Trsat Castle
© Domagoj Blažević

The best attractions in Rijeka

Looking for things to do in Rijeka? Look no further than these great attractions

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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.

The best attractions in Rijeka

  • Art
  • Contemporary art
  • Rijeka

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).

  • Museums
  • History
  • Rijeka

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.

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  • Museums
  • Science and technology
  • Rijeka

Both a museum and a club for enthusiasts, Peek&Poke is one of Rijeka’s most unique attractions. Dedicated to the early days of computers and computerised games, Peek&Poke also looks to reassess the reputation of those pioneers, mocked at the time, whose groundbreaking ideas eventually made our lives easier or more entertaining. Sir Clive Sinclair, for example, is given a stellar biography. All tolled, some 2,000 consoles, terminals and calculators are exhibited, either in display cases or for hands-on investigation.

  • Attractions
  • Historic buildings and sites
  • Rijeka

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

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  • Attractions
  • Historic buildings and sites
  • Rijeka

Built in the 1890s by Hungarian architect Alajos Hauszmann, also responsible for similarly stately buildings in Budapest, the Governor’s Palace is worth exploration not just for the cultural attractions within and around it – the Rijeka City Museum and the History & Maritime Museum – but because of its own history. A century ago, with the collapse of the Habsburg Empire, Italian poet Gabriele D’Annunzio seized control of Rijeka and installed himself in the palace. Mussolini duly removed him but for that short period, Rijeka was the poet’s personal domain

  • Attractions
  • Religious buildings and sites
  • Rijeka

As your bus draws into Rijeka, pretty much the first thing you see towering alongside is this unusual architectural combination that is Our Lady of Lourdes, aka the Capuchin Church. Constructed over nearly three decades in the early 20th century, the church is best known for its distinctive brickwork in alternating colours, and the elegant twin staircase. Scale it, and you are afforded a view of the nearby seafront. If you’ve just arrived, it also allows you a chance to get your bearings.

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  • Attractions
  • Sightseeing
  • Rijeka

The original gateway to the city from the port in medieval times, this landmark on Rijeka’s main drag was converted into a tower by Filbert Bazarig in the later 1700s after much of the town was destroyed by an earthquake. The architect was not only instructed by his masters to create something of fitting Habsburg finery but to leave the archway intact. A century later, the City Tower gained a clock, thus bringing the monument into common usage as a point of rendezvous. 'Meet me under the clock', say locals,'Pod uriloj'.

  • Theatre
  • Public and national theatres
  • Rijeka

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.

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  • Museums
  • History
  • Rijeka

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.

  • Attractions
  • Public spaces
  • Rijeka
Rijeka’s main street, parallel to the sea and the Riva, has been in the heart of things ever since it was the Corso, showcase thoroughfare of Fiume. Terrace cafés and shops line this pedestrianised stretch, where the Rijeka Carnival unfolds in all its February finery. In terms of actual sights, there’s the Clock Tower and nearby, the Radio Rijeka building, more of a curiosity. All the other main museums are a short walk away.
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  • Museums
  • Natural history
  • Rijeka

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.

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  • Attractions
  • Historic buildings and sites
  • Rijeka
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
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