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The metropolitan area, which includes adjacent towns and municipalities, has a population of more than 240,000.

Historically, because of its strategic position and its excellent deep-water port, the city was fiercely contested, especially among Italy, Hungary (serving as the Kingdom of Hungary's largest and most important port), and Croatia, changing hands and demographics many times over centuries.

From the 16th century onwards, Rijeka was largely rebuilt in its present Renaissance and Baroque style.

Emperor Charles VI declared the Port of Rijeka a free port (together with the Port of Trieste) in 1719 and had the trade route to Vienna expanded in 1725.

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Historically Fiumano served as a lingua franca for the many ethnicities inhabiting the multiethnic port-town.After coming under Habsburg rule in 1466, the town was attacked and plundered by Venetian forces in 1509.While Ottoman forces attacked the town several times, they never occupied it.However, the Frankish forces finally occupied and devastated the castle, while the Duchy of Croatia passed under the overlordship of the Carolingian Empire.From about 925, the town was part of the Kingdom of Croatia, from 1102 in personal union with Hungary.

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