There are many beautiful cities at the Croatian Adriatic Sea, each unique and charming in its own way, but one of my favorite ones is Rovinj to which I return to each year. Often referred to as ‘the Pearl of the Adriatic’, this picturesque town is situated in the western part of Croatian peninsula Istria, and has a truly magical air about it.
Rovinj is a city you fall in love with at the first sight – romantic, picturesque, with narrow cobbled streets, colorful buildings, fishing boats at the seafront and a beautiful baroque church on the top of the hill. Originally an island, the city was connected with the mainland about 250 years ago by filling in the narrow channel that was separating it, creating a distinctive look. The hilly peninsula with the church at the top is immediately recognizable.
One of the most fun things to do in Rovinj is to discover the Old Town by getting lost in the beautiful narrow streets at the peninsula. Wander around through the cobbled streets exploring each corner and enjoy the colorfulness of the tall, narrow buildings – Rovinj was built in such a way because the lack of space, giving it special allure.
You will find many historical sites like the Balbi Arch that was built at the place of the previous town gate and faced with stone in 1678 or Franciscan monastery from the beginning of the 18th century. On your way to the top of the hill you will pass many boutiques, galleries and restaurants hiding different types of gems so be sure to stop and have a look, you will most certainly find something to your liking. The beautiful baroque church of the Saint Euphemia that dominates the landscape with its 60 m high bell tower will wait for you at the very top, as the crown jewel of the Old Town. Once there, and maybe after climbing the bell tower if you feel like doing so, be sure to just take a moment, rest and enjoy the view – it is truly breathtaking.
A mix of the old and the new, the town is still an active fishing port so you can enjoy the atmosphere of the fishing village as well as the modern luxury of marines and yachts with the hotels and shops that go along. If you feel up for it, visit the interesting town museum or the Rovinj Aquarium, one of the oldest ones in the world.
If you love nature, Rovinj will delight you with its 22 islands and islets, clean beaches and gorgeous parks, one of the most beautiful ones being the Golden Cape Forest Park, just some 15 minutes’ walk along the coastline from the center of the town. Stroll through the vast area of the Mediterranean greenery that will delight you with the look and the scent, combined with plants of the arboretum with groups of specific plants and trees, such as the Himalayan cedars that are distinctive in this surrounding, giving it a special charm.
Once you get hungry, Rovinj has numerous nice restaurants to offer for any occasion and any budget – from regular pizza places to a Michelin-starred restaurant Monte. You can enjoy a delicious meal of freshly caught fish and seafood at reasonable prices in many of the cozy restaurants either right by the sea or in one of the charming streets in the Old Town.
However, one of the restaurants that I keep going back to, not only for the delicious food but also for its location is Puntulina – located right by the sea, the restaurant has the rare privilege to have a terrace on the natural rocks and the city walls with the most amazing sea view.
The menu consists of carefully chosen delicacies and will delight even the most demanding gourmands, from delicious seafood like scallops and fresh fish to traditional Istrian cuisine such as fuži (Istrian pasta) with boškarin (Istrian beef). You will most certainly enjoy both the food and the view and the very friendly staff will make sure that this is indeed an experience to remember.
If you decide to stay longer in Rovinj, it is a really good starting point to explore the surroundings as well as the whole Istrian peninsula. There are a number of places that you can go and visit for a day – from the beautiful islands just across the town and the cities around such as Pula and Poreč with historical sites from the times of ancient Rome to the heart of Istria with the gorgeous small cities-forts on the top of the hills such as Grožnjan or Motovun. If you would like to enjoy some more nature, you can always go to Premantura and beautiful nature park Cape Kamenjak or take a day trip to Brijuni, National Park with rich history. Whatever the decision, you will most certainly enjoy your time, creating lifetime memories.