Rijeka, or Fiume in Italian, the name means “river” in all languages, is the 3rd largest city in Croatia (after Zagreb and Split). River Rječina flows through the city. It is situated along the Adriatic Sea, overlooking the Kvarner Bay, and is an important industrial port city, but still has a touristy cosmopolitan feeling, surrounded by green mountains. Rijeka has an interesting history, changing rulers and demographics between Croatia, Italy and Hungary. In 1921 Rijeka was a free state, Fiume-Rijeka, and in 1924 the city was under Italian rule (and surrounding villages Yugoslavian), for some years.
In 1944 Rijeka was heavily bombed. In the early 1900s, the majority of the population were Italians, today they are just 1.9%, 82% Serbs, 6.5% Croats and 2% Bosniaks. Rijeka is home to its own version of the Venetian Italian dialect, Fiuman. Rijeka has a wellknown football team and hosts the biggest annual carnival in Croatia. In 2020 it was one of two cities chosen “the European Capital of Culture”.
The castle Trsat is overlooking Rijeka, and lies on a mountain above the city, on the exact same spot as an ancient Ilyrian and Roman fortress. The 13th century castle was built in stone and has nice views over the city. It can be seen from the city center.
Riva, that literally means waterfront, is the boulevard along the waterfront where you find large yacht, the Marina Botel (a boat tranfromed into a hostel), and prominent landmark buildings as the yellow Ploech Palace and Palace Modello.
Korzo is the main pedestrian street, it goes parallel to Riva, and this is where you find popular restaurants, fancy stores and a large shopping mall. The baroque City Clock Tower with its gate is situated along Korzo, and is probably Rijeka’s most famous landmark. It was designed by Filbert Bazarig in 1876. It ends at the Jadranski Square (Jadranski trg) to the West, where you find a lot of fountains, and the High House Albori from 1942, sometimes nicknamed just “the Rijeka Skyscraper” despite being just 14 floors high. Korzo ends near the Jelačić Square (Jelacicev trg) in the East, just next to where the river Rječina flows. In the Old Town you find The Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a baroque church, with its Leaning Tower. Gaming is legal in Croatia and there are lots of casinos in Rijeka.
St.Vitus Cathedral (Katedrala Svetog Vida), or just the Rijeka Cathedral, is a baroque landmark building that is featured on the 100 kuna bill. The current building was completed in 1638. Unfortunately it was closed during our visit, probably due to covid.
In the outskirts, on the hills, you find some of the tallest residential buildngs in Croatia, with about 30 floors each, creating a skyline. Franje Candeka 23a from 1977 is the tallest. In the East and especially the West, hilly outskirts, on the way to Opatija, that we visited later the same day. Rijeka has a few small beaches, but there are more in Opatija, along the Lungomare Coast, that is just 20 minutes from central Rijeka by local bus. We didn’t have time to visit the castle, Trsat, the Croatian National Theater (that resembles the one in Zagreb), the Governor’s Palace, or the Roman Gate, unfortunately. We tried to find the popular Central Market but no one seemed to know where it was, and international internet on the phone was often not working in Croatia. Arriving from Zagreb the same day, we just had a few hours to spend in Rijeka, before going to Opatija, and then back to Rijeka in the evening. Rijeka feels more Italian then typical Croatian in its appearance.
Rijeka is a very friendly city, when we asked for directions, several locations arrived, eager to help, and even walked with us a bit to the apartment. We rent an apartment called Apartman Arna, very good value for many, right in the city center near the Clock Tower and the main pedestrian street, Korzo.
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