Emerald water, pebbly beaches, good food and wine and a beautiful fortified old town – this is Korčula.
Many flock to this part of southern Dalmatia for the easy lifestyle, that incredible sunshine and outdoor activities. Sailing, windsurfing, cycling or simply sitting at an outdoor restaurant sipping on Grk – a white grape variety that can only be found on this island.
This supposed birthplace of Marco Polo – let’s leave the real argument to the scholars – juts into the Pelješac Channel like a beautiful jewel. The Old Town is peppered with gorgeous old Venetian-style buildings, all topped with red roofs just like a mini Dubrovnik.
St. Mark’s Cathedral dominates the medieval skyline with its 15th century Gothic-Renaissance limestone architecture and, for 15KN, you can climb the bell tower for some magnificent views.
It’s easy to waft about the old cobbled laneways and absorb the beauty of this place – peer at old houses, stop into Marco Polos’ supposed home, buy some unique souvenirs or sample some of the local cuisine at one of the numerous konobas peppered throughout.
On our first visit to Korčula in 2002 we stayed in a renovated stone house in the old town. This time around it was a room just outside of it, a little off pedestrian-friendly ulica Hrvatske Bratske Zajednice.
Here we’d sit at Servantes café, a popular little place at any time of the day. Espresso in the morning, a pastry or juice, and cocktails in the afternoon.
For breakfast or lunch, it was Kolenda with its omelettes (35), prosciutto bruschetta (34) or pasta and salad. Nothing mind-blowing, just decent simple food.
Servantes Café – Ulica Hrvatske Bratske Zajednice 102
Kolenda Café – Ulica Hrvatske Bratske Zajednice 44
Burek from Pekara Zlinje – Obala Franje Tuđmana
Our favourite bakery in town – namely because of its burek – is Pekara Zlinje. They do some divine krafne and lots of flakey sweet and savoury pastries; plus fresh crusty bread.
Tucked away on Ulica Hrvatske Bratske Zajednice is Cukarin, a bakery that’s somewhat of an institution for cakes and cookies that are unique to Korčula. Nibble on the samples or dive right in and order a couple of each.
If you’re up for ice cream and fluffy cakes, head around to Slastičarna Kiwi. The ice cream and kremšnite is decent enough, though expect to pay 1 kuna extra for the use of a spoon if you’re eating in.
Harubica from Cukarin – Ulica Hrvatske Bratske Zajednice
Kremšnite at Slastičarna Kiwi – Biline 16
Getting out of Korčula town is easy enough if you’re up for a day of exploration. Having your own wheels or sail boat would be ideal to see more of the island, but the public bus did us just fine.
The neighbouring fishing village of Lumbarda (above) is flanked by fragrant pine forests and olive groves, with Sveti Rok church dominating the old hilltop village. There’s not a great deal going on in the village, but if you’re into your vino, the Grk grape is quite prominent here.
Prizna Beach, Lumbarda
There are several taverns and inns in the village where you can sample local cuisine and the local wine, especially the deliciously simple grilled fish with olive oil.
Beach-goers have a good selection of swimming spots on this part of the island, too. There’s the popular Prizna Beach and Bilin Žal near Lumbarda village, or Privi Žal on the edge of town. There’s a fab little cocktail bar there, too, complete with palm leaf umbrellas. The water is glorious, but beware the spiky urchins!
Prvi Žal, Lumbarda
Massimo Cocktail Bar – Šetalište Petra Kanavelića
I’d never skip the chance to have cocktails, or a simple coffee at Privi Žal in Lumbarda, but if someone’s seeking the ultimate spot for a drink, then Massimo can’t be beat.
Located on top of the 15th century Zakerjan Tower in the old city walls, getting into this old boozer involves climbing some stairs and then a steep ladder. Order your poison, sit back and wait for it to be delivered via a basket that’s pulleyed from the bar below. That view isn’t half bad, either.
Korčula has its own Grk wine, some unique cakes and cookies, but when it comes to savoury food, it has something else that it calls its own. The small village of Žrnovo outside of Korčula has produced a particular dish that can be enjoyed island-wide – Žrnovski makaruni.
Some stories claim that it was Marco Polo that introduced pasta to Italy after his great adventures in China. So when it comes to Korčula’s makaruni – which dates back more than 400 years – it just may be possible that inspiration was taken from good old Marco or the Venetian Empire that ruled Korčula between the 15th and 18th centuries.
I had grand plans of hitting up one of the konobas in the village of Žrnovo, but there are enough menus in Korčula town that have Žrnovski makaruni without having to travel out of town.
Bistro Gušt does a fine example with a traditional ragù-type sauce spiked with cloves, as does konoba Marco Polo in the Old Town. It’s not always a meat sauce, either. I tried one with seafood, although the meat still won me over. Regardless of where you try it, or how, it’s one dish that needs to be sampled. Just a pity we didn’t see it anywhere else in Croatia.
Bistro Gušt – Prolaz tri Sulara bb
Konoba Marco Polo – Ulica Jakova Banichevica 9
The Autotrans bus for Korčula stops in the small carpark on the village side of the highway in Ston at 9.50am, opposite the large carpark. The bus boards the car-ferry in Orebić at 11am and arrives in Korčula bus station at 12pm. Cost is 63KN per person.
It’s best to book online at least one day before travel as buses can fill fast. The ticket includes the ferry to Korčula. Check the website for more booking info.