JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH ROMANA TOMLJANOVIC FROM SENJ, CROATIA !
Romana, a Croatian by birth and nomad by choice runs the blog The Nomad Life. Her father was born in Senj and mother in The Netherlands. She studied Hospitality management and Tourism in the Netherlands so she could do something with the tourism in Croatia. Nowadays she lives every year for 4 months in Senj to rent out the apartments that she built there a few years ago. She loves to stay in Senj because she feels this small town on the Adriatic coast is the perfect place to sneak away from all the tourists and experience the real Croatia. This gives her also the opportunity to travel around the country and explore the most beautiful places! She shares on her blog all her travels and knowledge about Croatia.
Senj is a 3000 year old settlement, located by the sea at the foothills of mountains Kapella and Velebit. It is the largest port town near Rijeka which is the third largest city in Croatia after Zadar and Split. On its port merchants arrived from various coasts and islands. Initially located on the hill Kuk, inhabitants of Senj moved near the sea once sea trading became their main occupation.
Senj’s old centre, cosy streets, Adriatic sea coast and the landmark Nehaj fortress makes it a perfect holiday destination, but if time is a barrier, you must make a brief stop to see the island of Krk, Velebit National park and Plitvice lakes.
When is the best time to visit Senj?
Croatia is famous for its most violent sudden wind on the coast of the Adriatic called the Bura (or Bora). In Winter, Croatian Bura can be brutal. In Summer there can be some Bura too, but it is nothing more than refreshing during the hot summer days. Another positive point is the Bura blows the clouds away and makes Senj one of the sunniest cities in Croatia!
The best time to visit Senj is during the summer, from April till October. July and August are the busiest months because of the European summer holidays and the sunny weather. In these two months the whole village changes from a sleepy fishing village to a bustling city.
Which is the most convenient and favoured transport of Senj?
There is a super small airport on the island of Krk, 50km from Senj. The airport is called Rijeka Airport because it only 20km away from the big city Rijeka. From here you can fly to 19 destinations, all in Europa or Croatia. The best way to get from the airport to Senj is to rent a car at the airport, the journey is only 45 min and takes you along the beautiful coastline. Another possibility is to take the shuttle bus to Rijeka and from there the bus to Senj.
In the city itself there is no public transportation. The center is not that big, and everything is at walking distance. If you are staying out of the center, you can only get there by car. In the harbor you will find a large parking space where you can park for €1 per hour.
What are the top three must visit places in Senj?
Although most of Senj got destroyed during the bombings in the World wars, some of it has been preserved till date. These are some of the most visited spots in Senj town.
Nehaj Fortress : When you arrive in Senj you immediately see the Nehaj Fortress on top of the hill. It has witnessed the number of attacks on the natives of Senj by the Turks and saved Europe from the invasion of Ottoman empire. This fortress was built in the sixteenth century by a collection of materials from kirk, monasteries and structures situated outside of the town of Senj. The Uskoci (Croatian guerrilla warriors) who were fighting against the Turks are national hero’s and are honored each year at the Days of the Uskoks. During this event they recreate the 16th century attacks and battles which the Nehaj Fortress has witnessed.
Senj Town Museum : If history of a place intrigues you, you must visit the town museum of Senj also known as the ‘the House of Mary Theresa’. Situated in a beautiful palace built in Gothic and Renaissance style, the town museum will give you an insight into the long battling history of Senj. The palace belongs to the Vukasovićs’ the most reputable and powerful family in Senj. You can find there a large collection of coins, weapons like Venetian swords, Austrian sabers, Turkish yatagans and other military equipments.
St. Mary’s Cathedral Treasury and Library : The Cathedral of the Virgin Mary is an eleventh century church built in Roman style. During second world war this cathedral and infact the whole of Senj was damaged. In the St. Mary’s cathedral you can also find the tombs of former Bishops – Bishop Ivan de Cardinalibus and Bishop Leonard de Cardinalibus. Visit the treasury and library for its architecture, paintings, furniture, remains from other churches and the keys to the town gates of Klis.
What are the best day trips for nature, culture and history from Senj?
Velebit National Park : Velebit is the largest Croatian mountain range and is famous for its mesmerising natural beauty and the amazing views over the Adriatic Sea. If hiking is what you enjoy, the Velebit National park is the right place for you. It stretches for hundred kilometres and covers about two thousand square kilometres from Senj to Zadar. Select the perfect trail for yourself from the various options available there. If it’s a longer hike you can stop at any of the mountain huts.
The large mountain range consist of 2 national park, Northern Velebit and Paklenica. The Northen Velebit is easy to reach from Senj. The entrance from the national park is close to the village Krasno, the ticket costs you 4 kuna and is valid for four days. Close to Krasno is the village Kuterevo which is famous for its Bear Refuge.
Krk Island : You can see the island of Krk from Senj, it is only 10 km away. The only problem is that you have to cross the sea. There are many different companies in the harbour that offer boat tours to the beaches on Krk island and to the island Goli Otok. They bring you first to Goli Otok. The island is not inhabited but is a significant tourist site because of its prison. Visit the ruins of the prison which was operational when Croatia was under the rule of Yugoslavia.
The second stop you can make is at Baska or Vela Luka beach. A beach town, Baska is a fun place filled with visitors. You can relax at the any of the numerous bars you can find there. If you are adventurous, try surfboarding, pedal boats or motor scooters, if relaxing on a beach is your idea of fun just rent an umbrella and deck chair to laze around. You can also visit the nearby Vela Luka beach if time is not a barrier. A day tour to these islands should cost you around €30/€40 per person. If you prefer being your own boss, rent your own boat at any price between €100 and €200 a day. Oprna and Zala beach are the most beautiful beaches.
The island of Krk can also be reached by a car through its two kilometre long bridge. The island is beautiful with favorite spots being Malinska and the small village of Vrbnik. The village is famous for its Zlahtina wine made out of the locally grown Zlahtina grape by wine farmers there. You can also visit the popular restaurant Nada which provides good food with superb view.
Plitvice National Park : A drive to the Plitvice National park from Senj takes around 50 minutes. It is a very popular national park in the whole of Croatia with more than a dozen natural lakes and close to hundred waterfalls. It would take you more than a day to see all that this park has to offer. If time is not a barrier assign at least one complete day to explore this UNESCO heritage park with unbelievably beautiful flora and fauna and soothing turquoise water.
What is the most celebrated holiday of the year in Senj?
Senj hosts a summer carnival every August. Without a doubt, it is our most celebrated 4-day event. You can expect a lot of games, local dance and music, food, fireworks and entertainment. People from all over Croatia participate in this event. Infact, you will also find participants from neighboring countries like Slovakia, Slovenia and Italy. If you happen to be here in August don’t miss the carnival parade by locals an spectators from all over the world.
What is the most loved local food of Senj? Is it a vegetarian friendly city?
The one product that Senj is famous for is Honey because of its medicinal melliferous plants. Senj is the right place for beekeepers to have their bees. There is a whole community of bees and beekeepers around mountains of Senj who produce and sell the best quality of honey. If you are here in the end of August enjoy the honey event in the old centre of Senj where local beekeepers gather to sell their honey.
In the restaurants you will find a lot of meat, fish and not that many vegetarian options. My favorite dish is the grilled calamari. The Adriatic Sea is full of calamari, every morning the fisherman sells the fresh catch to the restaurants and people from the city, so it’s always super fresh! Because there is so many calamari it is one of the cheapest dishes in a restaurant, for €10 you have a main course with calamari and blitva (it’s a typical vegetable from the area, it looks a like spinach but tastes a bit different).
The best snack is Burek. It’s a pastry filled with cheese, meat, spinach, apple etc. You can buy it at the baker and the best thing is, they are open 24/7! They bake the breads and pastries for all the supermarkets and restaurants in the city, so they have to start in the night to get all the bread there on time. Which is good for all the young people because there is nothing better than a Burek after a night of partying!
Where to head for shopping in Senj?
The most shops of Senj you will find in the main street. The street connects the two squares of the city and is the biggest street in the old town. There are many souvenir shops, some clothing shops and great restaurants. Next to the old center there are 2 big supermarkets, beside groceries they also sell a lot of other stuff like beach towels, bbq’s, clothes etc.
Which is the local craft or souvenir of Senj?
The Nehaj Fortress is the pride and symbol of the city, in every souvenir shop you will find a million items with the fortress. They left some space for all the items with lavender, like scented bags, perfumes and oils. The area around Senj is a good place for lavender to grow, in the mountains you can find beautiful lavender fields! To see the lavender in bloom you have to visit the fields in June or if you’re lucky the beginning of July.
Another popular souvenir are all the different types of shells from the sea. They make beautiful thing from the shells like lamps, boxes, fishes etc. You can buy them at the shop or even better from the little children on the street. They search the sea and beaches for the most beautiful shells and sell them to tourist on the street. It not because they have to or need the money, it’s just a nice game for them and when they make some money, they can buy ice cream or candy.
Which are the best streets of Senj worthy of taking a stroll on?
All the streets in the old town are worth taking a stroll! Just get lost in the small streets and you will discover beautiful new places again and again. In the evening the boulevard around the harbor is really popular. Local people and tourist are walking on the boulevard and enjoying the sunset and nice views over the harbor.
Can you suggest a place from where one can get the best view of Senj?
Yes! In my opinion the view of the city is one of the most beautiful things in Senj. The old town, the hill with the Nehaj fort and the Adriatic sea with all the island, it’s the best!
For a view of the city you can go to the Nehaj Fortress. From the hill you have a nice view but from the top of the Fortress the view is even better!
There is a better spot that most of the tourist don’t know about. You need a car to get to this spot because you have to drive through the city and take the road to Krivi Put (which means wrong road). You are on the right road because from this road you will have an amazing view! There are some viewpoints along the road, not real viewpoint, just some gravel next to the road where you can park your car. If you don’t have a car you can climb the first small hill behind the city. You have to walk till the end of the street Damira Tomljanovica Gavrana and the hill is on your left side. There is no path just climb over the rocks to the top of the mountain, it’s a 20 min hike to the top.
Would you suggest any shows in Senj to drama, music or art lovers? Where can one spot street art in your city?
Senj has a long and turbulent history and is one of the best places in the country to see the old traditional life of the Croatian people. On the big square in the old city they host a lot of events.
One of my favorites is the Klapa festival that takes places every year in the beginning of July. Klapa music is a all male traditional cappella singing. The group sings traditional songs about love, wine, the country and the sea.
A new and popular event are the Senj Concert Evenings. Various Croatian artists take part in these classical music concerts which take place during the summers. The concerts usually take place on the town’s small squares or in churches.
Would you recommend any local apps for food, transport or hidden gems in Senj?
Not really, I think the city is too small to have an app for that.
Do you want to give any suggestion to tourists coming to Senj?
Rent a boat and discover the hidden beaches and beautiful bays around the city! You can rent a boat without a license, not a fast boat but it is a boat.
If you want to cross the sea to get to the island you need a boat with more PK. You can rent a small boat for 5 persons for €100 a day. Bring some wine, local ham and cheese or a grill for a romantic beach BBQ.