japan, India,
Nepal, Tibet, Thailand and Korea.
Byzantine Museum of Corfu ‘Antivouniotissa’
museum is one of the most significant in Greece. It is housed in the
Church of the Blessed Virgin Antivouniotissa where a wide flight of
steps leads up from
The church has been entrusted to the Greek state by the owners, along
with its numerous icons, frescoes and paintings and rich collection of