4 artsy things to do in Rijeka, 2020’s European City of Culture

Rijeka in Croatia has been named the 2020 European Capital of Culture, here are four reasons why you should pay it a visit. 

2020 is a very special year for Croatia. The eastern Europe gem has become the travel destination du jour of the last five years, praised for its interesting beaches (think dramatic coastlines and crystal waters) and ancient architecture. 

Now, though, it’s upped its game from natural beauty to vibrant, cultural hub after spending three years working towards the title of European City of Culture for 2020.

Rijeka is one of Crotia’s biggest and buzziest port cities. Sitting on the country’s coast, it looks out to the northern Adriatic Sea and is already home to some impressive arts and culture institutions. 

However, this year its cultural offerings have been taken to the next level, which is sure to bring in a whole new wave of tourism. 

Throughout the year, Rijeka will host an exciting events programme inspired by three central themes that represent the city: water, hard work and migration. All three revolve around the city’s role in Croatia, as a place with both a river that flows through and one that is on a port. This means Rijeka is a hub of industry and a city that’s never shied away from migration, given the many ships which pass through with people from other lands.

What’s particularly special about that last theme is its focus on diversity, as Rijeka intends on making clear that it supports an inclusive society.

So, if there was ever a time to explore this wonderful city, this is it. Here are four things you simply have to do while you’re there.

  • Literary Hay Festival Europa28

    Hay Festival is already a prestigious literary event in the UK, but this year it’s heading to Rijeka to highlight the contribution of women in Europe across the fields of literature, science and the arts. 

    It will bring together 28 outstanding female artists, authors, thinkers and scientists for a three-day festival from 3 to 5 June. Events are priced individually. 

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  • Trsat Castle

    This beautiful and historic site dates back to the 13th century and offers a gorgeous view out to the Kvarner Gulf. A tangible reminder of the depth of Croatia’s history, a stop off at Trsat Castle is a must among Rijeka’s cultural offerings.

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  • Lungomare Art

    As part of the city’s cultural badge of honour, a trail of art is free to view in different locations from the hiking route overlooking Lovranska Draga to the fish market pictured above.

    The installations, created by renowned artists, designers and architects from Croatia, Europe, Japan and Chile and selected by the Czech curator Michal Koleček, evoke traditions and stories that are important to the local communities. 

    They’re functional as well as aesthetic, with some of them being transformed into areas to relax, playgrounds and spaces for conversing and learning.

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  • Croatian National Theatre Ivan Zajc

    This institution of arts is worth seeing thanks to the ceiling painted by famous Austrian painter Gustav Klimt. Throughout 2020 the theatre has a jam-packed programme of performances from opera like Madama Butterfly, ballet and plays such as Romeo and Juliet

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Images: Getty Images / Instagram

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