Opatija, Croatia is one of the most pleasant towns you can find on the Adriatic coast. Even if there are no major things to do in Opatija, the location, the vibe, and the beautiful architecture definitely make up for that, making the town one of the best places to visit in Croatia.
Opatija, conveniently located just a few km away from Rijeka in the northern part of the country, can be easily visited on a day trip but if you are looking for a charming seaside destination, this is a place for you too! Since the town is sheltered by mountains from the mainland, it is one of the sunniest places on the Croatian coast (yet I happened to visit Opatija when it was cloudy and a bit gloomy…).
I wanted to visit Opatija ever since I’ve seen some random pictures online. The place looked so unique – even if it is located right on the seaside, the architecture isn’t typical for the region. Instead, there are numerous grand mansions typical for the former Austria-Hungary, that could easily be placed in every city of the former Habsburg empire.
Since I’m a huge fan of the buildings from that time and area, I knew I have to go to Opatija. And even if I finally spent only a few hours there, I fell head over heels for this charming town and I definitely plan to visit Opatija soon again!
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A brief history of Opatija, Croatia
The area of Opatija was inhabited already in Roman times but the Croatians settled in this region around the 8th century. For years Opatija was just a sleepy settlement that developed mostly around the Benedictine abbey (hence the name, “opatija” means “abbey” in Croatian) but the real change came here in the mid-19th century. That’s when the wealthy merchant from Rijeka built his manor (Villa Angiolina) here and started inviting notable guests to spend some time in this pleasant area.
This single investment was a real push in the Opatija’s development and the town very quickly became the favorite seaside resort in the Austria-Hungary empire. Beautiful villas were built, important guests arrived in the town frequently and even the train company from Vienna opened a railway line to Rijeka that stopped near Opatija, giving easy access to the town.
Opatija was one of the favorite holiday destinations for many noble and royal families, some of the best-known visitors were emperor Franz Joseph and his wife Sisi as well as numerous other kings, queens, and princes from Europe.
After World War I, Opatija became part of Italy but was given to Yugoslavia in 1947 and since 1991 is in the independent Croatian state.
How to get to Opatija
Bus no 32 connects these two places (some buses continue a trip a bit further beyond Opatija). They start in Jelačićev Trg in central Rijeka and on the way to Opatija they stop in Rijeka next to Korzo, the bus station, and the train station. The tickets are cheaper when bought from the kiosk (it’s possible to get them from the driver too), and the return should cost around 4-5€.
In Opatija, buses stop in numerous places along the main road so you can check on the map which stop is the best for you. The main bus stop is in the central part of the town, on the square next to the Slatina beach. You can find the schedule here.
Where to stay in Opatija
Since Opatija is a popular destination, there are plenty of accommodation options to choose from. To get the full Opatija experience I recommend staying in one of the old villas in the central part of the town, some of them are worth splurging on. Here are some of the best options:
- Amadria Park Hotel Milenij (9.3/10 on Booking)
- Apartments Villa Devana (9.2/10 on Booking)
- Villa Elizabeta Apartments (9.6/10 on Booking)
- and many more!
How to get around Opatija
The town is perfect for walking, especially along the seaside promenade, and that’s the best way to get around Opatija. If you need to get to the places a bit away from the center, you can use bus no 32.
Things to do in Opatija
Even if there are not many Opatija attractions (especially compared to other popular destinations in Istria, such as Pula, Rijeka, or Rovinj), the town is pleasant enough to spend at least a few solid hours here, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the vibe of the place.
Opatija is different than other seaside destinations in Croatia. You won’t find the typical Adriatic architecture here, instead, you can expect grand villas and hotels built in the style typical for the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries in the Austria-Hungary empire. There are numerous richly decorated houses, often in the art nouveau style, and some grand hotels from the golden period of Opatija. When looking at them it’s easy to understand why the town is often called the “Croatian Cannes”.
One of the best things to do in Opatija is walk the “Lungo mare” promenade. It stretches along the coast for 12 kilometers, from Opatija towards Lovran and along the way, you will pass some of the best Opatija attractions, such as “little Vienna” architecture, Maiden and the seagull sculpture (the symbol of the town) or Saint James’s Church (located on the site of the original Benedictine abbey that gave the name to the town). From the promenade, you can also admire beautiful views of the seaside, even as far as Rijeka.
Be sure to stop at the Villa Angiolina and the park surrounding it. The neo-renaissance mansion, built in 1844 by Iginio Scarpa and named after his wife, was the reason why Opatija became the main seaside resort in Austria-Hungary. Today the place is home to the museum of Croatian tourism.
The park around the mansion is one of the most pleasant places in Opatija.
You can find another lovely park not far from Villa Angiolina, near Saint James’s Church. That’s where you can also see the beautiful Fountain of Helios and Serena which dates back to the Austrian times too and is another example of the extraordinary architecture from that period.
Once you are done with Opatija sightseeing (which is mostly just wandering around and admiring the beautiful architecture), there are numerous cafes and restaurants where you can sit down, relax a bit and spend some quality time trying local delicacies (I’m a huge fan of truffles from Istria, which you can get in Opatija too!).
Since words can’t really describe what a beautiful and charming place this lovely town is, here are a few more Opatija pictures that will hopefully inspire you to visit Opatija too. Even in the gloomy weather, the place looked beautiful!
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