Opatija is a Croatian seaside town, situated in the Kvarner Bay, near the Učka Mountain and one of Croatia’s most significant cities – Rijeka. Opatija is a Mediterranean city with a long history. The earliest visitors came to Opatija back in the 1800s, when it was home to Hotel Kvarner, one of the first on the Croatian coast.
It used to be a popular health resort during the winter months. Nowadays it has developed into one of the luxurious Croatian destinations, suitable also for those who enjoy spending their summer holidays on the seaside.
Opatija – the Queen of the Adriatic
Opatija has a few nicknames you might recognize – “the Pearl of the Adriatic”, or the “Old Dame”, or maybe the most popular one “the Queen of the Adriatic”. This term reaches back to the unforgettable imperial times when Opatija used to be a meeting point for many European nobles.
This queen will win many hearts. Opatija is a year-round holiday spot, so whether you come in December or June, the emerald sea, picturesque mountain paths, quiet bays, and sand beaches await you.
Why you should visit Opatija
It’s not just the typical things a seaside destination will give you – it’s much more than that. Whichever direction you arrive from, driving into Opatija’s small forest-decorated streets and seeing the Habsburg-style villas on the side of the road makes you feel like you entered another world. It’s unlike any other place on the Adriatic.
Location is definitely something to keep in mind when choosing your destination. This oasis is easily reachable from the whole of Europe, whether you are arriving by plane, car, bus, or train.
It has been well loved by romance chasers, there are many islands nearby that you can visit, stunning nature, and special architecture. Keep reading for further reasons why you shouldn’t miss out on this not-so-hidden gem.
#1 famous Lungomare coastal promenade
The Lungo Mare is the first on the list. It is a 12 km long path, curving around the seashore and leading to numerous charming fishing towns such as Ika, Lovran, Volosko, and Icici. It was built by the Habsburg Monarchy back in the 19th century.
It is perfect for a stroll at sunset, or even during the day if you are visiting in summer when the water temperatures are perfect for an afternoon dip. Afterwards, you can stop for a refreshment in many of the cafes along the shore.
Famous spots for swimming along the Lungo Mare are the Lido beach (near Angiolina Park), Moscenicka Draga, and beaches on the nearby island of Cres.
#2 Flavourful and colourful cuisine
The cuisine of the whole region is flavoured by the Mediterranean influences and the long history of Italian occupation. You’ll find a lot of diversity in Opatija’s restaurants. However, the most famous are the fish specialities, such as baked fish. The Mediterranean aspect means you get a lot of colourful plates – with a bunch of greens, veggies such as zucchini and tomatoes, and different sauces.
Meat dishes are also on offer. Most common is roasted meat, spiced with herbs such as parsley, accompanied by stewed vegetables. Don’t miss out on something with the Istrian truffle, as they are popular in this area. You will easily find a lot of eateries, with cheap options for enormous pizza slices and kebab shops.
#3 Sveti Jakov and Angiolina parks
Opatija isn’t lacking in beautiful historic parks either. Both the Park of Sveti Jakov and Angiolina date back to the 1850s. Friedrich Julius Schüler is the name behind the first parks and villas, and even though they aren’t like today’s villas in Opatija, they hold an important historic note and give the whole town its characteristic vibe.
The park surrounds the first villa Angiolina, as the name says, and it is full of diverse plants from South America and Australia. It is simply a horticultural monument. Most of the plants are untypical for this region. Angiolina was the first villa, and the Church of St. Jakov is the oldest building in Opatija!
#4 Tradition of health tourism
Did you know that Opatija was the place where Adriatic tourism took off? Opatija became the first health resort in the whole country. Not only Opatija, but the whole area, including the Kvarner islands, has the perfect climate conditions for this – mild winters, humid air, seawater, and thick forests.
All of these are what people struggling with chest infections, rheumatic pains, and heart complaints need. Opatija was also the easiest to reach when travelling the railways from Vienna or Budapest, which helped the boom of tourism.
#5 Opatija’s Walk of Fame
If Hollywood is too far away for you, or too pricey, don’t worry – Opatija has its Walk of Fame, modelled after the one in Los Angeles. The project was launched in 2005, and you can take a picture with some of the most famous Croatian names, such as Miroslav Krleža, Nikola Tesla, and Janica Kostelić.
It was made as a monument to the successful people from all areas, sports, art, and science, who
helped promote Croatia on a worldwide scale. Try and remember some of the names as you walk by, you might hear them mentioned a few times during your stay in Croatia.
#6 Učka mountain and stunning views
Every climb might not be easy but it is surely worth it. This goes for Učka mountain as well, over a 1000 metres high mountainous region in Opatija’s immediate hinterland, which is actually a National park. This one is for those who are energetic at heart.
Once you reach the peak, a gorgeous view of the whole Kvarner Gulf awaits. This is one of those spots that bring life-affirming moments. Try hiking, hang gliding, biking, or mountain climbing on your way to the top, while getting to know a wealth of flora and fauna.
#7 Maiden with the Seagull Monument
The Maiden with the Seagull is an iconic monument of Opatija, some even consider it the city’s symbol. However, the story behind it is a tragic one. The Maiden or the “Madonna” was put there to keep vigil over the lost soul of count Arthur Kesselstadt, who passed away because of the Easter waves at the end of the 19th century.
You will easily find it near the Church of Saint Jacob.
#8 Wellness centres
As previously noted, Opatija has been a well-known health resort for a while now. For centuries it used to be the go-to place for many aristocratic and prominent people. Most wellness centres open their doors from March onwards, so whether you need relief from stress or help with the treatment of certain circulatory and heart diseases, you will find what you are looking for.
#9 Open Air Theatre
Last but not least, Opatija has an elegant Open Air Theatre, which high culture lovers will especially enjoy. Sure, the architecture of national theatres always offers something pleasing to the eye, but nothing beats a setting that has the sound of the waves softly kissing the shore in the background.
Whether you enjoy the festivals during the starry summer skies or visit the Theatre during your walk in Angiolina park, try to stop and appreciate this graceful location. Opatija will not let you leave as the same person who arrived.