Rijeka in 24 Hours: Footsteps on the Crossroads of Empire

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Image: Pixabay
Image: Pixabay

Rijeka, or Fiume as it is called in Italian nomenclature, is Croatia’s principal seaport and third-largest city. Because of its unique location and advantageous deep-water port, this gem of the northern Adriatic has been contested by many fantastic realms, including the Hungarians, Italians, and the Holy Roman Empire. Luckily for us, centuries spent at the causeway of great power have left much to be admired by those who venture to the city, labeled 2020’s European Capital of Culture. Are you looking for the dynamic urban energy from which European cities earn their fame, or maybe you’d prefer the casual beachy vibes that draw millions to the coast every summer? If you want all these things and more, the choice is already made. Rijeka is the destination for you. 

To facilitate your journey, I have put together a guide to 24 hours in Rijeka, including some of the best that this city has to offer. 

9.00 a.m. – 10.00 a.m.

There is no better way to start your seaside getaway than with a classic Mediterranean breakfast of fruits and pastries. Think croissants, melons, oranges, maybe with a small cup of strong coffee. Whether starting from a luxury villa or a bargain Airbnb, you should take pleasure in the day’s first meal. While there are numerous cafes that offer a selection of tasty early-morning delicacies, personally, I prefer to purchase my own rations from the market. The Rijeka’s harborside market opens at 7.00 a.m. Explore the stands overflowing with fruits, vegetables, seafood, meat, nuts, and of course, liquor. Purchase whatever suits your fancy, and don’t forget some snacks for later. 


Image: Rijeka Tourist Board

10.00 a.m. – 12.00 p.m. 

Since you’re now out and about, get the ball rolling by wandering through the oldest part of the city. Located near the remains of the Roman settlement of Tarsatica, which dates to the 3rd century A.D., take part in Rijeka’s long history as a trade city. While still part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, goods were toted in and out of this still-bustling port city, moving products like sugar, paper, and the torpedoes invented there.


Image: Rijeka Tourist Board

In the old town, you too can find exciting products either for yourself or the loved ones waiting for you at home. Croatia in a Box, a boutique that sells many handmade items, including beautiful hand-carved oak bowls, comes highly recommended. Combine and create your own version of Croatia in box form.


Image: Croatia in a Box (Facebook)

12.00 p.m. – 2.00 p.m.

Search for a spot to plant yourself and enjoy a delicious Croatian lunch. While there are options for every palate, the local specialties are mostly seafood-based. Enjoy shrimp and truffle sauce on a bed of pasta, delightful scampi, or surrender to the day’s soup containing the best catch. Whatever you choose, I’m sure you’ll find new meanings for the word “ukusan” or “delizioso.” If you’re unsure where to eat, the restaurant Konoba Fiume provides those who enjoy the local experience with an authentic local midday meal.


Konoba Fiume

2.00 p.m. – 3.00 p.m.

Now that you are full of delicious Croatian goodies, it’s time for a history lesson. It can’t be a European vacation without visiting at least one museum, right? The Maritime and History Museum of the Croatian Coast is located in the Governor’s Palace, providing visitors with information about a region that the guidebooks often leave out. The museum contains exhibits covering periods from the Bronze Age up to the modern era.


Photo: Nel Pavletic/PIXSELL

For the techy nerds out there, the Peek & Poke Museum provides a glimpse at over 7,000 pieces of tech-nostalgia. Brings the kids! The museum has numerous exhibits geared towards educating children on the importance of computers and technology both in the past and future.


Photo: Goran Kovacic/PIXSELL

Perhaps you find history a bit dull, and computers aren’t your thing. Well, worry not! The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art may be just what you’re looking for! This edgy venue sports 8,000 pieces, including paintings, photography, sculptures, and drawings. Channel your inner art critique and bring your biggest, blackest pair of sunglasses to shine in this sophisticated European atmosphere.


Photo: Goran Kovacic/PIXSELL

3.00 p.m. – 5.30 p.m.

After a day of walking, reward yourself by climbing 561 steps… it’ll be worth it, I promise. The Petar Kruzic Stairway leads up to the Trsat Castle, which is positioned on the edge of the Rjecina River (Fun Fact: Rijeka and Fiume both mean river in Croatian and Italian, respectively).


Trsat castle overlooking the city of Rijeka below. (Image: Rijeka Tourist Board)

Witness the Kvarner Bay, the Istrian peninsula, and the city itself as you take in the otherworldly views that have transformed Croatia into a 21st-century tourism Mecca. Enjoy the eclectic architectural mixture of the houses below, a firm reminder of the heterogeneous nature of Rijeka’s history. 

5.30 p.m. – 8.00 p.m.

By this point, you’re probably ready for a break. Head back down to the city and search for a tavern or seaside grill where you can replenish the energy you lost climbing all those stairs. The city comes to life in the warm evenings of the summer months. Consider trying octopus or some black risotto, a tentacled delicacy along this coast. You can wash it all down with a glass of local wine or maybe even a shot of slivovitz, a plum liquor that is quite popular in this part of the world. 


After 8.00 p.m.

For those craving a bit of late-night action, check out the industrial zone. Beer lovers can check one of the late-night water holes (Caffe Bar Skradin is often recommended) and wash off some Mediterranean heat with an ice-cold Croatian pint. If you’re more into the music scene, try the Tunnel Club, a nifty venue located under the train tracks that features jazz, indie, and alternative tunes. For the more mainstream Europop fans, finish your night at Zivot and sweat out the jitters to house music under the gaze of Yugoslav-era 1980s family portraits. 


Tunel Club in Rijeka. (Image: Tunel Club/Facebook)

Whatever you choose to spend your time doing in Rijeka, be sure to try out at least a few of these suggestions. You’ll be sure to take home stories more valuable than any souvenir.

If you want to find everything you need to know about Rijeka, be sure to check out Total Croatia’s complete guide, Rijeka in a Page.

For more on travel in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page.


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