Situated on the Kvarner coast, the city of Rijeka has a mild, Mediterranean climate. Although in winter they don't experience the harsher drops in temperature of continental Croatia, it can still get cold, the coastal winds can occasionally be fierce and, with the city lying on a particularly sheer section of the Dinaric Alps, Rijeka does experience more rainfall than is usual across Croatia. At the start of 2020, Rijeka assumed the mantle of European Capital of Culture and any visitors to the city this summer will no doubt be astounded by the transformation, events and atmosphere this will bring to the city. However, the entertainment is a year-long affair, making Rijeka a great place to visit throughout this year, not least for Rijeka Carnival, Croatia's biggest. The event's climax is the International Parade, taking place on Sunday 23 February, but the build-up starts this week. Much of the action takes place outside so, if you're in Rijeka at any point this winter and spring and feel the chill, here's our choices for some of the best bars to bolt to in order to warm up.
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The original venue of the Bar Bar family. Bar Bar 2 is also great, but holds more of an industrial inspiration. However, this one, with its exposed brickwork, modest design and funky seating, is the perfect place to while away a few hours while you make your way through the extensive and impressive lists of craft beer and wine it holds. There’s also a great menu offering perfect accompaniments like beef tartare,
bruschettas or paninins.
Formerly the Belgian Beer Brasserie and still bearing decorative traces of the Benelux, this prominent terrace bar with an atmospheric interior remains one of the key spots to drink in Rijeka. Located so close to the harbour you can see ships passing from the tables outside, it’s worth a longer linger for its hearty Belgian-style cuisine and, most notably, brews in draught and bottled form from the land of beer.
The first of Rijeka’s café-bars to get really serious about craft beer, this is still one of the best places to enjoy a pint or two. Not only is there a long menu of choices on draft or by the bottle, there’s also a neat-but-cosy auntie’s living-room ambience to the whole place, with framed pictures and old-school wallpaper overlooking a solid collection of dark wood tables.
Uphill from the centre in Trsat but well worth seeking out, this Rijeka branch of Zagreb’s Beertija bar sticks to the same formula – a superb range of bottled beers from all over the world, and well-chosen weekend DJs. Look out, too, for indie nights, Doors tribute bands and all kinds of excuses for a party.
Living-room-style hangout that will appeal to those who like a bit of culture with their coffee – the floor-to-ceiling shelves are absolutely stacked with books, CDs and vinyl LPs, while a small annexe serves as a cute art gallery. Literary readings and live music feature several times a month; on other days it serves as a mellow social hub for the city’s reading, writing and chatting community.
At the quieter end of the main Korzo thoroughfare, Fiorello honours the little-known fact that a famed New York mayor, Fiorello La Guardia (as in the airport) started his diplomatic career at the US consulate in Rijeka. Beyond the name, it doesn’t overdo the theme, rather provide a cosy spot for a few drinks, with seating outside. Lively when there are live football games on, it has a pleasant buzz by day, when regulars chat over cups of quality Filicori Zecchini coffee from Bologna.
Up in Trsat, this lovely spot is well stocked and well staffed. Along with classic cocktails and long drinks, there’s a long wine list, a Tinto Reserva hiding among the Zlatni Plavac and Dingač. Whiskies such as 14-year-old Oban and ten-year-old Talisker can be sipped in an elegantly carved wooden interior decorated with portraits of famous locals. Nice hot chocolates for winter too. Convenient for a visit to Trsat Castle.
Down at the harbourfront, this place is best experienced late at night when the two-floor wooden pub with maritime knick-knacks is packed to the rafters with partying twentysomethings, the room zinging a commercial dance and rock soundtrack. It gets busy late on and difficult to get inside. Guinness, Kilkenny and Stella, wines and cheap cocktails complement the standard Ožujsko beer, but the drinks here are secondary to the social buzz.