Footsteps at the crossroads of the Empire

April 27, 2022 – Although it doesn’t have the international reputation of Dubrovnik or the quaint charm of the village of Rovinj, Croatia’s third-largest city is well worth the attention of the zealous globetrotter. Here’s everything you can do in Rijeka in 24 hours.

Rijeka, or Fiume as it is known in Italian nomenclature, is Croatia’s main seaport and third largest city. Due to its unique location and advantageous deep-sea port, this jewel of the northern Adriatic was contested by many fantasy kingdoms, including the Hungarians, Italians, and the Holy Roman Empire. Luckily for us, the centuries spent on the pavement of great power have left plenty to admire by those who venture into the city, labeled European Capital of Culture 2020. Are you looking for the vibrant urban energy which European cities are famous for, or perhaps you prefer the laid-back seaside vibe that draws millions to the coast each summer? If you want all of these things and more, the choice is already made. Rijeka is the destination for you.

To make your trip easier, I’ve put together a 24-hour guide to Rijeka, including some of the best this city has to offer.

9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

There’s no better way to start your seaside getaway than with a classic Mediterranean breakfast of fruit and pastries. Think croissants, melons, oranges, maybe with a small cup of strong coffee. Whether you’re going from a luxury villa or an Airbnb bargain, you should enjoy the first meal of the day. Although there are plenty of cafes that offer a selection of delicious morning specials, I personally prefer to buy my own rations at the market. The Rijeka Port Market opens at 7:00 a.m. Explore stalls brimming with fruits, vegetables, seafood, meats, nuts and, of course, liquor. Buy what works for you and don’t forget some snacks for later.

Image: Rijeka Tourist Board

10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Since you’re now on the go, get the ball rolling by strolling through the oldest part of town. Located near the remains of the Roman settlement of Tarsatica, which dates back to the 3rd century AD, take part in Rijeka’s long history as a trading town. While still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, goods were transported in and out of this ever-bustling port city, displacing products like sugar, paper, and the torpedoes invented there.


Image: Rijeka Tourist Board

In the old town you too can find exciting products for yourself or for loved ones waiting for you at home. Croatia in a box, a shop 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.

Look for a place to plant yourself and enjoy a delicious Croatian lunch. Although there are options for all palates, the local specialties are mainly based on seafood. Enjoy a prawn and truffle sauce on a bed of pasta, delicious langoustines, or indulge in the soup of the day containing the best catch. Whatever you choose, I’m sure you’ll find new meanings for the word “ukusan” or “delizioso”. If you don’t know where to eat, the Konoba Fiume Restaurant offers those who appreciate the local experience an authentic local lunch.


Konoba Fiume

2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Now that you’re full of delicious Croatian treats, it’s time for a history lesson. There can’t be a holiday in Europe without visiting at least one museum, right? the Maritime and Historical Museum of the Croatian Coast is located in the Governor’s Palace, providing visitors with information about an area that guidebooks often overlook. The museum contains exhibits spanning periods from the Bronze Age to the modern era.


Photo: Nel Pavletic/Pixsell

For tech nerds, the Peek & Poke Museum previews over 7,000 pieces of tech nostalgia. Bring the kids! The museum features many exhibits aimed at educating children about the importance of computers and technology both in the past and in the future.


Photo: Goran Kovacic/Pixsell

Maybe you find the story a bit boring and computers aren’t your thing. Well, don’t worry! the Museum of modern and contemporary art may be exactly what you are looking for! This avant-garde place presents 8,000 pieces, including paintings, photographs, sculptures and drawings. Channel your inner art critic 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 will be worth it, I promise. The Petar Kruzic Stairway leads to Trsat Castle, located by the Rjecina River (Fun Fact: Rijeka and Fiume mean river in Croatian and Italian respectively).


Trsat Castle overlooking the town of Rijeka below. (Image: Rijeka Tourist Board)

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

5:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

At this point, you’re probably ready for a break. Head back down to town and look for a seaside tavern or grill where you can replenish the energy you lost climbing all those stairs. The city comes alive on warm evenings in the summer months. Consider trying octopus or black risotto, a sprawling delicacy along this coast. You can wash it all down with a glass of local wine or maybe even a glass of slivovitz, a plum liqueur very popular in this part of the world.


After 8:00 p.m.

For those in the mood for a bit of nighttime action, head to the Industrial Zone. Beer lovers can check out one of the late-night watering holes (Caffe Bar Skradin is often recommended) and wash down some Mediterranean heat with an ice-cold Croatian pint. If you’re more into the music scene, try the Tunnel Club, a nifty venue under the train tracks that offers jazz, indie and alternative tunes. For more traditional Europop fans, end your evening at Zivot and sweat out the edginess of house music under the gaze of family portraits from the 1980s Yugoslav era.


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

Whatever you choose to do in Rijeka, be sure to try at least a few of these suggestions. You’ll be sure to take home stories more precious than any keepsake.

If you want to find everything you need to know about Rijeka, be sure to check out Total Croatia’s comprehensive guide, Rijeka in one page.

To find out more about traveling in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN page.

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