Food and Drink in Corfu
If you go to a Corfu restaurant expecting to find only typical Greek staples like moussaka and dolmades on the menu, you'll be in for a pleasant surprise. Corfiot specialities are very different from those of mainland Greece. Consider the island's history, and you realize why.
Like its architecture, Corfu's cuisine reflects the many invaders who, down the centuries, strove to make the island their own. So, local specialties like pastitsado (a beef and tomato stew served with pasta), Bourou-Bourou (vegetable and pasta soup) and savoro (fish fried with rosemary) reflect the island's Venetian heritage, while the local fondness for charcuterie and vinous dishes like sofrito (beef in white wine) comes from the French.
What of the British? Well, they bequeathed the Corfiots a love of puddings -- though they made a style entirely their own. Over coffee, tuck into mandolato (a delicious black and white nougat), tiganites (sweet doughnuts) or sykomaitha (spiced fig cakes). Or enjoy ice cream, flavored by local fruits (including the ubiquitous kumquat).
Wash it down with wine from one of the island's small vineyards like Kakotrygis, a light dry white, or Petrokoritho, a gutsy red. And if you'd like to see where chefs get their ingredients, check out Corfu Town's fish and vegetable market outside New Fort (open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily). Some stallholders cook fresh-caught fish, so you can do as the locals do and enjoy a tasty lunch on the hoof.
If you prefer to just wander about to see what you fancy, Kapodistriou Street and the Liston area itself are good hunting grounds for the hungry, as they are crammed with restaurants and tavernas. Just check the menus, have a peek inside and make your choice.
Restaurant Rex was founded in 1932, and the family restaurant offers traditional goodies -- like souvlaki, fried country sausages, chicken with kumquat sauce and Grandmother's Spinach Pie -- at reasonable prices (around 12 euros for a main course). (Kapodistriou 66, behind the Liston arcade; open noon until late daily)
Family-owned Bellissimo comes highly recommended. Lively and alfresco, it's a big hit because of its affordability, warm and friendly atmosphere and unpretentious menu (which includes homemade pizza). (On Plateia Lemonia; open 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily)
Bakalogatos scores highly for those seeking meals made with home-grown ingredients. The restaurant serves only Greek wine and locally sourced food. (Alpiou 23; open from noon daily)
Beaches in Corfu
Corfu is home to some of the best beaches in Greece, so you have plenty of options for a lazy day in the sun.
Most Convenient: Mon Repos offers soft sand, a taverna and changing rooms. The beach is about a 20-minute walk (or a short tourist-train ride) along the promenade south of Corfu Town. Mon Repos is also popular because history buffs can head off to explore the nearby Mon Repos estate (also known as Paleopolis). This contains the palace in which the British Queen's Consort, Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was born, as well as the remains of Roman baths, a Doric temple and an early Christian basilica. Be warned, signage is poor, and parts of the grounds are quite overgrown. Entrance costs 3 euros; free admission for students, seniors and those younger than 18. (Open 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday, closed Mondays)
Best for Escaping the Crowds: Agios Georgios agon, in the northwest, offers calm, clean water and is peaceful even in peak season. Although it's a cab ride away, it's worth considering if you hate crowds. It also has tavernas, windsurfing and scuba diving, so what's not to like?
Best for Getting Back to Nature: Halikounas, south of Corfu Town on the island's southeast coast, is one of Corfu's most unspoiled beaches. Famous for its birdlife, it's also a haven for naturists, so be prepared to get an eyeful and an all-over tan. The downside of its wild beauty is that there isn't much to do but swim, enjoy the peace and watch the birds. If you take a taxi, be sure to book it for the return journey, too.
Don't Miss in Corfu
Corfu Town is one of the largest "living" medieval towns in Greece and a delightful maze of winding streets and alleys lined with excellent shops and restaurants. All shopping tastes are catered for there; sophisticated jewelry and designer outlets vie for attention with boutiques selling locally made dresses and lacy jackets, and craft stores featuring pretty embroidered cloths.
The Old Fortress and New Fortress are located to the east and west, respectively, of Corfu Town. The 6th century, Byzantine Old Fortress (open 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday and closed Monday) offers magnificent views of the sea; its entrance is near the esplanade. To get in, you cross a short bridge across a moat lined with small fishing boats. The New Fortress (open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily) overlooks the town and was built in the 16th century by Corfu's Venetian rulers.
Enjoy coffee or lunch at one of the cafes that line the elegant French-style Liston Arcade (at the front of the shopping and restaurant district near Spianada Square). Just behind there, Ayios Spyridon (St. Spyridon's Church) is also worth exploring. It's one of the most important in the Ionian islands and the final resting place of Corfu's patron saint, whose body is contained in a sarcophagus.
The Asian Art Museum is fascinating to look around and well worth making time to visit. Housed in a former palace, the museum contains a vast collection of Oriental artifacts amassed by two Greek diplomats and features exhibits from China, Japan, Tibet, the Gandhara Kingdom (now Eastern Afghanistan and Northern Pakistan), Cambodia and Thailand . (49100 Palaia Anaktora; open 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday)
The Byzantine Museum, located in the Church of Antivouniotissa, has a spectacular interior as well as a fabulous collection of Byzantine icons. Admission is 2 euros. (Old Fortress 40; open 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday, open 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday, closed Monday)Step back in time with a visit to the Achilleion Palace, a striking neoclassical mansion in the village of Gastouri, about 10 miles south of Corfu Town. Built in the late 1890s by Elizabeth, Empress of Austria, the residence was named for the mythical Greek hero Achilles, and its manicured gardens are dominated by a gigantic bronze sculpture of him. But the highlight of this grand palace is its lovely Colonnade of the Muses, a black-and-white tiled terrace lined with statues of gods, heroes, muses, poets and philosophers. Admission is 7 euros. (Open 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily)
Splash out on a trip to Aqualand. This vast waterpark, just west of Corfu Town, features many exciting rides, vast pools and acres of green space. A visit there will be a big hit with families and anybody young at heart. (Agios Ioannis; open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily from mid-May through October)
Visit Pondikonisi (Mouse Island) and Vlaherna, two tiny islands about 30 minutes' walk -- or a No. 2 bus ride -- along the coast from Corfu Town (past Mon Repos beach). The view across to the islands from Kanoni, where you'll find pleasant cafes, is spectacular, and you can walk along a causeway to Vlaherna and catch a boat from there to Mouse Island for about 2 euros per person. Vlaherna is worth seeing because it is almost completely covered by the stunning white Venetian monastery of Panagia Vlahernon, while Mouse Island has a tiny Byzantine chapel.
Head for the north coast of Corfu and visit the pastel-painted 18th century Paleokastritsa Monastery, which has a stunning clifftop setting overlooking the Ionian Sea beaches. It also has a fine collection of ancient icons, including one of the Virgin Mary which dates from the 12th century. (Open 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. daily)
Take a hike along a stretch of the lovely Corfu Trail, which meanders around the island and makes the most of its stunning and varied topography. It would take you about 10 days to cover its entire 137-mile length at the gentle pace needed to take it all in, but at least you can make a start.