Part of the ongoing redevelopment of the Benčić complex, the permanent collection of the Rijeka City Museum proudly opened its doors in November 2020. It is exactly the kind of display the city needed, revealing the city’s character as well as telling you the key historical dates. Housed in the so-called “Sugar Palace”, the palatial eighteenth-century headquarters of the Rijeka sugar refinery, it certainly looks and feels like a major institution, with an imposing marble staircase leading up from the ticket desk to the display rooms. Beautifully restored interiors are on display on the second floor, with brightly coloured frescoes displaying mythical landscapes filled with frolicking sprites and nymphs. Putting in an early appearance in the main history exhibition is Karl VI, the Habsburg emperor who declared Rijeka a free royal port in 1719 and set it on its way to becoming a great harbour city. Rather than offering a date-by-date account of the city’s development from here onwards, however, the museum runs through the main themes of Rijeka’s life; notably as a major shipbuilding centre, and an exit point for nineteenth-century East-European emigrants who left in their thousands for the New World, One room is devoted to the story of the torpedo, conceived by local naval officer Blaž Lupis and English engineer Robert Whitehead, and tested for the first time by Whitehead in 1866. A section on Rijeka’s contribution to popular culture gives visitors the chance to listen to iconic, scene-defining artists such as legendary crooner Ivo Robić, punk firebrands Paraf and new-wave synth-pop duo Denis i Denis. There are a few gaps in the city’s story, but all in all it’s a beautifully conceived collection, and if you really want to understand the city on the Kvarner, then come here first.