If you want to see one of the most beautiful cities on the Adriatic, you should travel to Rovinj, Croatia. Rovinj (pronounced ro-VEEN) is a surprise to most people who visit it.
Sure, this is technically Croatia — but Rovinj looks like it could be in Italy! Almost like an extension of Venice! And while Dubrovnik gets all the glory, I think that Rovinj is even more beautiful.
Rovinj is located in Croatia’s Istria region, a heart-shaped peninsula that looks and feels a lot like Italy, its legacy as part of the Venetian empire. It’s not just the olive trees, pasta dishes and pastel buildings — even the places have Italian names. (Rovinj’s Italian name is Rovigno.) You can see my full Istria guide here.
Rovinj is a magical city — but like everywhere else in Croatia, you’ll have a better time if you plan your trip carefully in advance. That’s the point of this Rovinj travel guide: to show you how to plan a trip to Rovinj so you can relax and focus on being enchanted upon arrival
History of Rovinj
Historical records suggest that Rovinj has been inhabited since the prehistoric period and continued to grow through the Bronze and Iron Ages. This was during the peak of the Histrian tribe, who resided in Istria.
The whole city holds tightly to its past and no part more than the Old Town, with its narrow streets, squares and stone houses. Through the ages, Rovinj has been under the rule of a number of different countries, from the Austrians in the 19th century, to the Italian’s in the 20th century. This has shaped the development and diversity of the area and influences of these rules can be found throughout its architecture and gastronomy.
Things to do in Rovinj
There really is something for everyone in Rovinj. For a slower and more tranquil afternoon explore the Old Town where you can immerse yourself in Rovinj’s history. Every site of historical significance has an outdoor pursuit to match; hire a kayak and explore the famous Croatian coastline or hike through the nature park.
Visit St. Euphemia’s Church
Towering above the narrow streets, intimate squares and stone houses is the baroque St. Euphemia’s Church. Dominating the skyline, the church’s 60-metre-high tower offers unparalleled views of the port, pier, marina and the distinctive architecture and stone buildings. The church is a sight that Jeanne, the Croatia Traveller, picked out as one of the best in the city, “first, the sheer physical beauty of Rovinj never loses its allure. I love how the elegant bell tower of St. Euphemia punctuates the pastel-coloured houses that rise up from the sea.”
St. Euphemia Church and its bell tower entice your gaze as you scan the views. The building is dedicated to a young girl, Saint Euphemia, who at just fifteen years old was arrested for refusing to give up on Christianity and her beliefs. Atop the tower stands a statue in her memory, which revolves with the wind on its axis. Locals believe that when she points towards the ocean then it will be sunny, but if she faces the town then it will be cloudy and rainy. For just 20 Kuna (£2.40) you can climb the staircase and witness the stunning views of the area and even the Alps on a clear day.
Explore the Old Town
The charming Old Town is a real highlight. Smooth cobblestoned streets weave their way through a tapestry of pastel-coloured Old Town houses in an area that really pays homage to their neighbour, Italy. There are beautiful examples of Venetian architecture throughout this part of Rovinj, such as Venetian lions and a Renaissance clock tower. This is because the city was part of the Venetian Republic which ran from 1283 to 1797, before the arrival of Napoleon Bonaparte.
“One of the best things to do in Rovinj is to take a stroll around the Old Town and its waterfront,” says Jan from The Crazy Tourist. “While enjoying the amazing sights and colourful houses make sure to try Fuzi pasta at one of the local restaurants, a typical taste of the Istria region.”
Jeanne adds, “the view is equally impressive from the north and south sides of the Old Town. I love climbing the cobblestone streets to the top and gazing out at the offshore islands while cackling seagulls swoop by.” Jeanne has written her own guide to Istria and Rovinj which is well worth a read.
Walk around Golden Cape Forest Park
Just a 20-minute walk from the centre of Rovinj is the Golden Cape Forest Park. The nature park is ideal for anyone wanting to spend the day hiking, cycling, swimming or even rock climbing. The area is yours to discover. Boasting plenty of paths and hidden coves, it rewards those who are willing to venture further and further within, serving up a new beauty spot around every corner which is always quieter than the last.
Where to eat in Rovinj
Located at the centre of an area known for its olive oil, wine and truffles, Rovinj is home to chic cafés, luxurious restaurants and food markets, all serving up the finest local cuisine. But where should you go for a bite to eat and a refreshing drink? Besty from Passing Thru recommends leaving the tourist trail behind, “our best tip for Rovinj is to head away from the touristy waterfront restaurants where the menus all have the same photos. Those are fine for happy hour or an after-dinner drink to soak up the sunset and atmosphere. But for a great food experience, walk a few hundred feet from the waterfront square to Driovier 3, Da Marcello Pane Vino e non solo. Here you will be warmly greeted by the owner and treated to the most exquisite combinations we tasted in all of Istria. Charming little dining rooms with personal attention. Let them boss you around, follow their orders and clean your plate. You’ll have found a new home in Rovinj.”
Similarly to Old Town’s architecture, there is an evident Venetian influence with the gastronomy of Rovinj. Jeanne explains, “as you know, Rovinj was part of the Venetian empire for centuries which left its mark on the architecture the culture. Italian influence is most evident in the food. Dining in Rovinj is outstanding, probably the best in Istria which is really saying something. Whether choosing a simple pizza, an expertly grilled fresh fish or an elaborate concoction of local ingredients, it’s impossible to have a bad meal in Rovinj.”
Otherwise known as ‘the pearl of the Istrian peninsula,’ foodies can discover incredible samples of locally sourced dishes and drinks. Why not follow in the footsteps of Bri from The Travel Medley and head down to the coast for a tipple? “Rovinj is the perfect place to bask in the sun, explore cobbled alleyways and drink fantastic wine (try the malvazija!). A fun splurge is Valentino Cocktail & Champagne Bar, where you can enjoy a drink on the rocks… on the rocks. Seats are stacked blue cushions that allow you to nestle right into the rocky outcrop. Fish swim along the water and artfully placed candelabras complete the scene, while you sip your drink of choice and enjoy an unbelievably stunning view of the Adriatic Sea.”
Consisting of fresh fish or meat, vegetables, Istrian truffles, prosciutto and olive oil, Istrian cuisine really makes the most of its surroundings. You can’t visit the area without tucking into local seafood. Indeed, year-round dishes are as fresh as can be given their seasonal influences, as Jennifer and Tim from Luxe Adventure Traveler told us, “Rovinj serves as a great jumping-off point for discovering the gastronomic delights and delicacies of Istria. It’s here that you find Croatian wine, truffles, olive oils, excellent fish and seafood and game meats. No matter what time of the year you visit Rovinj and Istria, you’re sure to find a festival celebrating the food of the season from asparagus to Adriatic squid. Restaurants and tavernas will offer special menus celebrating these seasonal foods.”
What’s the best time to visit Rovinj?
My favorite times to visit Rovinj are September and June. If you’re okay with warm but not lie-on-the-beach weather, May and October are very nice times to visit Rovinj. July and August are extremely hot and crowded. Overall, the best months to visit Rovinj are May, June, September, and October.