The great Croatian road trip
Running from Rijeka on the Kvarner Gulf to Karasovići on the border with Montenegro, Croatia’s Jadranska magistrala or Adriatic Highway offers one of Europe’s most unforgettable journeys. Whether weaving its way round deeply indented bays or skirting scree-covered mountains, there’s scarcely a single boring kilometre in its 650km length. The magistrala may frequently set your stomach a-churn with its endless twists and turns, but the views it offers are unforgettable, with the Adriatic’s famously stark islands parading in stately procession before your eyes. Travelling along the magistrala used to be a severe test of holiday- season nerves, with its columns of caravans, straggling towns with speed restrictions, and enough blind corners to make overtaking a near impossibility. With Croatia’s still-growing motorway network now taking the pressure off much of the magistrala, the route is re-discovering its reputation as one of Europe’s greatest coastal odysseys. We’ve chosen two large chunks of the magistrala for our list of Croatian road trips listed below, followed by three more recommendations for exhilarating and rewarding drives. For twists, turns and superb maritime views, there are few roads in Europe that can match the magistrala, especially in this northern stretch. A sense of the otherworldly sets in early, with the hypnotically bleak and tawny island of Krk dominating the western horizon. The huddled town of Senj with its knoll-top Nehaj fortress provides a good p
Summer classics presented by HNK Rijeka in Pula amphitheatre
Like its sister in Zagreb, the Croatian National Theatre Ivan pl. Zajc in Rijeka is one of the city's most staggering architectural landmarks, a glorious, 130-year-old remnant of former Austro-Hungarian rule that offers international renowned ballet, opera, music performance and drama to residents and visitors in the Kvarner region. With its season now closed for the summer, there's still opportunity to catch some spectacular opera and classical music presented the theatre as they have decamped to Pula's wonderfully well preserved Roman amphitheatre where they will perform three unforgettable evenings entertainment.Whether you're visiting Rijeka and the Kvarner region or Pula and the Istrian peninsula, don't miss these spectacular shows in a spectacular setting, presented by Croatian National Theatre Ivan pl. Zajc in Rijeka
Pretty Rijeka might be steeped in Hapsburg-era elegance, but there's nothing last-century about its grittily modern cultural scene. The arts are thriving here, in what will be the European City of Culture 2020. That might be surprising to some tourists, who have never given it much attention. Perched on the Kvarner Bay, the city is Croatia's longest-serving seaport, but visitors tend to bypass it for the alluring nearby islands. That has left punky Rijeka to get on with what it does best – creating brilliant, cutting-edge art. 'Red Rijeka' (so dubbed by Croats for its left-leaning locals) is the defiantly edgy younger sister of sophisticated Zagreb. A melting pot of Italian, Hungarian and Croatian influences, the port city has always had a creative buzz about it, but it really 'found itself' in the '80s, when it played host to Yugoslavia's burgeoning punk-rock movement. The city has continued to breed alternative talent, and it now boasts some of Croatia's most exciting writers, artists and musicians. They tend to be fiercely independently-minded, but if there's one thing that unites them it's the pride they take in the spunky heritage of their art-loving city.
An alternative tour of Rijeka
In order to pick away at the complex layers of Rijeka’s history and culture you sometimes need to get away from the canonical tourist sights and roam further afield, taking in some of the idiosyncratic and often unsung attractions that reveal stories that aren’t always adequately told in the set-piece museums. What follows is a list of the kind of locations that have something to say about the city’s complicated psychogeograpy. Although some of them are a bit far-flung and might require a bus ride or a taxi, most are walkable from the centre and offer excellent opportunities to savour the mixture of residential, park-side and industrial neighbourhoods that give the city on the Kvarner its unique character. RECOMMENDED: The best things to do in Rijeka.
Rijeka carnival: the essential guide
Many cities celebrate Mardi Gras. Rio, Venice and New Orleans have long been known for their pre-Lenten processions, a tradition harking back to medieval Europe, pagan rites and the casting out of winter. Around this region, these rituals are also historically linked to the threat of invasion by the Turks, a deep-rooted fear woven into the communal psyche for much of the last millennium. Elsewhere in Croatia, most notably the remote island of Lastovo, locals burn effigies and throw fireworks at fez-bearing figures. This being Rijeka, though, the history is a bit more convoluted. With Rijeka’s deep-water port coveted by both Venice and Vienna, and the town full of medieval intrigue, the city authorities banned the wearing of masks, at carnival or any other time, in 1449. Rijeka Carnival, © St. Valter But Rijeka has always had a rebellious streak. Isolated groups continued the tradition over the centuries before, in 1982, with a nod to history and an eye for a party, three of them decided to revive the concept of a city carnival. Lako ćemo, Pehinarski feštari and Halubajski Zvončari donned masks and paraded through the streets around the time of Mardi Gras, attracting a few hundred friends and curious onlookers. Pretty soon, these numbers had run into the thousands and the groups into the dozens. In 1995, Rijeka was included in the Federation of European Carnival Cities. By 2001, there were well over 100 groups and organisers had to limit numbers. More than 100,000 vi
Where to stay in Rijeka
Where to stay in Rijeka
Despite two four-star venues, the Hotel Bonavia Plava Laguna and the Hotel Jadran, the range of accommodation in Croatia’s third-biggest town is disappointing. A short drive down the coast, the new complex of Novi Spa Hotels & Resort should give the various downtown hotels a run for their money. Also, about 20 minutes outside of Rijeka, in the preserved old town of Kastav, the Kukiriku has lodging above its excellent restaurant.
Recommended restaurants in Rijeka
The best Rijeka restaurants
Rijeka majors in fish, seafood and simple Venetian-inspired dishes, thanks to its seaport location and cultural mixing with nearby Italy. Rijeka has a handful of upscale restaurants that provide international culinary quality, but you can also experience some local specialities at more affordable restaurants. Read on for our critic's guide to the best restaurants in Rijeka. RECOMMENDED: Everything you need to know about Rijeka.
The best bars in Rijeka
The best bars in Rijeka
There's seemingly a bar on every corner in Rijeka. Proud of its Mediterranean café culture, the city's streets are lined with bars of all stripes. From classic downtown bars to grungy pubs and trendy nightspots, here's our pick of the best bars in Rijeka. RECOMMENDED: Your ultimate guide to Rijeka.
The best attractions in Rijeka
The best attractions in Rijeka
Rijeka remains the northern Adriatic’s main hub of transport and commerce, and as the centre of social and cultural life, it also possesses a palpable year-round buzz. Start at the Korzo, which runs parallel to the harbourfront Riva. St Vitus’ Church, Peek&Poke and Trsat Castle are all standout attractions. RECOMMENDED: More great things to do in Rijeka.
Ivan pl. Zajc Croatian National Theatre
Both an architectural and cultural landmark, Rijeka’s Croatian National Theatre was designed by the same team of architects as its namesakes in Split and Zagreb: Austrian Ferdinand Fellner and his German partner Hermann Helmer. In fact, the pair created dozens of theatres across Europe, from Odessa to Zürich, this one opened in 1885. Though Croatian-language performances here may be of limited interest, there’s also ballet and opera on the agenda, and the interior is worth a look around – Gustav Klimt and brother Ernst helped paint the ceiling before its grand unveiling, a performance of Verdi’s Aida.
Museum of Modern & Contemporary Art
Founded in 1948, Rijeka’s Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Muzej moderne i suvremene umjetnosti or MMSU) has long enjoyed a reputation for holding some of the most exciting contemporary art exhibitions in the country. It is also the host of the Biennial of the Quadrilateral, a contemporary art show featuring artists from Croatia, Italy, Slovenia and Hungary – a quartet of countries that has had a profound effect on the history of Rijeka. Works from the museum’s large permanent collection are rarely seen save during occasional themed exhibitions – the museum’s current home, in the same building as the Rijeka municipal library, is too limited to host more than the (albeit excellent) temporary exhibitions. The MMSU has been promised a new home in the Rikard Benčić palace, built to serve as the HQ of a sugar refinery in 1752 and currently awaiting long-discussed restoration. The completion date lies some way in the future, although the project will help to confirm the MMSU’s status as an increasingly major player in the Central-European art scene. Over the past few years the MMSU has been run by a string of directors who have also been big-hitting curators – a trend that seems set to continue with the arrival of new chief Slaven Tolj (former head of the Lazareti Art Workshop in Dubrovnik).
Visit this fort for the panoramic view alone, best enjoyed from the terrace café beneath the Nugent mausoleum – the Kvarner Bay spreads out before you. Irish-born Austro-Hungarian naval commander Laval Nugent-Westmeath fought Napoleon and rebuilt the medieval Frankopan fortress to house his family and his art collection – his hoard of Greek vases can now be seen in Zagreb’s Museum of Archaeology. The mausoleum is worth a look, partly if you like your Central-European history, partly to see how the dynasty looked back then
Natural History Museum
Behind the Governor’s Palace it overlooks, Rijeka‘s Natural History Museum established its large collection of specimens from the Kvarner Bay, Gorski Kotar and Istria, thanks to private collectors from the mid 19th century onwards. Key displays include one of sharks and rays, and a geological history of the Adriatic Sea.
Rijeka nightlife guide
Rijeka nightlife guide
If you're looking for somewhere to drink, dance or party in Rijeka, you're spoilt for choice. Ever rebellious Rijeka has a nightlife scene that matches its reputation as Croatia's most alternative city, with an intoxicating array of fun bars, pubs and clubs. Hit up these late-night bars and clubs in Rijeka to quench your thirst into the early hours.