The idyllic port town of Rovinj Croatia
Rovinj in Croatia is possibly one of the most picturesque destination in all of Mediterranean.
The church of St Euphemia stands as a guiding light over the town. A labyrinth of narrow cobble streets run through 15th century buildings of Rovinj old town. These buildings house local residences and sobe – home stays for tourists.
A number of konoba – Croatian word for restaurants and taverns dot the waterfront where tourists are in no hurry to be anywhere. The streets are filled with art galleries, designer work, home-made products, gellateria and souvenir shops. The causal vibe in Rovinj and the endless view of deep blue water at sunset can instantly take away any travel fatigue.
Once we reached Rovinj, we parked at the main Valdibora parking while we waited for our Airbnb host to arrive. Our host arrived just in time to help us with parking and take us to our sobe. And the moment we walked in to Rovinj old town we knew we loved it. We did not expect that Rovinj will turn out to be our favorite destination in all of Croatia but it sure did. So we definitely recommend having it on your Croatian itinerary.
Why should you visit Rovinj, Croatia?
If you are a romantic like us, then you can easily spend couple of days in Rovinj doing nothing. You can endlessly wander about the narrow cobblestone streets and watch the artisans bring their masterpieces alive in the art galleries. There is certainly no dearth of places to click amazing photos.
Charming old town appeal
Rovinj is undoubtedly the most romantic and charming town in all of Istria. The old town is beautifully preserved and it is a memorable to experience to stay here.
You can spend balmy summer days wandering about the old town, biking along the coast or just by the beach. Sunsets are breathtaking here. As the sun goes down, the port comes alive brimming with tourists and families having a great time at the many restaurants and bars at the waterfront.
If you are a fan of Tuscan cuisine then you are in for a treat when visiting Rovinj and rest of Istria. The delectable truffle dishes dressed with indigenous olive oil is surely a delight. And this is not it, this gastronomic experience gets better with fresh seafood, marvelous wines and home made delicacies.
Rovinj is centrally located to all other cities/ towns that you might visit in Istria and make great day trips. You can easily visit Pula, Porec, Motuvun from Rovinj. A number of famous wineries in Istria are closely located to Rovinj and you should definitely plan to visit one of these during your stay.
The beaches near Rovinj are one of the prettiest in Istria. Although the best beaches in Croatia are located off the coast near Split. But while in Rovinj, you can still find plenty of secluded beaches with great options for swimming and snorkeling.
What is the best time to visit Rovinj, Croatia?
The best time to be in Istria and Rovinj is during the summer months between May to September. We recommend visiting Rovinj during the shoulder season which is typically around late May to June and September. The weather is pleasant with average temperature can be around 25 degrees. The towns are way less crowded during this time and the water is still great for swimming.
July and August are peak tourist time in all of Croatia and can get very busy. The only plus side if you are in Istria in these months is the opportunity to attend any of the events and festivals conducted at this time of year.
How much time do you need?
A lot of tourists base themselves in Pula and visit other towns in Istria over a day trip. But in our opinion, Rovinj is the most charming town in this region so we recommend staying 3-4 days here. You can plan day trips to other towns, wineries and guided tours from Rovinj.
How to get to Rovinj?
There are many options if you plan to visit Istria and port cities of Rovinj, Pula, Porec. etc. Most tourists base themselves in Pula, the capital city of Istria and visit other cities. However, we based ourselves in Rovinj and took day trips driving to Pula and Motovun.
Rovinj is easily accessible by car but there are some other options that you can consider.
Rent a Car
We were travelling to Istria from Zagreb so rented a car in Zagreb and drop off in Dubrovnik. There are two routes to get to Rovinj from Zagreb. We took the route passing through Rijeka and Opatija. The other route goes further up north and makes sense if you are planning to visit Slovenia.
It takes about 3-4 hours to drive to Rovinj. There are numerous places to stop for food, fuel stations on the way. However, the route itself is not very scenic and mostly passes through tunnels and urban areas. So you only get views of the coast line while passing through Opatjia and Rijeka.
There are a number of tolls in this route. You will need to pay the toll in cash (croatian kuna only) as cards are not accepted at most of these toll booths.
Travel tip: Remember to keep the toll receipts safe as these are collected at the starting booth but needs to use to pay toll fees once the motorway exits.
Car rentals in Rovinj
If you are planning to spend time only in Rovinj, then you will not need a car. The old town is pedestrian only and you can easily cover all main spots on foot. However, if you plan to take day trips to other towns or wineries then having a car is the most convenient option. There are many car rentals available in Rovinj including the standard ones like Avis, Hertz etc.
We found Rentalcars to be most convenient option for our rentals. It offers great discounts and a good customer support.
Travel tip: We explored the option of pick up location as Zagreb and drop off in Istria but most car rentals charge a hefty amount for this. But the drop off to other cities like Split and Zagreb are free of charge.
As you enter Rovinj, you will mostly reach the north side of the town and main port area also called Valdibora. The entry from this point to old town is restricted only for residents. It can get a little confusing for first time travelers so for designated parking spots.
There are no free parking areas available near the Old Town. But there are two paid parking lots right on the port. The rates for parking vary from 7-10kn per hour and about 50kn (6 euros) for the complete day. Most parking lots have options of a day ticket available for longer stays.
During peak season, these parking spots can get filled very quickly so plan ahead. If you are planning to stay in old town Rovinj then check with your sobe hosts on best way to get to your accommodation.
Travel tip: You need to go through narrow cobbled streets to get around the old town. So avoid carrying heavy luggage which needs to be dragged.
Free parking spots are available in residential areas and these are about 15 mins walk from Old Town. We got help from our local hosts to park our car in these free parking spots so do check with your Airbnb hosts/ sobe owners on these.
Travel By Bus
There are regular buses between Rovinj and other cities in Istria and Croatia. However, bus schedule can vary during shoulder or non-peak season so check for these in advance. This is not a preferred option for tourists since bus transfers may not be direct and can take longer.
It is best to buy tickets in advance either online on at bus station. You can also purchase these directly from the driver. But keep in mind that when buying tickets on the bus, exact change needs to be tendered.
Travel by Air
The only airport in Istria is Pula/Pola (Croatia). There are a number of flights available from UK rest of Europe to Pula. Another option is to fly to Trieste or Venice in Italy and then continue to Istria by ferry. However, this option is only available during peak summer season.
Accommodation in Rovinj
If you are visiting Istria, then spending time in Rovinj should be on the top your list. Rovinj offers a variety of accommodation to suit your taste. We preferred to stay in the old town in a sobe and highly recommend it. Read ahead on the all the options for a lovely stay.
Sobe in old town
Staying in old town of Rovinj was our favorite part about being here and is the best way to experience the ancient heritage. Imagine living like a local in Venetian style 15th century buildings which house residences, art galleries, cafes and restaurants.
A lot of local residences are offered as sobe for tourists. This is very similar to living in a home stay or airbnb rentals. Bear in mind that these sobe accommodation are not as spacious and luxurious as a hotel. Most buildings are accessible only by lifts so you need to consider this in case you are carrying heavy luggage.
Boutique and Luxury hotels
Rovinj has a number of five star luxurious properties for you to indulge in a perfect vacation. Hotel Adriatic, Hotel Lone and Grand Park Hotel are some of the famous boutique hotels.
Another great alternative is to book a villa in and around Rovinj. Built in Venetian architecture, these luxurious heritage properties make for a memorable stay.
Explore some of the best villa rentals in Rovinj now.
Hostels are not very popular in Istria as the lack of convenient public transport makes it a bit inconvenient for back packers. In Rovinj, the only hostel you will find is Roundabout hostel which is about 15mins away from the old town and bus station.
For other budget stay options, we recommend to explore guesthouses and sobe which are offered all across Rovinj.
Top things to do in Rovinj, Croatia
Wander about the Old Town
The best way to experience Rovinj is to wander about the narrow cobbled streets in old town. Explore the art galleries, souvenir shops or spend time sipping coffee with the locals. This area is free of vehicles and you would only find people on foot or bikes moving about the place. If you are not staying in Rovinj, it is a good idea to chose a parking in walking distance to the Old Town.
Travel Tip: Old Town has nothing but cobbled streets with stairs. The stones can get slippery if it has rained a bit so it is best to wear shoes with good tread and avoid heels.
This 17th century baroque style cathedral dominates the skyline of Rovinj. It is a nice walk along the water edge from the old town and a few steps that lead you to the main entrance.
Travel tip: The walk leading up to the cathedral and the area outside offers spots to relax and great views of the ocean. This is unlike all of riva (waterfornt) which is lined up with restaurants. You will not get a place to stop and relax unless you are stopping over at one of these.
Once inside the cathedral, you can make your way up the campanile through numerous stairs. this gets to the bell tower over the cathedral and the highest point in Rovinj. Bear in mind that these are very broad and one can see all the way down so skip it if you are afraid of heights.
Travel tip: There is a cosy café right in front of the cathedral which is a great spot for sunset viewing. You can head here if you do not want to climb up the campanile.
If you make it all the way up to the campanile then then you are in for some great views of the city, ocean and even Alps to the north on a clear day.
Built in around 1679, Balbi’s arch was the main entrance to the old city. It is located just off the square near the port and you will most certainly pass through it while getting into old town. The architecture of of the arch is unique with Venetian style on one side and Turkish on the other.
Rovinj Heritage Museum
Close to the old town, this four-storey Baroque style palace showcases the cultural influences of the various empires that Rovinj was part of. It houses over 1500 sculptures from different reigns in Croatia. Bear in mind that this is not as elaborate or detailed as other European Museums you would have visited. There is an entry fee to the museum so visit it if you are too intrigued by the history of the region.
Recommended Restaurants in Rovinj
There are several konoba on both sides of the Main square and all of these serve sea food, meat platters and local delicacies. We really enjoyed grilled fish and hand made pasta at Veli Jože and highly recommend it. You can head to Monte, Balbi or Santa Croce which are all famous for their eclectic food collection.
Food in Rovinj is expensive as compared to other Croatian cities. If you are looking for some reasonable fast food options, then try some of the in-lanes very close to riva. You will find reasonably priced pizza, burgers and rolls. One such place is Pizzeria Da Sergio, its wood fired pizza is very popular with tourists.
Rovinj is also famous for home made gelato. Our favorite place to savor gelato was Italia Gelateria.
Travel tip: The gelato and frozen yogurts sold here are the best you will find in Rovinj and actually comes very close to ones you will get in Florence. Don’t miss trying out their pistachio, tiramisu flavors.
There are some lovely serene beaches in and around Rovinj. The best part is that these are not as crowded as beaches in other parts of Croatia.
If you do not want to wander about much, there are some designated swimming spots around old town. Just walk along the riva towards the cathedral and you will come across these. You can get down the steps from the path to either just get to the water or relax on the boulders to enjoy the sunset.
However, if you are looking to enjoy your time along a beach then you need to head out of the old town. Lone beach is very famous with tourists and is about 15 mins walk from the town center. It is a gravel beach and is ideal for families and children. On one side, there are dense pine forests giving the much needed shade during the day.
Beaches around Island Katrina are also frequented a lot by tourists. The island is only a few hundred meters away from the main town and you can easily reach here with a taxi boat available at the port. The beaches on the east side are mainly sand and gravel and hence preferred by tourists. You can also visit Hotel Katrina which has a nice restaurant, cafe, pool and relaxing area.
Some of the other beaches that you can explore are Monte Beach (a rocky beach accessible by foot from old town) and Kuvi beach (located about 3kms from town).
Sunset watching at Riva
All across Croatia the waterfront is called riva and the one in Rovinj makes for a pretty walk. Once you have finished exploring the old town, head to the riva to savor fresh seafood delicacies.
If you are in Rovinj in the evening, take a stroll along the waterfront from the main square to the old village. Have a home made gelato and grab a place by the sea. Sunsets are really beautiful in Rovinj. Most locals prefer evenings for a swim in the sea and watching the sun go down as the sails call it a day!
If you are living in the Old Town or happen to be near Rovinj port before 10am then a visit to the Farmer’s market is a must do. The market comes up each morning at the edge of old town near Valdibora Square. It is a delight to visit numerous stalls put up by farmers showcasing the local produce.
Look out for shop ‘Pescina’ to check out fresh seafood catch of the day. Do not go by the small façade of the shop. Just walk in to get everything from fresh mussels, scampi, shrimps, octopus, squids and numerous variety of fish. The staff is great and gives good recommendation on the different varieties of sea food and their flavor. We tried the local fish varieties – Brancini (best had on the bone) and Oreda and found these to be extremely fresh. Bear in mind that none of these shops accept cards or any other currency so have some kunas handy.
You will also find collection of meats, local cheese and breads in the shop right adjacent to this shop.
The main attraction however is the fresh produce on display by numerous vendors. You can wander about the market and pick the most fresh apricots, cherries and white and black grapes which make the heavenly Istrian wines 😊. Don’t forget to sample various varieties of olive oil here.
You can also get local home made cheese. which is consumed a lot in Dalmatian cuisine and compliments sweet and savory items alike. Another great pick from this market are fresh and dried porcini mushrooms, which we prepared with freshly grilled fish and superb Istrian wines.
And while in Istria it must be about truffles, truffles and more truffles 🙂 Istria boasts of some of the best varieties of truffles and is an essential part of the local cuisine.
During summer season (between May-Aug) black truffles are available in plenty and you will find a lot of these in this farmers market. You can either purchase dried truffles and use its shavings to season the food. Another popular pick is truffle infused oil – olive oil infused with whole truffles for a long time.
You can also try ‘Tartufi’ paste – delicious mix of olives and truffles in olive oil and makes for a great ingredient for making omelets, pasta and beef steaks.
We loved the Tartufi preparation a lot and purchased a small portion to get back home.
Travel tip: It is best to purchase truffle based products from either Motovun or Livade in case you are planning to visit these towns. The price and quality of products available in these towns is great.
Check out our story about visit to Motuvun to read more on truffle experiences.
Lavender grows luxuriantly across all Mediterranean countries and Croatia is no exception. You will find lavender growing as wild grass or meticulously planted in households. So its no wonder that many locals sell lavender based hand made products. There are cupboard sachets, oil, soaps etc. in the market and all around the riva. These are very reasonably priced and make for great souvenirs.
Wine Tasting at HED.ON.IST
If you are looking for a casual wine tasting experience and do not have time to visit an actual winery, then we highly recommend visiting the HED.ON.IST wine store. The store is run by a couple who are local Croats and manage family owned farms and winery.
The wine tasting experience is quite informal. You can opt for a sampling of the wines available at the store. A platter of local cheese and meats is provided during the tasting. What I liked about the experience most is that you get to taste wines from different wineries unlike when you visit a particular one. All in all this is a very personalized experience as compared to a guided tour.
We were really delighted about this unexpected find in Rovinj to begin our wine tasting experience and picked the Terano wine to go. The store not only has a great wine collection, but also other handmade crafts and gift items which you will find hard to resist to buy 😊
If you will like to visit here, check out the store details here. Although we made a chance visit to the store, we highly recommend booking a time for wine tasting in advance.
Walking or Bike Tours
If you have more time at hand to explore Rovinj, you can opt for a walking tour or bike tour around the city. Organized by locals, these tours can last up to 2-3 hours and offer great insights and trivia about each spot we talked about. We highly recommend taking a bike tour as this gives you a chance to explore more distance along the coast line. You can find less crowded beaches and swimming spots along with great views of the sea.
You can also explore Airbnb experiences in Rovinj. The locals offer these tours at very reasonable prices. We found them a great way to explore Rovinj as compared to other organized tours.