15 must-see sights in Rovinj
Have you ever heard of the city of Rovinj, Croatia? The sights of this lovely place are not familiar to all travel lovers, and for good reason! Rovinj is a stunning little town in Croatia, located on the west coast of the Istrian peninsula.
The center of the old town was built mostly in the Venetian style and made of pale limestone, making the local houses literally shine in the sun. After wandering the labyrinthine streets of Rovinj you can always stop for some local Balkan food in a café by the town’s picturesque port. Ancient ruins, wild beaches and breathtaking natural beauty await you in Rovinj, with the 10-kilometre-long Lim Fjord undoubtedly the highlight.
Old Town. | Photo: Marco Verch Professional Photographer and Speaker / Flickr.
Before the Venetian reclamation project, which was carried out in 1763, Rovinj was actually an ordinary island. In the old town, you can walk through narrow medieval streets and alleys with their arched openings and climb winding staircases that remember more than a century of turbulent history.
Although this historic city center is relatively small, you can easily get lost in its dense maze of cobblestone alleyways. In the end, you will in any case come out to one of the local restaurants or cafes, where you will have a chance to have a cup of coffee, and enjoy the regularity of local life.
The address is: Old town, Ul. Grisia, 52210, Rovinj, Croatia.
St. Euphemia Church
Church of St. Euphemia.| Photo: wikimedia
The square bell tower of this Baroque church is clearly visible from many points in the city and somewhat resembles the bell tower of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice. It is not surprising that the seventeenth century Church of St. Euphemia was built by the Venetians as they were in control of the city when it was built.
You can climb this very bell tower (which is 61 meters high) and on a clear day enjoy the gorgeous views of the Alps to the north. The church boasts a sumptuous interior, with a 15th-century marble altar with a statue of Euphemia in front of the sarcophagus containing relics of the saint herself.
Address: Cathédrale Sainte-Euphémie de Rovinj, Trg Sv. Eufemije, Rovinj, Croatia.
You can reach this beautiful natural wonder by road or by boat from the port of Rovinj. This place is often called a fjord or canal, although in fact it is a 10-kilometer river canyon surrounded by steep wooded mountain slopes, some of which are up to 100 meters high.
What makes this area look like fjords is the river, or rather, its width, which in some places is up to 600 meters. When you are on land, you can walk or ride your bike through the forest trails or through the deciduous and coniferous forests, and then go to a cozy restaurant at the mouth of the canyon. It serves delicious seafood, including oysters and mussels, which Croats carefully grow in local waters.
Address: Limski kanal, Croatia.
Port of Rovinj
Port of Rovinj.
Rovinj’s city port is the place with the best views of the sea (and the best photos for Instagram). Its promenade is lined with beautifully painted houses, with the miraculous bell tower of St. Euphemia rising proudly in the background.
Turn your head toward the water and you’ll see a classic working port with fishermen’s schooners sailing leisurely back and forth against the city’s panorama. There are numerous cafes and restaurants along the waterfront where you can have a great time on a hot sunny day!
Address: ACI Marina Rovinj, Šetalište Vijeća Europe, Rovinj, Croatia.
Park Punta Corrente
Park Punta Corrente. | Photo: Mateusz Kamiński / Flickr.
Punta Corrente Nature Park is located on a boot-shaped peninsula. Punta Corrente (which means “Golden Cape”) was the work of 19th century Austrian industrialist Johann Georg von Hütterotte, who bought the land and transformed it into a blooming garden.
Now it’s a veritable idyll: planted for over 100 years, coniferous forests abound with magnificent cedars, Douglas firs, cypresses and Aleppo pines. Come here to stroll along the scenic trails, relax on the lawns, or unwind by the rocky coves along the coast.
Address: Park šuma Zlatni Rt, Obala Maršala Tita, Vrsar, Croatia.
Considering the considerable age of this archaeological monument, situated at the top of a picturesque hill outside Rovinj, one can only wonder how well it has survived to this day. The fort was founded in 1800 BC and fragments of pottery found on the site during archaeological excavations suggest that Moncodonia was in close contact with the ancient Greek Mycenae.
Here you can touch ancient walls, many of which reach a meter or more in height, as well as walk through ancient paved areas and see an iconic local cave. From here you can also admire the Adriatic and its small green islands, which are particularly beautiful against the local sunset.
Address: Monkodonja, gradina, arheološko nalazište, Rovinj, Croatia.
Balbi Arch.| Photo: wikimedia.
This massive arch, which appeared in the late seventies of the 17th century and leads to Grisla Street from the main square, is named after Daniel Balbi, the local mayor who actually ordered its construction. The arch replaced the old city gates and is distinguished by a classic element of Venetian architecture – the lion of St. Mark.
It also features two stone heads, one on each side of the arch. One head belongs to the bearded Venetian, and the other one depicts a Turk in a turban.
Address: Balbijev luk, Trg G. Matteottija, Rovinj, Croatia.
Rovinj Heritage Museum
Rovinj Heritage Museum.
This attraction was founded by a group of local artists in the 1950s with the aim of gathering the cultural wealth of the region and publicly displaying the works of local artists and sculptors of Rovinj. What to see in this museum? Well, to begin with, there is an impressive gallery of 1,500 exhibits representing contemporary art.
You’ll also find exhibition rooms with curious artifacts related to the different cultures that have inhabited Rovinj in different eras. The museum building itself also adds to its attractiveness – it is a four-storey Baroque palace built by the Counts of Califfi in the early 17th century.
Address: Rovinj Heritage Museum, Trg Maršala Tita, Rovinj, Croatia.
If the town clock of Rovinj looks particularly severe, it is because it was once the southern part of the city’s defenses. The square tower in the main square of Rovinj was built at the beginning of the 12th century and underwent serious reconstruction, notably in the 17th century, when the Venetians took serious charge of its appearance.
Right under the dial you can see the relief of the famous winged lion St. Mark, the constant symbol of the Venetian statehood. For several hundred years there was a prison with a single cell at the base of the tower, and nowadays it is used as a tourist office.
Address: Bell tower, Trg Maršala Tita, Rovinj, Croatia.
Lone Bay beach.| Photo: Tim Ertl / Flickr.
After seeing the local sights you can always relax against the background of the calm Adriatic Sea, which offers an unforgettable experience during the hot days of July and August. Just a few kilometers north or south of the city along the coastline, there are as many as 13 beaches, which, incidentally, bear little resemblance to the lazy coastlines of Spain.
The beaches of Istria are either secluded coves surrounded by rocks from which you can dive, or small pools of white pebbles. For example, Monte Beach is located close to the old town and the church of St. Euphemia. It is accessed by a separate staircase and is surrounded on three sides by rocky rocks. The pebble beach at Lone bay is more suitable for tourists – it is equipped with sunbeds and there is a pine forest nearby.
Address: Lone bay, Croatia.
Dvigrad ancient city and fortress
Ancient city and fortress Dvigrad.| Photo: tzzimone / Flickr.
Take a 20-minute tour of the Istrian countryside to visit the ruins of an old medieval town that was abandoned in the early 18th century due to a plague epidemic. As you understand, the town never revived.
Here you can see the jagged tower of the castle from the side of the Lima Fjord and take a good look at all the local majestic ruins, including the city gate, the fortress walls, about 200 ancient houses and the remains of the once stunning St. Sophia Church. The place is slowly being restored and in time it will provide all the necessary conditions for tourists.
Address: Dvigrad ruins, Kanfanar, Croatia.
City of Pula
City of Pula. | Photo: wikimedia.
Even if you are a small fan of ancient history, we still advise you to stop by the city of Pula in southern Istria. The main attraction of this place is the Arena – a huge Roman amphitheater with high arched walls, which can compete with the Roman Colosseum itself.
The complex has been preserved so well that you can even take a detailed look at all the original infrastructure: the tunnels through which gladiators passed under the arena, and the facilities used by wealthy spectators who sat in the most advantageous seats.
Also be sure to walk to the local Forum, home to the mighty Temple of Augustus and the Goddess Roma, as well as ancient gates and triumphal arches. All these buildings create the atmosphere of a square forever frozen in time.
Address: Pula, Croatia.
Brijuni National Park
Brijuni National Park.
To reach the Brijuni National Park, follow the coast from Rovinj to Pula until you reach the coastal village of Fažana. Here you buy a ferry ticket to Brijuni, the largest island in the wonderful national park of the same name.
This is part of an archipelago consisting mainly of uninhabited islands with fascinating nature and history. Prehistoric people have inhabited these places since time immemorial, but by the early 18th century man had abandoned the place forever due to rampant outbreaks of the plague.
Be sure to visit the ruins of the two Roman villas and the Church of Saint Mary, built by the Templars in the 13th century. Here you can also see the oldest dinosaur footprints, frozen in limestone, which are almost 200 million years old.
Address: Nacionalni park Brijuni, Fažana, Croatia.
Golden Cape Park
Golden Cape Park | Photo: Tim Ertl / Flickr.
This park, covered with oak and pine groves with 10 species of cypress trees, was founded in 1890 by Baron Hütterott, an Austrian admiral who had his own villa on the island of Crveni Otok. Here you can swim in the bays located between the three capes: Punta Montauro, Punta Corrente and Punta Scaraba. The park is easily accessible on foot or by bike, following the promenade south of the harbor.
Address: Golden Cape, Rovinj, Croatia.
Street Grizia.| Photo: jbdodane / Flickr.
This beautiful cobblestone street with galleries and souvenir stores crosses the old town and climbs uphill to the Church of St. Euphemia. Its windows, balconies, portals and plazas are a whimsical mix of styles – Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical.
Note the unique fumaioli (outdoor chimneys) built during the demographic boom, when entire families lived in the same room with a fireplace.
Rovinj, attractions and beaches
Rovinj turned out to be the most captivating city I saw in Croatia. All cities in Istria are good, all have a distinctly “Italian note”, but Rovinj is something radiant. Especially marvelous it looks from the water – the city in an orange “skirt”, with the bell tower in the center.
The sights of Rovinj on the map
The historical center of Rovinj is situated on an oval peninsula which was once a separate island. It was an island hill, with a gentle but distinctive peak. In the 18th century, the channel between the island and the land was filled in. But to this day, the “seam” is clearly visible. Moreover, it is the flattest place of the city and actually its center.
On one side of the seam is the local market, and on the other is the main town square, Marshal Tito’s Trg, with a fountain in the center. On the square stands the town hall with a clock tower. This tower was once the south tower of the city fortress that encircles the old town. Served for a time as a prison for juvenile criminals. And now it’s the town hall.
Next to the town hall there is a tourist office where you can pick up a map of the city.
Palazzo Callifi, Rovinj museum
One side of Marshal Tito Square faces the sea, and in its narrow inner corner, already passing into Garibaldi Street, stands out a palace in Venetian style – Palazzo Calliffi, which now houses the Rovinj Museum.
In addition to the permanent exhibition, temporary exhibitions are also held there.
When we were there, there was an exhibition of Picasso ceramics and a photography exhibition, so I didn’t hesitate to visit the museum (especially since it was pouring nasty cold rain outside, which happily stopped after visiting the museum and was replaced by bright sunshine).
But this is all a preview of the real Rovinj. The city itself is ahead.
From Marshal Tito Square we enter the Old Town through the Balbi arch.
Once it was one of the seven city gates in the fortress wall, but now only the arch built between the houses remains. The arch is topped with the Venetian lion – since 1283 Rovinj joined the Venetian Republic, in which dwelled for 5 centuries, until the invasion of Napoleon.
Note the head of the Turk in a turban, placed at the bottom of the arch.
On the other side of the arch is the head of a Venetian.
And we go further and get to Via Grisia, the famous street of artists, with numerous galleries, souvenir shops, and cafes.
Grisia leads to the top of the hill, and from it the narrow streets scatter in different directions.
The streets are lined with white slabs, polished to a shine by the many visitors and very slippery. When going to Rovinj pay attention to your shoes – the climb to the top of the hill is steep and slippery, and God forbid they get wet in the rain.
Most pictures taken in the old part of Rovinj will be vertical – the streets sometimes just look like slits between the houses.
You can deviate from the vertical direction and go in circles.
Remains of the fortress wall
Climbing above the houses
A small lighthouse on the edge of the hill,
And underneath is the pillbox, left over from the war times.
Under the pillbox is a small beach, but no one was swimming.
Church of St. Euphemia.
The bell tower of St. Euthymia church is above the lighthouse.
The Church of St. Euphemia stands at the very top of the hill and it is the most important, most sacred place in the town and the main attraction of Rovinj.
The church was laid out in 1651 – in memory of the miraculous discovery of the relics of the early Christian martyr St Euphemia in 800. The sarcophagus with her relics, which had previously disappeared from Constantinople, unexpectedly ended up in Rovinj.
A basilica was built to hold the sarcophagus – on the site of the old Church of St. George. Since then St Euphemia is considered to be the patroness of Rovinj and on her memory day on September 16 many believers flock to the city.
The basilica is three-nave. In its central part, in the altar, we see the figure of St. George – as a reminder of the former temple.
The right altar is dedicated to St. Euphemia. In the center of the magnificent baroque composition, in a portico of dark green marble, rises a statue of Euphemia in a crown.
Behind the altar is a sarcophagus containing the relics of the saint.
The walls of the chapel are painted with frescoes.
Here is the scene of the saint’s death. Along with other Christians she was thrown to the lions. The lion killed her gently, in a single touch, without causing her torment.
And in this picture we see the sarcophagus with the relics of Euphemia, thrown on the shore just under the walls of Rovinj.
View of Rovinj from the colonnade
After visiting the church, be sure to climb the bell tower.
The bell tower not only stands on the very top of the hill, it has a considerable height of 62 meters and is considered to be one of the highest in Croatia. At the top of the tower is a copper statue of Euphemia, 4.7 meters high.
Step by step we climb the wooden stairs inside the tower,
and finally reach the open area below the bells.
A breathtaking view of the city, its houses and streets, the harbor with its yachts, the park at the foot of the church.
The park near the church
Opposite the town is the island of St. Catherine. It is an island park with beaches and a hotel in the middle. Its size exceeds the size of the peninsula on which Rovinj arose. Had it been closer to the shore it would have had a different fate. On the island there is Island Hotel Katarina, built next to the old castle.
In Croatian, the name of the island is Otok Sveta Katarina. In general, the proximity of our languages and the unexpected variants of words at the same time evoke involuntary comparisons: how accurately our languages reflect certain concepts.
The same “flow” – everything is clear: it is something that flows around from all sides. Laconic and logical. And the small island is called “otochik. By the way, there are plenty of otoks and otochiks around Rovinj. There are boat trips to the islands from Rovinj.
Golden Cape Park
Behind the island of St. Catherine you can see the forested shore – this is the park “Golden Cape”. From the bell tower you can clearly see how big the park area is.
It is the second most important arboretum park in Croatia after the Trsteno Arboretum near Dubrovnik. It has a large number of plant species typical of the Mediterranean, as well as other regions: cedar, stone pine, cypress, holly and others. There are hiking and biking trails along the park, and climbers train on the rocks. A park map of the Golden Cape is available at the entrance to the park.
Map of Rovinj with St. Catherine’s Island and Golden Cape Park. Compare the dimensions.
The Ancient City Gate and the Great Mole
Descending from the tower, we continue walking through the city. And at every step we bump into something nice.
Here is the white stone Gate of the Holy Cross, one of three preserved city gates. Already in the 7th century, Rovinj was walled and had 7 gates.
And this is another city gate – St. Benedict – and even a remnant of the fortress wall.
From the shore a long breakwater (it is called Veliki mol), which encloses a port filled with yachts.
From the breakwater on the Old Town there is a wonderful view: colorful houses lined up along the water’s edge. For some, the view reminds one of Venice. For me, it reminds me of Sicily’s Cefalù. In Croatia, for some reason I often thought of Sicily.
Meanwhile, it was lunchtime, and the numerous tables of summer cafes scattered on squares, embankments, and streets began to fill up.
The most popular dish in Rovinj is fried calamari.
The dish costs about 10 euros, accompanied by a glass of Croatian white wine – it turns out great. Tasty and nourishing.
Having satisfied our hunger, we go in search of the beach. A landmark is a green cape behind the port.
On the seafront you can rent a bicycle, book a boat trip with swimming – to the nearest islands or to Lima fiord.
Meanwhile, we approach the park, in the depths of which hides the Monte Mulini Hotel (Monte Mulini 5*).
After passing through the park, we reach the beach. First there is the hotel beach, then a large green area, behind which the Eden Hotel 4* is located.
On the beach at the hotel Monte Mulini 5 * I was quietly allowed. There is not a lot of people (which is amazing for mid-July). The water is warm, very clean, the going in is good. The beaches in Rovinj are mostly pebbly or stony.
I read that in Rovinj there are a lot of nudist beaches, and in some places the border between normal and nudist beaches is not clearly defined. Some do not even recommend going to Rovinj for a beach holiday with children. While walking along the beach, I didn’t come across a single nudist.
The Chapel of the Holy Trinity and the Franciscan Monastery
After swimming, I decided to see the part of Rovinj that no longer lies on the peninsula, but on “dry land”, behind the flooded channel.
A view of the church of St. Euphemia over the masts
I came to the bus station, beside which, amidst the bustle of traffic and people, stands the oldest surviving structure in town, the heptagonal Chapel of the Holy Trinity.
From Lokva Square (Trg na Lokvi) begins the pedestrian street Carera, filled with stores, souvenirs and cafes.
A common souvenir from Rovinj are artistically carved candles. Craftsmen carve fantastic figures out of candles.
Along Carera Street, I reached another square – Torg on the Bridge – and turned right.
A steep ascent uphill, and I was in a small square in front of the Franciscan monastery.
The monastery was built in 1702-1710s and consecrated in honor of Francis of Assisi. It is a large complex with a courtyard adapted to house a large monastic community. There is now a museum in the monastery. Its collection ranges from 16th century folios to ancient herbariums and instruments of torture.
To understand how powerful and influential the monastery was, walk along its walls.
A little more wandering around the city. Some of the houses are wonderful.
Closing the circle, I find myself again in front of the town hall. And this is where my walk ends.
Rovinj turned out to be delightful. Ahead of us is Poreč, another wonderful city of Istria.