Destinations Magazine

How to See Corfu / Kerkyra in One Day

By Aswesawit @aswesawit

We spent a day in Corfu—or Kerkyra, as the Greeks like to call it—while we were on a Mediterranean cruise. We were intrigued to see why UNESCO had designated the Old Town of Corfu as a World Heritage Site.

A pedestrian street in Corfu, Greece

With a charming and picturesque Old Town, sandy beaches, and sparkling, azure waters, Corfu has long been one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. Couple all that with a warm, sunny climate, and plenty of flavorful olive oil and local wines, and it’s little wonder why the island see cruise ships and holiday goers from all over flocking to its shores.

How to See Corfu / Kerkyra in One Day

A little history

Corfu/Kerkyra has endured a lot. Its strategic location made it a coveted piece of real estate and so it has been under many different rules. The end result is that Kerkyra has become a unique blend of many influences.

  • 734 BCE – Kerkyra began as a Corinthian colony
  • 229 BCE – the Roman Republic took over
  • 336 AD – after the Roman Empire was divided it became part of the Eastern Empire, whose new capital was Byzantium (a.k.a. Constantinople / modern-day Istanbul).
  • 550 AD – the Goths invaded Kerkyra.
  • 1081 AD – Corfu was taken by the Normans
  • 1084 AD – Corfu was returned to the Byzantine Empire
  • 1204 AD – the Venetians regained control
  • 1214 AD – the Despots of Epirus took over
  • 1267 AD – the Angevins of Naples
  • 1368 AD – Venice regained control and built the defensive fortresses you can see today
  • 1797 AD – France gained control
  • 1814 AD – it became a British protectorate
  • 1864 AD – the island was attached to the Kingdom of Greece

And that’s where Corfu is today.

What do do in Corfu

Our original plan had included a visit to Achilleion, an ornate 1890s palace outside of Corfu. That is, until we saw how many buses were waiting for other cruise passengers. The summer palace for both Empress Elisabeth of Bavaria and Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm, Achilleion is filled with Greek statuary and has a breathtaking panoramic view of Corfu and the whole southern part of the island.

Sometimes you have to adjust your plans when you travel, but it all seems to work out well in the end. Today we discovered Ohi Day.

Ohi Day

As we walked through the streets we saw Greece’s blue-and-white flag displayed everywhere. And I mean everywhere. We found ourselves scratching our heads in bewilderment—I mean, this was far above your everyday patriotic display here.

Flag flies from Corfu window in honor of Ohi Day

flags for sale during Ohi Day on Kerkyra A balcony proudly displays the Greek flag on Ohi Day in Corfu

We were surprised to discover that today was a national holiday. This was Ohi Day, the Anniversary of the No!

October 28 marks the anniversary of the date in 1940 when Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas rejected an ultimatum he had received Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. In the wee hours of the morning Mussolini sent a message demanding that Greece allow Axis forces to enter Greek territory and occupy certain unspecified “strategic locations” or otherwise face war. Metaxas refused with the reply, Alors, c’est la guerre (Then it is war).

Within an hour Axis troops were at the border and Greece was pulled into World War II. The Greek population took to the streets, shouting “όχι” (No!) and from then on, October 28 has been Ohi Day.

Everywhere we went students and adults were gathering, preparing for to parade through the Old Town’s streets.

How to See Corfu / Kerkyra in One Day

People prepare for the Ohi Day parade in Corfu

How to See Corfu / Kerkyra in One DayFinally, hours later, we heard music. The parade was starting! We broke off our sightseeing and hurried to watch them pass by. It was worth it. What a colorful experience!

Parading for Ohi Day in Greece

How to See Corfu / Kerkyra in One Day

Corfu's Ohi Day paraders

How to See Corfu / Kerkyra in One Day

How to See Corfu / Kerkyra in One Day

How to See Corfu / Kerkyra in One DayCorfu's Ohi Day parade begins

How to See Corfu / Kerkyra in One Day

Tip: To experience Ohi Day yourself, plan your trip so you can be in Greece on October 28. It’s an annual holiday throughout Greece and Cyprus.

Old Citadel

As I mentioned earlier, Venice built three forts to protect the island. We visited Corfu’s ancient Palacio Frourio (old citadel), which we had seen from the ship. It dominates the waterfront. 

How to See Corfu / Kerkyra in One Day

The Citadel is separated from the island by a narrow moat, but that doesn’t deter anyone from visiting. We joined everyone in crossing the moat to visit the ancient Venetian fortress.

How to See Corfu / Kerkyra in One Day Kerkyra's ancient citadel was built by the Venetians and is now used for events and concerts. How to See Corfu / Kerkyra in One Day

Look at this inredible view from Corfu’s Old Citadel!

How to See Corfu / Kerkyra in One Day

Modern-day warfare being what it is, Corfu’s Old Citadel is more useful for cultural events and concerts.

Beautiful streets and houses

Most of the houses in the Old Town date from the 19th century, but you’ll still find the odd arch that is so typical of Venice. Venetian or not, gawking at all the structures was fun.

How to See Corfu / Kerkyra in One Day

How to See Corfu / Kerkyra in One DayHow to See Corfu / Kerkyra in One Day

How to See Corfu / Kerkyra in One DayHow to See Corfu / Kerkyra in One Day

So was aimlessly meandering through Corfu’s ancient bougainvillea-laden cobblestone streets, peering into intriguing shops and aimlessly following staircases and alleyways to see where they would lead us.

How to See Corfu / Kerkyra in One Day

Corfu staircase leads up to a hill overlooking the city

All that meandering rewarded us with a treat: It brought us to a hill above Corfu and its bay.

How to See Corfu / Kerkyra in One Day

How to See Corfu / Kerkyra in One Day

The treat got better when we turned to see another of Corfu’s fortresses behind us, Neo Frourio (New Citadel). We bought tickets and went inside. The views alone made it worth the price of admission.

How to See Corfu / Kerkyra in One Day

How to See Corfu / Kerkyra in One Day

How to See Corfu / Kerkyra in One Day

Pretty churches

Corfu’s main church is dedicated to its patron saint, Saint Spyridon, a bishop who was essential in the First Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.). The actual body of Spyridon is lying in a sarcophagus inside the church, to the right of the altar. It’s quite an attraction.

How to See Corfu / Kerkyra in One Day

The bell tower at Saint Spyridon is the highest spot in Corfu.

Dan was severely chastised when he began to photograph inside the church. This really surprised us because plenty of photos already exist on the Internet. He was able to get the shots he wanted, though, when the caretaker got involved in telling me all about the church, Spyridon, and the miracles he’s been credited with.

Ornate ceiling and iconostasis at Saint Spyridon Church, Kerkyra, Corfu, Greece

Almost 40 churches are spread around Corfu, both Orthodox and Roman Catholic. There is also a Jewish synagogue, the only one that survived Allied bombings during World War II.

How to See Corfu / Kerkyra in One Day How to See Corfu / Kerkyra in One Day


Corfu Town is a “living” medieval town. We love its delightful maze of winding streets and alleys lined with excellent shops and restaurants. Not being souvenir-buyers we didn’t walk into any of those stores but we saw everything from jewelry stores to boutiques selling locally made dresses and lacy jackets, and craft stores featuring pretty embroidered cloths, local soaps and more. There was even an ouzo shop. Now that was tempting.

How to See Corfu / Kerkyra in One Day How to See Corfu / Kerkyra in One Day How to See Corfu / Kerkyra in One DayHow to See Corfu / Kerkyra in One Day

The road running along the edge of Kerkyra, Greece

Lunch: Greek salad in Greece!

Eating a foreign cuisine on its home turf is one of the things we most look forward to when we travel. We try to make it a point to try not only as many regional dishes as possible, but to see what is on offer at the markets.

Corfu was our first opportunity to eat Greek food in Greece, although it was hard to settle on a place. They all looked good. The weather was too hot for a heavy cooked lunchtime meal, so we decided to order something light, along with a glass of Mythos, the local brew. 

True Greek salad with a side of local flatbread

The Greek salad they offered (horiatiki salata) sounded ideal.

Except … the Greek salad we got was not what we expected. It came simply dressed with a drizzle of olive oil—no lemon or vinegar—over a big, fat, massive block of feta cheese. The differences became even more pronounced once we had pushed the cheese aside and realized that there was not a lettuce leaf in sight.

(And for those of you who have been to Florida’s Greek community in Tarpon Springs, there was no potato salad, either.)

Call us converts. We liked it so much that we ordered the same lunch every day, even when we were in Athens for a few days. Actually, these salads were so delicious and so unlike the Greek salads we have had elsewhere, I had to share the recipe as a blog post. I hope you make it. I think you’ll prefer it, too.

Read it here: My Big, Fat Greek Salad Recipe

A big fat Greek salad, served with Greek bread and a glass of Mythos, the Greek beer

Lunch, Greek style

Related articles:

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The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has designated certain places in the world as of outstanding cultural or natural importance to humanity.
Read more about why the Old Town of Corfu is a UNESCO Site on their website.
Or if you prefer, enjoy our stories about the UNESCO sites we have been to. (Visited 15 times, 2 visits today)

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