What to do in Rovinj: The Ultimate Guide to Croatia’s Most Underrated City

What to do in Rovinj: The Ultimate Guide to Croatia’s Most Underrated City

As holiday seekers flock to Dalmatia for the popular sailing trips on the Adriatic Sea, the Istria region in Croatia is often overlooked. It only took my 8TH TRIP back to Croatia to finally venture to this lesser-known peninsula, due to my intense (and some might say unhealthy) attachment to the mesmerising Dalmatian coast.

Rovinj is located on the coast of the Istria peninsula, in the Western part of Croatia. Istria is known for its impeccable wine, world class gastronomy, coveted (and expensive) truffles, and storybook hilltop towns. What’s not to love about Istria? Please tell me. I’ll wait…

Last September, my friend CareBear and I decided on a more slow-paced holiday and to spend an entire week in Rovinj, using it as a base to explore the Istrian peninsula. Let me start by saying Rovinj is the perfect place to base yourself when exploring this region, given its central position along the coast. Not only that, it’s f***ing gorgeous! That fact is undeniable.

I will say that I wasn’t expecting to love Rovinj as much as I did. The Dalmatian coast has set the bar super high for me and I must admit I am quite biased to that area. You could go as far to say that I’m passionately obsessed with it. But Rovinj absolutely blew me away and it quickly moved to the top as one of my favourite Croatian cities, if not my favourite.

The best way I can describe Rovnj is quaint, charming, clean, colorful, and rustic…all in one perfect package. It sounds cliche, but there are no other words I can use to describe the awesomeness that is Rovinj.

what to do in Rovinj

There is not much to see in Rovinj in terms of historical landmarks, monuments, or museums. However, it is one of those places where you can just relax and take in all the surroundings in a peaceful atmosphere. The people are extremely friendly and the service was excellent overall.

First Impressions of Rovinj

Rovinj has such a huge Italian influence, understandably given its close proximity. The city of Rovinj felt like a blend between Italy and Croatia, my 2 favorite countries in the entire world. The food, the rustic architecture, and the colours are like a spitting image of the Ligurian region in Italy (my favourite region in Italy!). At times, I forgot that I was actually in Croatia and felt as if i was in Cinque Terre. That’s how strong the Italian influence was.

what to do in Rovinj

What really surprised me about Rovinj is that Croatian didn’t seem to be the dominant language, although technically it is. We heard just as much Italian and German as we did Croatian. And when the locals spoke Croatian, it sounded like it was with an Italian accent. The dialect is completely different from further south along the coast, and it was distinctly apparent. I was extremely surprised to hear how much German was spoke there, until we were informed that these were Austrians speaking and it made sense as this region used to be ruled by Austria in historical times! 

Why is Rovinj so Lovely? Let me Count the Ways…

The Picturesque Streets of Rovinj

Rovinj is the epitome of Picture Perfect. The streets of Rovinj are a photographer’s dream. In fact, Rovinj was one of the most picturesque towns I have ever seen. Period. My favourite part about Rovinj by far was the consistently stunning streets. Every day we found ourselves just getting lost in the maze-like alleys and having a blast. Around every corner, it was more and more beautiful.

what to do in Rovinj

There were numerous little cafes with funky/colourful furniture that were just so visually inviting it made you want to go in for a coffee every 5 minutes. One can only drink so much coffee in a day, but damnit they were just so stinkin’ cute!

what to do in Rovinj

The stores were so unique and the eclectic displays were very pleasing to the eye. The immaculate design of each little shop astounded me and silently lured me in. I could have shopped all day, even though I didn’t buy anything. We experienced boutique heaven in Rovinj.

what to do in Rovinj

 What To Do in Rovinj

The Farmer’s Market

I could never leave a city without visiting the local farmer’s market. In fact, it’s usually the first place I visit when arriving to a new city in order to stock up on some healthy snacks. The Farmer’s Market in Rovinj does not disappoint. The fruit is super fresh, juicy, and robust. The vendors are also very friendly and inviting, often giving you loads of tasting samples.

what to do in Rovinj

Honey, olive oil, truffles, and figs, you name it and they had it there. What’s best about this specific one is that it’s basically open all day until about 10pm, unlike most farmer’s markets that are only open in the mornings.

We went there so often that everyone started knowing us by name, and eventually free fruit was thrown in here and there.

Monte Beach

Let me start by saying Rovinj isn’t known for its beaches. The one I would recommend is called Monte Beach and is located just a hop skip and a jump from the center (did I really just say that?).

https://www.instagram.com/p/7Sl2mmuW2Q/?taken-by=crazytravelista

Monte Beach isn’t really technically a beach, it’s more like a rocky cove frequented by sunbathers brave enough to lay on the rigid rocks. It was super cute and not too crowded, and this became our little go-to spot every day. We even went here a few times to watch the sunset over the rocks and it was incredible. Check it out at least once if you’re in Rovinj. Oh, and bring some wine.

Church of St Ephemia Clock Tower

This is where you can find the best panoramic views over the city. You have to walk up some wobbly/narrow stairs to get to the top, but it’s worth it for the 360 degree views.

what to do in Rovinj

Entrance fee is 3 euros.

Rent A Bike

https://www.instagram.com/p/7c3wkROWzp/?taken-by=crazytravelista

This was a great way to see more of just the centre of Rovinj. You can’t really ride the bikes inside the narrow streets. Instead, we went along the coast where some of the other more populated beaches were located. There were rental places all throughout the city, so no need to book in advance. 

Go Boutique Shopping (or in our case, window shopping)

what to do in Rovinj

There was no shortage of specialty boutiques in the city, from eclectic jewellery shops selling one-of-a-kind pieces to musical shops selling cool vintage instruments. The displays in these stores were outstanding and you could really appreciate the attention to detail. All were so funky and different, it was nice to just browse through them one by one, entertaining our curiosities.

Find the Most Instagrammed Spot in Rovinj

As you’re walking through the city, you may stumble upon the cutest little street ever and your head will turn (as did mine). Can you see why it’s the most Instagrammable street in Rovinj?

https://www.instagram.com/p/7lVVWTuW2D/?taken-by=crazytravelista

Secret Find: Mediterraneo Bar

This was by far our absolute favorite place in Rovinj and we came back every single day. The irresistible archway framing the steps leading into the sea is what initially drew us in. A cozy cafe by day and a coveted drinking spot during sunset, this is the place you will want to be.

https://www.instagram.com/p/7ToI2lo-2s/?taken-by=carebearabroad

Newly opened in May 2015 by a Rovinj native, Jasmin Huskic, Mediterraneo Bar serves coffee and speciality cocktails in a cozy seaside retreat. The staff is warm and inviting, always making sure you are enjoying your time.

what to do in Rovinj: Mediterraneo Bar

The cafe/bar is nicely decorated with an eclectic and bohemian inspired flare. Plush colourful cushions placed on the rocks and mismatched furniture give it a vibrant atmosphere. During the day, you have the option of jumping from the rocks and swimming right in front of the cafe. How cool?

The best part about this bar is the “secrete escape” spot that is, well…a secret. Tucked away in a private corner on the rocks, there is a magical spot that offers privacy in a romantic setting with a small table, cushions, and soft blankets offered for the cold night breeze.

what to do in Rovinj

The secret escape has become so popular that reservations are now warranted for this coveted spot. It was truly a unique experience watching the sunset in our own private little nest.

Mediterraneo Bar is seriously one of my favorite cafes I have ever been to! Hands-down. And no, this isn’t sponsored in any way, it’s really that awesome! If you make it over there, tell Jasmin that Crazy Travelista and CareBear Abroad say hi!

Where to Stay in Rovinj

As I usually do, I highly recommend using Airbnb for accommodation. During my search, I came across a big variety of choices in the center of the city and at very reasonable prices. We chose to stay in the center and it was the absolute perfect location, everything within a few minutes walk.  We picked a private apartment and we couldn’t have been happier. It happened to be on what became our favourite street in Rovinj, with a restaurant and coffee bar conveniently outside our door.

what to do in Rovinj

The one-bedroom apartment had a full kitchen, private bathroom and shower, wifi, a flat screen TV, and a pull out couch. The apartment could fit 3 people comfortably. We really enjoyed utilizing the kitchen to save money on eating out every meal. The total price for one week including all taxes and fees was $350 ($175 each split between us). It could have been even less if we had one more with us. We paid a little more this time for the prime location and it was well worth it.

You can check out our Airbnb rental here. (Update: the price has increased a bit since we stayed here, wahhh). And if you’re new to Airbnb, feel free to use my $40 off coupon! They really do have a great referral program! (PS: even if you already have a AirBnb account, you can sign up with a new email and still get the $40 OFF. YAY)

Where to Eat in Rovinj

As a Gluten-free eater, my restaurant recommendations are often limited as I can only sample a small selection of foods, unfortunately. I also tend to cook most my meals if I can, even when I’m traveling. Nevertheless, I did manage to find a few Gluten-friendly options that I really enjoyed.

where to eat in Rovinj

Pano e Vino-I was so excited to find an Italian place that served Gluten-free pasta. I sampled the gluten-free bolognese and the seafood risotto which were both flavourful and rich. I loved the fact that they brought out gluten-free bruschetta as an appetizer on the house, as well as gluten-free bread with our meals. I highly recommend this place even if you are not gluten free. The staff was super friendly and even gave us a whole bottle of honey grappa on the house. If we hadn’t eaten here the last night, I would have definitely returned again.

Squid 2-this restaurant has a great view of the riva and offers a variety of fresh seafood. We opted for the fish platter for 2 and it was very good and filling. The bonus is that they take credit cards.

Scuba-this restaurant also offered a variety of gluten-free options at a reasonable price. I also sampled the seafood risotto here, which was delightful and a very big portion.

B52-this place had the best gelato we tried in Rovinj and with the biggest selection. This is also the ONLY place that would allow us to sample the flavors. The scoops were huge and well worth the price. I recommend the fig gelato, unusual, yet mouthwatering.

How to Get to Rovinj

Planes, trains, and automobiles…literally. The only airport located in the Istrian region is in Pula, about 40 minutes by bus to Rovinj (costs 43 kuna). There are many affordable flights to Pula within Croatia on Croatia Airlines. I flew from Zadar to Pula for around $75 and it took less than an hour.

There are also busses from Split and Dubrovnik by Bus Croatia, but they are less frequent, take 9-12 hours, and some cost almost as much as a flight. Busses from Zagreb take about 6 hours.

You could also rent a car and drive to Rovinj; however, parking in the city can be a pain in the butt. Also, you really would only need a car for a day or 2 at the most, so if you are staying for a week it’s kind of a waste of money in my opinion.

Your best bet is snagging a cheap flight from Dalmatia or Zagreb!

How to Get Around Rovinj

By foot! It’s a total walkable city given its small size. You can get anywhere in 15 minutes max. I do however, recommend renting a car for one day to explore the surrounding region.

Exploring Istria (day trip)

One thing you must do in this region is get out and explore the countryside by car. In fact, this is the only way to reach the nearby hilltop towns, as public transport doesn’t serve most of these areas.

https://www.instagram.com/p/7VNjSiuW8H/?taken-by=crazytravelista

Highly recommended on your Istrian road trip are the towns of Motovun, Hum, Groznjan, and Novigrad. You can do them all in one day as they are all less than an hour and fifteen minutes from Rovinj! Just make sure to get an early start. To get all the details, read my post Exploring Istria, Croatia by Car: the Perfect 1-Day Road Trip

Day Trip It to Pula

Pula lies on the southern tip of the Istrian Peninsula and is a short 35-ish minute bus ride from Rovinj. The main attraction in Pula is the magnificent Pula Area, which was constructed back in the 1ST CENTURY! In fact, it’s older than the Colosseum in Rome! It’s also the 6th largest Roman arena in the world that still exists today!

Pula Arena, Croatia

There are also a few cute beaches to visit in Pula, as well as the nearby Kamenjak National Park, which I’m kicking myself for not getting to (I was short on time). If you make it over to Kamenjak, please let me know what I missed!

Pula, Croatia

Moral of the Story?

GO TO ROVINJ! It’s an overlooked Croatian splendour that doesn’t get the hype it very well deserves. Rovinj is very relaxing and romantic, the perfect base for exploring the Istria countryside, is filled with hospitable people, has great food, and is undeniably drop-dead gorgeous! All the elements of THE perfect city if you ask me!

what to do in Rovinj

Do you have any other tips for what to do in Rovinj? Any secret finds I failed to mention? Please let me know in the comments below! I would love to check them out when I finally return!

Click photo to Pin for later♥

What to do in Rovinj

RECOMMENDED TRAVEL GEAR:

1.Sony Alpha 6000 Mirrorless Camera: I made the switch from my huge DSLR and I wouldn’t go back. It’s light, compact, and takes amazing photos!

2. Sony 10-18mm Wide Angle Zoom Lens: this wide angle lens is the key to landscape shots. I use this lens more than the original and am super happy with it. It’s not cheap, but super worth it if you want to get those special nature shots. Honestly, I would purchase the Sony alpha 6000 camera body only and save up for this lens to go with it.

3. E Bags Packing Cubes: the biggest life changer to keep me packing light! This is my biggest travel gear obsession and I have NO idea how I traveled without them before.

4. LifeProof NUUD Waterproof Case (iPhone 6): this helps protect my phone from water, sand, dirt, and the numerous drops that incur while I travel. I love it!

5. GoPro Hero 5 Black: I am a proud GoPro ambassador and obsessed with GoPro selfie pics if you didn’t notice! This is an essential item when you’re traveling solo to get all your cool shots (and of course underwater pics). Plus it’s so much fun to use! 🙂

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a super small commission if you make a purchase using these links, at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products that I have used before on my own and that I truly love 🙂

 

 

2015 Top 7 Travel Surprises (+ 2016 Preview)

2015 Top 7 Travel Surprises (+ 2016 Preview)

2015 was a crazy year in terms of travel. I visited 17 countries, 9 of which new countries I had never been. I never expected to do so much travelling, but I can honestly say it was the best travel year of my life! I decided to put together a list of the top 7 travel surprises of 2015. These are all places that far exceeded my expectations and shocked me/blew me away. I have also included a list of my (tentative) travel plans for 2016. Cheers to a new year of travel!

1. Ljubljana, Slovenia

Charming Ljubljana, Slovenia

Charming Ljubljana, Slovenia

Never had I before experienced a capital city so charismatic as Ljubljana. I wasn’t expecting much going into the Slovenian capital, as I usually don’t care too much for most capital cities these days. I’d rather visit a smaller, more unique village on the outskirts. However, Ljubljana blew me away! Ljubljana had a small town vibe indeed. The one word that comes to mind when I think of Ljubljana is charming. It was an eclectic mix of elegant/classy and bohemian/hippy, if that makes sense. The cafe culture was alive outside and it was almost impossible not to sit down at one of the trendy cafes overlooking the river. With only 1 day there, it wasn’t enough and I hope to go back soon to enjoy it more.

2. Interlaken, Switzerland (aka “Narnia”)

 

The ultimate winter wonderland in Interlaken, Switzerland

The ultimate winter wonderland in Interlaken, Switzerland

With only a short amount of time in Switzerland, we had a lot on our lists of things to see. But when traveling, sometimes you realize that plans don’t always work out the way you would like. Me and my friend Carey planned to see Jungfrau and/or Harder Kulm, yet due to the heavy snowfall, the visibility was slim to none and these activities never happened. We were a bit disappointed, to say the least, as the only 2 things we came there to see were closed. So we decided to take a paper map and explore the city. Well, we got lost and ended up walking through a park in the middle of a snow storm. We were literally in the middle of nowhere, with nothing in sight except for white powdery snow. At one point, a man on a horse rode by covered in a robe (a sort of “black knight”)and we looked at each other like, is this real life? We played in the snow and had numerous photo shoots, just the 2 of us. Something so simple brought us so much joy and it ended up being our favorite part of the trip. You know what they say, sometimes no plans are the best plans.

3. Israel and Palestine

Culture shock in Israel

Culture shock in Israel and Palestine

It was surreal to be able to stand on the same ground where Jesus once stood and to see his birthplace. The whole visit to Israel seemed like a dream and it’s something I have wanted to do my whole life. And I can honestly say that I experienced the biggest culture shock in all of my travels to date visiting this area. To see young military personnel walking around with guns was something very new to me, yet it’s a normal way of life over there. Also, the clash of multicultural people within the city walls of Jerusalem who were all living harmoniously together was incredible to see. If only those walls could speak. It was truly an eye-opening experience and I’m so glad I was able to witness it. Another huge bucket list item was also checked off for me here-floating in the Dead Sea!

YO MAY ALSO LIKE: Highlights of the Dead Sea and Masada Tour in Israel

4. Cappadocia, Turkey (aka “Mars”)

Cappadocia

Cappadocia, aka Mars

If you’ve ever been to or seen pictures of Cappadocia, I think you can agree that it is like somewhere from a different planet. The landscape is like no other place on earth and the memories made there will last forever. From eating in a local family’s house sitting on the floor, to watching the famous hot air balloons rising above the land at sunrise, these are some memories I will never forget.

5. Rovinj, Croatia

streets of Rovinj, Croatia

The picturesque streets of Rovinj, Croatia

It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with Croatia, but visiting Rovinj catapulted this obsession to a whole other level. The fact that I waited so long to visit this area baffles me. The streets of Rovinj were some of the most picturesque streets I have ever seen. The mixture of Croatian, Italian, and German languages spoke in this city really surprised me, until I learned some of the history behind it. The architecture especially had a strong Italian influence and at times I forgot I was in Croatia. How could I not like a city that felt like a mixture of Croatia and Italy, my 2 favourite countries! If you haven’t been to Rovinj yet, you’re really missing out on a hidden gem of Croatia!

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Top 5 Reasons to Visit Croatia NOW

6.Hallstatt, Austria

Hallstatt, Austria in winter

The unreal village of Hallstatt, Austria

This is a place I had been dreaming to go ever since I saw pictures that actually made me think this place was fake due to its stark beauty. Usually when I give myself high expectations I am let down, 9 out of 10 times. But this wasn’t one of those times! Hallstatt might be the most beautiful/quaint/cute small village I have ever seen. The fact that it is set on a breathtaking lake just magnifies its beauty. Visiting Hallstatt was also very special since I went on my birthday and also because I’m half Austrian. Hallstatt definitely did not disappoint.

7.Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle in winter

Feeling like a princess at the fairytale Neuschwanstein Castle

If you’ve ever traveled in Europe, you come to realize that extravagant castles appear to be the norm there. Once you’ve seen a dozen, you start to become immune to their grandeur. However, Neuschwanstein Castle is the epitome of a fairytale, and in my opinion it was the most spectacular castle I’ve ever seen. This was also part of my birthday trip so it was extra special. But when I arrived, it almost didn’t happen. Due to the weather, the lookout bridge with the best view of the castle was closed. But of course that didn’t let it stop me. I jumped over the fence and decided to go anyway, as many others decided as well. As a tried to take the “easy route” against my boyfriend’s wishes, I slipped on ice ad fell hard on my left shoulder. I then grabbed the bottom of the fence with my right arm, as my feet were dangling off the mountain. My boyfriend ran to my rescue and grabbed me by my left shoulder to help me up. The rest of the trip I could barely move my arm, but it was well worth it for the amazing views! I certainly felt like princess on my birthday.

Where Am I going in 2016?
That’s a very great question! So far, I only have a short trip to Reykjavik, Iceland and Bergen, Norway booked for Winter 2016. The rest is up in the air for now! However, I have a tentative plan that I hope will get put into full effect. Here it goes:

Spring 2016 wish list:

  • Portugal
  • Croatia
  • Italy

Summer 2016 wish list:

  • Latvia
  • Estonia
  • Finland

Fall 2016 wish list:

  • Norway fjords

2016 “maybes”:

  • Morocco
  • South Africa
  • South America
  • Bulgaria

I can’t afford to go to all these place, so I will probably pick just one or 2 out of this category. It’s such a hard choice!

*As with most travelers, plans can always change and new destinations will be chosen last-minute (which is what happened with Israel and Egypt last year!)

So, here’s to not knowing exactly what my plans are and the fun part of figuring that out. Happy New Years to everyone and I’ll see you in 2016!

WHAT WERE YOUR 2015 TOP TRAVEL SURPRISES? AND WHERE WILL YOU BE HEADED IN 2016? DO TELL!