The Native | Valentina Santini shows us around Rijeka

Travelling is always risky business – get stuck in a touristy area and your meals are terrible as is the rest of your stay. Valentina Santini shows us around Rijeka in Croatia.

rachelzc
Rachel Zammit Cutajar
10 November 2017, 8:13am
Rijeka, Croatia
Rijeka, Croatia
Travelling is always a risky business. Get stuck in a touristy area, and your meals are terrible. The same can be same for sight seeing, hotels and nightspots. Travelling to a place where you know people to recommend the right places makes your stay all the more enjoyable.

Valentina Santini
Valentina Santini
Valentina Santini, 34, was born in Rijeka and lived there for 28 years. If you are visiting Rijeka, these are the place she recommends to hang out like a native.

The seaside town of Opatija
The seaside town of Opatija
Best spot for sightseeing
Rijeka is a city with rich history and culture and in 2020 it will be the European Capital of Culture. First thing you need to see when you visit Rijeka is Korzo. Korzo is a pedestrian area situated in the centre of the city. Referred to as the heartbeat of Rijeka, you can really feel the spirit of the city. Another must-see place is Trsat, with a fortress that protects Rijeka with breathtaking views of the whole city. One of the gorgeous places I would recommend is Opatija. Summer home to the nobles and aristocrats of old, this beach-side town has been a popular resort destination since the 19th century. Featuring architecture from the Renaissance, Venetian, Gothic and Baroque eras there is definitely more to do here than lie on the beach. Make sure you visit the botanical gardens that is made up of more than 100 species from around the world. One of my favourite places in the Opatija is a market in the centre of the city where you can take in the true atmosphere of the local life - buying fresh fruit, veg, fish meat, baked bread - you name it, you’ll find it there.

Explore the deep forests of Gorski Kotar
Explore the deep forests of Gorski Kotar
Best place to wind down and enjoy nature
Wherever you turn your head, you will be surrounded with breathtaking nature, whether it is green fields, crystal clear sea or snowy mountains. There are many nature activities you can do around Rijeka. I would definitely recommend two different coastal walks; Kostrena, a 3km walk around the shoreline of Kvarner Bay or the 12km promenade that goes between Volosko and Lovran. If you prefer winter sports, Platak is a perfect destination where you can learn how to ski with a seaview. If you’re the adventurous type, you should try paragliding that will give you a breathtaking experience with a view of the Croatian Islands. 30 minutes away in the direction of the nation’s capital, unwind in untouched nature of Gorski Kotar, where you can explore deep forests and nature walks. Ucka is a mountain overlooking Rijeka with is considered a nature reserve and offers spectacular views of Istra’s Red Landscape. Be sure to try out the local wine and olive oil.

Mornar is a traditional bistro serving the freshest of ingredients delivered on the day
Mornar is a traditional bistro serving the freshest of ingredients delivered on the day
Best places to eat
As I am a huge foodie, you have definitely asked the right person where to eat. Choosing good food in Croatia is not difficult at all, so be prepared to take your taste buds on a journey they will never forget. These are just a few of my favourite place to eat and nibble - depending on the occasion. Bar-Bar – a unique concept of Croatian Tapas, where you can indulge in a good glass of wine and tapas of your choice. Conca D’oro – a charming little restaurant with very creative food put together by one of Croatia’s best chefs at a very decent price. As they are always very innovative, simply go with whatever is on the menu and always ask for their suggestions! Mornar – this is definitely one of my favourite places. A traditional family run restaurant that only serves fresh ingredients that have been delivered on the day.

There are many more places where you can enjoy food in Rijeka, however these are the spots where I am never let down, and when I feel nostalgic, they always offer comfort food. Best part of it, they are within walking distance from each other.

Tunel is an underground jazz bar where trains still run over the roof of the building
Tunel is an underground jazz bar where trains still run over the roof of the building
Best spot for a night out
Rijeka is a very lively city during the day as well as the night, however where you choose to start and end your night is entirely up to you. The only reason I say that is because the music varies from one place to another, and that creates the whole atmosphere. My favourite places are the places with charm, soul and a unique concept. Start an evening in Cukar I Kafe or Dnevni Boravak, where there is always something happening. If you are looking for a live jazz session, Tunel is the place you need to find. A fun fact about Tunel is that it is situated in one of the many tunnels in Rijeka and trains still run over the roof. If you really want to spice up your night in Rijeka, put on your dancing shoes and head to Zivot, where you can enjoy different DJ’s from the around the city - feeling the true rock ‘n’ roll spirit.

Best spot for shopping
Rijeka has many shopping centres, ZTC and WTC are two of the best shopping malls in Rijeka with a wide variety of shops ranging from shoe shops, to major clothing brands, coffee shops that will spoil you rotten. In the winter months there are Christmas markets in all the shopping centres where you can find unique gifts made by local designers and artists – an ideal gift for your nearest and dearest. If you want to combine shopping with food and drinks, then head to the city centre, where you can also find all the major brands surrounded by traditional buildings. Women from Rijeka have always been considered to be the best dressed in Croatia, always keeping up to date with the style - but not being obsessed with exclusive designs.

Take a walk along Molo Longo and get a look at the city from out at sea
Take a walk along Molo Longo and get a look at the city from out at sea
Best local thing

Rijeka has been named Capital of Culture for 2020 and this is what the city does best. There are many cultural events to choose from, ranging from art galleries open all year round, music festivals, an open air theatre, summer art bazaars and Christmas markets – all aimed at promoting local talent and goods. Take a walk along Molo Longo, a pier situated in the city’s harbour area. From here you will be able to see the city from out at sea, whilst still being very close to the city centre. Back when Croatia was part of Yugoslavia, the Harbour of Rijeka was one of the main ports – and traces of this can still be seen with the mix of local and international cultures, and the city life with nature being just a stones throw away.

How to get there

Air Malta offer regular flights to Dubrovnik, Zagreb and Split in Croatia. You will then have to get a connecting flight or a train to Rijeka.

Currency

Euro

Best time of year to visit

Late spring or early autumn are the best times to visit Rijeka as it is not cold but accommodation rates are still reasonable. As it is popular with tourists, rates increase over the summer months. During the winter it is cold in Rijeka though this is good for skiing and the Christmas markets are in full bloom in December.

Visas

Croatioa is part of the European Union therefore no visas are required when travelling on holiday

rachelzc
Rachel Zammit Cutajar graduated in economics from the University of Malta...