The town of Corfu stands on the broad part of a peninsula, whose termination in the Venetian citadel (Παλαιό Φρούριο in Greek) is cut from it by an artificial fosse formed in a natural gully, with a salt-water ditch at the bottom, that serves also as a type of marina. The old city having grown up within fortifications, where every foot of ground was precious, is a labyrinth of narrow streets, paved with cobblestones sometimes tortuous but mostly comfortable, colourful and sparkling clean. These streets are called "kantounia" (καντούνια in Greek) and the older ones sometimes follow the gentle irregularities of the ground while many of them are too narrow for vehicular traffic. There is also a handsome esplanade between the town and the citadel called "Liston" (Λιστόν in Greek) where upscale restaurants and european style bistros abound, and a promenade by the seashore towards the bay of Garitsa (Γαρίτσα). The name Liston came from the english "List on" meaning the list of the vendors' fare, in other words the menu.
The old citadel (Palaio Frourio literally: Old Fortress (Παλαιό Φρούριο)) is an old Venetian fortress built on an islet with fortifications surrounding its entire perimeter, although some sections especially on the east side are slowly eroding and falling in the surrounding sea. Nonetheless the interior has been restored and maintained and it is used for cultural events such as concerts (συναυλίες) and Sound and Light Productions (Ηχος και Φως) whereby historical events are recreated using sound and light special effects. The ambience of the place is dramatic as one is surrounded by ancient fortifications while the surrounding Ionian sea glimmers in the background. In the middle of all this the central high point of the citadel rises like a giant natural obelisk complete with a military observation post at the top with a giant cross at its apex. At the foot of the observatory St. George's church in classical Greek architectural style with six Doric colummns, as opposed to the Byzantine architectural style of most Eastern Orthodox churches, is quite an imposing sight. Taking in a concert or other event at night in such a place under the moonlight while surrounded by the sea, immersed in this history steeped environment with all its diverse and unexpected architectural elements, is an experience that even the most discriminating connoisseur of life would appreciate.
The new citadel or Neo Frourio (Νέο Φρούριο) meaning New Fortress is a huge complex of fortifications that dominates the northeastern part of the city. The huge walls of the fortress dominate the landscape as one makes the trip from Neo Limani (Νέο Λιμάνι meaning New Port) to the town taking the road that passes through the fishmarket (ψαραγορά). The new citadel was until recently a restricted area due to the presence of a naval force in the area. However the old restrictions have been lifted and it is now open to the public, and tours can be taken through the maze of medieval corridors and fortifications. The Venetian winged lion, the symbol of Venice, can be seen at regular intervals adorning the fortifications. It is worth noting that at the feet of the lion lies an open book. The open book symbolizes that the Venetians came to Corfu not to conquer but to defend.
Ano and Kato Plateia and music under the stars
Near the old Venetian Citadel are also two large squares, "Ano Plateia" and "Kato Plateia" (Ανω Πλατεία and Κάτω Πλατεία in Greek) replete with green spaces and interesting structures such as a Roman style rotunda from the time of the British administration, called the Maitland monument and an ornate music pavilion where the local "Philharmoniki" (Philharmonic Orchestra) (Φιλαρμονική) plays choice pieces of classical music coming from a rich tradition of music and arts for which the island is famous. Listening to classical music overtures in "Ano Plateia" (literally: "Upper square") at night while looking at the old Venetian citadel bathed in light that is in turn reflected upon the bay of Garitsa is an enchanting experience. "Kato Plateia" (literally: "Lower square") also serves as a place where cricket matches are held from time to time. Cricket is unique to Corfu from all of Greece, since it used to be a British protectorate.
Palaia Anaktora and Gardens
Just to the North of "Kato Plateia" exist the "Palaia Anaktora" (Παλαιά Ανάκτορα: literally "Old Palaces") which is a large complex of Roman architecture buldings used in the past to house the King of Greece. Today they are open to the public and they form a complex of halls and buildings housing art exhibits including a Museum of Chinese Art unique in Southern Europe in its scope and richness of chinese and asian exhibits. The lavish Gardens of the Palaces complete with old Venetian stone aquariums, exotic trees and flowers and overseeing the bay through old Venetian fortifications and turrets are a place where anyone can have an "espresso" or "frappé" or even Greek coffee with "ouzo" after a dip in the local sea baths (Μπάνια τ' Αλέκου) at the foot of the fortifications that surround the gardens. At the same time and from the same place one can gaze at the majestic cruise ships passing through the narrow channel of historic Vido island (Νησί Βίδου) to the north, on their way to Corfu port (Νέο Λιμάνι), sometimes announcing their arrival by blowing their horn. High speed ferries from Igoumenitsa with retractable airfoils that enable them to hover above the water at high speed impatiently leave their frothy wake on the blue Ionian sea (Ιόνιον Πέλαγος) to remind the visitors of the Gardens that this is the 21st century. There is also a beautiful wrought iron aerial staircase, closed to garden visitors, that descends to the sea from the gardens and was used by royalty as a shortcut to the baths. Rewriting history the locals refer to the splendid old Royal Gardens now as the "Garden of the People" (Ο Κήπος του Λαού).
Echoes of Venice and Pontikonisi
In several parts of the old city may be found houses of the Venetian time. The old city architecture is strongly influenced by the Venetian style as it was under Venetian occupation for a long time. The small and ancient sidestreets and the style of the old buildings with their trademark Venetian arches are strongly reminiscent of Venice. Of the thirty-seven Greek churches the most important are the city's cathedral, the church dedicated to Our Lady of the Cave (Η Παναγία Σπηλιώτισσα (hē Panagia Spēliōtissa)); Saint Spyridon church, where inside lies the preserved body of the patron saint of the island; Finally the suburban church of St Jason and St Sosipater (Άγιοι Ιάσων και Σωσίπατρος), reputed the oldest in the island, named after the two saints who were probably the first to preach Christianity to the Corfiots. The nearby island named Pontikonisi (Greek meaning "mouse island") although small is very green with many trees, and the highest natural point, (not counting the trees or man made structures such as the monastery), is about 2 m. Pontikonisi is home of the monastery of Pantokrator (Μοναστήρι του Παντοκράτορος). It is the white stone staircase of the Monastery that when viewed from afar gives the impression of a (mouse) tail that gave the island its name: Mouse island.
- 2001: 39,487 (municipal), 33,886 (urban)