Spending a few hours on the hilltop around Trsat Castle can be pleasant, but if you don’t have much time, you can turn left from the canal at Titov trg into Žrtava fašizma to find a handful of mildly diverting tourist attractions.
St Vitus’ Church stands at the edge of the Old Town. Just above it rises the stately Governor’s Palace, commanding a view of the sea; D’Annunzio would have seen the battleship sent by Rome in 1920. Exhibits belonging to the History & Maritime Museum here are overshadowed by Alajos Hauszmann’s sumptuous state rooms. Next door, the City Museum contains modest exhibitions in a two-floor space. Overlooking these two buildings is the Natural History Museum, with a modest aquarium and a pleasant botanical garden outside. Frana Supila descends towards Trg republike Hrvatske, which contains the University Library, accommodating Rijeka’s renowned Modern & Contemporary Art Museum. The best time to visit is for carnival, when there is a huge parade on the Sunday preceding Shrove Tuesday.
Founded in 1948, Rijeka’s Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Muzej modern 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 Gradina 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 this medieval Frankopan fortress to house his family and his art collection – his horde of Greek vases can now be seen in Zagreb's archeological museum. The mausoleum is worth a look in, if only for the bad press it gives Nugent’s daughter, the ‘evil and eccentric’ Countess Ana. Down back towards the No.1 bus terminal, you pass Our Lady of Trsat Church and the small Franciscan monastery.
Set in a pavilion alongside the Governor's Palace – and thus alongside the History & Maritime Museum, making it a convenient first port of call for any first-time visitor to Rijeka – the two-floor City Museum comprises a modest permanent exhibition but stages a number of fascinating temporary ones. Recent subjects have included the development of the torpedo, the history of Rijeka harbour, and emigration from Central Europe to America 1880-1914.
Somewhat overshadowed by Alajos Hauszmann's grandiose Governor's Palace in which it is housed, this old-school museum contains a modest collection of period costumes, coins, instruments, chairs and weaponry. Displays of replica ships reflect Rijeka's proud past and tradition.
Built over four years in the 1890s by the Hungarian architect, Alajos Hauszmann, also responsible for the most famous and ornate coffeehouse in Budapest, the Governor's Palace was where Italian poet and self-styled leader of Rijeka. Gabriele D’Annunzio seized power in the immediate aftermath of World War I. From here, he would have seen the battleship sent by Rome in 1920. Hauszmann's huge, sumptuous state rooms now house the History & Maritime Museum; the Rijeka City Museum is set in a pavilion alongside.
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.
This quirky attraction contains more than 2,000 examples of vintage computer technology: calculators, games consoles and oversized terminals from two decades ago and more. Note the Nintendo Game Boy and Sinclair C5. Opened in 2007, Peek&Poke is one of the few of its kind in Europe, with connections to the similarly themed Bolo Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland. Opening hours are relatively flexible – do phone ahead.