Fun, Culture and History on the Island of Corfu

Homer once wrote of Corfu, an island paradise where Odysseus was shipwrecked on his way home from his epic journey, in the literary classic The Odyssey. Today Corfu continues to be the same welcoming haven Odysseus happened upon, offering tourists beauty, excitement and warm Greek hospitality.

Also known as Kerkyra, Corfu is one of the jewels of the Ionian Sea off the northwestern coast of Greece. Surrounded by more than 130 miles of beautiful coastline, the island is lush with greenery, dripping with culture and packed with amazing opportunities for family fun. The island is rich in history, making it a great place for a family to enjoy a fun and relaxing vacation while learning about the past.

Take some time to visit Corfu town, the island’s capital city. Although the town is small and doesn’t require a long time to explore, your time spent will be well worth it. Walking through the streets is like taking a step back in time as you take in the beautiful Venetian architecture and colorful buildings. With French and British influences visible throughout, the compact town is fun to explore and is truly unique among Greek cities. Wander the narrow lanes or spend some time at the Spianáda, a large square lined with shops and cafés. The plaza includes the Listón, an arcade ornately decorated in the Napoleonic-French style, which includes some of the best places on the island to relax with a coffee or enjoy some of the local cuisine.

East of the Spianáda is the Old Fortress, Palaio Frourio. Dating back to the sixth century, the fort is a mixture of Byzantine and Venetian designs. The remains of the fortress are open to the public for a small fee and contain Byzantine frescoes and mosaics along with a small church. The best time of day to visit is in the morning when the light provides ideal views of the surrounding island and water. Inside the fortress there is also a café where visitors can relax and enjoy a snack or cold drink.

The nearby town of Gastouri, a short drive southwest of the capital, is home to the must-see Achilleion Palace Museum. This palace-turned-museum is surrounded by imposing cypress trees and beautifully tended gardens that offer stunning views of the Ionian Sea in the distance. Once inhabited by European royalty, the museum is adorned with frescoes, paintings and sculptures, including many statues depicting figures from ancient Greek mythology, such as Zeus, Hermes and Apollo. The palace’s namesake, Achilles, is depicted in multiple forms, such as the statues of the “Victorious Achilles” and the “Dying Achilles,” as well as beautiful paintings hanging throughout the palace.

Corfu Beaches, Greece © Milosducati | Dreamstime.com

Corfu Beaches, Greece © Milosducati | Dreamstime.com

Known for pristine beaches where the island’s lush greenery virtually melts into the sea, Corfu is home to beaches that will suit every taste. Beaches vary based on their location throughout the island — some have soft sandy shores while others are pebbly, some get crowded while others offer peace and solitude. The more isolated and hard to get to a beach is, the more private your visit will be; however, it is important to remember only the most popular beaches are equipped with amenities like umbrellas, beach chairs, snack bars and organized water sports.

If you want a break from the beaches, head to Aqualand Waterpark, one of the largest water parks in Europe, located in Agios Ioannis in the center of the island. The park is a great way for families to spend a day soaking up the sun and enjoying the water. There is a children’s play area designed for kids ages 4–8 with a pirate-themed play area and water slides, as well as a family area designed for families with children ages 8 and older that has water slides, a wave pool and a rafting river. For kids ages 12 and up, including the adult ones, there are plenty of extreme water slides like the Hurricane Twist and the Free Fall with a 24-meter drop.

The park is free for children 4 and under. Day passes are available for kids 5–12 for a cost of €20 while teens and adults pay €28. The park is open daily from May through early October.

The landscape of Corfu is undoubtedly beautiful, but seeing it from land is simply not enough. To truly enjoy the scenery, take a boat tour of the island by a local tour provider like Pachis Travel. They offer a BBQ cruise that takes guests to the northeastern tip of the island to experience the crystal clear waters and incredible views of the island’s stunning landscape as well as the coastline of Albania in the distance. The tour runs every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday during the tourist season and takes a full day. The trip not only includes great swimming and sightseeing at the remarkable Agios Andreas cave, but a barbecue lunch on the small rock island of Kaparelli

Getting there is easy — Corfu is one of the most popular islands in Greece so there are plenty of options — but the quickest route is by air. Flights depart daily from Athens on Aegean Airlines with connections available from all over the world.