Corfu is a tender port – Depending on the size of your cruise ship and the volume of cruise ship traffic at the port, passengers might be required to tender to shore. Ships that have to anchor off Corfu, tender passengers ashore by boat. When tendering is required, guests using mobility devices will not be transferred into or out of the tender. Many tender ports do not provide wheelchair access so even if the guest can board the tender they may not be able to disembark ashore. Again the shore-side facilities, movement of the tender, weather and tidal conditions can also preclude tendering.
Corfu is one of Greece’s most verdant and picturesque islands. Perched above the Adriatic Sea, Corfu, Greece is the second largest Ionian island, located midway between Greece and Italy. Its size is rivaled by its tremendous history and dynamic cultural identity.
Dream up a wish list of everything you’d want from a Greek holiday: talcum-soft beaches, spectacular subtropical forests, tasty cuisine and a beautiful, historic Old Town to explore. Add wall-to-wall sunshine, and you’ll find Corfu ticks pretty much every box.
Most time-strapped cruise visitors confine their visits to exploring Corfu Town on the island’s east coast, and this delightful medieval enclave certainly deserves the attention. You’ll find historic fortresses and the vast Spianada Square (esplanade), which is the largest public square in the Balkans, as well as intriguing alleyways and spectacular statues and fountains, not to mention excellent shops and lively restaurants.
If your cruise schedule allows, or you’ve visited Corfu Town before, you’ll find it very rewarding to venture farther afield. In its long history, Corfu has “belonged” to many invaders, Byzantines, Venetians, France, Russia and Britain, before returning to Greek rule in 1864, and all have left their cultural stamp. You’ll see it in the esplanade’s cricket pitch and the island’s Byzantine churches, Italianate mansions and the elegant French Liston arcade.
Cruise to Corfu and walk through the narrow streets of Old Town, and marvel at the Italianate architecture left from centuries of Venetian rule. With its rich combination of old fishing villages and immaculate beaches, Corfu is the perfect place to get lost in time during your vacation.
For the disabled cruiser visiting Corfu, there is quite a bit to do near the port if you don’t mind doing some walking/rolling. So, pick up a tourist map of the area and make your way into town. In the Old Town, which is a busy part of town full of tourist shops and activity, there is a huge square (Spianada) in the center of the Old Town, and adjacent to the square is the Old Fortress, a castle that was built in the 15th century. There is an admission fee to enter the Old Fortress, although there is no charge for a person with a disability and one companion. Inside the fortress is the Church of St. George, a small chapel which is completely accessible.
There are a lot of dropped curbs in the city, but there is a chance, some of them will be blocked by parked cars, not every driver respects disabled rights. There are also a lot of beaches around the island that have special ramps and/or special wheelchairs to be used by disabled people to go into the water.
Since some of the cruise ships do not dock and the disabled cruiser is tendered to the island from out in the harbor; if the water is too rough, the captain may not let the disabled cruiser off the ship. Anyone with limited mobility would have some difficulty. Anyone in a wheelchair would have to be carried on and off the tender.
Where You’re Docked
Your ship will dock at the Neo Limani (New Port), which also accommodates ferries operating between Corfu and Italy, Greece and Albania. The tender boats arrive at the Tourist Information Office at the cruise ship terminal. The cruise terminal has a duty-free shop, car rental outlets and a welcome desk at which you can pick up a map and get local orientation tips. New Port is a working dock area.
The Port of Corfu and Cruise Terminal is located one mile west of the Old town at what is called the New Port. The walk from the New Port to the Town of Corfu takes approximately 20 minutes (one half-mile). After leaving the terminal, pedestrians should turn left and walk along the seafront to the Old Town. The stroll will take you by a number or cafes and restaurants. Free Internet access is available at many of these establishments provided that you buy a coffee.
Good to Know
Don’t expect crossings to be respected, and look out for cars zooming suddenly out of side roads. If you dare to drive, beware reckless passing and center-of-the-road hogs. If you’re visiting a church or monastery, respect dress codes. Women should take along a scarf to cover their arms or head and avoid short skirts; men should ditch wearing shorts unless planning a day at the beach.
Siesta time runs between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. (known locally as mikro ypno).
By Shuttle: Most ships offer free (or reasonably priced) shuttle transfers to the Old Fortress area of Corfu Town, which is about two miles away.
By Taxi: A taxi stand sits outside the terminal building, but most drivers want to sell island tours. Negotiate the rate in advance. Establish that the fare is per cab, not per person, and pal up with other passengers for the best deals, particularly if you’re planning a day at the beach.
Only use cabs with meters and a rate card clearly displayed, and check that the meter is on before you start. The fare shouldn’t come to more than 10 euros per cab because Corfu Town is a short distance away.
By Bus: At the terminal, head left outside; the blue bus will say port. The fare to Corfu Town is about 1.50 euros one way. The green buses at New Port take you to sites around the island. Once you’re in Corfu Town, the blue-coach suburban routes operate from San Rocco Square. Keep in mind that bus timings are erratic, and service can stop early in the evening. If in doubt, shuttle or cab it.
The euro is national currency in Greece. ATMs are easy to find (there are dozens in Corfu Town). You’ll find them mainly in banks, but they also are located on streets and in some hotels and restaurants. Some of the outlying villages also have banks with machines, but if you’re heading further afield, stock up on cash before you go. Many bars and restaurants still don’t accept card payments.
A legacy of British rule means many Corfiots speak at least a smattering of English, particularly in the shops and restaurants of the tourist-rich old town. You’ll find an English section in most restaurant menus but may have difficulty finding a specific address, as street signs are rare, and those that exist are in Greek. If in doubt, ask a shopkeeper.
A friendly demeanor goes a long way, but it’s also worth taking a phrasebook or language app along help. Emergency numbers worth knowing: 100 for police, 199 for fire and 166 for ambulance.
Corfu’s Old Town is by far the best place for souvenir hunters, with pretty wrought-iron garden lanterns and finely worked embroidered cloths making good buys.
With so many olive trees about, olive-wood ornaments and bottles of the excellent olive oil are also worth snapping up. Foodie friends might enjoy a bottle of kumquat liqueur or a jar of kumquat marmalade (made from the fruit trees introduced to Corfu by the Chinese at the end of the 17th century).
If you go to a Corfu restaurant expecting to find only typical Greek staples like moussaka and dolmades on the menu, you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise. Corfiot specialities are very different from those of mainland Greece. Consider the island’s history, and you realize why. Like its architecture, Corfu’s cuisine reflects the many invaders who, down the centuries, strove to make the island their own. So, local specialties like pastitsado (a beef and tomato stew served with pasta), Bourou-Bourou (vegetable and pasta soup) and savoro (fish fried with rosemary) reflect the island’s Venetian heritage, while the local fondness for charcuterie and vinous dishes like sofrito (beef in white wine) comes from the French.
Wash it down with wine from one of the island’s small vineyards like Kakotrygis, a light dry white, or Petrokoritho, a gutsy red. And if you’d like to see where chefs get their ingredients, check out Corfu Town’s fish and vegetable market outside New Fort. Some stallholders cook fresh-caught fish, so you can do as the locals do and enjoy a tasty lunch on the hoof.
Points of Interest
- Corfu Town – is one of the largest “living” medieval towns in Greece and a delightful maze of winding streets and alleys lined with excellent shops and restaurants. All shopping tastes are catered for there; sophisticated jewelry and designer outlets vie for attention with boutiques selling locally made dresses and lacy jackets, and craft stores featuring pretty embroidered cloths.
- Old Fortress and New Fortress – are located to the east and west, respectively, of Corfu Town. The 6th century, Byzantine Old Fortress offers magnificent views of the sea; its entrance is near the esplanade. To get in, you cross a short bridge across a moat lined with small fishing boats. The New Fortress overlooks the town and was built in the 16th century by Corfu’s Venetian rulers.
- St. Spyridon Church – This 16th-century church, with its prominent bell tower and jewel-adorned silver sarcophagus, is the final resting place of the patron saint of the island. Enjoy coffee or lunch at one of the cafes that line the elegant French-style Liston Arcade, at the front of the shopping and restaurant district near Spianada Square.
- Achilleion Palace – This neo-classical palace in the village of Gastouri, about 10 miles south of Corfu Town was built in the late 1890s as a summer retreat for Empress Elizabeth of Austria. Gardens filled with flowers, trees and statues in the Italian style, make this a mythical setting.
- The Byzantine Museum – located in the Church of Antivouniotissa, has a spectacular interior as well as a fabulous collection of Byzantine icons.
- Pondikonisi (Mouse Island) and Vlaherna – two tiny islands about 30 minutes’ walk; or a No. 2 bus ride; along the coast from Corfu Town (past Mon Repos beach). The view across to the islands from Kanoni, where you’ll find pleasant cafes, is spectacular, and you can walk along a causeway to Vlaherna and catch a boat from there to Mouse Island for about 2 euros per person. Vlaherna is worth seeing because it is almost completely covered by the stunning white Venetian monastery of Panagia Vlahernon, while Mouse Island has a tiny Byzantine chapel.
- Paleokastritsa Monastery – Head for the north coast of Corfu and visit the pastel-painted 18th century Paleokastritsa Monastery, which has a stunning clifftop setting overlooking the Ionian Sea beaches. It also has a fine collection of ancient icons, including one of the Virgin Mary which dates from the 12th century.
- Beaches – Corfu is home to some of the best beaches in Greece, so you have plenty of options for a lazy day in the sun. Mon Repos offers soft sand, a tavern and changing rooms. The beach is about a 20-minute walk (or a short tourist-train ride) along the promenade south of Corfu Town. Agios Georgios agon, in the northwest, offers calm, clean water and is peaceful even in peak season. Although it’s a cab ride away, it’s worth considering if you hate crowds. It also has taverns, windsurfing and scuba diving.