about the island
For as long as I can remember, I've been dreaming of this perfect little European town I'd made up in my head but was fully convinced existed. I tromped through Spain, Italy, and parts of Greece, and while always close, there was something ever so slightly off from this dream of mine. One night, I was lamenting to my mother, when she stopped me mid-sentence. "Catherine! You're describing Corfu- the part of Greece where your grandfather's family had a home!" Reluctant, I did a quick Google search to see what this Greek island was like, and when a slew of photos popped up on my screen, I dropped the phone running for my computer to immediately book a flight.
Within 20 minutes of being in Corfu, I was overjoyed to find my mom was right (isn't she always?). Corfu was the place of my dreams!!! The town- fully of alleys that glow gold at night and pastel pink during the day, the beaches- with sparkling teal water and majestic shining cliffs, the palaces- with grand columns and lush gardens; Corfu is a masterpiece of a small island just miles away from Italy, Albania, and mainland Greece.
Make friends with the local bakers, take a dip in the waist-high clear waters, relax with an aperol spritz and seafood platter looking onto the ancient Greek buildings, and stay up late eating Greek-Italian fusion food with endless wine poured by the warmest locals. Corfu, you completely won over my heart.
Before you go
I highly suggest going in May or September. June-August is busy season. Prices go up, beaches get crowded, and a party scene can begin to emerge in some of the beach towns. In the winter, many of the beach town establishments are completely shut down, and they can feel a bit like ghost towns. May and September? You'll still have all of the restaurants open without the crowds. Corfu Town, however (the main town on the island), will always have things to do no matter what time of year.
where to stay
There are many towns to stay in around the island. I'm super happy with what I did, which was staying in Corfu Town, the main town of the island, and taking day trips to the various beach towns. The beach towns are incredibly touristy and a bit generic. Whereas, Corfu Town is full of locals (just stay away from the cruise ship streets, which you'll be able to pick up on right away), and has such a great mix of relaxing on the waterfront meets sophisticated dinners meets slow mornings at the local bakery/coffee shop.
Holy Trinity Corfu Anglican church flat- This is where I stayed, and it was PERFECT! This Anglican church has an upstairs apartment that is open to hosting guests. They ask for a donation that goes to the church of €30-€60 per night. The location is walkable to everything yet just far enough removed that it's nice and quiet. My dad is an Anglican pastor, which is how I found this, and while you definitely do not have to be Christian to stay here, I would say, I think it's just plain polite to engage with the church community a bit while you're staying here, as this is a service of the church to offer such a reasonable rate. Tell them I referred you when you fill out the comment box to book!
The Arcadian Hotel- A pretty bare-bones yet still nice hotel in an incredible location right on the Liston, the main town square along the water.
Locandiera- This boutique hotel manages to perfectly pair Corfu Old Town character with modern decor. It's in a perfect location right on the edge of Old Town so walkable to everything while still being quiet.
I'd highly suggest AirBnB as an option as well. There are many very reasonably-priced options in Old Town with classic Corfu character. If you want options outside of Corfu Town, AirBnB also has a lot of homes in the countryside. Just make sure to rent a car in that case!
what to do
It is so easy and cheap to get around the island, and you absolutely don't need a car if you don't want one! Thanks to the Green Buses company, there are multiple buses that can take you between towns every day (with easiest access from Corfu Town).
Corfu City Tours- I know, I know. Mega touristy. But I freakin' love hop-on, hop-off buses as a way to orient myself to a place and get a history lesson along the way. The tours are always so well done, and this one doesn't disappoint either. It also takes you to places that are hard to get to otherwise (unless you figure out the local city bus system, which isn't that difficult but not super frequent). There are two companies. Do this one because it's locally-owned!
The Spianada/Liston Square- The Spianada is the central square in town with a giant grassy hour where people are playing sports or catching up with their friends. Running alongside it is Liston Square, a gorgeous road lined with patio-dominant cafes and restaurants. There is so much life in this area!
Mon Repos- A royal palace and birthplace of Prince Phillip, Mon Repos the building was not actually what I loved so much. Rather, the surrounding wooded park is a spot open to the public and popular amongst locals for running, walking, etc. There is a beach to the right of Mon Repos (if you're looking out toward the water). Just keep walking downhill and toward the water, and you'll eventually spot it. It's hidden and a nice little oasis away from lots of tourists. The beach is rocky, so I suggest going out onto the pier and entering into the water from there. Do not confuse this with "Mon Repos Beach" on Google Maps, which is a crummy "resort."
Achilleion- So gorgeous!!!! This palace is away from the city a bit but most definitely worth it. The grounds are stunning and the palace itself is beautifully ornate with the best outdoor upstairs patio.
Old Town- Just wander through the alley ways of Old Town. Grab a cafe, a gyro, some baklava gelato. Yasss.
Old Fortress- Right off of the Spianada is a Venetian fortress that guarded Corfu from three Ottoman sieges. It has great views, and the church with its typical Grecian columns is worth it just on its own.
A white sandy beach, lively tavernas along the water, and boat rides that take you along the turquoise waters and into the caves that twinkle purple (truly!), Palaiokastritsa is worth the visit even if you can't say the name (pal-A-O-kah-streets-ah).
La Grotta Lounge- A grotto with crystal clear teal waters and gorgeous cliffs, this is one of the prettiest places I have ever seen! During the summer, this is a beach bar with drinks, rentable lounge chairs, and lots of people diving off the cliffs or the diving board. During the off-season, you can still get through the door and walk down lots of steps to get to the grotto. I had the whole thing to myself!! Just bring your own towel. This is before you enter the actual town of Palaiokastritsa, so make sure to tell the bus driver where you want to go, and there's a stop directly in front of the grotto door. Warning: it's a bit far out of town, so it will be a decent walk into town if you're looking to do that after. You could also hop back onto the Green Bus- just look at the timetable!
Agios Spiridon Beach- This is the main beach with white sand, and I imagine is jam-packed in the summertime so be warned. When I went in April, it was lively but not overrun. This is also the place to catch a boat trip, which I highly recommend! For €10, they'll take you on a 45 minute-1 hour trip into the grottos and caves that surround the town, and being out on the water is divine! Eat at Niko's.
Rent a boat- number one thing to do during high-season. You can rent boats for the day from La Grotta or the main town. They'll tell you all the hidden beaches you can then boat over to, and they're just stunning! One of my favorite things to do in Corfu.
Best known for its Canal D'Amour, its a beautiful place to swim and get a good photo (worth it for that spot but probably too much in prime season!), but it's definitely a touristy beach town, so I wouldn't spend more than a day here.
If you want a relaxing beach day, head here. It's one of the few wide sandy beaches on the island. The walk down to the beach from the bus stop is fairly long, so be warned. There are tons and tons of beach bars that are all relatively the same. Free chairs, just order drinks. But head down to Niko's at the northern end of the beach for outstanding food and a great view looking down on the beach.
A rocky but beautiful beach, you'll find lots of beach bars here. One of my favorites is Piedra del Mar.
where to eat
Because Corfu is set in between Greece and Italy, it has the best of both worlds, so don't stray away from the Italian food just because you're in Greece- that's what makes it Corfu culture. Remember: People don't eat dinner until 9 or 10 pm! These places are all for Corfu Town:
Starenio- I totally fell in love with this charming little bakery with an outdoor patio perfect for people watching in the early mornings. The owner and his sweet coworker became my quick friends, and I was genuinely sad to not having them in my daily routine anymore. I went here every single morning on my first trip, and when I showed up again a few months later, they greeted me with a big "welcome back!!"
Pane e Souvlaki- Great, casual and in a perfect location on a bustling square. This is good for when you want something simple and not at all fussy.
Mikro Cafe- A dreamy little bar dusted with twinkle lights all up a hill, it's the most charming scenes and the perfect place to grab drinks and some apps before your very late dinner.
La famiglia- Come here for Italian! This was the best pasta I've ever had (rigatoni with chicken. get it. it's divine.) set in a cozy low-lit restaurant with red-checkered tablecloths and candles on each table. The owner will come sit and chat if you care to engage and will likely bring some free limoncello or a dessert, which I greatly appreciated as a solo traveler looking for some company! I told him I'll be back, and I mean it.
Tsipouradiko- Live music, an outdoor patio filled with laughter of friends catching up after a long day, and food and wine that keeps on coming- a perfect Greek night! Go here for outstanding small plates of traditional Greek taverna food. Going by myself was quite the feat- I basically had to roll home. Best for a small group to share a lot of things! But you can also order half orders if you're alone. You'll still roll home though...
En Plo- Not necessarily the best food ever, but what you'll get is the best view imaginable of the turquoise water crashing up against the rocks with the Old Fortress in the backdrop. This is where you'll pinch yourself that this is real life.
Imabari Lounge- This is the perfect place for an evening cocktail with the waves rolling in and the cool lights and lounge music setting an amazing backdrop. In the day, you can get mediocre food but a fun place to drink and go swimming in the ocean.
Avli- Set amongst a beautiful park, Avli serves up traditional Greek food in a relaxing, garden setting. My aunt, uncle and cousins went here every night except once on their trip to Corfu. They thought they had to try another place, so they went to a restaurant just next to it. The waiters brought them a dessert from Avli over to the restaurant they were eating at. Haha! They'll make you feel right at home. :P