How to Spend 12 Hours in Rijeka, Croatia - a guide for your day ashore

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Located along the beautiful waters of the northern Adriatic, the Croatian city of Rijeka offers robust history, a walkable waterfront, interesting architecture, art galleries, great wine, food, ambience, culture and shopping. It's a newer cruise destination, and so we have a new guide here! Meet Sonja, who has some great ideas for how you can spend your day ashore.

As Rijeka becomes one of the new cruise ports, it’s important to know how you can spend your time here and see as many beautiful sites as possible. Rijeka isn’t a city full of well-known monuments and historical and archeological heritage, as it was built as an industrial city and, above all, a very important port.

First of all, I’d like to tell you what you can do in my city before the journey takes you further afield in Croatia. Rijeka has something for everyone! First, I suggest visiting the city center and the "must see" tourist sites such as:

The City Tower, the Roman Archway, the Croatian National Theater, the Central Market, St. Vitus Cathedral, the Governor’s Palace, Modello Palace, the Palace of Justice, Capuchin Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Saint Mary of the Assumption Church, the Leaning Tower, etc.

Since the port is located in the city center, I would suggest we start our tour there. After leaving the port, our first stop is the Croatian National Theater of Ivan pl. Zajc. The theater was opened in 1885, and designed by famous Austrian architects Herman Helmer and Ferdinand Fellner, who are also the architects of 53 theater houses all over Europe. It bears similarities to the ten year-younger theater house in Zagreb, but is a bit smaller. In front of the theater is a nice mini park with a fountain and the monument of composer Ivan Zajc.

Just a few steps from the theater is a market-place built at the end of the 19th century by Hungarian architects. It is coined “the heart of the city”. The entire area around the theater was filled with soil and reclaimed from the sea during the 19th century. This is when the first pavilions in the area were built. The pavilion of the Fish market was built in 1895, while the other pavilions were opened in 1881. Nowadays, the central market is considered a very important piece of the city’s architectural legacy. It offers a variety of domestic products, wine, olive oil, etc. The meat market offers the famous Cres lamb. Around the pavilions, you can find small taverns which offer good and inexpensive lunch.

After the central market, it’s time to go to the center, and take a walk down the main promenade – Korzo. There are many café bars and shopping places here. If you feel like shopping, this is the place for you.

At the beginning of the street, you can see the first skyscraper ever built in Rijeka, and a nice Secession building with interesting statues.

If you continue walking down the Korzo street, on your left you will see the City Tower ‒ a symbol of Rijeka. It was built in the Middle Ages and led into the fortified town. On the tower’s portal are the faces of Austrian emperors Leopold and Charles VI to whom Rijeka paid special respect due to the maritime orientation they introduced, following up on the principles and policies of the Austrian court. The clock on the tower is there from the 17th century.

On the top of the tower is a sculpture of Rijeka’s double headed eagle.

If you pass underneath the tower, you will enter what was once the central market ‒ ‘’Placa’’ of medieval Rijeka, today called Ivan Kobler’s Square. In the middle of the square is a fountain built in 1974, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Rijeka’s paper factory, the oldest in this part of Europe. The fountain is based upon the design of Rijeka’s architect Igor Emili, who used paper press equipment made by the factory.

At the end of Kobler’s square is the Roman Arch, the Old Gate at the main entrance into the heart of the military headquarters of the late Roman empire Tarsatica ‒ an ancient town the ruins of which medieval Rijeka rose upon.

This area is an Archeological Park ‒ Tarsatica Principia. In the medieval times, these gates were considered a witch’s creation because people could not understand how stones as big as these could be suspended in the air without any building material.

The Tarsatica Principia was the main camp to the supply base and the starting point of the Clausta Alpia Iuliarum, a long line stretching over many kilometers, and consisting of defense walls, towers and guard stations, as well as larger fortifications positioned in key communication points with the aim of stopping barbaric tribes on their way towards Italy.

Not far away from the Archeological Park, just at the intersection of Užarska and Medulićeva streets was the intersection of Decumanus (Užarska) and Cardus Maximus (Medulićeva).

At the end of Medulićeva street is St. Vitus Cathedral, a round shaped baroque church named after St. Vitus, Rijeka’s patron saint.

On the left side of the Cathedral’s entrance, you can see the cannonball with humorous inscriptions in Latin, which translate to ‘’This fruit was sent to us by England when it wanted to oust the Gauls from here’’. It dates from 1813 (Napoleonic wars). The church became the cathedral between the two world wars.

Near the church is the entrance to the tunnel that was built during the Second World War by the Italians. It’s 300 m long, and it ends in the school yard near Hotel Bonavia.

If you continue down Užarska street, you will face St. Mary of the Assumption Church and the Leaning Tower. On this site in 1st century AD, a public thermal complex was located, up until the beginning of the 4th century. In the 5th and 6th century, a part of the thermae was most likely transformed into an early Christian religious cult area. In front of the Church is the Gothic bell tower, the rare and preserved city monument from the Middle Ages. The tower’s unique feature is a 40 cm slope, which is why it’s called the Leaning Tower.

Užarska street ends at the Jelačić Square, from which you can take a walk by the River Rječina, go see old Tito’s ship Galeb, or take a bus or a cab to visit Trsat.

Thank you, Sonja for sharing with us in such detail what to see and do with a few hours in your city! Any traveler wanting to explore Rijeka with a passionate and knowledgeable local guide can book a tour with Sonja here.
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