Stunning seaside Rovinj is the most visited destination in the Croatian region of Istria, and never a disappointment. The city’s old town is a circular peninsula jutting into the Adriatic Sea on Istria’s western coast, with charming cobblestone lanes and colourful buildings. Ruled in the past by Byzantines, Franks, Venetians, Austro-Hungarians and Italians, there’s a fascinating mix of different styles of architecture to entice history buffs. Meanwhile sun worshippers have many beaches to choose from, and a smattering of nearby islands to explore. Here are five absolute must-sees when in Rovinj:
Rovinj’s C18 church of Saint Euphemia (the city’s patron saint) is the city’s best-known landmark. A climb up to the church is a must-do just for the scenic sea views from here, while the more adventurous who brave the 200 rickety steps up the 60-metre-high bell tower will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the nearby islands and the maze of terracotta roofs of the old town. Modelled after the bell tower of St Mark’s Cathedral in Venice, its spire is topped with a copper statue of the saint, whose tomb is located behind the altar inside the church.
Descending from the church is Grisia, a cobblestone lane leading all the way to the C17 Balbi Arch located where the town gate once stood. Lined with many art galleries and studios, this is where visitors get a feel for Rovinj’s unique creative vibe that has attracted many artists to settle here. Makers of jewellery and handmade souvenirs have also taken advantage of this vibe and the steady flow of tourists and set up shop here. Don’t hesitate to venture off this main artery and explore the tiny adjacent lanes and ancient buildings – with the sea completely surrounding Rovinj’s tiny old town, it’s impossible to get lost here.
The batana, a traditional wooden flat-bottomed fishing boat, is a symbol of the city and its maritime heritage and local fishing culture. Take a walk in Rovinj’s port in the early morning, and you’ll see fishermen arriving with their catch, but today you’ll rarely spot a batana docked here. However, just a few metres away from the harbour, its history has been preserved at the fascinating Batana Museum. The permanent multimedia exhibition covers the history of this modest fishing vessel, offers insights into how different nets are used, and a video outlining the entire two-month-long process of building a batana.
It’s an easy cycle ride south from Rovinj’s historic centre and along the coastline to Zlatni Rt Park. This is a forest reserve of majestic oaks and pines, as well as tree species as far away as Japan and Mexico. The public beach here is well-maintained and though the shoreline is rocky, there are many semi-secluded bays perfect for sunbathing and a quick dip in the crystal-clear waters.
There are 14 islands making up the Rovinj archipelago: a collection of tiny islands scattered around the coastline. Some of these can be easily reached by passenger ferry from Rovinj’s pier. From St Catherine’s island there are stunning views of the old town, and this is also a popular beach destination. A bit more secluded is the tiny car-free Crveni Otok (Red Island), which is actually two islands linked via a causeway. Visitors can see the remains of a monastery here, and there are plenty of beaches for activities like swimming and snorkelling.