Keep an eye on Bakar, a Croatian town where tourism authorities have turned to heritage interpretation as a tool for destination management. 

Located near the much bigger Croatian town of Rijeka, Bakar is a well-kept secret, long hidden in the smoke of industry. The town, with its rich and turbulent past, was completely isolated and eradicated from the tourist routes. For decades, it had a reputation as a place to be avoided due to air and sea pollution, a place not worth visiting. Consequently, its rich historical heritage remained utterly unknown even to people from the nearby towns and cities.

While lines of cars pass by on the motorway above the Bakar bay in the busy summer months, Bakar Tourist Board has silently been working hard on the development of the quality interpretation of its heritage. They have been organising educational activities and study visits for all the stakeholders, from hosts and tour guides to their own employees.

Heritage interpretation is now an intrinsic part of their destination management. Examples include an interpretive trail set up a few months ago alongside its rare karstic periodic lake phenomenon, Ponikve, which appears and disappears. It is a true magical trick of nature. On June 23, they held an interpretive walk to inspire local people to create interesting cultural tourism products. Most importantly, in October 2018, they will host an Interpret Europe certified interpretive guide course. This course is a rare example of a tourist board taking over the organisation of such a course and shows their dedication to the quality of the interpretation of their heritage. 

With the closing of its industry, Bakar has started to make small steps away from touristic isolation, and a visit has become a real revelation for many who had, until recently, bypassed the town. We are just two people in a long line of new Bakar enthusiasts, and we feel lucky to be a part of this process as active collaborators.

Countless stories are waiting to be told and turned into a myriad of reasons for visiting Bakar. At the turn of the 19th century, it was the largest city in Croatia. The first Maritime School in the country was founded there. It hosts the oldest mareograph in the Adriatic and the monumental church of St. Andrew, with its crypt and catacombs is amazing. The list of reasons to visit Bakar goes on: a vibrant tradition of seafaring, and the living history of the Bakar Town Guard to name just two pieces of intangible heritage. The town is also spectacularly located, the Risnjak National Park, with peaks up to 1528 meters high, is actually within the administrative area of the City of Bakar. 

You’re probably already wondering why haven’t you heard of this town full of curiosities before?  A hidden gem, its potential can be revealed through careful destination management. We only hope that the tourist board will remain on this path and set an inspiring example for many destinations on the rise. It will be interesting to follow the further development of Bakar as a tourist destination in the years to come. Find more info here: 

Silvija Jacić is a Promotion and PR specialist, dedicated to the promotion of interpreted heritage ( Contact her at: 

Iva Silla is an IE certified trainer, author of Secret Zagreb tours ( Contact her at:

To cite this article: 
Jacić, Silvija and Silla, Iva (2018) ‘Interpreting Bakar’. In Interpret Europe Newsletter 2-2018, 27-28. 

Available online: