2 days in Rijeka, Croatia – the city that flows like a river

Rijeka is a labyrinth where I want to get lost

The days spent at beautiful places are never enough. We had planned 2 days in Rijeka, Croatia, but they proved to be insufficient to see and do all we wanted to. We left behind so many places that we could see, so many wonderful restaurants we could taste and so many opportunities to enjoy the local beaches and natural beauties. We could have spent a week exploring the city and its vicinity, but we keep in on our list for next times. Now I will tell you what we learned about Rijeka in 2 days and why we want to return there.

Where is Rijeka?

Croatia is a country with very exotic and beautiful geography. Driving by the highway from Zagreb, we first climb high in the mountains and then we start a sharp descent to the Adriatic . Then between the hills emerges Rijeka, the third largest city in Croatia, located in the north part of Kvarner bay. Just where Rjecina River flows into the Adriatic .

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Риека 45.328013, 14.442902

Rječina is a relatively short river – only 19 km. One of the most curious things about it is that it dries just before entering Rijeka. But springs between the city give a new flow to its stream and there is a real river flowing into the sea. The river actually gives the name of the city. Rijeka means “river” in Croatian and most of the old names of the city mean the same.

Rijeka and Rjecina River, Croatia

Rijeka and Rjecina River

Everyone has heard about the beautiful Croatian seaside with many towns, villages and islands. This was our first opportunity to see it and it took us to Rijeka.

Restaurants in Rijeka

Our stay started with a dinner in the probably best restaurant in town – Konoba Nebuloza. The small tavern is located on the riverbank and offers very cosy atmosphere and nice view to the river. Konoba Nebuloza was among the restaurants recommended to us by the Rijeka Tourist Board and we were really impressed by the quality of food and service. (Google maps)

Konoba Nebuloza tavern restaurant in Rijeka, Croatia

Konoba Nebuloza

Here we tried some specialities for the very first time – Tuna tartar (10 EUR), Duck confit (15 EUR), together with great rose sparkling wine and amazing sweet treats. We probably would not dare to experiment if there were not the advice of the very competent staff. Maybe we would never dare to order raw Tuna with white chocolate but we did make a great decision. From this day on, we decided to trust the restaurant staff more.

If you are fans of gourmet dining, Konoba Nebuloza will not disappoint you. However, our daughter Anna did not appreciate it and preferred to eat fried potatoes.

The prices in Konoba Nebuloza are a little bit higher than other restaurants in Rijeka but they are totally fair for the quality of food and service.

Konoba Nebuloza, Rijeka, Croatia

Konoba Nebuloza

In Rijeka, there are many good restaurants. If we had time, we would visit more of them. If wondering where to start, you could use the list of restaurants in Rijeka Tourist Board’s website. The prices are generally low for Western European standards.

The Fish Market

Our first real meeting with Rijeka started on our first morning there, when Sandra Bandera, a tour guide organised for us by the local Tourist board, met us at the reception of our hotel (a botel actually). Our tour started with the nearby Fish market – not only because it was close to our meeting point but also because it is one of the major and most specific attractions of Rijeka.

‘Today there is not much fish, ah?’

‘Not much, but at least it is fresh!’

Such sounded the dialogues between sellers and visitors in the fish market. The reason – the night before there were a storm in the bay. In the early morning the market was full of restaurant owners and cooks who had come here to pick the best fish for their customers.

Fish Market in Rijeka, Croatia

Fish Market

The building of Rijeka Fish Market was erected in 1913-1916 just near the sea. The place was a popular trade area for anglers for decades before. The building itself is decorated with sculptures of sea inhabitants, looking almost like a temple of fish. We were stunned by the diversity of fresh fish and wished to have such place in Sofia, too.

Opening hours: Monday – Saturday: 7 – 13h, Sunday – 7 – 12h

Just next to the fish market is also the central city market where you can buy fresh fruits and vegetables. It is also open until the early afternoon. Around the market are some of the best restaurants with reasonable prices where you can taste fresh fish and other seafood.

Here we tried Bistro Mornar, a very cosy restaurant with wonderful food and service. Do not miss to try some fresh seafood.

Rijeka and fish

Fish and seafood have a special place in Croatian cuisine, not least because of the huge coastline of the country. Therefore, it is not a surprise that sea products are an accent in the menu of every restaurant in Rijeka. Of course, most of the restaurants offer also meat and vegetarian food, but it will be a shame not to try fresh seafood.

Fresh fish at Rijeka Fish Market

Fresh fish at Rijeka Fish Market

The most common varieties are sea bass and tuna, and also squids (calamari). Squids are a relatively cheap food in Croatia and there we first discovered what is to eat real fresh squids. Before this, we hated this food but apparently we hadn’t tried fresh one.

Korzo – Rijeka’s beating heart

After the fish market, Sandra took us to Korzo street – the main promenade of Rijeka and a place adored by all locals. Every citizen comes here when he wants to meet friends and have a walk or coffee. A local needs no more than 10 minutes of standing on a single place on Korzo to meet a friend for a coffee. Rijeka people are also huge fans of coffee. But not the Italian-style 5-minute espresso. They prefer the Austrian style of having coffee – spending an hour or two on sweet talk with a friend on a cup or two. Even if you are not a local, the walk on Korzo is one of the best things to do in Rijeka. It will make you feel the beat and spirit of the city, and make you love it.

Korzo - Rijeka's promenade

Korzo – Rijeka’s promenade

Korzo is the most famous street in Rijeka and it is full of people anytime. Well, except Sundays. Actually, on Sundays there are almost no people on Rijeka’s streets and most of the businesses are closed, including bars and cafes. Sandra told us that the locals are rarely in the city on Sunday and they prefer making short trips to the islands or somewhere else.

Korzo street, Rijeka, Croatia

Korzo street

City Tower and Rijeka cathedral

The City Tower was built in the middle ages and a clock has been present there since the 17th century. It was once acting as an access point to the fortified town and today dominates the central part of Korzo.

The passage under the tower connects Korzo with the charming Old Town. The gate will take you to Ivan Kobler square with its beautiful fountain – our daughter’s favourite place in the city.

The Old Town and Korzo are the place where you have pleasant walk, a cup of coffee or a meal – depending on your mood. There is also a square dedicated to tea.

Another landmark is the Rijeka Cathedral St. Vitus, whose image is on the 100 HRK banknotes.

Cathedral St. Vitus

Cathedral St. Vitus

Rijeka tunnel

Turning tunnels into tourist attractions looks like a fashion trend in Croatia that we really like. We love such unusual attractions and we were happy to discover that Rijeka also has its tunnel, similar to the one we enjoyed in Zagreb. Rijeka’s tunnel was built in 1939-1942 by Italians for military purposes. Later it was used as a shelter several times but this summer it was renovated and opened for public. It connects two ends of the city centre and is a nice escape from the heat or the rain.

Little Anna in the Rijeka Tunnel

Little Anna in the Rijeka Tunnel

Rijeka tunnel is 330 m long. One entrance is close to the cathedral and the other one in near Dolac school, once headquarters of Italian military. Entrance is free and the tunnel is open daily from 9 to 21h.

Museums in Rijeka

If you are fans of museums, Rijeka has many of them. We actually did not enter (which was probably a mistake) and I am sure we would like them if we had. So here is a short list:

THE MARITIME AND HISTORY MUSEUM OF THE CROATIAN LITTORAL RIJEKA – the city’s major museum, including departments of maritime, culture and history, ethnography and archaeology. It is located in the Governor’s palace. The exposition features a real life vest from Titanic.

NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM RIJEKA – mainly oriented towards marine research.

MUSEUM OF MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY ART

PEEK&POKE – COMPUTER MUSEUM and CHILDHOOD MUSEUM – probably the funniest museum and most suitable if you travel with children.

Astronomical Centre Rijeka with Planetarium

Combined ticket for museums: Provides entrance to 4 museums – Natural History Museum, the Maritime and History Museum of the Croatian Littoral Rijeka, City Museum of Rijeka and Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. You can purchase the ticket in any of the museums. The price for adults is 30 HRK, 50 HRK for an entire family and 10 HRK for children, students and pensioners. Valid for 48 hours.

Trsat

Another favourite place of Rijeka people besides Korzo is the Trsat neighbourhood with its beautiful and recreation areas. Located on a hill above the city, the area provides a wonderful panorama and also plenty of entertainment opportunities.

View from Trsat fortress above Rijeka

View from Trsat fortress above Rijeka

Trsat castle dates back to prehistoric times when it was just a watchtower. Its present appearance is from 19th century when its last owner Count Laval Nugent, bought it and turned it into a family mausoleum. Trsat castle is open for visitors and you can freely enter and enjoy its watchtowers, corridors and terraces. If you a thirsty for a coffee, you can have one inside the castle or in one of the many others outside its walls.

View to Rijeka from Trsat

View to Rijeka from Trsat

Another important place nearby is the Shrine of Our Lady of Trsat. According to the legend, the sanctuary was founded in 1291 when angels brought there a small Nazareth house of the Holy Family. Since then the place attracts thousands of pilgrims yearly. The shrine is reachable from the Rijeka centre by a staircase with 561 steps.

Trsat castle

Trsat castle

What to see around Rijeka?

Kastav

After having some sunbaths on the beaches of Rijeka, little Anna fell asleep early and we decided to continue our exploration driving while she had her nap. We had plenty of time so we decided to explore the vicinities of Rijeka and headed to the village Kastav. (Kastav at Google maps)

Kastav

Kastav

Kastav is a charming medieval village north of Rijeka. It is perfect for walks, sightseeing and a pleasant coffee or lunch. Art is a significant part of Kastav’s life and the village has many ateliers and workshops. Kastav is often hosting cultural events, including music festivals. The most famous one is Kastavsko Kulturno Leto, held every year around July. We had just a brief walk around Kastav and intended to be back for dinner the time was not enough, as always.

Bakar

I had learned about Bakar from some brochures that had caught my attention. So after Kastav we decided to check it and headed this time south from Rijeka, around 15 km. Bakar was built like an amphitheatre on a hill and its historical nucleus was declared a cultural monument in 1968. (Bakar in Google Maps)

Bakar, Croatia

Bakar, Croatia

Bakar means “copper” in Croatian.

Small streets in Bakar, Croatia

Small streets in Bakar

The area was inhabited since the 3rd millennium BC and many different tribes and cultures lived there. Doubtlessly the most charming part of it is the Old Town with its narrow steep streets, many of them connected by staircases. The Old Town is not accessible by cars and probably this is the reason it has preserved its charm. It remembered us of the South Italian villages with its tranquillity, flowers and stone buildings. Anna loved the most the many cats living in the old town, but they didn’t share her desire to play together.

However, today Bakar is a somehow strange combination of beautiful view, calm romantic areas and heavy industry. The city is a cargo port and until 1995 it was heavily polluted because of the coke factory operating there. Nowadays it looks fine and the old town is really amazing.

Grobnik

The view through Grobnik castle walls

The view through Grobnik castle walls

Grobnik castle in Cavle village is among the best-preserved castles in the area. Today it hosts an ethnographic exposition and an art gallery. But we arrived on a time when everything was closed and we could only enjoy the wonderful view from the top. Frankopanski kaštel Grad Grobnik – Google Maps.

Beaches of Rijeka

There is now way we miss the beaches when visiting a seaside place in the summer. Despite some people tried to convince us that there were no good beaches around Rijeka, we were determined to explore them. Well, the beaches around Rijeka do not look like the large sandy beaches we usually imagine. But actually the main difference is that there is no sand but pebbles, rocks or concrete instead. However, the clean waters and swimmable areas made them perfect for our needs. We only underestimated the pebbles and I would suggest you to use some water shoes.

Beaches of Rijeka, Croatia

Beaches of Rijeka are stony but are great for a quick swim and sunbath

Maybe the most famous of Rijeka beaches is Ploce (Google Maps). It is in the north part of the city, just under the swimming complex. It features sunbeds, umbrellas, beach bars, and everything else needed for a nice day of sunbathing.

We went to the small beach near villa Nora (Google Maps), just near Ploce (and maybe a part of it). We placed our towels near the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic sea and spent an enjoyable morning. Anna even found some Italian friends – it is so nice that there is no such thing like language barrier between kids.

Anna playing on Villa Nora beach

Anna playing on Villa Nora beach, Rijeka

A popular beach in the south part of the city is Glavanovo (Google Maps), located under a lot of greenery that provides good shadow. The beach is popular among families with children. Despite we did not see the best part of it, we spent a pleasant hour playing and bathing on the rocks nearby.

Glavanovo beach, Rijeka

Glavanovo beach, Rijeka

Another popular beach is Igraliste, also popular among families. Rijeka also has 2 beaches specially dedicated to dogs and their owners.

See full list of Rijeka beaches here – www.visitrijeka.eu/What_To_Do/Beaches

Rijeka carnival

Rijeka is home to many annual festivals and cultural events but for me It was most interesting to learn about their masquerade carnival. It Is held on the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday. The carnival includes a parade of masquerade groups and later a ritual of chasing the evil away from the city.

The evening finishes with an event at the harbour called the burning of the Pust. The Pust is a puppet given a satiric name that is blamed for all the bad things that happened in the city in the past year. A spokesman reads all the sins of the Pust and then the puppet is taken to the sea on a boat. 1-2 days later, it is burned on the boat. Similar events are held in many villages around and I would love to attend one of them.

A city of 6 countries

Rijeka has a rich history that has left strong traces in the local life. 20th century was particularly volatile – during it Rijeka was a part of 6 different countries. Our guide Sandra told us that 4 generations of women in her family were born in the same house but in 4 different countries. Her grandmother was born in Austro-Hungary, her mother in Italy, Sandra in Yugoslavia and her daughter – in Croatia.

One of the main meeting points in Rijeka - the Japanese fountain (The Kawasaki fountain)

One of the main meeting points – the Japanese fountain

In Rijeka the Italian influence is still strong and most people speak very good Italian. Because of the different rules, the names of the streets in Rijeka have changed so many times that no one knows them anymore. Instead, local people make arrangements by significant places or buildings instead of correct address.

On the cars from Rijeka you can see stickers “Volim grad koji teče”, which means “I love the city that flows”. It is the slogan of a patriotic movement launched in 2013.

Thanks to Rijeka Tourist Board for helping us organise this trip and know their wonderful city better!



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