(Edited November 2018)
The other day at a party, I overheard a conversation: Two people were talking about travelling, and the girl said: “You know, I also enjoy just being at a place”.
I’ve found that great – just being. No racing through cute alleys full of historic buildings, no waiting in line at museums, no pushing on boats and squeezing in vans – just being at a place.
|Trg Ivana Koblera, the Kobler square with the unusual fountain.|
And this is exactly what you can do in Rijeka, Croatia’s third largest city, before continuing to Istria or to one of the beautiful islands. Just being there. Just walking along the pedestrian street that is called Korzo – an old-fashioned name that makes me smile. Just watch the locals shopping at ordinary stores. Just have a coffee or an Aperol on one of the terraces.
Just be there.
Rijeka is one of the very few cities in Croatia that has not made it to the Unesco World Heritage list; how refreshing.
However, in the 16th century, the city began to flourish: Fiume, her Italian name, developed commerce, arts, and education – the first high school on the Adria was founded here in 1626 by the Jesuits.
The hegemony of the city altered between Italy and the Austro-Hungarian empire until in 1919, 2,500 Italian franc tireurs lead by Italian nationalist and writer Gabriele D’Annunzio conquered the city – against the will of the Italian government.
|Yes, the past is alive in Rijeka!
No, they don’t always walk around like this – in September 2018, there was a medieval festival taking place.
Today, this reign is considered one of the predecessors of the Italian fascism – and lead to a harsh Italianization, i.e. Croatian and other non-Italians were forced to assimilate or to leave. The Croatian language was banned.
For four years, Fiume was an independent territory and became Italian in 1924.
This hegemony ended with the end of WWII in 1945 when Rijeka was conquered by the Yugoslav troops and annexed to the Socialist Republic of Croatia.
Unless you have your own vehicle, you’ll probably arrive either by train or by bus. Both stations are just adjacent to the city center so even if you have just one hour or two, you can enjoy that time since you can leave your luggage. I must say, this is a great advantage of these countries that are not all freaked out because of terrorism – you can leave your luggage unattended; or preferably attended, of course….
If you’re flying in, you’ll notice that the airport catering to Rijeka is actually located on the island of Krk. There is shuttle service scheduled according to departures and arrivals. It takes about 30 minutes, tickets can be purchased for 30 HRK on the bus.
|Never in my life have I seen so clear waters like in Croatia – nowhere.|
While there is a lot of beautiful landscapes to enjoy around the city center of Rijeka, my guide focuses on activities within the city limits. However, if you have the time, a trip to the beaches around Opatja, Pula, and, of course, to Poreč will be a great completion.
Actually, Poreč is where I came from when going to Cres. I didn’t even intend to stay in Rijeka, but the bus and the ferry were not in sync which gave me four hours to explore the city.
The first attraction is right at the bus station, it’s the Gospa Lurdska, Our Lady of Lourdes church, built over 30 years in an eclecticism style, i.e. a mix of Medieval architecture and Venetian Gothic.
|Our Lady of Lourdes church – something for the eye while you are waiting for the bus.|
Need a break and some refreshments? One block east is the Jadranski Trg, a big, elegant square dominated by the Jadrolinja palace, one of the city’s most representative structures.
|Jadrolinija – Rijeka’s secret ruler.|
Since at that time Rijeka was still under the Austro-Hungarian hegemony, the first shipping company founded her in 1882 under the name of Adria was actually Hungarian. The Palace, built by Giacomo Zammatio, is decorated with eight statues by Sebastian Bonomi, representing a ship’s key figures: the master, chief engineer, helmsman, and pilot.
I personally love Jadrolinija – they are reliable, the ferries are comfortable, and the tickets dirt-cheap; and you can easily buy them online.
Jadranski Trg is where the Korzo begins. Like I said, it’s not spectacular, but nice and relaxed with many unspectacular shopping opportunities and cafés and restaurants.
|On Rijeka’s Korzo, shopping becomes an educational walk. In the middle the city tower, a walk-through tower of the former city gate.|
Of course, you’ll find in this post many important info and tips to make the most of your stay in Rijeka. However, I recommend you to pay the tourist information office on the Korzo a visit: They’ll supply you with free maps and brochures and additional, updated information on where to go and how to get there.
There is the town hall at #16 and the city clock tower decorating the gate to the Trg Ivana Koblera – a square with more stores’n’cafés.
|Rijeka’s Town Hall on the Korzo, the city’s artery.|
Behind this square, you’ll get through a narrow alley to the Roman Arch, the main entrance to the center of the Late Antique command compound of the Roman Tarsatica, an ancient town on whose ruins the medieval Rijeka was built.
Walking further north, you’ll spot the amazing church of St. Vitus’ Cathedral opened in 1638.
|The unusually shaped St. Vitus’ Chapel.|
Unfortunately, it’s often closed – but the most amazing part are the engravings in the doors: Like a precious comic book, they are telling stories of Christianity.
|Details of the beautiful doors. As we all know, they didn’t have it that easy in former times….|
Right next to the Cathedral is the entrance to one of Rijeka’s quirkiest attractions, a tunnel that spans 350 meters / 1,150 feet from the cathedral to the Dolac Primary School Built from 1939 to 1942 by the Italian military to protect civilians from aerial bombings in WWII, the original writing Riservato all U.N.P.A., Reserved for the Anti-aircraft Corps, can be spotted in various places.
The tunnel was re-opened to the public in 2017 after 75 years. The tunnel can be crossed every day from 9 a .m. to 5 p. m. and entrance is free.
It is a bit creepy since not too many people seem to visit it – I crossed it all by myself….and at the end where two young ladies sitting, looking from time to time at one of the dozen monitors.
I hope I didn’t spoil the thrill and suspense for you by revealing that the whole thing is under surveillance.
|350 meters of suspense: Not sure if I like the idea of being by myself or would prefer other critters with me down there.|
Walking in the other direction – eastwards – you’ll get to another beautiful church, the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Seriously, guys, I’m not lazy, but the history of this place that actually dates back to the first century is exciting and very long. The leaning tower next to the church is the bell tower and was added in the 14th century.
|I was lucky to have these extras when taking a picture of Rijeka’s leaning tower.|
Behind the church next to the Mrtvi kanal, the dead canal, leading to the sea is Fiumara ulica – that’s also leading towards the sea and that you now should walk down to get to one of Rijeka’s most beautiful buildings, the Croatian National Theatre Ivan pl. Zajc. Opened in 1885, the Venetian architecture is certainly striking. But I’m more impressed by the fact that none lesser than Gustav Klimt – yes, the Kiss-Gustav Klimt – along with his brother Ernst helped Franz Match to paint the ceiling.
|Composer, conductor, and director Ivan Zajc looking at the theater named after him.|
Adjacent to the theater building is the Kazališni park where you can sit on a bench and enjoy some of the juicy fruits you’ve shopped at the Main Market just next to it. This extraordinary farmers’ and fishermen’s market consists not only of countless stalls on the streets, there are also two beautiful halls designed in classic art nouveau style and completed in 1916.
|Rijeka’s beautiful market: A great place to grab some fresh treats – and some really original souvenirs like truffles, oil, and honey.|
Actually, if you intend to buy olive oil and truffles, this market is an excellent stop to do so.
The market is open from Monday to Saturday 7 a. m. to 2 p. m. and Sunday 7 a. m. till noon. The fish market from Monday to Saturday 7 a. m. to 1 p. m. and Sunday 7 a. m. till noon
Being at the main market, you’re already practically on Rijeka’s waterfront. You’ll notice that it’s not one of these cute little harbors with boats and sailing ships. Nope, it’s an industrial harbor with regular ferry service to different islands.
However, you can easily enjoy a day – or just an afternoon – on the beach, since the closest, small but nice beach is about 15 minutes away; by city bus that is.
Right in front of the port is a bus stop, and you should be waiting for # 1 taking you to the hotel Jadran. There you have to climb down some stairs – and you can just hop into the water.
|Even though the beach is not world’s finest, the water and the surroundings are first class.|
I will not lie to you: While the water is fantastic and clean like basically everywhere in Croatia, the beach – which by the way is called Sablićevo – could be cleaner. It’s not really disgusting, but you have to look for a cleaner spot – especially if you want to stay in the shade close to the steep face.
There are more beaches within reach. Just inquire at the tourist office, they’ll give you a brochure and will be happy to explain how to get there.
The outer borough of Trsat is on a mountain northeast of the city center just a short bus ride away. Take line #2, #8, or #8A. Trsat is a great place for hiking, but most people come here for the castle that dates back to the prehistoric times when it was used as a watchtower. Count Laval Nugent bought the complex in the first half of the 19th century and turned it into a family mausoleum.
|View from the fortress down on Rejika.
(Photo: Georges Jansoone JoJan, Rijeka027, CC BY-SA 3.0)
A popular pilgrimage site is the Shrine of Our Lady of Trsat, one of the most ancient in Croatia. Pope John Paul II. visited this site in 2003.
And if the weather happens to be not so very….Adriatic? Well, then you have the great opportunity to visit some of Rijeka’s museums like
The Computer Museum PEEK&POKE
Ulica Ivana Grohovca 2A
Phone: +385 91 780 5709
The museum – a paradise not only for nerds – is open from Monday to Friday from 2 p. m. to 8 p. m. and on Saturday from 11 a. m. to 4 p. m.
The museum is open every day from 9 a. m. to 8 p. m.
|Already the building housing the Maritim and History Museum is impressive.|
Maritime and History Museum of the Croatian coast
Pomorski i povijesni muzej Hrvatskog primorja Rijeka
Muzejski trg 1
The museum is open Monday to Saturday from 9 a. m. to 8 p. m. and Sunday from 4 p. m. to 8 p. m.
Museum of the City of Rijeka
Muzejski trg 1
Phone: +385 – 51 – 336 711
The museum is open from Monday to Saturday from 10 a. m. to 7 p. m. and Sunday from 10 a. m. to 3 p. m.
I’m not afraid you might get bored.
Best place to sleep:
If I had to give a prize for the nicest apartman on my trip, Jasmin in Rijeka would take it home. I didn’t get the name, though, since I was greeted by a bear of a young man who had just finished cleaning the place – it would truly surprise me if that was Jasmin.
|Apartman Jasmin was the most luxurious accommodation on my trip.|
Anyway, the place consists of a comfy living room with a state of the art kitchenette including all the appliances the good wife on a vacation is dreaming of. Bathroom and toilet – all is new and modern and top notch. The bedroom minimalistic chic.
The place is located right on the Korzo which is great since you are a stone throw away from each and every place of interest. Don’t you worry ’bout the noise at night: Rijeka is not that much of a wild party hell – you’ll be able to sleep with the window open although it’s facing the street.
Apartment Jasmin *
30 Korzo 2 kat
Phone: + 385 – 95 – 857 4027
Best place to eat:
Right at the next corner from the apartman is a narrow alley where a very pleasant restaurant is located, offering a wide range of different local and international dishes and drinks at ok prices.
|Pleasant dining in a vibrant setting – just minutes from the apartment.|
Kružna ulica 12
Phone: + 385 – 51 – 213 782
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