When in Istria Head East to Discover Rabac & Labin Croatia

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When In Istria Head East To Discover Rabac & Labin Croatia

I am always banging on about how Croatia is packed with fantastic sights and places to visit for total rest and relaxation. Still, many places in Croatia never get the publicity that they so rightly deserve.

Some of these travel destinations are slightly hidden away, hidden gems, one could say, others are just overshadowed by the bigger cities nearby.

I know why you are focused on Dubrovnik and its beaches and culture or looking at Island hopping from Split, but I think it’s time you turned your attention to two of Istria’s glittering treasures – namely, Labin and Rabac.

These two destinations are separate in their own right, but they are only 5km apart and share a tourist board, so they are often grouped together – Bonus, two for the price of one!

The truth is, each one has plenty to see and do, and plentiful opportunities for a holiday with a difference – they are so close that you get the best of both worlds.

A beach vacay in Rabac and the romantic hilltop town of Labin.

Let’s check out Rabac and Labin in a little more detail.

We took a family trip late spring and ventured off the well-trodden path of eastern Istria and landed on the east side after discovering the delights of Ozalj (another great unknown!).

Don’t forget Istria when planning your social distance trip – this ranch keeps you away from the crowds!

Where Can You Find Rabac & Labin?

Both Labin and Rabac are in Istria, and they are located on the eastern side of the peninsula.

Labin is around a 5km drive from the coastline, whereas Rabac is on the coast, making it a popular tourist resort for those who enjoy summertime beach fun.

Aside from the fun and holiday vibe of these two towns, Labin is steeped in history, including an interesting coal mining story, and of course, the medieval history all these Istrian Hilltop towns share.

Labin dates back to 285AD – meaning Labin was inhabited two thousand years B.C. – yikes, so old! The first written document is a relief from the 3rd century with the inscriptions” RES PUBLICA ALBONESSIUM.”

Whereas Rabac found its roots in fishing and, more recently, the booming tourism industry, which led to the construction of various beachside Hotels, Resorts, and Camping grounds.

Rabac is known as The Pearl of the Kvarner Bay, and as soon you arrive in Rabac, you’ll understand why!

The Best Time To Visit Labin & Rabac

Things to do in Rabac Croatia - Travel Croatia Blog
Things to do in Rabac: Panorama of Rabac Croatia

The best time for you to head to this stunning region is really dependent on how hot you like the weather.

Summer sees the mercury rise considerably, so if you like it hot, July and August are for you. If you prefer milder temperatures and far fewer tourists, then spring and autumn’s shoulder months are perfect (we went in Spring and loved it!)

While there is a minor chance of rain in the shoulder seasons (more so during Autumn), the temperatures are still very warm in May, June, and September; the weather is definitely beach-time suitable.

Winter is mild and wet, but this is still a good time to see the authentic Istrian way of life and revel in the Istrian food and escape the hectic summer tourism.

Things to do in Labin Croatia_Labin_old - Travel Croatia Blog
Things to do in Labin: Labin Old Town

We spent a quick two days in the area in April, after being invited by the local tourist board. But two days was simply not enough; we loved it and have it on the list of ‘places we’d go back to.’

I had no idea what to expect from that side of Istria. Having always spent vacays on the western side of Istria, heading east was fascinating.

We arrived on the first day of the 9th Flower Fair in Labin – it was a perfect spring day. Sunny and warm.

The arrival was made all the better, as we made our way past the colorful array of flowers and onto the food zone – hello lunch!

Known as ‘Si naši gušti (All Our Tastes), the food at the fair was the star for us (sorry to all of the numerous flower exhibitors).

The gourmet event ‘Si naši gušti is easy to find in the main square in Podlabin, and we suggest you plan your trip around it! Restaurateurs prepare gastro delicacies, along with wines from well-known local producers. You can eat and then wander the flower displays and stalls selling other trinkets.

What Did We Eat (And Love) at The Flower Fair?

  • Salted roast pancakes with spring vegetables, wild asparagus, and a juicy pork chop. Velo Kafe Restaurant: Mr. Leo Višković
  • Homemade gnocchi & sausage with a smoked pork fillet sauce with radicchio.  Vale Vista and Tomažići Restaurants: Valdi and Sonja Licul.
  • Fresh pljukanci pasta with asparagus, prosciutto, and a cottage cheese sauce. Kvarner Restaurant: Josip Gobo
  • Homemade polenta with herbs and cuttlefish sauce. Villa Calussovo: Iva Milevoj
  • Spring lasagna with prawns. Flanona Restaurant: Mr. Serđo Peteani
  • Seafood salad Fjord Raša, octopus, mussels, fresh tomatoes, chickpea, capers. Konoba Nando: Tea Gobo

What To See And Do In Labin And Rabac

Little Donkey - Labin GuideBook

There is a significant difference between the two towns in terms of vibe and what to do – Rabac is more about holiday and beach fun, whereas Labin is about history and architecture, so if you can combine the two, you get the best of both worlds!

Our Little Donkey snapped up the Labin Guidebook given to me by the friendly team at the tourist board, and we set about discovering the main sites.

We planned only to stay overnight, so with less than two days, we were not going to be able to see much. That said, here are the attractions in Labin and Rabac we thoroughly enjoyed.

Labin Attractions

Things to do in Labin Croatia - Labin old city_main town door of St Flor
Things to do in Labin Croatia: Main Town Door

One of the most famous historic parts of Labin is centered at the Old Town walls and is called Sanfior Gate.

This was built in 1589 as the town’s entrance and is decorated in the Labin Crest and with a Venetian lion. On top of this, check out the Church of Blessed Virgin Mary’s Birth, built in 1336.

Old Town: Labin is an old medieval town that sits above Rabac, which means stunning views!

The Town Museum is a must-visit, and you can even check out a miniature coal mine, which will help you learn about the former mining history of the region – the Little Donkey was fascinated with it! He went through the exhibition twice and was begging to go again. A total hit for kids (..and Mr. Chasing the Donkey was impressed also).

Things to do in Labin Croatia_Museum_ - Coal mine replica
Things to do in Labin Croatia: Coal Mine Replica

The Old Town has many coffee shops, small boutiques, and galleries to check out, which can help you fill a lazy day.

Olive Oil Tasting: We spent a great hour in the tasting rooms owned by William Negri. The Negri olive oils are tasty and are very well priced, given the extraordinary way they are made.

Oh, and they also make wine – so it’s a 2 for 1 tasting. Be sure to take cash as you’ll be hard-pressed not to leave without a bottle of each – they are that good. So good, we left with over 12 bottles of wine and oils.

Explore the Art Galleries: Labin is full of small galleries just waiting to be discovered.

One of our favorites was the gallery of Vinko Šaina. An Istrian native, Vinko, restored and transformed the run-down neglected Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel into a gallery. Be sure to pop in and say hello.

Walking & Bike Trails: The walking trails on the hills down to Rabac are fantastic for you sporty types. They offer countless types of flora and fauna and more of those picturesque views.

Bell Tower: What’s not to love about a bell tower? The best part – the sweeping views from up high. On the day we visited, the Little Donkey begged to go up and see the bells (he has a mad fascination with bells and bell towers).

It’s possible to climb the stairs to reach the dizzying height of 33 meters – take your camera. I heard the view is killer. I was sick with the flu and pregnant and did not feel up to the climb. Mr. Chasing the Donkey had to carry Little Donkey up – so he never managed to get a clear shot. Sorry!

The bell tower is easy to find, all you have to do is follow the ding dong sound that sounds throughout the Old Town, and 7 am, noon, and again at 8 pm.

Library: I never in my life thought I’d say this, but you should poke your head into the Town’s Library – seriously cool stuff.

Things to do in Labin - Town Library
Things to do in Labin: Town Library

Labin Old Town Night Sightseeing Tours:  On Tuesdays, from 13 June to 12 September, head to Labin Old Town and enjoy a free night sightseeing tour.

The female guides are dressed as Sentona-the patroness of travelers, and they will introduce you to the ancient people known as Liburni and the outcome of the battle with the Uskoks. The tour is a gentleman wearing a miners’ uniform who will proudly tell you all about the famous Labin Republic and the local miners’ riot.

On tour, you can Discover medieval secrets and legends, find out who invented a speedometer, where a replica of a mine is now located in a Baroque palace, and wander around the house of Matthias Flacius, Labin-born theologian and a close associate of Martin Luther.

The tour starts at 9:30 PM in front of Info point in Labin Old Town and finishes around  11 PM in front of the Negri palace to try indigenous Istrian olive oils.

The best part is that the tour is free of charge and is available in Croatian, English, German, Italian, and Czech.

Rabac Attractions

Rabac has those prized Blue Flag Beaches to enjoy, with nature at your fingertips.

There are watersports, diving, walking trails, and many cafes, bars, ice cream shops, and nightlife; basically, Rabac gives you everything that a holiday resort should!

Rabac Open Air Festival

Things to do in Rabac - Open Air Festival
Photo Credit: Rabac Open Air Festival

Rabac will be converted into a huge open-air stage starting 8 June and finish 31 August. With a program packed with music, cinema, theater and a bunch of concerts there will be some kind of activity that’ll tickle your fancy.

The festival’s motto is the celebration of life, the beauty of life, and the little moments that come with it – now, that’s something we can totally get behind!

The program comprises four different categories: Street Performance, Street Music, Cinema and Theatre and Special Events; you can find out more here.

Enjoy The Istrian Lifestyle Evenings: On Fridays from 16 June to 8 September, enjoy the original Istrian gastronomic and hand-made products fair in Rabac.

Taste superb extra-virgin olive oil. Negri and Oil Perin, and olive oil with garlic and pepperoncino, from the world’s best olive region of Istria.

Labin Istrian Lifestyle - Negri Olive Oil
Labin Istrian Lifestyle – Negri Olive Oil

Surprise your palate with Istrian prosciutto, homemade goat cheese Blagevica, healthy yogurt and whey, toast with Labin wines from Romeo Licul, Baćac, and Juričić’s family wineries.

Refresh yourself with natural juices and get to know how lace handicrafts are made.

Find an original souvenir for your loved ones from top-designed ceramic products from Labin family traditional craft shop Merania, cosmetics and decorative objects of lavender from family farm Faraguna, handmade natural cosmetics, and treat yourself with homemade jams.

Or just feel the hospitality of Istrian people.

Labin Istrian Lifestyle -Blagevica Goat Cheese
Labin Istrian Lifestyle: Blagevica Goat Cheese

Wander the boardwalk: Starting at one end of Rabac, you can walk or catch the passenger train all the way along the beach promenade to the other end.

We caught the train to the end and then walked ever so slowly back. We stopped for ice-cream. We sat by the water and enjoyed drinks and views to die for.

Things to do in Rabac: Wander the Promenade
Things to do in Rabac: Wander the Promenade

Sentona, Saint Patron of Travelers

Things to do in Labin: Sentona Dress
Things to do in Labin: Sentona Dress

Labin’s Goddess Sentona – the Patron Saint of travelers,’ is the new face of the tourist brand of Labin and Rabac.

Sentona marks quality, tradition, authenticity, and the naturalness goodness of the Labin area.

Look out for Sentona themes while in the area. For example in authentic, healthy menus are offered in local restaurants. Or while you are treating yourself with relaxing wellness treatments made with natural cosmetics rich in local essential oils. Find more here.

The Best Beaches In Rabac Istria

Rabac is the one with the beaches, and these are some of the best on the Istrian coastline!

Lanterna Beach is a Blue Flag beach, and this is the busiest beach in the resort – really beautiful.

For a quieter option, but still, with plenty of watersports on offer, Girandella Beach is the one to go to, with pine trees offering some much-needed shade, or you could also check out Maslinica Beach (which also has a kid’s play area close by).

St Andrea Beach is a short distance from the town center but still walkable, and this is the beach to go to for peace and quiet. This is a narrow stretch of beach, but there is not much shade on offer here, so if you have small kids, bring an umbrella. But it’s great for those who want rest and relaxation.

Where To Eat In Rabac And Labin Croatia

There are plenty of places to sit down, have a coffee, or perhaps go out and have a delicious evening meal, with some authentic Istrian cuisine to try or some international dishes. In Rabac, be sure to head to Pingo 2 if you’re an ice cream lover, which is definitely one for the kids! There are all different flavors of ice cream on offer, and this is the perfect answer to those hot summer days.

Things to do in Rabac_Icecream
Things to do in Rabac: Eat Ice Cream, of course!

Labin has many small, quaint coffee shops to sit and have a cappuccino, wine, a sweet treat, and these are primarily located in the Old Town, where you can wander around the maze-like streets.

But the best food we had was at Velo Kafe Restaurant where we enjoyed a long and tasty three-course lunch!  Located in the Old Town of Labin, it’s super easy to spot.

It offers a stunning view over the Old Town Square from its terrace, where we sat last month for several hours enjoying a 3-course lunch that left me unbuttoning my jeans so I could breathe!

Velo Kafe’s ambiance is particularly appealing (I hear especially so in winter by the fire). Here you can discover the unique flavors of Labin, prepared using the recipes that the chef at Velo Kafe Restaurant, Jasna Pušec, learned from her Mother and Grandmother.

Jasna includes traditional and local ingredients on the menu, and her passion and love for cooking are reflected on each plate. One mouthwatering highlight was these Labinski Krafi sweet treats.

Must-Try Labinski Krafi by Chef Jasna Pušec

Where To Stay In Labin Or Rabac

There are many hotels around Labin and Rabac. However, the big four-star establishments are more in Rabac, as this is where the beach is!

For your hotel resort experience, check out the Hotel Adoral, Hotel Narcis, Casa Valamar Sanfior, Hotel Mimosa, or Valamar Girandella Resort which was newly renovated in 2017. This way, you’re right on the beach, and you have all the fun of a summer beach holiday right before you.

For something a little lower in price but still ultra-comfortable, check out the Allegro Hotel, Miramar Hotel, or the Hotel Flanona for three-star options.

Find a great selection of accommodation options in Rabac here

Labin tends to have more self-catering options available and less in the way of mass tourism while still being close enough to reach it (just 5km away).

Apartment Cekada is a highly rated three-star option and Bed & Breakfast Kvarner, with its pretty ocean views from high up.

Studio Apartments Stella and Apartments Villa Venera are other high-quality choices in the three-star bracket range.

Find a great selection of accommodation options in Labin here

Croatia Travel Blog_Things to do in Labin and Rabac Istria


How To Get To Istria

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Most people fly into Croatia, and the best airport options include Zagreb, Pula, or Rijeka. With Istria’s close proximity to Italy, flying into Venice is also a good option. From there, you can either take a private transfer, a bus (though very tricky from Dalmatia), or you can drive yourself.

Hiring a car is a fantastic option because you get to see the passing landscapes – and drive between Labin and Rabac and the surrounding areas!

You can find info on car hire and driving in Croatia here

From Dalmatia, you simply head down the Adriatic Highway and follow the signs to Rabac & Labin, which are signposted, or from Zagreb, you take the coastal road down to Plomin and follow the signs.

It’s that easy!

So, the next time you’re on the look-out for a new Croatian destination, Eastern Istria should be where your compass points – and you can find more about the destinations here. You can find more about the destinations here. 

Rabac and Labin Croatia await you!


Comments (14)

  1. We are there every time we visit Croatia! In couple of days we’ll be there again! The best places on planet earth are Labin stari grad and Girandela beach! Love it, and we plan buy us some apartment sometime in future! My husband has family in Labin and Pula.

  2. We loved it… now to come back and explore it in more detail and check out the surrounds <3

  3. Had a fantastic holiday in Rabac in 2011. Loved the staff and the hotel. Beautiful views of nearby islands. Recommend!

    1. Ohhh island day trips, I never thought of that. Which ones did you do from there?

    2. Didn’t make it to the islands on that occasion, but we could easily see Creš from the mainland. Next time we will definitely take a tour across.

  4. Excellent information you provided. I will try to find the time to visit next time I am in Croatia because you make it look very intriguing.

    1. You should – it’s a great spot. I’d like to go back explore the surrounding area with more time. Looks very interesting.

    1. Ohhh fab timing. Are you staying at a beach resort? If so, be sure to take the train (or walk if it’s not too hot) along the promenade. The views are so WOW.

  5. Super thanks to the Labin Rabac Tourist Board in helping us discover two great new places <3

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