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Home of the little walled town, or a ‘mini Dubrovnik’ as many like to call it, Korčula, Croatia is nothing short of charming. With water so clear it almost seems impossible, views of a dramatic cliffy Peninsula, and quiet alleyways of old town teeming with flowers, vines, coral shops, and old venetian blinds, it’s almost like a bit of a fairytale – like many places in Croatia, really. As many of you know I work as a tour guide on 7 day boat tours of the Croatian islands over the summer, so here I have conjured up all the best recommendations I can – as a real Tour Guide’s Guide to Korčula!
And that’s procounced Korch-uh-luh. The little carrot above the letters in Croatian is kinda like adding an -h in english. so š is like sh, č is like ch, ž is like zh… and so on.
Old Town – explore the beautiful vine-laden stone streets of Korčula’s old town. You will notice that all the streets on the east side are curved and all the streets on the west are straight – giving the town a fishbone-like shape. This is because, in winter, a very strong wind comes from the east in the winter. Hundreds of years ago, the Korčulans made note of this and made sure to curve the streets in the east so the wind couldn’t get through to the center of town, but made sure that the gentle western breeze could get into the town in the summer. How smart is that?!
Wind Sports – because Korčula island comes within just 1.2km of the Pelješac peninsula, all the wind blowing between the mainland and the sea gets funneled into a little air tunnel in this area. This makes it perfect for wind surfing! It is quite a spectacle to watch the wind surfers on a good day, there are literally hundreds out on the sea flitting about in every direction. Spend some time watching them do their thing, or try it yourself!
Marco Polo’s Birthplace/Museum – As some legends have it, Korčula is the birthplace of the very famous explorer, Marco Polo. No, not the pool game. Yes, we have all learned that he is an Italian explorer…. but, because Korčula was part of the Venetian Empire during Marco Polo’s (or Marko Polo as they spell it some places) time, he still was, well, Italian… Venetian to be exact. Marco Polo is famous for going up from the Adriatic with his father and uncle on a massive, legendary expedition through Mongolia, Russia, China, etc lasting twenty-three years. Crazy, huh? So in Korčula you will see him all over the place… gift shops with cute little explorer trinkets, his alleged birth place, and a whole museum dedicated to him. They’re pretty proud of the fact that he might have been born here! 😛
Watch the Moreška – Korčula is also the birthplace of a traditional sword dance called Moreška (mo- resh- kah). Which is literally a choreographed dance where the performers wear traditional Croatian clothing and dance with swords. The dance was originally meant to reenact the wars that went on here in the 14-1600’s. A tiny history lesson – as I said above, a lot of the Croatian coast was past of the Venetian empire during those years. The Ottoman Turks were also conquesting most of the coast as well, and largely succeeded in the late 15 and early 1600’s. However, when it came time to conquer Korčula, the Korčulans were actually all able to come together from all over the island into the walled old town and fend off the Ottomans. Which, considering how powerful they were at the time, is reeeeeally impressive!!
Explore up the Shore – if you walk around the west side of town, you will see a little stretch of oceanfront with tons of little piers and swimming areas. This is a lovely little place to have a stroll up, have a little swim or picnic, and have a great view of the walled old town from afar!
Cafe’s – All of old town, and especially the east (right) side of the walls, are lined with cafe’s. The ones along the water have fantastic views over the Croatian coast!
Shopping – Right along the front side of the old town walls, you will find tons of little markets selling anything you could wish to buy. These are on the right side of the main staircase entrance to Old Town. If you look around the town you will also see loads of coral jewelry – Korčula is famous for this! There are lots of stores selling extremely intricate and elaborate red, pink, and blue coral jewelry, and also a lot of brushed silver.
Swimming – There are many different swimming spots around the old town. There’s a little beach down the coast a bit where you can also rent stand-up paddle boards (right past the end of the old town marina – south of old town. Next to Loco BBQ), and there are lots of staircases on the east side of old town that lead right down to cute little places to swim.
Tramonto/West side of old town – if you perch yourself anywhere along the west side of Old town (on the left after you enter the main gate) you will be perfectly situated to see a gorgeous sunset over the sea. One of my favorite restaurants in Korčula (which I will go into below) just so happens to have a perfect view of the sunset and one of the best steaks I have ever had!
Bell Tower – The most iconic part of Korčula’s old town is the bell tower directly in the middle of the small hill the old town is situated upon. For just about 20 Kuna you can climb up this extremely narrow stairwell (only fit for one-way traffic, so make sure you wait until the light is green!) to stand at the highest point int the city with panoramic views of the blue Adriatic and mountainous Pelješac peninsula. Watch the sun set right over the sea from up here, it’s a beautiful sight!
Massimo’s – The Croatians have a thing for making party venues out of ancient ruins for some reason! Massimo’s is a 14th century fortress-turned-cocktail bar, with all sorts of amazing cocktails that they make two floors down and use a pulley system to get them up to the roof. Oh yeah, and you have to climb a ladder to get up to the top. This might not be the day to wear a skirt!
Capers – Best iced coffee (frappe) I have had. Really. With the best view! I think they would rather you buy their cocktails or food but I go for the coffee.
Tramonto – Home of my favorite steak in Croatia.. hell, I think my favorite steak in the world. I get it every week and I’m still not tired of it! It’s called the beefsteak tramonto, and its a steak cooked medium rare in a sour cream, caper, and brandy sauce serves with fries, Croatian Ajvar sauce, and grilled veg. To Die. For. They also have fantastic pasta and gnocchi (seafood gnocchi or 4 cheese gnocchi – yes!) great meat and seafood. Oh, and an entire pizza menu. It’s the best.
Dos Locos BBQ – If you want a little Mexican twist on your Croatian food, check out Loco BBQ (not to be confused with the two different Doc Locos bars in Korčula… the same guy owns them all, and he is a legend. If you see a massive guys with curly black hair, a headband, and sunglasses on at night, usually taking shots of rakija with brown sugar and lime, its crazy Niki. I have a shirt with him on it. Tell him Kimmie from Topdeck says hello). Anyways, great food, pasta, and pizza here with some unique Mexican flavor. Oh, and the view is great as well!
Creperia Sempre Ditto – This indulgent little place is a new (as in July 2016) Creperie right next to Dos Locos Bar. And it is absolutely fantastic. I got the ham and cheese crepe with tomato paste, and it came out absolutely perfectly crispy on the outside with oozey cheese and perfectly spiced. I also got a banana nutella and cookie crepe (a different week don’t worry 😉 ). Go there.
Old Town – There is a lot of live music in Korčula – I don’t get to see much of it because I am always in the same places each week with my groups, but I do know of it! If you wander around old town at night, it really comes to life. There are loads of restaurants and bars and places to get a drink or two.
Dos Locos Bar – Nowadays, there are two Dos Locos Bars (see above) creating a nice monopoly on the place. Dos Locos #1 is where we go now – it’s a nice massive bar with great aircon and music, and two stripper poles inside that have seen a lot in their time from drunk Aussies coming through on the boats 😛 The other Dos Locos is quite local and plays more classic Croatian music and sometimes has bands.
Boogie Jungle – Now, is that not the best name for a club, ever?! leaving from Korčula’s main bus station, which also happens to be right across from Dos Locos #1, you can find lots of free party vans shuttling people up to Boogie Jungle starting around 12:30/1am. The ride up is free (about 10 minutes), and entry is 50 kuna. Boogie is pretty much my favorite club of the route – I always end up having the best time there. There is fast food for you to munch on on the way out, and taxi’s back to town or to the port should be no more than 50 kuna per car, or 10 kuna per person in bigger vans. Don’t let them jip you!