History of Corfu

The big history of a small Island

Prehistory of Corfu (Corcyra)

Corfu has always been of strategic importance.  The island was inhabited during the Paleolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Bronze Ages as flint tools have been found.

Throughout Corfu´s colourful past, just the architecture of Corfu Town illustrates the wide variety of nations that have conquered and ruled this small island.


Did you know…

• The island was inhabited since the Paleolithic period (30.000 – 7.000 BC)?

• Human remains and tools have been found mainly in the southwest of Corfu  (Gardiki). The first acknowledged Neolithic (6000 BC) settlement was discovered   in the north of Corfu, in the area of Sidari, which continued until the Bronze Age.

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Greek Antiquity and Corcyra

The history of Corfu begins around 750 BC.  The first recorded settlers on Corfu were Illyrians who came from the Western Balkans.  By 734 BC the Corinthians had made Corfu an important and prosperous city.  The naval strength of Corfu was second only to the Corinthian Navy, and established Corfu as the first maritime city to build a fleet of triremes, triple decked warships.  Such was their might they often fought naval battles on behalf of Athens.

In 375 BC Corfu joined the Athenian Confederation. During the following years the island was occupied by the Spartans and become independent in 255 BC when Alexander, the last powerful King of Epiros died.

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Since Ottoman times painting has flourished on Corfu. In town there are several galleries displaying works by Corfiot artists and those who made the island their home. The trend for unique and affordable souvenirs has encouraged many creative people to open workshops, giving the opportunity for visitors to own an original piece of Corfiot art.

Music has always been an important part of everyday life for Corfiots. Singing in church or with a choral society, playing a musical instrument in one of the many philharmonic bands or traditional dancing with a village group, Greeks love music and Corfu has been home to some of the very best composers and singers.

The impression one gets when walking around Corfu town can only be described as cosmopolitan, in its truest meaning. The architecture of the capital has been influenced by its rulers, the most dominant being the Venetians who built elegant public buildings and grand mansions, where the most noble Italian families lived. The French were responsible for the arched promenade of the Liston, reminiscent of the Rue di Rivoli in Paris whilst the British designed grand palaces and introduced cricket as a pastime. They all left their mark but never could erase the true personality of Corfu that will always be Greek.



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Did you know…

• The first Opera in Greece was introduced in Corfu by the Venetians in 1733?

• Dionysios Solomos who is regarded as the greatest poet of modern Greece was a Corfiot?

• Three literary institutions were founded in Corfu. The most notable one was the Accademia degli Assicurati that was active from 1656 to 1716.

The City of Corfu


Corfu Town has much to offer even the most well travelled visitor.  The art galleries and museums, of which there are more than a dozen, hold regular exhibitions. The town’s three brass bands, symphony orchestra, opera company, choir, contemporary and traditional dance groups and drama societies guarantee a full programme of musical and theatrical events that make Corfu Town a vibrant home for its 30,000 residents.

Add to this the sporting and sailing events, cricket pitch, historical monuments and churches that sit next to artisan boutiques selling original pieces of jewellery, clothing and objet d’art make a day in Corfu Town exciting and interesting.  As the sun sets the cafes and restaurants are perfect for absorbing the cosmopolitan atmosphere that makes Corfu Town unique.

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Corfu has been described as a cultural mix of Italy, mostly Venice with a touch of Naples, France, at its most elegant and England, for its eccentricities, but always Greek.  A stroll through the narrow kantounia, the cobbled maze of streets in the Old Town, bears witness to the influence of the conquerors of this small island.

Easter in Corfu

Unique Easter

Corfu has many customs and traditions for Holy Week and Easter that are not found any where else in Greece.  The island hosts thousands of visitors during this time, a large proportion are Greek who come to celebrate Easter in a truly unique way.

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On Easter Saturday morning, the smashing of pots from high balconies, only happens in Corfu and is said to be a custom that dates from the Venetian times.

At night, thousands of people, from all over the island attend the Orthodox Resurrection Service at “Páno Platía” (Upper Square). Visitors will find themselves surrounded by thousands of lit candles by others attending the ceremony. The Resurrection of Christ is celebrated at 12.00 sharp with drum beats and fireworks.

Corfiot Gastronomy

Corfu has much to offer the foodie.  Traditional Corfu dishes are Bourdeto (a spicy stew with octopus or fish) and Bianco (a garlicky fish stew) and for meat lovers the Pastisada (beef cooked in a red sauce with pasta) and Sorfito (this sliced veal with a garlic and wine sauce).

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• In 1845 the kumquat, a small citrus fruit, was introduced from China, it has earned a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) status and is a trademark of Corfu.

• One of the most important products of Corfu is undoubtedly olive oil.
Corfu is covered by 3-6 million olive trees, some of them over 400 years old, and 3% of the world’s olive oil comes from the olives in Corfu.
The health benefits of olive oil are unrivaled, good-quality olive oil contains important vitamins and nutrients and is loaded with antioxidants.

•  All over Greece there’s a great production of feta cheese and on Corfu island you have the opportunity to taste it.
Feta cheese is made from sheep’s milk, or from a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk, it is used in Greek salads and pastries such as cheese pie(tyropita) and spinach pie(spanakopita).

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