Travel Croatia - Rovinj - This is why you have to visit

From Berlin, I drive 1,200 km through Germany, Austria, and Slovenia, and I also come very close to Italy before I reach Rovinj in Istria on the Adriatic Coast in Croatia. It is fantastic how diverse all these countries are, and as a very happy citizen of a globalized world, I appreciate every single one. Croatia is really one of the prettiest places to visit. Excellent food, clear waters, and what I really love is that people have the best humour; it is just such a great place. If you haven’t been yet, go and make a plan. Now.
Travel Croatia - This is why you absolutely have to see Rovinj

A narrow cobblestone lane lined by terracotta coloured four storey weathered period properties.
Cobblestoned lane in the car free old town of Rovinj

How old is Rovinj?

Rovinj is one of the most enchanting places. I love to look at the history of the place I visit. The first thing I always have to find out is how old a place is. And Rovinj surely went to the most exciting times in its lifetime. What follows is what happened so far, in a few sentences.

The Romans occupied Istria till 476, after that the Huns and the Byzantine came. It later fell under Frankish rule. Between the 9th and the 11th century towns were looking for autonomy and urban structures were established. Venice, a maritime republic, took over the island of Rovinj in 1283 and started a ship building tradition. Rovinj grew, the channel between the island and the mainland was closed, and the island ended up being a peninsula. The church St. Euphemia was built, and in 1797 Venice lost its power to Austria. When Napoleon took charge everything changed again, but he could only hold onto it for a mere few years before Austria was back in the saddle to turn Rovinj into an industrial hub with a flourishing industry, with a theatre and a hospital for its citizens. The town had a railway line, was connected to the telephone line, and gas lamps were installed.

The Habsburg monarchy fell apart, and at the end of WW1 fascist Italy took over until the town fell under German occupation in 1943. After WW2 Rovinj became part of Yugoslavia. A war was fought from 1991 to 1995. The days of the Yugoslav wars were troublesome and filled with horrific events; eventually the country became independent in 1992. Croatia joined the EU as a member in the summer of 2013. 

A headland with rows of red-roofed pastel-coloured houses and a hilltop church surrounded by the blue sea.
Old town Rovinj

How far is Croatia from Italy and Rovinj from Venice?

Venice is so close to Rovinj, one could walk really, just assuming you are a sporty person and split the 245 kilometres to turn it into a little walking adventure. If you prefer to go by car it is a quick three hours’ drive. You would even come across Trieste in Italy, which is the town where poet Rainer Maria Rilke started to write the Duino Elegies. You see, it is all very nearby, and it is no surprise at all to hear that “Croatian as well as Italian is officially spoken in this part of the world” from the stall holder at the farmers market I buy my truffle oil from. In Italian the town is called Rovigno.

A narrow cobblestone lane lined by terracotta coloured four storey weathered periodic properties, one with white freshly washed linen hanging on a clothesline along its facade over two parked bicycles.
The streets of Rovinj

What to do in Rovinj?

I couldn’t wait to see what Rovinj is like. The splendour of Rovinj with its pastel coloured houses in the old town is delightful. There are cobbled lanes all over town; with baroque- and Venetian style architecture. It actually feels like you are walking through the centuries, almost as if time stood still. There are the well-trodden paths of visitors, but as so very often, you only have to stray a few metres further and you seemingly have the town all by yourself. Hang on, that is not entirely true. On a tiny square, framed by colourful houses I hear a snoring sound, and look around me to find the source of it. There is a black and white cat, lying in the full sunshine, on a bench, sleeping. The constant sound echoes through the air, softly banging on the flower clad facades with its wooden doors. The legs of the cat are batting slightly every other second. I leave the cat be in this peaceful scene and walk on.

Hours fly by, I walk and look at the town from all different corners; I walk straight through it, all the way around it, and even all the way up to the church St. Euphemia that sits so prominently in the middle of town. The view from up here is stunning. There are cafes everywhere, so make sure you stop for a few coffees along the way to soak in the atmosphere. 

A motorbike, giant flower pots, and a worn stone staircase that leads to the brown wooden door of one of the pastel yellow coloured period properties in a cobblestone courtyard.
Courtyard in Rovinj

Terracotta flower pots with geraniums and green plants stacked on several shelves along the facade of a stone cottage with green wooden shutters.
Green Rovinj - Somebody surely has a green thumb

A cat sleeps in front of a wooden bright blue entrance door of stone cottage overgrown with wine.
Cat taking a nap in Rovinj

A long row of pastel coloured weathered periop properties by the sea.
Magical Rovinj - Pastel coloured houses

A narrow cobblestone lane decorated randomly flower pots, lined by terracotta coloured period properties.

A narrow cobblestone lane lined by terracotta- and pastel-coloured period properties.

The mosaic of a sun next to a window with dark brown wooden shutters on a house with a bright pink facade under a bright blue sky.
Rovinj - pink house. We need more pink houses in this world

A bicycle parked on a cobblestone lane under a bright pink bush oleander in front of a sandstone cottage with a red roof and bright blue wooden shutters under a bright blue sky.

Open wooden shutters on facades of pastel-coloured period properties.

Two Vespas parked at the side of a narrow cobblestone lane which is lined by four storey orange-washed period properties.

With wine overgrown facades of three sandstone four storey period properties,  and a hillside church under a light blue sky.

I find a fantastic bar; it obviously must have been created with love. When I arrive for a Cappuccino, Vitamin Sea and D the bar is really busy with people but there is a place right on the water’s edge that is free. It always pays off to go one step further. You won't believe how I found this tiny hideaway. I was at the same bar the previous night (so romantic) when I saw a woman disappearing around the corner. She went straight towards the sea and into the dark. Was she about to leave by boat? I followed her and found her sitting in this exact same spot right by the water. There was the moonlight on the sea and the sound of waves. She was kissing her partner passionately. 

It is at this bar where I taste the Malvazija from two local wineries Kozlovic and Benvenuti. At the end of the night I decide to go back the following day. Mediterraneo Cocktail Bar. Ul. Sv. Križa 24, 52210, Rovinj. Hours Monday to Friday 9am to 2am.

Colourful red, blue, pink, and white cushions perched on a rock at the bottom of a tall stone wall, by the open sea under a blue sky.
Mediterraneo Cocktail Bar - a bar with a view in Rovinj

Living culture - Batana boats in Rovinj

Rovinj has this huge fishing tradition. And today you can see quite a few fishermen in their traditional wooden boats with a flat bottom at sunset still. The Boat is called Batana and is also often the mode of transport for people who live on the nearby islands. The Batana Eco-Museum is dedicated to that exact fishing boat. It is a community project of safeguarding the living culture of Rovinj, and is currently under review to become UNESCO’s world’s best intangible cultural heritage site. Simply stroll along the harbour to see these boats.

A tiny fisherboats drives into the sunset in the open sea, all bathed in golden light.
Rovinj - fishermen in their batana boats at sunset

White yellow and blue coloured fishing boats bobbing in a harbour lined by pastel-coloured cottages, tavernas, and a hillside church under a bright blue sky.
Rovinj harbour

Where to go swimming in Rovinj?

After all the walking I need a swim and make my way to the pebbly Amarin beach, it is only five kilometres from the town centre, and within minutes I found myself on the beach. You can choose if you want to be like this “ah, oh, ah oh, ah , oh …” –person till you reach the refreshing and crystal clear water or opt for an easier life and bring swimming shoes. There are lots of facilities such as bars, kiosks, toilets, bakeries and a restaurant, that are part of a massive hotel complex and everybody is welcomed to use them. There even is a camp ground at the resort.

You find another wonderful option for a swim if you walk along Ul. Sv. Križa. There are stairs that assist you to climb in and out of the water.  

A white ferry boat driving towards a headland and the open sea under a blue sky.

Large boulders and rocks on a beach with crystal clear blue-turquoise water.
Rovinj - life is a beach

Where to eat in Rovinj?

For dinner I highly recommend Sidro Restaurant directly at the harbour. The view is magnificent and the service warm and welcoming. I went a few times and it was consistent. The choice of local wines is lovely, and there are delicious vegetarian options, as in delicious pasta. The roasted vegetables are excellent to begin with; please also try the fresh and crusty bread. Sidro Restaurant, A. Rismondo 14, Rovinj 52210.

For breakfast I make my way to the farmer's market in town. I buy croissants at one of the bakeries to take them to one of the cafés on the market. This is a great place to buy fresh fruit for a picnic on the beach but also truffle oil, wine and honey to take home as a culinary souvenir. Farmer’s Market: Gradska Tržnica - Mercato Cittadino. Ul. Giuseppea Garibaldija.

Six large round purple-coloured flower heads.

Pink, and yellow, and purple flowers, sweet potatoes, green salad, yellow flowered of zucchini, red-green pears, and cheese.
Farmer's Market in Rovinj
White fishing boats bobbing in a harbour during the blue hour, cottages, tavernas, and a hillside church dipped in the soft summer evening light.
Rovinj harbour at night

How to get to Rovinj and where to park?

To reach Rovinj you have several options, you can fly to Zagreb or Pula in Croatia, Ljubljana in Slovenia or Trieste in Italy, rent a car at the airport and drive to Rovinj. Best check the airport pages to see which connection works best for you. By car it is 590 kilometres from Munich, 570 kilometres from Vienna, 500 kilometres from Florence and 250 kilometres from Zagreb. Please remember that you will have to buy permits for certain highways in Croatia, Austria and Italy (you get vignettes at petrol stations and toll will have to be paid at the toll stations). You can drive on all German highways and roads free of charge.

As soon as you arrive in Rovinj, there are lots of parking signs you simply follow. You can park directly at the harbour or next to the town centre. It is all well signposted. Rovinj is a small town; hence it is easy to get around. 

Two barred windows in a slightly weathered orange-beige-washed facade of a two storey period property.

Before I get back to Berlin, I visit the European Green Capital Ljubljana in Slovenia. The drive from Rovinj to Ljubljana takes only two hours, and I find a place to sleep that is fit for an angel. Have you been to Rovinj or anywhere else in Croatia? I visited Split in Dalmatia, and loved it too. I visited before the summer season started, and everybody tells me it gets usually really busy in July, August and September. Always check entry requirements before you travel to Croatia.

From Berlin with love
Updated July 2023.