Visiting Korčula, Croatia, with a Small Dog
Right from the start, when we were planning our trip to Croatia, I knew I wanted to stop in Korčula. It may seem cheesy or cliché but it was all because of the gorgeous photo on the cover of the Eyewitness Travel Guide. We were hooked. And when we dug a little deeper and found out it was the birth place of one of the most famous world travellers—Marco Polo—well, that just sealed the deal!
I was going and there was nothing anyone was going to say to stop me! Imagine my delight, then, when we looked at the stops on G Adventures’ sailing trip of the Dalmatian Coast and discovered that Korčula would be on our route! Win and Win! *tail wag*
Korčula charmed us the moment we spotted it as we made our approach to the large and stellar marina. At first glance, Korčula appears as a sort of smaller sister to Dubrovnik. There is a bit of a wall that surrounds a section of the town. But upon closer examination, you can see that much of the wall has been demolished to make way for a wide open promenade. So even with a few fortress towers, Korčula comes across as inviting rather than a town on the offensive.
Korčula’s inviting nature makes sense because its history is very much that of trade, all the way back to the ancient Greeks who settled the island rich in pine, cypress, and oak trees. The Greeks named the island Melaina Korkyra, which translates roughly to Black Corfu. The island’s importance grew as a trade route stop, so, as you’d expect, people fought over it. The Venetians and the Croat Kings went at it in 1000 BC, and later, the Genoese joined in too. Then the Turks had a go. That is when Marco Polo was captured (around 1298) and his adventures really started in earnest.
As soon as we docked at the marina, we were off to explore! As we always do, we basically developed our own walking tour, which went something like this …
The Land Gate
The town of Korčula (on the island of Korčula) is perched atop a little peninsula surrounded by thick 13th century walls. Here and there you will find the prerequisite towers and bastions that were built by the Venetians (around 1420). None, however, are as lovely as the Land Gate, the main entrance into the old city. Fortified by a large tower, the gate is accessed only after you walk up elegantly laid out stairs that arch over a canal that once acted as a way to safeguard the town from the mainland when under attack.
The Old City
From the Land Gate, you step right into the heart of Korčula. Narrow streets that branch off the main road to the right are straight, but curved on the left. Interestingly, the design is intentional. Every curve of the street or building has a purpose: to reduce the impact of the Bura Wind in winter and the heat in summer. The entire town both shelters its inhabitants and keeps them cool. It’s absolutely brilliant.
Cathedral of St. Mark
The central square is hard to miss. It feels like all the little streets make it their mission to corral you in the square. The tall, pale honey-coloured cathedral and impressive tower also act like a beacon.
I have seen a lot of churches, Dear Reader, and I have to say that few have impressed me more than this one. The skill of the sculptors and stone masons is truly remarkable. Whether it’s the two lions on guard at the entrance, or the refined and delicate thin spiral columns, or even the imposing 30 meter (100 foot) bell tower … it’s all blissfully harmonious. I believe the Venetians are the ones to be thanked for the esthetics of this cathedral.
Climb to the top of the clock tower for a spectacular view of Korčula and its surrounding hills and the marina. (Hand-off required—no dogs in the cathedral.)
Another hand-off is needed to see the abbey treasure inside the bishop’s palace. It’s worth the effort if you enjoy exquisite paintings and other finery.
The Main Square
Have a seat at the café on the square and let it all soak in. (You can do this to enjoy the hand-off process.) The architecture is truly lovely. St Peter is to the left of the cathedral, and facing St. Peter is the Arneri Palace and the beautiful renaissance Ismaeli Gabrielis palace. Both have museums if you feel so inclined.
Marco Polo Museum
There is a small museum and you can also visit the birth home of Marco Polo. You should be okay to go ahead in a stealth bag; just be honest about it. I believe it’s very much up to the person selling the tickets. The museum, although small, is worth a visit. As for the home? Well, it’s not much to look at and they certainly could do more with it. The view is rewarding though. For me, it was great to walk in the man’s footsteps, as it were. It’s fun, if not very long. If you love to travel, then the visit is kind of neat.
Was Marco Polo actually from Korčula? There is a lot of mumbling and grumbling about the validity of that statement. But it is certain that he did live there for a time.
Then it’s off toward the seafront, where All Saints Church merits a quick peak inside. If icons and wood carvings are your thing, be sure to head into the Confraternity.
For us it was just a fun stroll as we took in all the sights and smells that Korčula had to offer. Although the walls once wrapped the city, most of them are now gone on the seafront side, which opens up the space and creates a lovely promenade. We saw ladders that lead down to large flat stones that local kids use as swimming spots.
There are tons of restaurants to choose from and if you just want to have a quick cocktail or drink, then try the Massimo Bar on the top of the Zakerjan (also known as Berim) Tower.
You have to climb up narrow steps to get to the top, but the view is amazing and it’s worth having at least one drink, even if you are paying a premium for the location. It’s just very unique! Make sure your pup is VERY securely fastened. In my case, it was time for the kangaroo pouch! Do be prepared for them to turn your pup away out of safety concerns.
If you can’t go to Massimo Bar, don’t fret: you have loads of patios to choose from and all were pet-friendly. We even found several restaurants that were happy to allow me inside to dine when the weather got cool.
The marina in Korčula is pretty darn awesome. Not only is it silly pretty and insanely close to the old city …
… but it also has some of the best amenities we saw on the Dalmatian coast. If showering in the sailboat is not your thing, no worries: the marina has amazing shower facilities. There are two grocery stores, a pharmacy, and a lot more on offer. You can also easily rent a small car if you want to discover the rest of the island or you can hop on a local bus. (Hide the dog for that!) For those with pets, there is a lovely little park right across the street from the marina, complete with shaded benches and lush green grass.
In review: Visiting Korčula with a small dog is something we highly recommend. We bumped into a few local dogs in the streets, all of them off-leash so I followed their lead and did the same. Take your time to get lost in the tiny little alleys. There are some lovely pet-friendly restaurants to enjoy and lovely boutiques as well for a bit of shopping. Gelato is also on the menu here and it’s not surprising given the Venetian influence so obvious everywhere. If you want to see more photos visit my FB page album!