Despite its noisy, congested image, the industrial city of Rijeka also has a pretty old town with historical sights, a medieval fortress and several nice promenades by the sea.
Located at the northern end of the famous Kvarner Bay, the metropolis of Rijeka is the starting point for many Croatian vacationers for day trips to Croatia's island world. Ferries depart from here to the islands of Cres, Rab, Pag or Losinj, to the picturesque resorts of Pula, Porec or Rovinj on the Istrian peninsula and also across the Croatian border to the coastal town of Piran in Slovenia.
Even if Rijeka, as a commercial and transport hub, enjoys the reputation of an industrial city, the port city is always worth a short stopover. At a second glance, the pretty old town reveals splendid façades, interesting museums and several other sights.
Thanks to the bypass motorway, the traffic situation in the city has now also calmed down considerably, which has an extremely positive effect on the air conditions.
Already in the 19th century, Rijeka developed into a lively commercial metropolis due to its convenient location. Today, the pedestrian zone and promenade "Korzo" with its nice shops, restaurants and cafés invites you to stroll, discover and try things out.
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City tower - gateway to the old town
The entrance to the historic old town of Rijeka is through the gates of the old town tower from the 17th century. It once protected the sea access to the city and is now considered a landmark of Rijeka.
The baroque clock tower was the centre of the town even then. To the left and right of the city tower, houses spread out to the Governor's Palace in the north, the Trsat Church in the east and the Augustinian Monastery in the west.
Strolling on Korzo, Riva and Molo Longo
The "Korzo", pedestrian zone, promenade and shopping mile is the artery of Rijeka. This is where Croatian and tourist life takes place both during the day and at night. At night, the Korzo is transformed by musicians and artists into the longest show stage in the city.
If you look closely, you can still see baroque support beams with the coats of arms of the former inhabitants on the modernised façades, and many vaults still show the centuries they have been in existence.
Parallel to the Korzo runs the Riva, Rijeka's waterfront promenade. It is also lined with bars, cafés and restaurants, but unfortunately also frequented by cars. However, a walk along the promenade of the breakwater in the harbour is a good idea.
The breakwater, which is a good 1.7 kilometres long, is also called the "Molo Longo" and offers magnificent views of the harbour and the city from the seaward side.
National Theatre and Market Square
The National Theatre of Rijeka is located in the beautifully landscaped Kasalisni Park southeast of the old town and stands out with its bright yellow façade.
Rijeka's popular marketplace is located on the harbour area directly on the pier near the National Theatre. This is where the locals have always met to buy fruit, vegetables and fresh fish at the "green market", make contracts, chat or listen to general proclamations.
In its present form - with the baroque façades, the magnificent fish hall with fountain and the pretty pavilions - it was built in the late 19th century.
Church of Our Lady of Trsat (Crkva Gospe Trsatske)
On Frankopanski trg, the Trsat Church is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in western Croatia. According to legend, the house of the Holy Family from Nazareth was transferred to Trsat at the end of the 13th century.
Count Nikola I of Krk had a small church built on the site where the Holy House stood from 1291 to 1294. In 1367 the pilgrimage site gained even more importance thanks to a miraculous image of Mary, a gift from Pope Urban V.
The present church was largely built at the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th century. It is a mixture of Gothic and Baroque and houses several chapels. The extremely richly decorated main altar, which seems almost too massive for the chancel, is also worth seeing.
Parts of the associated Franciscan monastery can also be visited on request. In 2003, even Pope John Paul II was among the visitors to the Trsat Church.
Trg Ivana Koblera
At the eastern end of the Korzo, very close to the city tower, is Trg Ivana Koblera, the largest square in Rijeka. On the north side is Rijeka's oldest municipal palace, where council meetings were held until 1838. The fountain with a paper roller is also remarkable. The project by Igor Emili was installed in 1974, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Rijeka's paper mill, the oldest in Southeast Europe.
St. Vitus Cathedral (Katedrala Svetog Vida)
Above the city tower is the Baroque St. Vitus Cathedral, whose monumental round shape is unique in Croatia. The model for the sacred building, which was erected from 1638, was the magnificent church of Santa Maria della Salute in Venice. Due to financial bottlenecks, the church could only be completed about 100 years later and consecrated in 1742.
The interior of the church is bursting with opulent Baroque in wood and gold, in which many great masters of the past have immortalised themselves. The church museum with paintings, goldsmith's work, precious books and chasubles in the church gallery can be visited on request.
Art in Rijeka's Old Town
Diagonally opposite St. Vitus Cathedral, in Ul. Pod Voltun, is the small art gallery Galerija Principij. Art lovers should also pay a visit to the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (address: Dolac 1).
Governor's Palace and Naval Museum
The Rijeka Governor's Palace, which also marks the northern end of the historic old town, is enthroned on Muzejski trg. It dates back to the reign of Lajos Batthyany and today houses a naval museum. The magnificent 19th century building is surrounded by an idyllic French garden.
Trsat Fortress and Open-Air Stage
The 13th-century Trsat Castle sits enthroned on the 130m-high hill above the town. Even before that, the Romans had a guard post here at the so-called Liburnian Limes, the border wall at that time. The fortress of Trsat is one of the best-preserved medieval defensive fortifications on the Croatian coast.
Once an important defensive structure, the quaint castle courtyard now serves as a magnificent vantage point and for summer art exhibitions, open-air concerts and theatre performances.
Rijeka Planetarium and Observatory
Today, Croatia' s only astronomical institution is located in a boarded fortress from the Second World War above the centre of Rijeka. Both a planetarium with around 50 seats and an observatory can be found here.
The telescope is hidden in one of the four towers, which has a movable dome. From the terrace there is not only a magnificent view of the stars, but also a sensational panorama of the Kvarner Bay.
Rijeka may not be one of Croatia's most beautiful beaches, but the city still has some nice stretches of coastline that invite you to take a dip in the refreshing water on hot days.
A little further out in the direction of Opatija is the popular Ploce beach, whose excellent water quality has been awarded the Blue Flag. Barrier-free access to the beach, top infrastructure with snack bars and toilets, as well as a comprehensive range of sports and leisure facilities make Ploce beach the perfect destination for a day of swimming near Rijeka.
An alternative to Ploce beach is the small bay of Kostanj, about 9km northwest of the town centre. Even further in the direction of Opatija is the surfing and sailing beach Preluk, where favourable winds always blow, especially in the morning.
On the eastern side of Rijeka, Glavanovo beach provides unadulterated bathing pleasure. The shallow pebble beach with clear water is especially popular with families with children. Those who also have the family dog with them should choose the two beaches Kantrida and Brajdica as their destination for a day of swimming near Rijeka.
Official website of Rijeka
Website of the Rijeka Observatory
Official website of Galerija Principij with admission prices and opening hours
Official website of Rijeka's Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art with admission prices and opening hours