11 Reasons Why You Should Visit Rijeka (in 2023)

As a bustling port city with a rich cultural heritage, Rijeka offers visitors a unique mix of history, culture, food, and outdoor activities.

Rijeka is a great destination for tourists who want to settle in the town for a night or a couple of days as many best tourist attractions Croatia has to offer are easily reachable from Rijeka.

These attractions are the famous islands, Cres and Krk, Istria, the beauties of Gorski Kotar and many more you yet have to discover!

If you are keen on islands, Cres is the next logical visit easily accessible from Rijeka.

For the purpose of this article, I’ll give you reasons to visit and explore Rijeka from a local perspective, as being born here and living here for the past 26 years makes it easy for me to speak.

1. Early civilizations and Roman ruins

Let’s start with history and culture so you know what you are dealing with once you arrive here.

Rijeka has rich historical and cultural background because it’s a port city that has been inhabited for centuries.

The very first evidence of man’s presence in Rijeka backs to the Palaeolithic and Neolithic ages as the old ruins and tools of the Illyrian tribes (Liburnia) were found.

Although it was so long ago that no significant monuments survived, not many know that Rijeka is full of ancient ruins from the Roman era.

The Romans built a town close to the sea, which ruins can today be found in Rijeka’s Old Town.

There are many archaeological sites such as the foundations of Roman fortified walls, the Roman portal, and thermal bath ruins.

Today you’ll find a strong day and nightlife presence in the Old Town as the area is populated with bars, clubs, and galleries.

2. Early medieval, Baroque, and Neo-Renaissance architecture

In the 13th century the newly arrived Slavic nations, the Croats, overtook some of the existing places with ruins dating back to the Paleolithic and Neolithic ages and built medieval settlements.

One of those 13th-century medieval settlements is the famous Trsat Castle and the church of St. Vitus which are worth visiting.

Skip forward a few centuries as I don’t want to dig too deep into history in this article, Rijeka was owned by Habsburgs in the 15th century which reigned until the 19th century when Rijeka was for a limited time ruled under the French and then back again under Austrians.

In the 19th century, the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy was responsible for the building of the city, and among the best representatives of architecture is the area around the main train station in the town.

In 1918, Rijeka became a part of the State of Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs until it was occupied by the Kingdom of Italy.

Long story short, after WWII happened and the force of resistance born in the area of Rijeka and Istria fought the occupation, Rijeka got united and continued to reign as the important port in Yugoslavia as the city with a strong industrial presence.

In the meantime, some damage was done to the town’s architecture due to bombings that happened during WWII, but the majority of the town is still in an old, but decent shape.

Thus, Rijeka is full of Baroque and Neo-Renaissance-inspired buildings and monuments that you’ll be able to spot by randomly venturing through the town.

St.Vitus church in Rijeka
St. Vitus church in the old town

3. Torpedo factory

Did you know that the first torpedo was manufactured in Rijeka in 1866? Whether you are a pacifist or not, this was a historical moment that shaped the future of war at sea and it’s still possible to visit the place where it all happened.

Today, the ex-torpedo factory is no longer in the shape it once used to be but you can still view and smell the history in the most industrial area of Rijeka, called Mlaka.

You can get close to the area where they tested torpedos and imagine what the industrial Rijeka looked like back in the day by observing the industrial buildings and ruins.

There’s also a beautiful torpedo monument where you can take photos and say that you visited the first torpedo factory in the world.

4. Beautiful viewpoints

Viewpoints in Rijeka are something spectacular, and there are more than a few. As a matter of fact, after all those years living in Rijeka, I still find new viewpoints which are equally breathtaking as the most popular ones.

The infamous Trsat Castle viewpoint is legendary as you can see the whole town from the bird’s perspective as this beautiful castle is built on top of the hill above the town.

There’s an interesting story behind Trsat Castle which includes the medieval times and dragons, but that deserves its own article as I could keep talking on forever and ever.

Viewpoint from Trsat castle in Rijeka
Viewpoint at Trsat Castle

The other beautiful viewpoints can be found in Kastav, the town between Rijeka and Opatija, so if you organize a trip to Opatija you can stop on the way and explore this old town.

I won’t spoil it all, as if you visit Rijeka you’ll discover more viewpoints along the way as you just won’t be able to miss them!

5. Winter Carnival

Festivals in Rijeka are a real deal, and everything begins with the Winter Carnival established in 1982 which takes place in February. 

According to the belief, the winter and the bad spirits are cast away through the celebration which involves famous, Slavic-inspired costumes and plenty of street food and booze.

It’s not unusual to bump into a happy, dancing gang of “Zvončari” on the streets during this period.

Although the fascinating costumes will make for great photos while enjoying the truly unique carnival experience, those light-hearted should be careful as for some “Zvončari” can be a trigger to nightmares.

I mean, it’s understandable, you got to be scared to cast away the winter and the demons.

Apart from the iconic costumes and tradition, two days are reserved for the carnival, one for the kid’s carnival which is a recommended experience for the youngest, and the latter, the main carnival event.

We can conclude that everything stops for a day, so the carnival can live!

6. Summer festivals

As soon as the warm, sunny days arrive you can expect the Rijeka Summer Nights Festival in the town and many more around Rijeka.

This is the time when the tourist season begins and everything is so bright, fun, and lovely.

You’ll find many musical events playing on the big stages in the town with a variety of musical genres.

Whether you are a fan of pop, rock, punk, metal, disco, techno, or drum N bass there will be something for you on one of the stages during the long summer days and lovely warm nights by the sea.

Festivals such as “The Kastav Summer of Culture” and “The Guitar Festival” will satisfy Jazz, Blues, Soul, and Fingerstyle guitar enjoyers, so Rijeka and its suburbia have everyone musically covered.

Moreover, during these festival days, many other art shows take place in the town, such as theater plays, dancing, and other artistic performances.

7. Fiumanka Regatta

Sailing in Rijeka at Fiumanka Regatta
Fiumanka Regatta

Fiumanka Regatta is a sailing race that attracts participants from all over the world where participants start in Rijeka, sail across the Jadran Sea, around the Island of Krk, and return back into the port.

This is a spectacular event that welcomes everyone for free, whether you want to spectate or participate.

The Regatta lasts 3 days and the last day is always grandiosely celebrated!

“You have a boat, you have a sail, so please, join!”

Fiumanka Regatta

8. Boat Shows

Rijeka is proud of its position by the sea and its important role as a port city, so whenever it’s possible, Rijeka celebrates the sea!

Events such as Rijeka Boat Show, organized in the summer, present attractive nautical domestic and global brands.

The show grows each year and counts over 10 000 visitors during 3 days. You’ll see beautiful, luxurious yachts, sailing boats, and nautical equipment.

Although you can plan your visit for shows like these, sometimes you’ll discover them just by randomly exploring the city and get positively surprised!

9. The long coastline with beaches

If you love long, romantic walks by the coastline, you’ll find plenty in Rijeka. 

Rijeka is a very long town placed by the sea, so if you were to walk from one side of the town to the other following just the coastline, you’d pass around 10 kilometers and enjoy the fresh sea air on the way.

Fortunately, you can always catch a bus or find a parking lot somewhere along the way, so if your legs get tired there’s no reason for panicking.

Although there are plenty of hidden spots you could explore by following the coastline, I’ll share with you the most popular and some less populated parts of the coastline where you can go for a peaceful walk if you don’t like the masses.


Straight in the heart of the town, the Terminal is a popular walk path placed in the famous port of Rijeka where centuries before the modern world took place was the main place of trade and the town’s biggest marketplace.

Back in the day, big ships from all over the world would find their settlement in the port and while today you won’t see big industrial ships, there are plenty of big Yachts from all over the world.

It’s not unusual for these, highly luxury Yachts that can cost over $100 million to stay anchored during the whole year before leaving and in the last couple of years they could be considered an attraction on their own.

Yet, if you are not a fan of big, modern yachts you can focus on the natural beauties while breathing fresh, sea air as the view of the big, open sea with the islands on the other side create a worthy experience rarely found elsewhere.


Pećine is my first choice for those who are not keen on busy areas as this place is only 15 minutes away from the town on foot and is full of a peaceful vibe.

Pecine walk path is literally one really long street placed right on the edge of the coastline which consists of many small beaches ideal for small groups of friends.

What I love as a local about these beaches is that usually if you come with friends you can find a spot and have the whole beach for yourself! The beaches may not be made of fine sand, but if you aren’t looking for the most prestigious beach but rather for privacy and a bit of solitude you’ll love these hidden spots.

What’s even better, after you pass these small beaches, right at the end of the road you’ll find a bigger beach with a classic summer bar that serves cocktails and plenty of refreshing drinks!


Beaches and football field at Kantrida in Rijeka
View of Kantrida from the sky

Kantrida can be quite busy in the summer, but for a good reason, it’s the place with the town’s big and popular beaches.

While the beaches can be pretty busy, the long road by the coastline above the beaches is a great opportunity for a long walk.

What’s even better is that this road leads to Opatija, a beautiful town that is another popular tourist attraction in the region.

In Opatija, you’ll find more beautiful beaches and nature, with beautiful walk paths by the sea you’ll love.

You must visit Opatija one day or another, so this can be a good opportunity.

10. Food and drinks

Croatian cuisine is excellent everywhere, and while you’ll find plenty of seafood by the coastline and on islands, and more continental food above Rijeka, this city offers everything you may have in mind in one of its many restaurants. 

A good steak with aged red wine? No problem, Black risotto, grilled squid, or fresh fish with aged white wine? Sure. Some fast food with plenty of town-brewed craft beers? You’ll find it in multiple places.

Moreover, Rijeka is home to a thriving coffee culture and you’ll find excellent espresso and cappuccino at most cafes.

11. Rijeka is a great anchor point

Due to its strong industrial past, Rijeka is not the most tourist-based town when you compare it to places like Dubrovnik, but it’s close to every place worth visiting and offers the finest accommodation while you’re planning your next trip.

Just as Rijeka used to be a logistic destination where the paths would cross as it was a large port important for the trade connected to major roads, today there are still many big Croatian attractions in its proximity.

When I meet tourists in Rijeka I always recommend they visit the island of Cres and Krk, take a trip to Opatija, or perhaps go hiking to Učka, Veli Vrh, or Gorski Kotar.

While for some of these places, you’ll need a car or take a taxi, you can catch a ferry to Cres from the town, or a bus to Krk, and return the same day. Opatija is also reachable on foot if you like to walk as it’s only 5 miles away from the town.

Croatian Islands are the reason why so many tourists come back every year, explore the ways of islanders, and amazing fish dishes, participate in cruising around the islands, and explore hidden caves, beaches, and intact natural beauties full of wildlife.

Some other locations you can visit after arriving in Rijeka are the beauties of Istria as it’s only an hour of driving away, Plitvice Lakes which are 2 hours away, and many other places and towns including Zagreb which is less than 2 hours away from Rijeka.


Dino is a local who has spent 27 years of his life in Croatia. He's here to provide you with useful information and some local guidance.

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