Tired of over-crowded tourist cities where the beaches are filled with vendors selling kitschy crap? Still want to enjoy the Croatian coastline? With so many things to do in Rijeka, this is one off-the-main-drag city that just might be what you needed.
Rijeka is located to the east of Croatian Istria, the mountainous/beachy peninsula that’s easily accessible from Slovenia. A port city, Rijeka was once a major hub for the Austro-Hungarian empire and is still largely an industrial port town.
Walking along the seaside, you’ll notice that the marina lines up next to the city center. Just south of the town is a boat “yard” for building and repairing large ships—both barge and cruise. Yet, fear not, there are still beaches for swimming! Check out the beaches of Rijeka which you can access by car, bus, or bike.
Since Rijeka in Croatia has a technical college, there’s a fairly young population. In and around the city center, you’ll find plenty of trendy bars and cafes where locals grab an outdoor seat.
Rijeka – Filled with History
If history is a main draw, Rijeka doesn’t lack in beautiful architecture. One of the best things to do in Rijeka is simply walk around finding the churches. For example, one church features a legend of the cursed hand:
A man was gambling outside of the church, drinking and blaspheming. Not having luck, he began to curse. Picking up a stone, he threw it at the crucifix inside the church. Suddenly, the ground opened and the mand disappeared; leaving only his hand behind.
Taking a look inside, you’ll see the stone brightly embedded on the Christ’s left side and, allegedly, the man’s hand at the foot of the crucifix.
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Near the city center, you can also find Roman ruins surrounded by cafes. Sometimes it seems that having Roman ruins is a prerequisite to being a cool city in Europe!
Visit the Rijeka Castle
To get in your daily dose of hiking and views, follow the river to the hundreds of stairs leading up to the castle. Note: there’s free drinking water at the top of the steps and a fantastic viewpoint where you can catch your breath!
The castle is well-utilized as a restaurant and also has great viewpoints, especially from the round tower where you can really feel like royalty looking over the city.
Best Things to Do in Rijeka?
Personally, one of my favorite things to do in Rijeka was just sitting on a bench by some boats. Being from landlocked Wisconsin, the sea is still really novel for me. Plus, wandering the harbor buildings always promises unique local surprises.
Ah! That reminds me. This is a great town for buying local Croatian souvenirs! It seemed like there was a higher density of locally-producing/selling shops than I have seen in many cities and very few tacky souvenirs-only shops.
No recommendations for hostels for you this time, as I was fortunate enough to stay with a Couchsurfing.com host. She was amazing. A professor of Naval Architecture and a co-creator of this dope-ass notebook (Chameleonize…basically reusable notebook without the ugly, pinching binder rings!), my host showed me the city and made me feel very much at home.
Haven’t heard of couchsurfing? O my goodness. Stop reading. Go look it up. Make a profile. This is hands down the best travel website/application in current existence.
What other things to do in Rijeka should you make time for? Eating seafood!! Duh. One of the specialties is blue fish—little fish that are easy to de-bone, eaten with olive oil and salt.
Hot Budget Tip:
This city is very affordable. You’ll have no problem finding budget-friendly things to do in Rijeka. If money is super-tight, then pop into the Pekara for a fresh sandwich or a burek. Filling and less than 3euro.
Rijeka, Croatia had a number of bus lines crossing through it, so you should have no problem catching a ride to places like Zadar, Pula, Zagreb. Give this little city a chance to catch your heart <3