Coming from the neighbouring island of Pag, it was becoming evident why people don’t travel to Croatia’s islands much in October.
Yes the weather is cooler, but there’s not a great deal open – or going on – as we learned during our few days in Rab.
All the summer activities have been wrapped up – the Rabska fjera medieval festival, classical music concerts, lavender festival and so much more – with the town settling back to sleepy normality.
Personally, this was all well and good as throngs of people everywhere you turn simply doesn’t do it for me. Ahem, Dubrovnik.
The Town Loggia on Srednja ulica – built in 1509
The gorgeous old town of Rab is a place brimming with numerous Gothic and Renaissance palaces, and simply strolling down Srednja ulica – the central street – takes you back hundreds of years.
Along Srednja you can find a variety of shops, cafes and restaurants – plenty of places to grab a souvenir, an ice cream, coffee or food. Take your pick!
Just outside the old town is Ulica Palit, a pedestrian strip that’s the commercial and social part of town. This is where the locals come to meet, hang out for coffee, check the community noticeboard and go shopping for groceries.
Several cafes spill onto the pavement, and its the perfect spot to get away from the more touristed old town and its more expensive eateries.
One thing you can’t miss trying is Rabska torta, be it here at one of the bakeries, or in the old town. When Pope Alexander III came to the island in 1177, the sisters of St. Anthony concocted a cake in his celebration.
Loaded with ground almonds, sugar, citrus zest and cherry liqueur, it’s traditionally baked in a spiral-shaped pastry case; although you can find it in log or disc form. Absolutely divine.
Located in the old town is Kuća Rabske Torte where you can buy the cake and see it being made. Plus pick up sweets, spirits, gourmet foods and gifts.
Tumbling down many of the buildings and walls are vines that grow from the smallest of cracks between the stones. These are no ordinary plants, and anyone that’s keen on foraging may already know them as caper plants.
Once you get past the spikes on the plant – and providing they’re in season – the flower buds are the capers themselves, before they’ve opened and bloomed.
The things you can’t miss in Rab are those four bell towers that give the old town its unique and beautiful skyline. The largest is St. Mary’s campanile, a stunning Romanesque structure built in the 13th century.
Inside the church you can find a small museum, and the 26 metre bell tower can be climbed, as well. Its original four-sided dome was destroyed by lightning in the 15th century, after which it was replaced with the current six-sided pyramid.
Head to the southwest side of the cathedral for some incredible sunset viewing.
Down on the waterfront below the old town and Komrčar Park is the fab little Banova Vila Beach Bar. This cabaña-style set-up is ideal territory for an afternoon session of vino, cocktails or even a simple morning coffee – all while taking in views of the rippling water and Frkanj Peninsula. Or sunset if you’re there in the afternoon.
Banova Vila Beach Bar – Šetalište fra Odorika Badurine
The food in Rab is typical of the region. Plenty of seafood and seasonal vegetables, grilled meats, pasta and pizza.
Go for the grilled ćevapčići and a side of blitva sa krompirom (chard with potatoes) at Restoran Grand – and don’t forget to down a beer or local cabernet sauvignon as you enjoy its lovely terrace setting.
Restauran Grand – Donja 11
Pizzeria San Marco – Srednja Ulica 16
If pizza is on the cards, stay at Restoran Grand or head into the heart of the old town and find Pizzeria San Marco in a side street. Service is friendly, the courtyard is cute and their Czech beer is cold. Give the cavalo pizza (75) a burl if you’re up for trying konjsko pršut (horse prosciutto). It’s quite tasty!
When burgers and beer call your name, look no further than Buža, a blink-and-miss-it joint on the main street through the old town. Grab a seat in the smoke-filled passage or in the tiny dining room and chow on sandwiches, burgers, ćevapi, tortillas and a few salads. A refreshing change from the usual offerings.
Buža – Aleksandra Ugalje 1
Jadrolinija has departures from Rab at 6am Mon-Sat and 9am on Sunday. Cost is 40 kuna per person and it takes 45 minutes.