Rijeka is the third largest city in Croatia and the administrative center of Primorje-Gorski Kotar County (Croatian: Primorsko-Goranska županija), in the northeast corner of Croatia on Kvarner Bay. The city itself has over 120,000 residents, which rises to 250,000 with the inclusion of Rijeka’s surrounding metropolitan area. Rijeka has a moderate climate and is ideally topographically situated, with easy access to both the mountains and beaches along the Adriatic coast.
Rijeka is a diverse city that boasts a rich culture, particularly in the arts. It is not only home to one of Croatia’s national theaters (Hrvatsko Narodno Kazalište Ivan pl. Zajc), but also an art cinema, as well as numerous museums, galleries, and libraries. The city has further cemented its role in Croatian culture as the site of the annual Rijeka Carnival, the largest Carnival celebration in the country.
Rijeka’s history extends all the way back to prehistoric times; the earliest traces of human presence in the area date from the Paleolithic and Neolithic, with ruins existing from the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. The first “modern” settlement in Rijeka was Tarsa, founded by Illyrian (Liburnian) tribes in what is now Trsat. This later served as the foundation for the Roman fortress Tarsatica, which was relocated closer to the sea to facilitate trade and establish a seaport.
Its ideal location led Rijeka to become a major European port from early on, and throughout its history it was a highly contested territory that came under the rule of a number of regimes, most notably the Counts of Duino, the Frankopans of Krk, and the Walsea Family during the 14th century, followed by the Habsburgs in the 15th century. Their combined influence created a unique cultural blend that can still be seen today, particularly in the architecture and language of Rijeka.
During the Second World War, Rijeka came under first Italian and then German occupation before being once again surrendered to Croatia following the Paris Peace Conference in 1947. As a part of Socialist Yugoslavia, Rijeka resumed its role as the country’s major port, and its industrial sector was revived, especially in the areas of ship building, paper manufacturing, textiles, oil refinery, thermal and hydroelectric power, and ship device and engine production.
After Croatia gained independence in 1991 and since the turn of the millennium, Rijeka has given more attention to improving its educational, cultural and service sectors and was announced the most transparent city in Croatia. Rijeka won the title of European Capital of Culture 2020.