There are few cities in Albania I’ve yet to visit and the only remaining city I was curious about was Korca in the south-east. Since we were nearby in Ohrid, this was my chance to visit and I’m so glad I did.
Korca is one of the prettiest cities in Albania with cobblestone streets and grand villas from the 20s and 30s. The inner city has mostly low rise buildings, unlike much of Albania which is littered with ugly concrete high rises from the communist era.
Bulevardi Republika is where you’ll find the cool cafes and top restaurants, all busy with young people who are studying in Korca. Young people with money or, most likely, rich parents.
On the other side of town is the renovated Old Bazaar, an old market with boutique shops, a mix of traditional and modern restaurants, and little bakeries and cafes.
New shops are still being fitted out after the massive rejuvenation project which they are just now finishing up. It’s a shame it took them until 2017 to do this work but it’s finally looking good and worth a wander.
Buildings in the Old Bazaar and the historic French style villas were confiscated decades ago by the communist government but it’s nice to know they have finally been returned to their rightful owners, even though most of them now live abroad.
Unlike Berat, which is a beautiful city for visitors but with little on offer for locals, Korca doesn’t have much to see from a tourism perspective but it’s a very livable city and clearly one of the wealthiest cities in Albania.
Things to Do in Korca
If you do find yourself in Korca there are a few things to do and see. In my opinion it’s mostly a city for eating, drinking and cafe hopping (in other words, my kinda city) but there are a few things to do and places of interest. Here’s my mini city guide:
- Go cafe hopping on Bulevardi Republika.
- Visit the newly renovated Old Bazaar.
- Enter through the metal gate in the Old Bazaar to Hani i Elbasanit, an old stable house with a well.
- Near the Old Bazaar is Korca’s oldest mosque, Iljaz Mirahori Mosque.
- Demolished by the communists, the Ngjallja e Krishtit Cathedral has now been rebuilt.
- Take a tour of Albania’s famous Korca Brewery.
- Relax in Rinia Park, Korca’s largest park.
- Go on a day trip to nearby mountain villages, Voskopoje and Dardha or visit Lake Prespa.
I’m not sure I’d recommend going out of your way to visit Korca, there’s not quite enough to see to make it a worthwhile trip, unless you’re particularly interested in hiking in the region. But if you are in the area or if you travel slowly I think it’s worth stopping for a couple of days.
I loved the vibe in Korca and might go back for a longer stay and to explore the surrounding villages.
Where to Eat
The top two restaurants in Korca for modern and Albanian cuisine are Life Gallery’s Avenue 55 and Find Four, both located on Boulevard Republika in historic villas. Avenue 55 is probably a little more modern with some unique flavours you won’t find elsewhere while Find Four has traditional food with a modern, lighter take.
Both Avenue 55 and Find Four are also my go to places for coffee (although Albanian coffee is generally revolting!) and Avenue 55 in particular for evening drinks, cocktails or their beer bar.
In the Old Bazaar you can take your pick of cafes and restaurants. These are targeted more towards tourists but are still quite good. The Colonial is a nice cafe and if you want Italian food Osteria Korca is a good choice with friendly staff.
For unusual Albanian desserts try the little pasticeri in the corner of the market. Unfortunately I don’t recall the name but it’s not far from Hani i Elbasanit.
Where to Stay
Korca has a couple of very nice places to stay, brand new hotels with good facilities. Top of the range is the Life Gallery Hotel, located in a classic Korcan building from the 1920s. The rooms are huge and modern, there’s a pool in the courtyard and a very cool bar and high end restaurant on site. Even if you don’t stay here it’s a great spot for a coffee or drink. Loads of young people socialise here.
On the lower end of the budget I’d recommend the Old Bazaar Rooms. As the name suggests it’s located in the Old Bazaar in a beautifully restored stone building above a home decor shop. Everything is new and spotlessly clean although the bathroom is on the small side. The location is great if you’re interested in the bazaar or if you have an early morning bus to catch as the bus station is across the road.34