The 15 ways to have the perfect summer day in Rovinj, Croatia
Rovinj, the Croatian town where legend says the sun rises daily to meet the sea, his long lost love who refuses to join him in the sky. Ok, maybe I made that up, but there’s no escaping the sun or the sea here. They are not only forces of nature, but the foundations of the culture and food here. This incredible town may not be on the tip of your tongue or the top of tourist destinations yet, but soon it will be. This city mixes history, amazing food, active entertainment options, and relaxed beach days. No matter what you like on a vacation, Rovinj will give you the perfect day.
Rovinj pronounced Rovin-ya) lies on the Adriatic Sea on Croatia’s west coast. On a clear day, you won’t see Italy, but it’s over there somewhere. The sea is ever present in Rovinj. Though not a typical beach town, swimming, sailing, and diving can be found in many spots along the water. The town has a rich history as well. Part of the Venetian empire, the architecture feels like Venice in miniature from the church tower rising above the rest of the waterside city to the historic city walls and gates. For the history buff, foodie, water sports enthusiast, or even the beach lounger, there is plenty in this awesome small town to make a great day.
Touristy things to do in Rovinj
1. Charter a private sunset sail – Spark Sailing sails right from the harbor a few minutes walk from downtown Rovinj. We actually thought we had booked a group cruise due to the low price and were surprised to find we essentially had the boat to ourselves all evening as long as we wanted. The crew is amazing with a unique sense of humor and makes the trip unique. During our incredible sail – nothing compares to the sunset over the Adriatic when the sun paints the sky in a palette of colors not found elsewhere – we got to steer the boat out on the open water, passed the sights of the city from the water, got up close to mega yachts – even asked the crew of an Italian flagged yacht if they needed pizza suggestions – and toured the surrounding islands and natural parks. Only a dinner reservation forced us back.
2. Climb the tower at the highest point in town, St. Euphemia – Built for the patron saint of the city, who like many of the saints of Croatia was martyred for early Christian faith in the Roman Empire, this tower overlooks the entire city. For a waterside town, the city is fairly hilly and this tower gets extra height from the hill it sits on. A model of St. Mark’s in Venice in miniature, it’s a great place to take in the whole city that juts out onto the sea.
3. Explore old town on foot – Rovinj isn’t a huge town. Walking the entire perimeter even leisurely will take only an hour. Doing so though will give you some great views over the historic landmarks of the town as well as unique views of the sea through tiny alleyways that end at the water.
4. Walk the seaside promenade – Like any self-respecting Mediterranean town, Rovinj has a nice pedestrian promenade along the harbor and waterfront heading to the old city. This area picks up at night around dinner time and after when the lights come on over the walkway. Many of the great seafood restaurants in Rovinj are here as well as some gelato places, a must have after dinner treat on a hot summer night.
5. Day trip to Pula for some Roman history – Had enough of the sea already? Maybe Venetian history is just too recent for you. If so, head to the fairly nearby town of Pula, site of an immense Roman colosseum and fortifications also along the sea. A walking tour here will take you past the arena, old port, and forum where a temple can be found. It’s like getting a tour of Rome in Croatia.
Active things to do in Rovinj
6. Rent a bike and tour Zlatni peninsula park – A bike ride in the summer heat in this coastal town may sound a bit tough, but once you enter the park and get a glimpse of the lush wooded shade, you’ll see why it’s great. Beginner cyclists like us can take a short ride to several beaches and coves to get great views of the town from across the water or take a cool refreshing dip to recover. More experienced ones can continue along the full path which goes a bit off-road on unpaved trails through the trees to the end of the peninsula.
7. Take an early morning run around the park and promenade – In the summer, Rovinj gets hot. Beat the heat with an early run with the sun coming up behind you as you run toward the water through the park. Get to the promenade early as well to avoid the crowds of slow moving pedestrians and you’ll experience Rovinj as most tourists never get to see.
8. Recover with a cool swim in the sea – Croatia doesn’t have beaches like the Caribbean, but the scenery and pristine water make up for it. Most beaches feature drops from rocks or concrete piers to get in, but the sudden plunge makes the jump all the more exhilarating. Due to a lack of biodiversity – and no sharks. You can see all the way to the bottom in most spots. Take a few relaxing laps to cool back down after walking the city or biking or running the park trails.
9. Dance at the salsa festival – The problem with dance festivals is that everyone is a better dancer than you. Here in Rovinj, it doesn’t matter. Everyone gets out in the summer along the promenade just to have as much fun as possible. Grab a few cold beers, or if you really need some liquid courage, some Rijeka, Croatian spirits that will get your feet and hips moving.
Where to get incredible food in Rovinj
10. The Wine Vault at Monte Mulini – This upscale restaurant inside (and outside) the swanky Monte Mulini hotel provides a journey through the incredible culinary traditions of Croatia. From the local Istrian cuisine to food styles from down south, your meal will take you on an adventure across the country. Even the olive oil is local and mind blowing. The seafood is incredible as is the wine – the menu for which is so extensive it has to be wheeled over to your table on a cart. Try to get an outside table around sunset for one of the most romantic and memorable nights of your life.
11. Cuttlefish, Octopus, or any Cephalopod at Kantinon Tavern – Along the promenade with many other seafood restaurants that look like tourist traps but are actually quite good, Kantinon stands up a bit due to the interesting location in an old wharf warehouse with huge wooden doors and the upscale feeling. A seat in the front of the warehouse provides incredible lighting during the evening as the sun sets right through the doors. The seafood here, like the rest of Croatia is awesome, but the cuttlefish and octopus, right from the boats in the harbor can’t be missed. Flavor packed and succulently tender, they will either introduce you to the delicious creature or reaffirm why they are so tasty.
Where to get a delicious drink in Rovinj
12. Get a cocktail on the beach at the Monte Mulini beach bar – This small shack at the hotel’s beach morphs from a laid back beach bar with beach beer and fruity cocktails during the day to a swanky nightclub along the water at night. Come by twice to experience both. A cool beer, even the standard Croatian lagers, sipped while in the sun along the waterside is one of life’s greatest pleasures.
13. Cling to the cliffs above the sea at the Mediterraneo Cocktail Bar – Most cocktails are adventurous only in flavor combinations at most. This bar provides a sense of adventure due to the location, perched above the sea on rocks near the old town. Rovinj is known for alleyways and buildings where a normal looking door turns out to open up to a perilous drop to the sea, but this cocktail place is one of the few places you can make the most of that. Some even bring swimwear and jump off, taking a few minutes in the sea between drinks.
Where to stay in Rovinj
14. Hotel Adriatic – recently remodeled in 2015, this small boutique hotel is also Rovinj’s oldest. You would never realize it though with the recent upgrades and local contemporary art work displayed at every corner. Right inside the heart of the old city, it’s great for exploring on foot. Rooms at $215 / per night.
15. Monte Mulini – Rovinj’s luxurious five star hotel, the Monte Mulini can be a destination in itself. More of a resort, it offers it’s own private beach, bars, and restaurants so you never have to leave the property. For those who like the option of walking downtown, about a ten minute walk, it’s there, but you might end up staying at the beach all day instead.
Rovinj may be a small town, but it’s one that can suit the needs of nearly any type of tourist. From an active and busy day in nature, exploring historical sites, or even just lounging on the beach with a beer all day, there’s something for everyone. It’s time to visit Rovinj now before the crowds hit because this hidden gem won’t stay hidden much longer.