Most people can name the party island of Hvar when you talk about Croatia. And, of course, Dubrovnik is wildly popular for serving as King’s Landing in Game of Thrones. But Croatia travel is so much more than the popular islands awash with a maddening number of tourists. Rijeka, further north in Kvarner Bay, is appealing to a discerning traveler looking for diverse experiences.

In 2016, the city of Rijeka in Croatia was selected as the European Capital of Culture for 2020. With its clear seas and pristine beaches, storybook buildings and cliffs so green they might just be hand-dyed; Rijeka seems to be part of a bucolic world that has clashed into ours. Rijeka’s fairytale-like historical landmarks, from the solemn-looking Trsat Castle to the old medieval town of Kastav merge perfectly with Rijeka’s famous beaches and trendsetting musical scene. Whether you are looking to relax at the beach or to sip some wine and enjoy splendid music, Rijeka is the perfect travel destination.

Lovran, Rijeka.

Lovran, Rijeka. Photo: Zoran Kurelić Rabko via Wikimedia Commons

Beaches

Croatia’s gorgeous, glittering coastline attracts many a travel and beach lover. Unsurprisingly, Rijeka’s extraordinary cobalt seas are counted among the very best. Two of Rijeka beaches, Ploče and Kostanj, have been recognized with Blue Flags, proof of the state of Rijeka’s sea. But Rijeka’s beaches are so much more than just its sparkling seas. The beaches have plenty of facilities and amenities, from catering, numerous sport facilities, and parks for children in the shelter of shade-giving trees to free parking close to all beaches.

Plaža Pećine, Rijeka.

Plaža Pećine, Rijeka. Photo: Silverije via Wikimedia Commons

Magnificent Architecture

If you are looking for beauty, finesse and innovation in your travels you will certainly find it in Rijeka. One of the best things about Croatia is the history… and Rijeka’s cultural history is impeccably told by its architecture. You can explore history in the making by visiting historical landmarks such as the entrance to Tarsatica and the beautiful Trsat Castle.

Roman Arch, Rijeka.

Entrance to Tarsatica. Photo: Q,bot via Wikimedia Commons

The ancient structure pictured above was thought to be a standard Roman Arch. In fact, this arch is the well-preserved entrance to the compound of Tarsatica. Rijeka was built on the ruins of the ancient that ancient town and to this day the arch stands on casting an old enchantment over Rijeka. The beauty of the structure will not be lost to you as it seems to permeate the place and carry it on to Rijeka’s old town.

Once upon a time Trast Castle (seen below) could boast of being a strategically placed, heavily fortified post in the Croatian Coast. Now it has been transformed into an equally boast-worthy cultural center. Most importantly, a gallery space has been added. The Trsat Castle now holds art exhibitions accompanied by open-air literary evenings and music performances. If you are inspired, you can climb the Stairway of Petar Kruzic which leads to the top of the Castle and was climbed by devoted pilgrims long ago. If you are feeling particularly dauntless you can follow the pilgrim’s lead and try to climb the stairs on your knees (there are 538 steps in total!)

Trsat Castle, Rijeka.

The beautiful Trsat Castle. Photo: Silverije via Wikimedia Commons

Don’t Miss the Music

Rijeka is also dubbed the ‘city of music,’ for its creative forays in the music scene. Places such as The Hotel Kontinental and Pogon Kulture Club promote further musical innovation and give artists a space to unleash their imagination. The Hotel Kontinental was built at the end of the 19th century and has been a constant in Rijeka’s musical scene since then. Even now, musicians meet up on its terrace, filling Rijeka’s night with music. Pogon Kulture Club can be found in the old town and a favorite of both locals and travelers, known for its good music and electric atmosphere.

Gradski Toranj (City Tower). Photo via Visit Rijeka

Gradski Toranj (City Tower). Photo via Visit Rijeka

Have a Cup of Coffee at the Korzo Promenade

The heart of Rijeka is Korzo and Korzo truly does display the essence of this enchanting town. To have a cup of coffee in one of Korzo’s quaint terraces, lunch in one of the picturesque little cafés and walk along the streets lined with gorgeous buildings and shops is to breathe in the beauty and charm of Rijeka. And in the evenings Korzo Promenade becomes electric with cafes and bars doubling as clubs and live music being played up and down the street.

Korzo, Rijeka.

A cafe in Korzo via Visit Rijeka

Korzo, Rijeka.

Korzo, Rijeka. Photo: Domokdr via Wikimedia Commons

With its rustic charm and modern joie de vivre, Rijeka provides an authentic melding of both the past and the present. The beautiful and simultaneously vibrant charm of Rijeka is guaranteed to satisfy any traveler’s heart – and it’s not hard to see why it was chosen as the European Capital of Culture for 2020. Don’t forget to include it in your Croatia travel list.

Also Read:

These Lesser Known European National Parks Will Take Your Breath Away

Take A Dip in These Gorgeous Waterfalls on Your Croatia Travels