If you haven’t yet heard of Rijeka, the chances are that you soon will. A maritime city since Venetian times and set to become the European Capital of Culture in 2020, the destination will soon become known as so much more than just the gateway to Croatia’s islands.
Thanks to its proximity to the Adriatic and like so many coastal towns in Croatia’s Kvarner region, Rijeka thrives on seafood. Big, juicy pink scampi are a speciality here, along with Istrian asparagus and lamb that has grazed on the herby, salt-soaked hillsides.
Rijeka’s two local food markets have thronged with locals since the 1800s, their counters boasting everything from piles of silvery sardines to goat’s cheese from tiny farms on the island of Krk and folds of local pršut, a home-cured ham similar to prosciutto.
Later on, wander to one of the atmospheric inns that cling to the hills above Rijeka, many of which have been run by the same family for decades.
“He who drinks the water from Rijeka once, will keep coming back”, or so says the ancient proverb.
Whether it’s water you drink here, or something a little stronger, Rijeka offers plenty of places in which to enjoy a tipple or two. Korzo is the best spot in town for people watching with a morning espresso or a gourmet coffee from the Filodrammatica Bookshop Café.
If you don’t consider yourself on holiday until you have a cold glass of wine in hand, you’re in luck here; there are an abundance of indigenous grape varieties in Croatia and some of the Kvarner region’s best white wines are sipped in the harbour-side wine bars of Rijeka’s waterfront.
Rijeka Karneval is one of the biggest in the world. Over 100,000 people visit the carnival, which has been compared to Rio’s, every year, lining the streets to watch vast floats, dancers, marching bands and firework displays.
Aside from its annual carnival, Rijeka has plenty more to offer its visitors, many of whom are passing through on route to the stunning Dalmatian islands. The medieval fort of Trsat and the Church of St Vitus are two of Rijeka’s most iconic constructions, whilst Korzo sits at the heart of the city and is a place to shop and live like a local in the shadow of charming period buildings.
Croatia’s National Parks are some of the most naturally beautiful in the world and one of the country’s best and most visited is the vast wilderness of Risnjak National Park, which sits within easy reach of Rijeka.