Eight Hours in Corfu, Greece on Your Own

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Day in Corfu Greece and visit to marble temple

A recent Viking Oceans cruise aboard the Viking Star included a day in Corfu.  This would be my first time setting foot in Greece, albeit a Greek island and not the mainland.  I didn’t care, mainland or island, I was going to Greece.

Sometimes, I forego shore excursions…even when they’re included.  For me, especially on first-time visits, I like to simply wander the downtown or city center area on my own at my own pace.  Part of the travel experience is mixing among locals, peeking into tiny shops where olives and hams reign supreme, casting their salty, savory aroma from glass cases and wooden rafters out to the street.  If I’m really lucky, I find an out of the way café or restaurant that dishes up food that locals adore.

Here’s how I spent my eight hours in Corfu on my own, with a little background of the island.

A Day in Corfu, Greece – explore the Old Town on your own.

The second largest Ionian Greek Island, Corfu is as beautiful and serene a Greek Island as you can imagine.  With mountains as a backdrop, a panoramic drive around the island lends breath-taking views to each turn.  Castles are as common as the ancient monasteries that dot the roads and mountainside.  A day in Corfu can be as relaxing or as driven as you’d like.  

Most cruise ships anchor offshore or dock near the Cruise Terminal in Kerkira (Corfu).  From where you exit the ship or leave the tender, you can either walk or take a shuttle bus to the Cruise Terminal, where shore excursions depart.  At the terminal, your cruise ship will most likely offer another shuttle that makes day-long runs back and forth from the terminal to near the entrance of the Old Fortress in town.  It’s about a 3 1/2 mile walk if you prefer.   

Instead of a shore excursion, do as I did and spend your entire afternoon just soaking up the brilliant Grecian sunshine, walking along millennia-old paths and trying new foods and drinks.  Or try a morning island tour and then spend the afternoon in town.  But know your schedule. Sometimes cruise ships are only here for a half-day visit. 

Shore excursions generally head out into the countryside or you may have the opportunity to rent 4×4 vehicles or pedal around on mountain bikes.

Day in Corfu Old TownA designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, Old Corfu is a wonderful and relaxing way to spend the afternoon.  

Day in Corfu at Old Fortress
I’m standing near the cruise line’s motor coach stop. It’s just a short walk to access the Old Fortress…it’s a much longer to walk to the top.

Be sure to allow time to wander across the drawbridge to the Old Fortress.  Dating from about the 6th century, a visit to this huge Venetian fortress on a promontory high above the Ionian Sea is the perfect way to end your a day in Corfu.  

Day in Corfu at Earth Cafe
When in Greece, eat quiche? Well, that’s what I had for lunch…with an Italian salad. Go figure.
day in corfu bridge to old fortress
The entrance to the Old Fortress gives you a view of what used to be a moat, now a yacht harbor.

And then there’s these balls of fluff…

Day in Corfu and Corfu kittens at the Old Fortress entrance
Day in Corfu and Corfu kittens at the Old Fortress entrance.
day in corfu church of st george
Built in 1830, the Church of St. George was the main church for British soldiers during the English Protection, 1814-1864.

Read MoreTake a walk through Viking Ocean Cruises beautiful Viking Star

The Church of St. George was designed to resemble an ancient Doric Temple.  It’s open only once a year for Easter.

Day in Corfu at taverna in old fortress
Save a bit of time to savor a coffee and pastry at the taverna located towards the top of the fortress.  The view is as spectacular as the desserts.  Just follow the signs.

Dining and shopping

Hundreds of small shops line the narrow streets in the Old Town.  Enticing aromas from numerous bakeries and coffee shops fill the air, drawing visitors inside for a taste and sip.  

Day in Corfu eating pistachiosPistachio nuts are sold in every size bag you can imagine while souvenir containers of Greek coffee line the shelves.  Ceramics, leather and jewelry are also popular among tourists.

Day in Corfu shopping in Old Town
Even if you don’t want to buy anything (except pistachios!) it’s a nice shady walk through these narrow streets. The streets are so clean that they actually gleam in the sunlight.

Lovely indoor/outdoor tavernas throughout the Old Town offer excellent Greek cuisine in a non-hurried atmosphere.  Olive oil is king and both the oil and olive wood carvings can be purchased just about everywhere.  If guided shore excursions are on your agenda, try to return early enough to allow two-three hours to explore the quaint, ancient and colorful Old City of Corfu.corfu-viking-star

We were lucky that our ship spent a very long day in Corfu; from 7am until 6pm.  By 4:00pm, most tourists had left the Taverna at the Old Fortress and I was able to just sit back in my chair under the trees and take in the scenery and experience.

Our last bus from the Old Fortress entrance to the Cruise Terminal was at 5:00pm which gave me the perfect amount of time to sip a cappuccino, have an Italian dessert and crack open a dozen pistachios.


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