Corfu Greece - The town

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Corfu Town and its historical buildings
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CORFU TOWN

 It is known from numerous archaeological finds that the city of Corcyra lay to the south of the present day city, on the peninsula whose southern tip ends at Kanoni. Thus the ancient city lay between two bays. To the west side of the city was the ‘Hyllaic Harbor’, which served as a commercial port. To the northeast of the city was the bay of Garitsa an inlet of which served as a naval port named the ‘Harbor of Alcinoos’. During the course of centuries the area silted up until finally the water of the ancient port disappeared entirely, though areas of waterlogged land existed till the early eighteenth century. Archaeological sites of the ancient city of Corcyra are mentioned in the part "Places to see" of this web site. 

 

 

 

 The city of Corfu, in consequence of its historical links with a variety of foreign rulers, contains numerous buildings of special interest. These may be broadly divided into those of the Venetian and British periods, though there are traces also of French influence.

 

The most elegant of the Venetian buildings is the historic City Hall, in baroque style, between Evgeniou Voulgareos Street and a modern square. It was first built between 1663 and 1691 as an open arcade, a loggia, a sheltered meeting-place for the nobility. It is built of hard limestone and is decorated on its two main frontages with stone masks and medallions bearing various historical inscriptions and symbols. In 1720, it was converted into a theatre ‘San Giacomo’.

 

 On the central Evgeniou Voulgareos Street still stands the crenellated belfry of the Roman Catholic Church of the Annunciation, a venerable building from the end of the fourteenth century. In it were many funerary monuments with inscriptions. Practically the whole building was destroyed in World War II bombing, and the only remains are the belfry, two inscriptions and a bas-relief representing war trophy.                                                             

 

 Known as the Liston, the arcaded buildings on the north side of the Lower Esplanade were planned during the Imperial French Occupation. Begun in 1807, they are reminiscent of the larger and longer ‘Arcades’ of the Rue de Rivoli in Paris, which were built at about the same time.

 

The Palace of St. Michael and St. George, which is generally considered the finest of the British buildings in Corfu, stands along the northern side of the Esplanade on the site formerly occupied by a Venetian military hospital. The design and supervision being constructed by Sir George Whitmore who drew it in the Georgian style, and is thus responsible for the first neo-classical building in Greece. Work started in 1819, and the Palace was inaugurated on St. George’s Day, 1823. It was the official residence of the Lord High Commissioner up to the end of Protectorate and was at the same time the seat of Order of St. Michael and St. George which had been instituted in 1818 to honor distinguished British and local officials serving under the British Crown in Malta and the Ionian Isles. Since April 1981 the robes, medals and other insignia of the Order are displayed in special showcases in the throne room of the Palace.
 

 Opposite the west front of the Palace stands the elegant arcaded building which now houses the Reading Society of Corfu, the oldest Cultural Institution in modern Greece, founded in 1836.  It contains a unique library dealing with the history and culture of Corfu and the other Ionian Islands; as well as a collection of manuscripts, pamphlets, newspapers, broadsheets, periodicals, engravings, paintings and maps.
 

 

At the northern end of Capodistria Street the Capodistria Mansion is an outstanding example of neo-classical architecture. It was built in 1853 for a brother of John Capodistrias. The building, with its marble façade and Corinthian pilasters of pink stone from local quarries, is considered one of the most beautiful in Greece.
 

 In the little paved square off Nikiphorou Theotoki Street stands the handsome building of the Ionian Bank, which built in 1846 displays a well-proportioned façade with finely detailed Ionian pilasters and pediment. A complete collection of Greek and Ionian paper money from 1839 up to the present day is on display in the first floor of the building.
 

 At the extreme end of Moustoxydi Street stands the historic Ionian Parliament building in neo-classical style, with a Doric portico.

 Bibliography: STAMATOPOULOS, N.: Old Corfu, History and Culture,
K. Mihalas s.a., Athens, 1993


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