Fun & Interesting Facts About Corfu

Most people know Corfu for its stunning beaches, sunny weather, and maybe for its remarkable heritage and food. But what else do you know about the Greek island which history goes back to ancient times? Here are 20 fun and insteresting facts about Corfu you probably didn’t know yet.

Mon Repos

1. It’s The Birthplace of Prince Philip

Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark (1 June 1921 – 9 April 2021) was born at Mon Repos in Corfu. He would later marry Queen Elizabeth II of England and become Duke of Edinburgh. He was the longest-serving royal consort in history.

2. It’s The 7th Largest Greek Island

Corfu has a surface area of 592.9 km² making it the seventh-largest Greek island and the second-largest Ionian Island, after Cephalonia (781 km²).

3. Unlike The Rest Of Greece, It Was Never Occupied By The Ottomans

Most areas within the borders of modern Greece were part of the Ottoman Empire at some point in history. However, Corfu never got in the hands of the Ottomans as the major strongholds, the Old Fortress and New Fortress, withstood every attempt to conquer the island, including three major sieges (1537, 1571, and 1716).

4. It’s Capital Has The Same Name

Both the island and it’s capital are called Corfu (or Kerkyra in Greek), although the capital is often referred to as Corfu Town or simply the old town. The western name Corfu is derived from the two rocky hills (Corifes) on which the Old Fortress is built.

5. The Island Was Under Venetian, French, And British Rule

The island of Corfu has been occupied as well as protected against the uprising Ottoman Empire by several foreign empires. After earlier occupations by the Romans and Normans, Corfu and the other Ionian Islands fell into the hands of the Venetians in 1386, who would rule over it until the end of the Venetian Republic in 1797. Between 1797 and 1799 and again from 1807 until 1814, the French ruled over the islands. The last foreign rulers to leave their mark were the British, who stayed and protected the islands from 1815 until 1864.

6. It Was Reunited With Greece In 1864

In 1864 the newly throned British King George I agreed to retreat from the Ionian Islands and gave it into the hands of modern Greece. The Union of the Ionian Islands with Greece was officially voted for on 23 September 1963 in the Ionian Parliament in Corfu.

7. The Greeks Don’t Call It Corfu

Corfu is the western name for the island, but the locals call it by its Greek name Kerkyra (Κέρκυρα). According to a legend, the name Kerkyra cames from the Nymph Corcyra, who was kidnapped by Poseidon, god of the sea, who brought her to the island and give it her name.

8. It’s Only 3 Kilometers Away From Albania

Corfu is located to the northeast of mainland Greece, but the northern part of the island lies in front of the Albanian coast. The Straits of Corfu is less then 3 kilometers wide at it narrowest point between the island and Albania. Daily ferries can take you from Corfu Port to Saranda, Albania in only 30 minutes.

Plane taking off from Corfu International Airport

9. Plane Spotters Love Corfu

If you’re a plane spotter, you should definitely head to the pedestrian bridge across the Chalkiopoulos Lagoon between Kanoni and Perama. Not only will you have a great view at the nearby Vlacherna Monastery and Pontikonisi Island from there, you will also be able to see all planes taking off from of or landing at Corfu International Airport right over your head. There’s only one airstrip but the direction of take-off and landing depends on the direction of the wind. If you want a better view from the northern end of the runway, you can either get very close via EO Kerkiras Achilliou street or get up the rocky hill of the Old Fortress to see the planes taking off or landing against the background of the impressive city skyline.

10. It Has Been Inhabited For At Least 3000 Years

Corfu has already been inhabited since the Stone Age, when the island was still part of the mainland and the sea that now separates the island was just a small lake. The earliest evidence of Paleolithic occupation on the island was found near the village of Agios Mattheos in the southwest and near the village of Sidari in the northwest, both dating back to the 12th century BC. This means that Corfu has been inhabited for more than 3000 years.

11. Kumquat Is The Typical Fruit Of The Island

When you think of Greece, you probably picture olive groves and citrus plantations, but if there’s one fruit in particular that is typical for Corfu, it’s the Kumquat. The tiny egg-shaped fruit found its way from China to Corfu sometime in the 18th century. The island has the perfect climate for growing Kumquats and the fruit has been incorporated into the identity of Corfu over time. You can buy Kumquat liquor or other kumquat products in every souvenir shop on the island.

Statue of Ioannis Kapodistrias

12. The First Governor Of Greece Was Born Here

Ioannis Kapodistrias was born in Corfu and became the Foreign Minister of the Russian Empire. The experienced and reknown politician is also considered the architect of Greek independence and was therefore asked and elected as the first Governor of Greece in 1827. He was killed in 1831 but his name is still found in many places in Corfu. Kapodistrias is buried inside the Platytera Monastery, his statue stands next to Spianada Square and the airport has been named after him.

13. The James Bond Movie “For Your Eyes Only” Was Shot Here

The 1981 James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only starring Roger Moore was shot almost entirely on Corfu. One of the scenes features the Old Fortress where Bond pushes the Mercedes of his enemy off a cliff.

14. Drake Mentions Corfu In A Song

Rapper Drake mentions Corfu in his song Still Drake: “I always ment to get you that villa in Corfu.”

15. The First University Of Greece Was Founded Here

The Ionian University, founded in 1824 by British philhellene Frederic North, was the first university of modern Greece. The university operated in Corfu until the Union of the Ionian Islands with Greece in 1864. At that time the Kapodistrian University of Athens had already been established and took over some of the most distinguished professors of the Ionian University as it was too expensive to maintain two universities in the country. In 1984 the Ionian Unversity was re-established to meet the needs for higher education during modern times.

San Giacomo Theater

16. The First Modern Theater And Opera In Greece Were Founded Here

The first modern theater and opera of modern Greece were established in Corfu, in the San Giacomo Theater that was built in 1691 and converted into a theater in 1720. In 1902 the theater and opera both moved to the Municipal Theater of Corfu.

17. It’s The Greenest Greek Island

Corfu is a popular holiday destination for a lot of things, and one of them is the beautiful nature and green scenery. In fact, it is the greenest island in Greece, which earned it the nickname Emerald Island.

Corfu is known for its stunning beaches, sunny weather, remarkable heritage and food, but here are 20 fun facts you probably didn't know yet.
Church of Saint Spyridon

18. Saint Spyridon Is The Patron Saint Of Corfu

You can’t visit Corfu and not notice the beautiful belltower of the Saint Spyridon Church sticking out above the historic center of Corfu town. It probably won’t surprise you that the church is dedicated to Saint Spyridon, but did you know that the saint is also thought to have expelled the plague from the island? This event as well as other miracles have earned Saint Spyridon the title of Patron Saint of Corfu and the role as the “Keeper of the City”.

19. The Largest Catastrophe On The Island Took Place In 1718

In 1718 lightning struck a storehouse filled with gun powder at the Old Fortress of Corfu. A large explosion followed which destroyed large parts of the citadel and killed hunderds of people. To this day, it is still considered the largest catastrophe in the history of the island.

20. The Highest Greek Banknote Is Displayed Here

Between 1943 and 1946 massive hyperinflation took place in Greece, forcing the government to continue printing new banknotes with higher values. The banknote with the highest value ever printed, 100 billion drachmes, is now displayed at the Banknote Museum in Corfu Town.

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