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12 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Rijeka

Written by Bryan Dearsley and Carri Wilbanks

If you're looking for a less touristy take on Croatia, the port city of Rijeka delivers. Right on the Adriatic, it is near Blue Flag beaches with clear, warm water, which is good for summer swimming, and it also hosts an old town filled with Neoclassical architecture. You'll find numerous things to do in the country's third major city, which has served as an important transportation and transit hub for centuries now.

Spend time wandering its many old streets and avenues with fine 18th-century homes and buildings, pausing to check out the old castle and churches, as well as a number of impressive museums and galleries. Also worth visiting is Risnjak National Park, a heavily treed, mountainous area with numerous trails for outdoor enthusiasts.

The city is also famous for its annual carnival, the largest such event in Croatia. Finally, Rijeka is a popular jumping-off point for exploring Croatia's many islands. Plan your sightseeing with our list of top things to do in Rijeka.

1. Trsat Castle and the Church of Our Lady

Trsat Castle and the Church of Our Lady

Trsat Castle

Trsat Castle (Gradina Trsat) and the Church of Our Lady of Trsat (Gospa Trsat) sit high upon a hill overlooking Rijeka. The most interesting way to reach these tourist attractions is from the city center by way of a lovely pilgrimage path leading from Titov Trg at the River Rjecina, up the Petar Kruzic Stairway, and along a pleasant pathway to Frankopanski Trg (the castle is just a short walk past the church), but it's also possible to take public transport.

Long a pilgrimage site attracting large numbers of followers over the years, the Church of Our Lady of Trsat is famous for its "miraculous" icon of Mary, believed to have been painted by St. Luke. The 13th-century Trsat Castle, built on the site of an old Roman fort and much altered since, is notable for its fine views and courtyard (konak).

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Rijeka

2. Peek & Poke Computer Museum

Apple computers at the Peek & Poke Computer Museum |aiva. / photo modified

Visiting this one-of-a-kind museum has become one of the most popular things to do in Rijeka. Covering two stories, it is filled with more than 2,000 old computers, hand-held games, printers, gaming consoles, and other relics of technology's great leap forward in the last three decades. It is a great choice for families — the poke aspect is literal and you can play on the working machines. And parents will get a kick out of explaining (and reminiscing about) the old technology to their kids.

Address: Ivana Grohovca 2, Rijeka

Official site: http://www.peekpoke.hr/welcome/

3. Gradski Toranj (City Tower)

The Old City Tower

The Old City Tower

Built into and alongside the surrounding buildings, the City Tower (Gradski Toranj) was originally part of one of the main gates leading into Rijeka that was famous for having survived the great earthquake of 1750 relatively intact. The tower was erected on top of the old gate soon after, with the clock added during the late 18th century, and the final flourish, its dome, added in 1890, when the tower underwent reconstruction. Adorned with numerous old coats of arms, it's well worth visiting as part of a city walking tour, which should also include the lovely 19th-century Town Hall.

4. Saint Vitus Cathedral

Saint Vitus Cathedral

Saint Vitus Cathedral

Rijeka Cathedral — also known as Saint Vitus Cathedral (Katedrala Sv Vida) and formerly the Church of St. Vitus — is a Baroque structure, based on a unique round floor plan in the heart of old Rijeka. The original structure, started by Giacomo Briano, a well-known Jesuit architect in 1638, was built on top of an even older structure and took more than 100 years to finish, finally reaching completion in 1744. Highlights include a large 13th-century crucifix, which, according to legend, started to bleed after a disgruntled local threw a rock at it, along with a number of fine Baroque altars.

Address: Grivica ulica, Rijeka

5. Kastav

Festival Town: Kastav

Kastav

Dedicate two or three hours to exploring the small town of Kastav, just a short drive northeast of Rijeka, which dates back to the Middle Ages and is famous for its old castle that housed nobility and other public figures during the 16th and 17th centuries. Kastav's main square, Lokvine Square, contains many of the town's most interesting architectural treasures, including the Church of St. Helen (Sv Jelena Krizarica) from the 17th century, the 15th-century Church of St. Anthony of the Desert, and the 16th-century Loggia.

Kastav also hosts a popular annual summer festival, the Kastav Cultural Summer Festival (Kastafsko kulturno leto) devoted to musical and theatrical performances, as well as the visual arts (June to August). Come winter, the town puts on the Kastav Winter Carnival, which runs from January 17th to Ash Wednesday and is marked with parades and costumes with elaborate masks and various forms of entertainment.

6. Capuchin Church of Our Lady of Lourdes

Capuchin Church of Our Lady of Lourdes

Capuchin Church of Our Lady of Lourdes | extrageographic / photo modified

Built in the early 1900s to mark the 50th anniversary of the miracle of Lourdes, the Capuchin Church of Our Lady of Lourdes (Kapucinska Crkva) is one of Rijeka's most recognizable attractions and so picture-perfect, it's frequently used on postcards and promotional material. Designed by Budinic, this splendid old church was almost never completed after the project ran into financial problems and was stalled for years. Thanks to generous townsfolk and parishioners, however, donations poured in to complete it, the result being a beautiful neo-Gothic structure with a splendidly ornate façade and an interior rich in detail with frescoes by Romulo Venucci, a local Croatian artist.

Address: Žabica, 51000, Rijeka

7. Risnjak National Park

Risnjak National Park

Risnjak National Park

Crowned by the 1,528-meter-tall craggy peak of Veliki Risnjak, the heavily forested Risnjak National Park (Nacionalni park Risnjak) is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. One of the park's best-known trails is the Leska Trail, a relatively easy hike that takes average hikers approximately two hours to complete. Created in 1995, this excellent park has 12 separate areas of interest signposted in both English and Croatian, including a more challenging three-hour trek that leads to the summit of Veliki Risnjak.

Named for the rare lynx that inhabit the area, the park has a wide variety of fauna ranging from large animals, including bears and deer to more than 50 varieties of birds. Also of interest is the Source of Kupa, a bottomless turquoise pool of water credited as the starting point of the Kupa river.

8. Sablicevo Beach

Rijeka hosts some beautiful beaches, and Sablicevo Beach in the eastern part of town is the best known. It can be accessed on foot from town, although it's a long walk and it is better to take public transport or drive. The water is a gorgeous mix of emerald and cobalt colors, and it's clear and warm come summer when it fills up very quickly — it is not a very big beach. Note that like most beaches in this area, you'll find pebbles over sand. There are free showers and toilets on-site.

9. Stairway to Heaven: The Petar Druzic Stairway

Stairway to Heaven: The Petar Druzic Stairway

Stairway to Heaven: The Petar Druzic Stairway

Part of the historically important pilgrimage path to the Church of Our Lady of Trsat (Gospa Trsatske), the Petar Druzic Stairway in Rijeka is a must-see when walking the old city's many pleasant lanes and alleys. Part of the lower portion of the stairway leading from Krizaniceva ulica was built by Captain Petar Kružic of Klis in the 16th century, with the remainder of the stairs added later.

Today, the stairway consists of 538 steps in total leading up through the Rjecina Gorge, a steep and sometimes difficult climb, but one that's well worth the effort. Along the way are a number of quaint, small chapels dedicated to various saints and used as resting areas for participants of the pilgrimage. Hot Tip: An easy alternative to the stairs are regular public buses that stop at the church.

10. The Governor's Palace and Maritime and Historical Museum

The Governor's Palace and Maritime and Historical Museum

The Governor's Palace and Maritime and Historical Museum

Once the residence of the Hungarian governor, the Governor's Palace (Guvernerova Palaca) now houses the Maritime and Historical Museum of Coastal Croatia (Povijesni I Pomorski Muzej). This splendid old neo-Renaissance building, designed by Alajos Hauszmann, an architect from Budapest, was built in the late 1800s and is itself worthy of a visit for its well-preserved grandeur. Highlights of this historic museum include an interesting display of model ships along with a range of nautical equipment.

Also of interest is a selection of archaeological finds from prehistoric times to the Middle Ages, as well as an ethnographic collection and furniture displays. The museum was established in 1876 but has been housed in the Governor's Palace since 1955.

Address: Muzejski trg 1/1, Rijeka

Official site: http://ppmhp.hr/en/

11. The Natural History Museum

Housed in a lovely old 19th-century villa, the Natural History Museum of Rijeka contains a wide range of displays and some 90,000 artifacts related to the city and the surrounding area. The diverse collection includes rocks and minerals, a paleontology collection, and numerous fossils found in nearby caves. Other highlights include an exhibit entitled The Evolution of Man with displays of bones showing the various stages of human evolution, a 100-year-old collection of marine invertebrates, and a large butterfly collection.

Address: Lorenzov prolaz 1, Rijeka, Kvarner 51000

12. Day Trip to Moscenice

Moscenice

Moscenice

The lovely coastal village of Moscenice makes a great day trip and is about 30 kilometers southwest of Rijeka. Perched on a hilltop and offering superb views over the Kvarner Gulf, Moscenice's quaint, narrow streets and alleys lead to the many attractive piazzas so typical of this medieval town. Highlights include the Baroque Church of St. Andrew (Sv. Andrije), rebuilt in the 17th century and easy to find thanks to its tall bell tower, which rises above the rest of the town; the old town walls; the 16th-century Church of St. Sebastian; and the 17th-century Church of St. Bartholomew.

If time permits, be sure to pop into the Ethnographic Museum (Etnografski Muzej), which explores the history of the town. Below the town is Moscenice Draga with a pebble beach, which can be reached by a set of stairs leading down from Moscenice.

Where to Stay in Rijeka for Sightseeing

Rijeka is a small town, and accommodation choices are relatively limited. However, you will find some charming properties in the city itself and also just outside its limits. The majority of hotels here fall into the mid-range bracket although there are a few budget selections and two relatively posh four-star properties.

  • Luxury & Mid-Range Hotels: Rijeka doesn't have any five-star hotels. One of the most luxe properties you will find is the Hotel Jadran, which is part of the Best Western family. It features modern and comfortable rooms and a handful of luxe suites with balconies and sea views. Also check out the Hotel Bonavia Plava Laguna, in a very walkable location in the city center. It also offers four-star accommodation with nicely decorated rooms and a complimentary breakfast. For something different, try the mid-range Botel Marina, which offers lodging on a boat-hotel in the city center.
  • Budget Hotels: A great-value pick for families is Apartments Marija Sucic, just outside the city center but accessible via public transport. It offers clean and spacious no-frills apartments, which can accommodate families and come with stunning bay views. Breakfast is also included. A little farther outside of town but even more affordable and also featuring great bay views is Sobe Slada. Rooms are quite comfortable and there is a buffet breakfast included. Wi-Fi and parking are also free here. Solo travelers and visitors looking for a hostel should check out Lounge Hostel Carnevale.

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Dalmatian Coast: About three hours south of Rijeka, Zadar anchors the northern Dalmatian Coast and is well worth visiting. For ideas on what to see here, review our article on the Top Tourist Attractions in Zadar & Easy Day Trips. Don't miss its Romanesque-style cathedral, as well as picturesque Kornati National Park just off the coast. Also on the Dalmatian Coast, UNESCO-listed Dubrovnik is known as the "Pearl of the Adriatic," and its stunning UNESCO-listed old town is a must-see on any Croatia itinerary.

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