A Stroll around Corfu Town

This is a browser's town, where as you're strolling in search of a snack or souvenir, you may serendipitously discover an old church or monument. To orient yourself, start with the Esplanade area bounded by the Old Fort and the sea on one side. The small haven below and to the north of the Old Fort is known as Mandraki Harbor, while the shore to the south is home port to the Corfu Yacht Club.

Dousmani bisects the Esplanade; at the far side is the monument that honors the union of the Ionian Islands with Greece. You might catch a cricket game at the Plateia, the northern part of the field. At the north side of the Esplanade, the Palace of St. Michael and St. George is the home of the Museum of Asian Art . If you proceed along the northwest corner of the palace, you'll come out above the coast and can make your way around Arseniou above the mourayia (medieval sea walls). On your left you will pass the house of Dionysus Solomos, the 19th-centry poet laureate of Greece.

On your way, you will pass (on the left, up a flight of stairs) the Byzantine Museum in the Church of Antivouniotissa. Even if you're not a particular fan of Byzantine art, you should enjoy the small but elegant selection of icons from around Corfu; of particular interest are works by Cretan artists who came to Corfu, some of whom went on to Venice. The museum is open Monday from 12:30 to 7pm, Tuesday through Saturday from 8am to 7pm, and Sunday and holidays from 8:30am to 3pm. Admission is 3€.

Proceed along the coast road and descend to the square at the old port. Above its far side rises the New Fortress, and beyond this is the new port. Off to the left of the square is a large gateway, what remains of the 16th-century Porta Spilia. Go through it to get to the Plateia Solomou.

If you go left from Plateia Solomou along Velissariou, look on the right for the green doors of the 300-year-old synagogue, with its collection of torah crowns. It's open on Saturday from 9am until early evening. To gain entry during the week, call the Jewish Community Center at tel. 26610/38-802.

Continue on to the part of old Corfu known as Campiello, with its stepped streets and narrow alleys. You may feel as if you are in a labyrinth -- and you will be -- but sooner or later you'll emerge onto one or another busy commercial street that will bring you down to the Esplanade.

Heading south on the Esplanade, you'll see a bandstand and, at its far end, the Maitland Rotunda, which honors Sir Thomas Maitland, the first British lord high commissioner of the Ionian Islands. Past this is the statue of Count Ioannis Kapodistrias (1776-1836), the first president of independent Greece.

Head south along the shore road from this end of the Esplanade, and you'll pass the Corfu Palace Hotel on your right; then the Archaeological Museum , up Vraila on the right. After 2 more blocks, off to the right on the corner of Marasli, you'll see the Tomb of Menekrates, a circular tomb of a notable who drowned about 600 B.C. Proceeding to the right here onto Leoforos Alexandros will bring you into the heart of new Corfu town.

Back at the Esplanade, the western side of the north half is lined by a wide tree-shaded strip filled with cafe tables and chairs, then a street reserved for pedestrians, and then arcaded buildings patterned after Paris's Rue de Rivoli. Begun by the French and finished by the British, these arcaded buildings, known as the Liston provide a great backdrop for a cup of coffee or a dish of ice cream.

Sitting Still -- One of the great pleasures of traveling about Greece is just occasionally to sit still -- that is, to plunk yourself down on a cafe chair and enjoy a drink, while you observe the passing scene. And the ideal place to do that in Corfu is at one of the cafes that set out their tables and chairs between the Liston and the Esplanade. The Liston, the impressive arcade, is a Greek version of "the List," referring to a list of upper-class and privileged individuals who were the only ones allowed to frequent this site after it was erected in the early 1800s. Today we can all sit here and enjoy such pleasures as watching a game of cricket being played on the Esplanade (Spianada, in Greek), the large greensward. Cricket is a vestige of the island's years under British rule, as is ginger beer, which you might consider sipping while you sit there.

At the back of the Liston is Kapodistriou; perpendicular from this extend several streets that lead into the heart of old Corfu -- a mélange of fine shops, old churches, souvenir stands, and other stores in a maze of streets, alleys, and squares that seem like Venice without the water. The broadest and most stylish is Nikiforio Theotoki. At the northern end of Kapodistriou, turn left onto Ayios Spiridon and come to the corner of Filellinon and the Ayios Spiridon Cathedral, dedicated to Spiridon, the patron saint of Corfu. Locals credit Spiridon, a 4th-century bishop of Cyprus, with saving Corfu from famine, plagues, and a Turkish siege. Inside the church is the saint's embalmed body in a silver casket, as well as gold and silver votive offerings and many fine old icons. Four times a year, the faithful parade the remains of St. Spiridon through the streets of old Corfu: Palm Sunday, Holy Saturday, August 1, and the first Sunday in November.

Proceeding up Voulgareos, behind the southern end of the Liston, you'll come to the back of the Town Hall, built in 1663 as a Venetian loggia; it later served as a theater. Turn into the square it faces and enter what seems like a Roman piazza, with steps and terraces, a Roman Catholic cathedral on the left, and, reigning over the top, the restored Catholic archbishop's residence (now the Bank of Greece).

From here, finish your walk by wandering up and down the streets of old Corfu.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.