Rijeka’s Italian heritage means that it has long made coffee-drinking an essential part of anyone’s day. Consequently, it has cafés a-plenty, more than two dozen alone, on and off the main street, Korzo. Here’s the best selection.
This funky botel moored on Rijeka’s main waterfront fringing the city centre not only offers rooms but a stylish café/restaurant, all sleek wood and sea views. Pancakes, gluten-free chocolate dessert and the cake of the day may accompany your quality coffee or alcoholic drink, and there’s a full, traditional menu to choose from, too.
Perfectly sited for the trek up to nearby Trsat Castle, Sabrage is such a warming, welcoming spot that you’re bound to put off your sightseeing duties until after another round of delicious hot chocolates, Dingač red wine from Pelješac or vintage whiskies. A little background jazz helps the mood along as you study the framed portraits of famous locals and try to figure out what they might have done.
Established in 1876, the Bonavia is the classic city-centre hotel with a classic café to match. Its elevated terrace stretching out to take in panoramic views of Rijeka’s main street, Korzo and the sea beyond, Café Dante is known for its top-quality cakes and pastries. The Sachertorte of Viennese lore harks back to Habsburg days, while you won’t find a better cheesecake this side of Opatija.
Of the many café terraces in all Rijeka, none have the panorama, or the historic surroundings, of Vintage. Within one of the towers of Trsat Castle, looking over a courtyard, Vintage doesn’t just let the setting do all the work but offers quality coffees, teas, hot chocolates and cakes, alcoholic drinks coming to the fore from aperitivi hour onwards. Once you’ve perused the drinks menu, have a gander at the historic prints around the tasteful interior, capturing Rijeka when Italian influence meant more than just a fine espresso.
Overlooking the border between Italy and Yugoslavia before World War II, the Hotel Continental is wonderfully old-school, its terrace café one of those tree-shaded spots where you feel you could stay all day writing letters to old friends. There’s little fancy or luxury about the drinks and snacks on offer — this is a three-star hotel at three-star prices, service and quality acceptable for what you pay.
Formerly the Belgian Beer Café, the Brasserie AS still displays Benelux touches in terms of classic dark-wood decor, vintage posters and, of course, the colourful choice of beers. It’s a café, too, best experienced during the morning, when coffee can be taken out on the expansive terrace, within view (just) of the seafront and the comings and goings of downtown Rijeka.
At the foot of the Hotel Bonavia, the Ferrari takes its name and theme from the iconic, fire-red Italian sports-car company. Extending over an enclosed square surrounded by Italianate façades, its terrace indeed reminds you of somewhere in Italy, as you sip your macchiato and take in the urban scenes.
At the far end of the Korzo strip, the Fiorello sheds light on an interesting historic anomaly: the fact that infamous three-time New York mayor Fiorello La Guardia worked as a young man at the US consulate in Rijeka. Also calling itself a ‘Pub’, Fiorello operates as a café by day, serving the long-established coffee brand of Filicori Zecchini from Bologna and a whole raft of fine teas.
If you’re sitting on the terrace of the Hotel Continental, you cannot fail to notice Striga, occupying a glassed-in pavilion filled with furniture of sky blue, lime green and mauve. Frida Kahlo gets a decorative look-in, and the café attracts a more culture-savvy clientele than you might find on any of the many bars lining the nearby Korzo.
Accessed through an old-school department store and up the escalators, Nad Urom is a fine discovery, its name (‘Over the Clock’) soon transparent when you find yourself almost face to face with the Gradski toranj, the ‘City Clock Tower’, within touching distance of your café-terrace table. Down below, if you sit here long enough, you might see the whole of Rijeka go past along the Korzo.
Everything about Cukarikafe is done just right: the effect of the bright lampshades against the white walls and furnishings, the slice of citrus fruit that comes with your tea and the elegant service that will probably make you come back the next morning even though there are dozens of other cafés lining the nearby Korzo. Sought-after Belgian beers also make it a handy place for a quiet drink in the evening.
Bar and nightspot after dark, Karolina is one of the few cafés actually on the waterfront, its outside chairs and tables at eye level with the nearby Jadrolinija ferries at anchor. Contemporary in feel, the Karolina attracts excited passengers before their great Adriatic trek all the way down to Dubrovnik.