Rijeka is the principal seaport and the third largest city in Croatia. It is located on Kvarner Bay, an inlet of the Adriatic Sea.
In the time of Augustus, the Romans rebuilt Tarsatica as a municipium (MacMullen 2000) on the right bank of the small river Rječina (whose name means "the big river") as Flumen. Pliny mentioned Tarsatica (Natural History iii.140).
After the 4th century the city was rededicated to St. Vitus, the city's patron saint, as Terra Fluminis sancti Sancti Viti or in GermanSankt Veit am Pflaum. In medieval times Rijeka got its Croatian name, Rika svetoga Vida (" the river of St. Vitus").
Medieval Rijeka was a city surrounded by a wall and was thus a feudal stronghold. The fort was in the center of the city, at its highest point.
Fiume also had a significant naval base, and in the mid-19th century it became the site of the Austro-Hungarian Naval Academy (K.u.K. Marine-Akademie), where the Austro-Hungarian Navy trained its officers.
The second half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century (up to WWI) was a period of rapid economic growth and technological dynamism for Rijeka. The industrial development of the city included the first industrial scale oil refinery in Europe in 1882 and the first torpedo factory in the world in 1866, after Robert Whitehead, manager of the "Stabilimento Tecnico Fiumano" (an Austrian engineering company engaged in providing engines for the Austro-Hungarian Navy), designed and successfully tested the world's first torpedo.
Rijeka also became a pioneering center for high-speed photography. The Austrian physicist dr. Peter Salcher working in Rijeka's Austro-Hungarian Marine Academy took the first photograph of a bullet flying at supersonic speed in 1886, devising a technique that was later used by Ernst Mach in his studies of supersonic motion.
Rijeka's port underwent a tremendous development fueled by heavy Hungarian investment, becoming the main maritime outlet for Hungary and the eastern part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the fifth port in the Mediterranean, after Marseilles, Genova, Naples and Trieste. The population grew rapidly from only 21,000 in 1880 to 50,000 in 1910. A lot of major civic buildings went up at that time, including the Governor's Palace designed by the Hungarian architect Alajos Hauszmann.
The future mayor of New York City, Fiorello La Guardia, lived in the city around the start of the 20th century, working at the U. S. consulate (1901-1906), and reportedly even played football for the local sports club.
Habsburg-ruled Austria-Hungary's disintegration in the closing weeks of World War I in the fall of 1918 led to the establishment of rival Croatian-Serbian and Italian administrations in the city; both Italy and the founders of the new Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes(later the Kingdom of Yugoslavia) claimed sovereignty based on their "irredentist" ("unredeemed") ethnic populations.
After a brief Serbian occupation, an international force of Italian, French, British and American troops occupied the city (November 1918) while its future was discussed at the Paris Peace Conference during the course of 1919.
On 10 September 1919, the Treaty of Saint-Germain was signed declaring the Austro-Hungarian monarchy dissolved. Negotiations over the future of the city were interrupted two days later when a force of Italian nationalist irregulars led by the poet Gabriele d'Annunzio seized control of the city by force; d'Annunzio eventually established a state, the Italian Regency of Carnaro.
The resumption of Italy's premiership by the liberal Giovanni Giolitti in June 1920 signaled a hardening of official attitudes to d'Annunzio'scoup. On 12 November, Italy and Yugoslavia concluded the Treaty of Rapallo, under which Rijeka was to be an independent state, the Free State of Fiume, under a regime acceptable to both. D'Annunzio's response was characteristically flamboyant and of doubtful judgment: his declaration of war against Italy invited the bombardment by Italian royal forces which led to his surrender of the city at the end of the year, after five days' resistance. Italian troops took over in January 1921. The election of an autonomist-led constituent assembly for the territory did not put an end to strife: a brief Italian nationalist seizure of power was ended by the intervention of an Italian royal commissioner, and a short-lived local Fascist takeover in March 1922 ended in a third Italian military occupation. Seven months later Italy herself fell under Fascist rule.
After the surrender of Italy to the Allies in September 1943, Rijeka and the surrounding territories were annexed by Germany, becoming part of the Adriatic Littoral Zone. The partisan activity continued and intensified. On 30 April 1944, in the nearby village of Lipa, German troops killed 263 civilians as a retaliation for the killings of several soldiers during a partisan attack.
The area of Rijeka was heavily fortified even before World War II (the remains of these fortifications can be seen today on the city outskirts). This was the fortified border between Italy and Yugoslavia which, at that time, cut across the city area and its surroundings. When the Yugoslav troops started to approach the city in April 1945, one of the fiercest and largest battles in this area of Europe ensued. The 27000 German and additional Italian troops fought tenaciously from behind these fortifications (renamed "Ingridstellung" – Ingrid Line – by the Germans). Under the command of the German general Ludwig Kübler they inflicted many thousands of casualties on the attacking Yugoslav partisans, which were forced to charge uphill against well fortified positions to the north and east of the city. Ultimately the Germans were forced to retreat. Before leaving the city, in an act of wanton destruction (World War II was almost over), the German troops destroyed the harbour area and all the infrastructure with a number of huge explosive charges. The German attempt to break out of the partisan encirclement north-west of the city was however unsuccessful. Of the approximately 27000 German and other troops retreating from the city, 11000 were killed (many were executed after surrendering), while the remaining 16000 were taken prisoner. Yugoslav troops entered Rijeka on 3 May 1945.
In the immediate post-World War II period, the city was resettled by many immigrants from various parts of Yugoslavia, changing the city demographics once again, and a period of reconstruction began. During the period of the Yugoslav communist administration in the 1950s–1980s the city grew both demographically and economically, based on its traditional manufacturing industries, its maritime economy and its port, then the largest in Yugoslavia. However, many of these industries were mostly a product of a socialist planned economy and could not be sustained once the economy transitioned to a more market-oriented model in the early 1990s.
In 1991 the city once again changed hands, becoming part of Croatia, which broke off from Yugoslavia during the Croatian War of Independence. Since then, the city has somewhat stagnated both economically as well as demographically, with some of its largest industries and employers either going out of business (the Jugolinija shipping company, the torpedo factory, the paper mill and many other medium or small manufacturing and commercial companies) or struggling to stay economically viable (the city's landmark 3. Maj shipyards). A difficult and uncertain transition of the city's economy away from manufacturing and towards services and tourism is still in progress.
- The St. Vitus Cathedral is Rijeka's Roman Catholic cathedral. The Church of St. Vitus was in Middle Ages a small and one-sided, romanesque church dedicated to the patron saint and protector of Rijeka. It had a semi-circular apse behind the altar, and covered porch. With the arrival of the Jesuits in Rijeka, the Cathedral as we see it today was founded in 1638. First, it became the Jesuits' church. When the town of Rijeka became the center of the diocese, and then in 1969 the center of the archbishopric and metropolit, the representative Jesuit's Church of St. Vitus became the Cathedral of Rijeka. It’s a rotunda, which is unusual in this part of Europe, with elements of baroque and Gothic, including fine baroque statuary inside. The cathedral is depicted on the reverse of the Croatian 100 kuna banknote, issued in 1993 and 2002.
- Tvornica "Torpedo" (the Torpedo factory). The first European prototypes of a self-propelled torpedo, created by Giovanni Luppis, a retired naval engineer from Rijeka. The remains of this factory still exist, including a well-preserved launch ramp used for testing self-propelled torpedoes on which in 1866 the first torpedo was tested.
- Old gate or Roman arch. At first it was thought that this was a Roman Triumphal Arch built by the Roman Emperor Claudius Gothicus but later it was discovered to be just a portal to the pretorium, the army command in late antiquity.
- City Tower, a symbol of Rijeka and a good example of a typical round tower access-point, which leads into the fortified town. Today it dominates the central part of Korzo and is often used as a meeting place for local people.
- Svetište Majke Božje Trsatske – the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Trsat. Built 135 meters above the sea on the Trsat hill during the late Middle Ages, it represents the Guardian of Travelers, especially seamen, who bring offerings to her so she will guard them or help them in time of trouble or illness. It is home to the Gothic sculpture of the Madonna of Slunj and to works by the Baroque painter C. Tasce.