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If chasing romantic sunsets is one of your favourite things to do on your travels, I suggest you head to Rovinj old town.
Here the sun seems to hover over the horizon endlessly before sinking into the Adriatic sea. The sky bursts into shades of pink, red and orange before the light finally fades.
And the sunsets aren’t the only attraction in charming Rovinj.
Rovinj is a small Croatian city on the Istrian peninsula near the Italian border. Under Venetian rule for 500 years, the city still bears the hallmarks of its important past as a stronghold of the Venetian Republic on the Adriatic coast.
Before the Venetians arrived the area where Rovinj old town now stands was once an island. In 1763 the island was connected to the mainland and the city developed rapidly.
After the Venetians came the Napoleonic and Austro-Hungarian empires and the architecture throughout the city is a pretty mix of these styles.
Today Rovinj is known for its picturesque shoreline and archipelago where dolphins play and enjoy the incredible sunsets.
Highlights of Rovinj old town
Church of St Euphemija
The Venetian style campanile of Rovinj’s main church St Eufemija soars high above the city’s terracotta rooftops and can be seen from almost every corner. It’s not the most exciting church inside but the bell tower on the hill is romantic and an iconic part of the Rovinj skyline.
St Eufemija is the patron saint of Rovinj. A martyr from the Chalcedon region of Asia Minor, legend has it that her remains floated in a marble sarcophagus to Rovinj from Constantinople around 500 years after her death.
Today a statue of the saint sits atop the bell tower keeping watch over her adopted city and the famous tomb is inside the church.
Grisia and the cobbled streets of the old town
What makes the climb up the hill to St Eufemija so worthwhile are the narrow medieval streets and lanes that form a labyrinth around the church. The main street Grisia is the place to browse art and jewellery boutiques and while away some hours in one of the cafes and restaurants.
Exploring the smaller cobbled alleyways off Grisia is rewarded with a glimpse into local life. You can’t help but be charmed by the aqua hued shutters and doors around each corner.
Cats lounge in the sun and families hang their washing to dry in the sun. Through gaps in the buildings you notice seagulls bob in the sea.
It’s a gentler pace of life and has that perfect European seaside town vibe I crave.
Balbi Arch – Balbijev luk
The main entrance to Grisia is this impressive 17th century archway that celebrates Rovinj’s history. On one side you see the winged lion, symbol of Venice, and on the other a Turk’s head.
Close to the archway is Rovinj’s main square, pier and bustling market. It’s a compact city with lots to explore.
Best ways to watch the sun set in Rovinj
Strolling around the harbour and along the pier provides endless opportunities to enjoy the legendary Rovinj sunsets.
Set aside a couple of hours for this as somehow the sun seems to want to stay gazing over this city for much longer than usual.
Rovinj sunset cruise
If you want to venture further afield, you could take a sunset cruise around the archipelago.
We didn’t get a chance to do this but we did see the beginning of the sunset as we returned from our boat trip up the coast. The sight was nothing short of magical.
You can join a sunset cruise from the pier – to book in advance click here.
The Istrian coastline is not known for its beaches as they are generally rocky but there are a few in and around the city worth mentioning and they are perfect sunset spots.
To the south Monte Mulini beach has lounging areas and a bar but I preferred the natural surrounds of Lone Beach. You can only get to this beach by foot. It’s only 1.5km from town and it’s worth the stroll.
Water temperatures reach 24 degrees by May so head to the beach for a sunset swim in Rovinj
This site is useful for finding more beaches in Rovinj
See below for my tips on where to have a cocktail at dusk – because of course you must!
Enjoying the good life with sunsets in Rovinj
Rovinj’s position in the heart of Istria means that eating and drinking is fabulous. Seafood is the star of the show here and you are spoilt for choice if you enjoy bounty from the sea. Truffles are a local delicacy too and are common in Istrian dishes.
If you are not familiar with Croatian cuisine, it is influenced by its Italian neighbours so you will find pasta and risotto on the menu as well as simpler grilled fish and salads.
Croatia also produces excellent local olive oil and organic wine which influence the local dishes.
The best bars in Rovinj to watch the sun set
But before you head for dinner, you must watch the sunset with an aperitif. After all, Rovinj is all about the sunsets.
Valentino bar [Santa Croce 28, Rovinj] is legendary for its romantic setting. Here you sit on the rocks and sip champagne as the sun disappears on the horizon.
Mediterraneo bar [Svetoga Kriza 24, Rovinj] is tucked behind a secret archway and has colourful tables and a relaxed and friendly vibe. If you are lucky you might be serenaded by local musicians in a traditional batana boat
Monte Carlo [Svetoga Križa 21, Rovinj] has a larger seating area than the other two bars and epic views over to the island of Sveta Katarina
Note – these bars are generally open for the summer season only between April/May and the end of September – please call or contact them to avoid disappointment
Recommended restaurants in Rovinj
We were advised to avoid the harbour front restaurants in Rovinj but here are some options for post sunset dining and one that does meet all the criteria of great food, friendly service and amazing views.
Veli Jože – Ulica Svetoga Krizha – Via Santa Croce 1, Rovinj
Recommended to us by our AirBnB host, the local tavern is casual and well known for its fish dishes. If you can’t grab a coveted outside table the quirky interior is fun too. Great for those travelling with kids.
Maestral – Obala Vladimira Nazora 3, Rovinj
This waterfront restaurant is away from the main tourist area and offers stunning sunset views – see the main picture of this article! The food is delicious too. I loved the sea bass.
Restoran Sante Croce – Ulica Svetoga Križa 11, Rovinj
Tucked away in the old town, Restoran Sante Croce is the place to go after the sun has set for delicious seafood and wonderful service.
Rovinj Croatia – know before you go
As with many Adriatic and Mediterranean towns, there is a summer season when most bars and restaurants are open.
This generally runs between April/May and the end of September and sometimes into October. It is worthwhile checking opening times before you book your trip to avoid disappointment.
Do check when the sun is setting during your visit so you can claim the best spots at the bars and vantage points.
Despite being a member nation of the European Union, Croatia still has its own currency – the kuna. Euro is accepted for accommodation, tours and restaurants but the exchange rate is likely to be unfavourable.
Have you visited Croatia?
This time we stayed in the Istria region and enjoyed the food, history and of course the sunsets of this beautiful part of the world.
Where should we next travel in Croatia? Looking for tips!