In the past

The Palace that the people of Rijeka today call the Benčić Palace was built as one of the facilities of Rijeka’s sugar refinery compound and it was known as the Sugar Refinery Palace. The sugar plant marked the beginning of Rijeka’s industrial story and wrote the first chapter of the city’s industrialization, after which nothing was the same again. The processes launched by the sugar plant reached their pinnacle in mid-19th century, when Rijeka accounted for as much as one half of industrial production in Croatia.

The sugar refinery was established in 1750 by a Dutch-based company Arnoldt & Co., which opened its first plant in the part of the city known today as Mlaka, which at that time formed the western outskirts of Rijeka. The refinery soon started to spread onto new locations in the city. One of these locations was the area of today’s Benčić Palace. In the past, this was a coastal part suitable for sailing ships to drop their anchors and unload their cargo of raw sugar right in front of the refinery’s gate. At the time, the refinery had seven hundred workers. In 1826, the refinery was shut down; however, the factory compound soon began to fulfil new purposes. The Hungarian army used it from 1832 to 1848 as military barracks, and in 1851 it was turned into a tobacco factory. It didn’t take long for the factory to evolve into the largest tobacco processing plant in the Austro-Hungarian Empire: in the 1860s, it employed as much as 2000 workers, most of whom were women. Finally, from 1945 to 1998, the factory compound housed the Factory of Engines and Tractors Rikard Benčić.

The well-kept Sugar Refinery Palace still bears witness to this rich economic history and it represents the largest Neo-Baroque building on the east coast of the Adriatic. The well-known parts of the compound are T-building and H-building, which originate from the tobacco factory period and they were named after their ground plan view, which formed letters T and H. The Sugar Refinery Palace was listed as a protected cultural heritage in 1970.


The compound of the former sugar refinery, i.e., the compound of the Rikard Benčić factory, which was shut down at the end of the 1990s will be transformed in the new millennium into a part of the city full of new contents. The opening of the new building of the Rijeka Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in 2017 served as an announcement of these processes. The largest building of the compound, the Sugar Refinery Palace, will become the home of the City Museum of Rijeka as soon as the renovation is completed. The Museum is presently located in a building which does not have enough space for the museum’s holdings; since the 1970s, when the building was constructed, the museum holdings have increased significantly. In its new home, the City Museum will get the opportunity to arrange a permanent display and develop new functions, such as educational, scientific, touristic etc.

Preservation and presentation

The planned reconstruction, which will meet the spatial, educational, scientific and other needs of the City Museum, fully respect the historical and architectural values of the building. The volume, the exterior and the load bearing structure will not be changed, and the new features will be introduced into the space with minimum interventions.

A permanent display will form the central part of the palace. Its concept rests on two foundations. The first is made up of stories being told by the painted and ornamented chambers, while the other consists of the Museum’s collections. The permanent display follows the spatial structure of the facility and it contains two aspects. On the first and second floor of the palace, the visitors will be able to learn more about the social and economic history of Rijeka from the 18th century, when Rijeka began to rise as the central European port and an industrial hub, all the way to the end of the 20th century. The second floor will reveal the story about the former industrial compound where the museum will be located. The story encompasses the period of the refinery (18th century – beginning of the 19th century), the period of the tobacco factory (19th century – 20th century) and the period of metal industry, i.e., the Rikard Benčić engine factory (from the mid to the end of the 20th century).

The third floor will provide space for the offices of curators and other staff, while the loft will be reserved for technical rooms and storage. Business and service facilities (the gift shop, info center, tourist office and café bar) will occupy the ground floor, while the museum depot and the library will be placed on the mezzanine floor.