Best Things to Do in Corfu, Greece on a Cruise Day

With several cruise lines sending their ships to include Corfu, Greece this summer, I thought I’d update this article for those who simply want to know the best things to do in Corfu on your own. 

My last Viking Ocean cruise aboard the Viking Star included a little more than a half-day in Corfu. That would be my first time setting foot in Greece. 

Though a Greek island and not the mainland of Greece, it didn’t matter: I was going to Greece! I just didn’t know what things to do in Corfu. 

Rather than travel by bus around the island on a cruise excursion, I wanted to explore Corfu on my own. From looking at the map, a shore excursion in tiny Corfu didn’t seem necessary to me.

Sometimes, I forego ship-led 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 for me is to mix among locals. And always include a stop for lunch.

Church of St. George is a at the top of the Old Fortress
This was one of the highlights of my day when I walked through the fortress to this beautiful church.

I love to peek into tiny shops where trays of olives and hanging 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 cruise day in Corfu on my own. Plus, a little background information of the island.

Things to Do in Corfu, Greece

Explore 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, here is what you can do to spend an entire afternoon just soaking up the brilliant Grecian sunshine. Walk along the millennia-old paths of this small Greek island. Try new foods and drinks. Buy a bag of pistachio nuts. 

If You Really Want a Shore Excursion in Corfu

If a short tour of Corfu on a ship shore excursion would be helpful to get your bearings, take the morning island shore excursion. Then spend the afternoon in town on your own. 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.

Walking through the Old Town area in Corfu
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.

At the bus stop for cruise lines at the 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.

 Wander back into downtown and take a lunch break. I looked for someplace with shaded outdoor seating. 

Quiche and a salad at Earth Cafe in Corfu
When in Greece, eat quiche? Well, that’s what I had for lunch…with an Italian salad. Go figure.

From downtown, you’re just a stone’s throw from the Fortress. Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes. There’s a lot of ground to cover.

Cruise passengers walk across the bridge to the old fortress
The entrance to the Old Fortress gives you a view of what used to be a moat, now it’s a yacht harbor.
Corfu Fortress cobblestone stairway
While these stairs are pretty solid, watch your footing anyway.
Walking across the drawbridge to the Old Fortress in Corfu
View from the drawbridge to the Old Fortress. It’s a small harbor for locals.

And then there’s these balls of fluff…

Corfu kittens at the Old Fortress entrance
Corfu kittens at the Old Fortress entrance and everywhere else in town

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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 More : Viking Star stateroom review and photos

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

The restaurant Taverna at the Old fortress in Corfu
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.

Corfu 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.

Pistachios are sold everywhere in Corfu
I had to buy a bag of pistachios to bring home.

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.

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 Viking Cruises’ bus from the Old Fortress entrance to the Cruise Terminal was at 5:00pm. This 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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View of the Ionian Sea

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