Close your eyes and imagine your ideal holiday destination. Do you conjure crystal-clear sea, the waves gently rocking boats in the marina and picture-perfect beaches giving way to secret hidden coves? Or fragrant mountain air, fresh with the scent of pine needles and shaded forest trails leading through ancient landscapes?
Or maybe you seek adrenaline-fuelled sports: paragliding from lofty peaks, or cycling and trekking adventurous trails? Possibly it’s culture to rank alongside Europe’s great metropolises, architectural masterpieces and a tourist tradition that dates back nearly 200 years. Opatija in Croatia offers all of this and more. This is a destination aristocratic in appearance, yet one that boasts wonderful, natural surroundings, and is inhabited by warm locals happy to welcome guests from all over the world.
A stroll along the Lungomare coastal promenade is a wonderful experience at any time of year. This paved promenade passes villas with attractive architecture, great beaches, small secluded bays, and excellent restaurants and bars. The promenade starts in Volosko, a fishing village with stone houses surrounding a small harbour – around which a number of prestigious restaurants offer unrivalled fresh fish, seafood and great wines. The Lido and Angiolina beaches in the centre of Opatija, just in front of the beautiful town park, represent two different pages in the story of Opatija.
The Lido is a luxurious, modern resort, while the adjacent Angiolina is a replica of a historic, aristocratic wooden bathing establishment, which today offers wellness and catering facilities. Lovers of active holidays adore Mount Učka and its mountain trails and forest paths, its climbing routes, and the opportunity to descend from the top by paraglider or hang glider. The yacht marina in Ičići is a major draw for those who love sailing, as are the numerous small harbours. As far as night life is concerned, besides the night clubs and bars, there is another ideal venue – the Open Air Theatre, the most beautiful outdoor stage in the Adriatic, which during the summer hosts numerous festivals and performances of musicians from all over Europe.
The cuisine on the Opatija Riviera embraces local, seasonal ingredients and impresses even the most discerning diner. Try the Kvarner scampi; a world famous dish from the region, which can be prepared in a variety of ways, including à la buzara – a mouth-watering traditional recipe that marries olive oil, wine, garlic, breadcrumbs and fresh herbs. Spring is all about the asparagus, while summer is the time for seafood. Autumn is special for the marun harvest – a delicious kind of sweet chestnut that only grows on the slopes of Mount Učka and can be used in a variety of preparations.
If you want to experience the authentic Mediterranean and its centuries-old traditions, especially the local cuisine and its secret recipes passed down through the generations, then be sure to visit the undiscovered hinterland to taste and the feel the real Opatija.
The beat goes on
Opatija is a memorable destination whatever the time of the year. One of the most popular events for visitors and locals alike is RetrOpatija, which takes place in late June and showcases the long-standing connection between Opatija and music of all kinds. From the swing of the 1920s, to rockabilly, rock, jazz and ‘80s disco, this is a true celebration of twentieth century music. Opatija has played host to many festivals over the years, and RetrOpatija relishes in recalling these eras. During the festival, a spectacular range of events takes place throughout the town. This is when Opatija’s main street is especially attractive as it is closed to traffic to host the many crafts people and traders who together make up an exciting and colourful scene.
At the end of July, Opatija becomes the “Imperial Town”, and brings to life the romantic period from the early 20th century when it was visited by members of royal families and famous figures of the time. Visitors to this annual event have the opportunity to meet famous historical figures that visited Opatija, such as the Lumière brothers or Albert Einstein, enjoy the numerous music and dance programmes. Hundreds of entertainers and members of costume groups from Croatia, Italy, Austria and Hungary dress up in the fashions of the late 19th and early 20th century.
Opatija is also especially beautiful in winter when snowflakes flutter onto the waves, and the town is attired in a romantic white. At this time, the parks, squares and streets are lit up by thousands of illuminated decorations, the Open Air Theatre becomes a winter garden with a skating rink, and the Advent programme offers musical performances, children’s workshops and various other events such as the Chocofestival, at locations throughout the town.