Due to its amazing weather during the most of the year, the Istrian town of Opatija has long been known as one of Croatia’s most popular resort areas. With a sparkling coastline dotted with many classy and elegant old hotels, Opatija was literally the picture postcard image that the former Yugoslav government used to attract visitors to what was then the West’s favorite communist country. It also serves at the base for exploring nearby Mount Učka, the Istrian Peninsula’s highest point and best scenic lookout spot.
History of Opatija
Opatija was once a quiet little fishing town until the 1840s when a wealthy man from nearby Rijeka named Iginio Scarpa came and built his home, Villa Angiolina, there. He surrounded his mini-mansion with scores of exotic plants and soon was hosting the who’s who of Austro-Hungarian society including members of the Austrian royal family. This helped to cement the city’s reputation as a playground not only for the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s rich and well-connected, but also foreign dignitaries and even the Kings and Queens of Sweden and Romania.
Today the city is frequented by mostly, let’s say senior citizens including German and Austrian vacationers. It’s a quite time and probably not the ideal place for wild parties or college spring breaks as there really are no beaches within the town’s limits.
Things to See and Do in Opatija, Croatia
Croatian Museum of Tourism and Villa Angiolina
The Croatian Museum of Tourism is just that, a museum dedicated to Croatia’s (and also the former Yugoslavia’s) tourism industry. The museum contains many old photos, brochures and other travel and tourism-themed exhibits. However more exciting than the museum are the three buildings that make it up, the grandest being the Villa Angiolina This is arguably the grandest structure in Opatija, at least from an architectural perspective. Made of Corinthian columns, gilded mirrors and geometric mosaics that cover the floor, the Villa Angiolina is now home to the Croatian Museum of Tourism. Along with the open-air theater, the gardens surrounding the building are also worth a visit and contain many exotic types of trees and plants such as gingko trees, sequoias, various oaks and the Japanese camellia, the symbol of the city of Opatija.
Opatija is also home to the Lungomare, a 12-km path that is a walker’s paradise. More or less starting in Opatija and stretching all the way to the town of Lovran, the path meanders around the lush coast alongside many manifest homes (or perhaps small palaces) of the wealthy. Bring your walking shoes and several hours, perhaps even a day. You’ll want to spend a lot of time along the Lungomare.
What was the quaint fishing village of Volosko is now one of Opatija’s most beautiful suburbs. In Volosko’s small but scenic harbor is also dotted with nice houses and little shops. It’s also the starting point of the Lungomare (see above).
The attractions above should be good enough to get you started, but the real charm of Opatija is simply creating your own path, your own Lungomare if you will, around this splendid little town along Croatia’s Istrian coast.
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