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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.
A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, Old Corfu is a wonderful and relaxing way to spend the afternoon.
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.
And then there’s these balls of fluff…
The Church of St. George was designed to resemble an ancient Doric Temple. It’s open only once a year for Easter.
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.
Pistachio 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.
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.
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.
PIN AND SAVE FOR LATER!