To explore the soul of Croatia off the common road the Rijeka is a city break rich in character and charm, where you can get to know the real Croatia and its welcoming people. Throughout the year Rijeka boasts a hectic calendar of festivals, but by far the most unmissable is the three month-long ‘Rijeka Festival’, a rowdy and colourful collection that is also the second largest carnival in Europe.
Reflecting its off-the-beaten-path vibe, Rijeka isn’t too hot on hotel accommodation, but there are some gems to be found. The Best Western Hotel Jadran (Setaliste XIII divizije 46) sits right on the Adriatic, providing great sunset views from the comfort of your room. At the lower end, Hotel Continental (Šetalište Andrije Kačića Mošića 1), also near the waterfront, is well located for Rijeka’s local nightlife. Gym bunnies will love the sleek-looking Grand Hotel Bonavia (Dolac 4) and its high-end spa. The classic décor and excellent centre-of-town location make this is a favourite with many.
If you prefer to shop with everything under one roof then Rijeka has malls to suit all types. Tower Center (Janka Polić Kamova 81A) houses both Croatian and international brands, while the slightly more run-down Ri Department Store (Riva 6) is home to shops and cafés. Art lovers will enjoy visiting Mala Galerija (Užarska 25), the first private gallery in the country, where customers can buy original souvenirs featuring the ‘morčić’ (a Moor figurehead) such as pottery and jewellery. Gourmands should head to the main market in Rijeka, called Placa. Here, from 7am until 2pm, you’ll find stalls selling fish, fresh and dried meats, and fruit and vegetables piled high.
Croatia’s rich culinary heritage makes it a great place to eat out. Do as the locals do and start your day with a cup of coffee from one of the many roadside cafés. For traditional food, try Mornar (Riva Boduli 5A) where seafood is the speciality and the portion sizes will defeat all but the hungriest. Carnivores should try the grilled meats from the barbecue at Trsatika (Šetalište Joakima Rakovca 33) – eat out on the terrace for an alfresco escape from it all. Cuttlefish risotto is a local speciality; try the dish at the rustic-looking tavern Konoba Feral (Matije gupca 5B), where a wide range of fish dishes are on offer.
The second largest carnival in Europe, Rijeka Carnival is a riotous mixture of pomp and pageants. Don’t miss the main march held the Sunday before Ash Wednesday with performers decked out in costumes and masks. If you’ve still got the energy, head to one of the after-parties nearby.
Rijeka Summer Nights
Come July, the streets and squares of Rijeka are transformed from ordinary thoroughfares into spectacular stages, and given over to musical and theatrical performances. See everything from classical music concerts and drama to more contemporary rock and pop, and modern theatre productions.
High-minded types can find intellectual stimulation and immersive discussions at Republika, a three-day festival-cum-conference dedicated to forward thinkers and new media culture. There are talks, workshops, screenings and entertainment on hand to lighten the load when all that thinking gets too much.
Set in an abandoned paper factory, Hartera is one of Croatia’s best music festivals for electro, indie and experimental music. Over 5,000 revellers come here for a weekend of head-thumping body-shaking beats from local and international performers alike.
Rijeka Nautic Show
As a port city, Rijeka has a long and illustrious nautical heritage. Every September, it gets to show off this heritage as traders and punters swoon over the latest models of yachts and speedboats. If you eventually tire of boats, there are plenty of gastronomic offerings to distract yourself with.
This is a Summer only destination