Roman villas, Yugoslav mansions and wild deer: hop over to Brijuni Islands
'Untouched nature of beautiful islands', promises the website of Brijuni National Park. 'Beautiful' is an understatement, and 'untouched' far from the truth: it’s precisely the human touch present in this landscape for millennia that makes it captivating. Arriving at the Veli ('Great') Brijun port after a 15-minute ferry ride from the pastel-hued town of Fažana across the bay, your first encounter with the long history of the islands will be a look at Neptun and Istra hotels and the delicate boathouse protruding into the sea. Columned balconies, Secession-era arches and ornaments, midcentury furniture and elegantly clad waiters all call to mind the grandeur of the resort’s Habsburg-era origins. Much of the charm is owed to the authenticity of what you see, rather than the kind of contrived nostalgia aesthetic that can overwhelm. It almost makes you grateful that none of the successive governments’ promises for a major revamp to the resort materialised. The hotel staff, in fact, boast that many guests request one of the rooms without air-conditioning, to immerse themselves fully in the holiday spirit of the early 1900s. With or without air-conditioning, as you sip your Aperol Spritz, you are part of a tradition started by Austro-Hungarian aristocrats and Venetian socialites who flocked to Brijuni to enjoy the sea and the cocktails, to play tennis, polo and golf, but mostly not to do very much at all. These days most visitors from mainland Istria to Veli Brijun don’t stay ove
Listings and reviews (8)
Widely recognized as one of the best and most amibtious restaurants on the Adriatic, Pelegrini lives up to its reputation. The elaborate tasting menu (955 kn) showcases exquisite traditional ingredients of the Dalmatian sea, lakes and fields, transformed into imaginative dishes by Rudolf Štefan's team. The restuarant also offers a 4-course minimum à la carte meal (400 kn), as well as a newly-introduced, inspired platter of 13 bites (899 kn, including wine). Meals at Pelegrini consist of such creations as the mint-granita-covered oysters, the duck prosciutto with goat cheese and peppers, and the anchovies terrine. The vegetarian options here, featuring Đuveđ frito misto and chickpeas, deserve as much attention as the fish and meat dishes. Pelegrini succesfuly defies the expectations one might have of food at remarkable urban locations: platters for two are served at the tables outside, with a view of the Renaissance-era St. James Cathedral, while the tasting menu is well suited for the atmosphere of the large terrace, atop a cistern with four interestingly-carved wells.
Bowa sits in a lovely bay of crystalline water and comfortable, small pebbles on Šipan, the largest of the Elafiti islands. Šipan’s fishermen deliver fresh daily catch, and the nowadays atypical dishes like the cuttlefish orzotto or the fig and ginger salad promise to indulge demanding palates. No need to announce your visit for a lunch at the terrace, but call ahead and prepare to splurge to meet the minimum spend at one of the elevated cabanas. Apart from the prices, the only thing to mind in this bay might be the few too many Instagram-pleasing floaties and the accompanying photoshoots. On the way there, take a dip at one of the wild beaches on the mainland, such as Dobra, or at Koločep island's (Kalamota's) Blue Cave, illuminated inside with an electric blue, and visit the quaint Suđurađ town afterwards, where the nobility of Dubrovnik’s glory era spent their idle summer days.
Vrnik Arts Club
Among all the islets in Korčula’s archipelago, Vrnik has a singularly laid-back air to it, with a town beach of small pebbles and hues so vivid you’ll have trouble deciding between taking a dip and observing the turquoise waters from the docks. Opened in 2018, Vrnik Arts Club offers great, though pricey food on the tranquil terrace in front of what was once the island's school. The standout starters are the fried shrimp, the local hard cheese and pršut — served with melon, candied almonds and olives — and the swordfish ceviche. Among the mains, fresh traditional seafood dishes, some with atypical sides, pastas, and heartier meat options all live up to the setting. While some patrons stay for dessert, others opt for another swim or a round of the boules to the left of the town church, before boarding their vessels and leaving for the day. Much to the joy of fortunate visitors, the church occasionally hosts choral concerts in the evenings.
Moro Beach Stupe
The sea around tiny Stupe, home to Moro Beach Bar, is astoundingly clear, and its colours vary wildly between the surrounding islets, while the imposing peaks of Pelješac in the distance add to the dramatic landscape. Beach hoppers delight in the wine from Korčula, to the right of the isle, or Pelješac, to the left, and the concoctions of the bartenders, who deftly prepare drinks to the pitter-patter of electronic beats. Classic Dalmatian snacks as well as the more ambitious dishes, such as the gnudi and monkfish pasta, are surprisnigly good for a beach bar, though prices are high. As the sun descends, the few who remain have the spot to themselves, and the atmosphere is complemented by the sounds of the '80s and '90s.
Arula Ethno Bakery
Arula's space is simple, yet its location at the start of Korčula’s flowery western promenade makes a pretty sight. The sweets they sell are authentic and outrageously good; but stop by on the early side, before the apple and cherry pies are gone. The bakers here still make traditional sweets like the Klašuni biscuits and the Utopljenik (drowned man) sweet breads, many of which are distinct to Korčula. But choices are tough to make and you are inevitably tempted to take at least a few to go, as you should also try the satisfying, old-fashioned marmalade doughnuts, or indulge in the ultimate treat — the Arula cake, a delightful mix of chocolate, oranges and carob — all at prices from a pre-touristic era.
Cafe and Bistro at Hotel Korcula
Set a few steps from the monumental western entrance to the old town, the charming terrace of Hotel Korcula captures the mood of Korčula’s belle époque. This is the spot to enjoy coffee among Korčula's smart set, gathered to read the papers and discuss the weather and political developments beneath the shadow of blooming oleanders. If you find yourself lingering long after the first drink, preferring the natural shade to the heat of beach, the daytime bites provide excellent replenishment, from the local pršut, cheese and Torkul olive oil, to the chocolate, carob and orange flavors of the Arula cake from the bakery. On one half of the terrace, the hotel's bistro also serves a good and affordable breakfast in the morning. In the evening, a selection of traditional dishes such as the handmade Žrnovo makaruni pasta and cuttlefish risotto keep hotel guests happy as they watch the sun disappearing on the horizon, followed by orange-infused crêpes or the refreshing lemon sorbet.
A short drive from Korcula Town towards Lumbarda, Maslina is a no-frills, honest local eatery that remains one of our favourites on the island. The pogača with aubergines and cheese (the local bread, akin to focaccia), the fish spread, and seasonal salads are wonderful starters, while the hearty swordfish, pašticada, or home-made makaruni pasta each make a very good meal. The chocolate-coated fig dessert and the liqueur it's served with, however, are worth the visit alone. Konoba Maslina's shaded terrace is a place to escape the crowds and the heat and enjoy the delicious fare at accessible prices.
A quick boat ride or a 45-minute southward trek from Hvar, Robinson's little stone-house kitchen is hidden behind Mekićevica, a beach famous for its bright waters and white pebbles. Although Robinson is named for its lack of electricity and other "essential infrastructure," you won't be missing much, or anything at all, while sitting at the tables in its olive grove, overlooking the cove and a lighthouse on an islet in the distance, or swimming as you wait for the food to arrive. The rich gregada and brodetto (Hvar's potato-based and Dalmatia's tomato-based fish stewes, recpectively) are excellent, as are the seafood spaghetti, grilled fish, octopus salad, and lobster, but the menu is determined by whatever Domagoj — the owner, chef and waiter — catches and prepares. If the sun is still high and a boat can take you for another dip, two bays down from Mekićevica and Robinson is one of Hvar's remarkable, nameless beaches, with two agave cactuses in the background — one can't miss it right before the next, bigger Milna bay.