Following in the footsteps of neighbours Krk and Cres, the largest city on the island of Rab is none other than Rab Town. Ruled by Venice until 1797, this walled city is known for its four bell towers and some of the best Venetian architecture in the region.
On the three main streets running parallel to each other, Ulica Gornja (Upper street), Srednja Ulica (Central street) and Dolnja Ulica (Lower street) are stately aristocratic palaces such as Nimira, Dominis, Tudorini, Kukulic, Galzigna and Cassio. Most of these have been turned into cafes and restaurants.
Along Gornja, you’ll find the homes of those four towers in St Justine’s Church sitting next to Trg Slobode (Freedom Square), St Andrew the Apostle Monastery with Rab’s oldest bell tower dating back to 1181, St John the Evangelist (located near the ruins of the Church) and the bell tower of the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, better known to locals as the cathedral.
Boosting Rab’s tallest bell tower, the Cathedral tower is stunning and probably one of the finest on the Adriatic coast. You can climb the steep wooden stairs for spectacular views of the town and Adriatic. Inside the cathedral reliquary is the skull of St Cristophor who saved the island from attackers, thus earning himself the title of Rab’s patron saint.
If a hike up the belfry is not enough, you can also climb Sveti Ilija mountain which takes a short 30 minutes for wonderful views of the city below and surrounds.
While the island has over 100 kilometres of walking trails (pick up a map at the tourist office) an easy 2.5 kilometre walk is north to the village of Kampor. Marvel at the well-preserved stone houses and terraced vineyards and olive groves.
At the Franciscan Monastery of St Bernardine with two churches (St. Euphemia and St. Bernardine) dating back to the 13th century, there’s a little museum housing ecclesiastical art, books and manuscripts, and even a coin collection.
Apart from the bell towers, Rab is known as the ‘happy island’ with many picturesque bays and good swimming beaches. The largest and most popular beach is Paradise Beach in Lopar, on the northern tip of the island. The beach extends for nearly two kilometers and has been awarded Blue Flag status for its all round cleanliness and facilities.
Every year for three days at the end of July the Rabska Fjera, or Rab Fair has the whole island stepping back in time to the Middle Ages. The fair is based on the tradition of knights’ games in the 14th century with the streets turning into a stage for the medieval festival. There’s a knights’ tournament, parades through the city with people donning their best Renaissance costumes, fireworks, competitions, artisans showing off their crafty wares and of course, dancing.
After all that mayhem, the must try dish on the island is the famous Rab Cake that has graced many a nobleman’s table and to this day some of the ingredients remain a guarded secret. Made mostly of ground almond with the addition of maraschino liqueur and lemon, the cake is rolled into the form of a snail, with the taster being left to work out the remaining ingredients.