Sightseeing in Pula
With a startling heritage intrinsically linked with Italy’s inspirational antiquity, Pula offers you an incredible depth to its historical riches on show.
This becomes all the more apparent when you arrive at the spectacular Pula Arena. Rivalling even the mighty Colosseum of Rome in its magnificence, it stands proud as the only Roman amphitheatre to have all towers, columns and walls completely preserved. Step inside its oval and you’ll marvel at its silvery arches and weatherworn fissures still carrying all the character they did when they were built back in 27BC. And although the enduring names of Augustus, Claudius and Vespasian have all passed through this very site, the Arena still remains a cultural hub today. It’s still a place where you can enjoy open-air concerts, plays and the Pula Film Festival.
Remarkably, the Arena is not the only ancient site you can expect to see in Pula. The astonishing Roman Forum lies in the heart of Pula, and displays all the classical beauty of that mighty Empire. Indeed, you’ll actually be walking in the footsteps of Emperors, as the chunky slabs of stone pavement beneath your feet have remained since Roman times.
Of the myriad grand structures here, the Temple of Augustus attracts the most attention. Considering it was built more than 2,000 years ago at the time of the first Roman Emperor Augustus, its Corinthian columns are impressively preserved.
Yet your curiosity will continue when you see the imposing dusky stone of the Arch of Sergii casting deep shadows in the dazzling Croatian sunshine. Created around 27BC to commemorate the Battle of Actium, up close you can still see the stone etchings of patterns and bas-reliefs.
To protect such Roman riches, the historic centre of Pula once had thick stone walls ringed around it, with no less than ten guarded gates. You’ll discover that its legacy lasts today in the form of the Twin Gates, built in the 2nd century as a protected entry to a leafy green courtyard. The rather smaller Gate of Hercules dates back even further, to the 1st century, and still bears the detail of the bearded head of Hercules at its peak.
Activities in Pula
As you might imagine for a city with such an evocatively established lineage, Pula also boasts the Archaeological Museum of Istria to house the many ancient finds from the region. Passing through the famous Twin Gates, inside, you’ll see an incredible range of more than 300,000 artefacts spanning from prehistoric times to the Roman and Byzantine eras.
If you have a hunger for yet more culture, the Rovinj Heritage Museum around 35km north of Pula features a diverse array of collections. Gaze at ancient Roman graves and Gothic church lamps, then admire artworks spanning the Renaissance period to the present day.
Once you’ve made the journey to the idyllic coastal town of Rovinj, you may as well also enjoy its surrounding evergreen forestry. One of the best areas for walking is the Punta Corrente, a sprawling parkland of fragrant pines, golden shorelines and white sea cliffs. In fact, it will lead you all the way to Palud, the only ornithological reserve in Istria. Wander its lakes and deep forestry and you’ll discover there are more than 200 species of birds nesting here, including pheasants, woodpeckers and partridges.
To enjoy even more natural wonders, head to the Kamenjak National Park in Premantura. Less than half an hour’s drive from Pula at the most southern tip of Istria, this huge park sits on a stunning peninsula surrounded by azure waters on all sides. There’s much to take your interest here, from bike trails to sandy bays, aquariums and even dinosaur footprints!
On the subject of all things prehistoric, the Baredine Cave in Porec has a beautifully lit network of underground lakes surrounded by huge stalactites and stalagmites. It’s well worth exploring the cave, especially to see the many exhibitions of cave art it has on show.
Family fun in Pula
Despite being a decidedly cultural city, Pula and its surrounding Istria region has plenty for children and families to enjoy too. Within the city itself, one of the best ways to captivate young minds will be with a visit to the Kastel. Perched high on a hill overlooking the seafront, this imposing fortress was built in the 17th Century by the Venetians to protect the azure Adriatic seas. Children will love exploring the battlements, which features old cannons, high towers and even an old pharmacy that displays some medicines that were once used in days gone by.
If your family would prefer to marvel at the dazzling colours of nature, there’s both the Rovinj Aquarium and the Porec Aquarium at Pula’s neighbouring towns. The aquarium in Rovinj also has the claim to fame of being one of the world’s oldest, as it was established way back in 1891. Inside, you can expect to see a fabulous variety of species, from the poisonous scorpion fish to huge crabs and octopuses.
While you are in Porec, you should also check out the Aqua Golf Porec Lunar Park. This crazily quirky idea is a golf driving range with a difference – namely you hit golf balls into the sea instead of along a fairway! Golf clubs of different sizes are provided for all ages, and you can even win a prize if you manage to hit the island targets.
There’s always an opportunity to enjoy more of the great outdoors in Istria too. Visit the Glavani Park in Barban, around half an hour’s drive north east from Pula. This thrilling adventure parks is bound to keep children and big kids happy, as it features treetop climbing frames and assault courses, as well as some super-speedy zip lines.
Romantic breaks in Pula
Take a moment to enjoy the peaceful scenes of Pula with your loved one. A stroll through the city’s Old Town is certainly an evocative experience. Thanks to the historic centre being a maze of cobbled streets and squares, there’s plenty of time to share quiet moments together.
The gorgeous Verudela Peninsula is mere minutes away from Pula too. Here the coastline takes on the classic Croatian aspect of silvery stone, deep green forestry and turquoise waters. But what makes the Verudela Peninsula all the more appealing is the fact you can relax together on honey-coloured bays dusted with soft sand. This is a rather unusual feature for the area, as most shorelines are instead lined with seawater-washed shingles and stones.
Venture further into the Istria region and you’ll arrive peaceful seaside towns of Porec and Rovinj, both less than an hour away by car. You’ll find Porec a particularly perfect place to spend time as a couple, as at its heart lies its UNESCO-Protected Porec Old Town. It’s an incredibly relaxing experience to just wander around the car-free narrow streets, admiring the weatherworn, medieval buildings.
For one of the most romantic views in all of Istria, it’s also well worth climbing higher to the Euphrasian Basilica’s tower to look out upon the orange-topped houses and sparkling waterfront of Porec. The Eurphrasian Basilica is a major attraction in itself, as it is regarded as one of the best examples of Byzantine designs in Europe. This religious site is fully deserving of its UNESCO status, as it has a heritage tracing back to the 6th century, and inside you can both marvel at the resplendent golf leaf mosaics and silkily gleaming marble ornaments.
Top tips for Pula
There’s an efficient bus service in Pula that will help you get around the city quickly. If you do decide to catch the bus, be sure to buy a BusCard instead of paying for single tickets. BusCards come pre-filled with the costs of multiple bus rides, but even better, one single card can be used by up to five people. This adds up to huge savings, especially when you’re travelling as a family or group.
Day trips to Venice
For the ultimate day trip, there’s a regular ferry service across the Adriatic from Pula to Venice. That means you can combine two breaks in one, with the opportunity to explore the glistening canals and grand scenes in Venice. Sip an espresso at St. Mark’s Square, view the regal rooms of the Doge’s Palace and pick up some souvenirs on Rialto Bridge before heading back to beautiful Pula.
- Please - Molim
- Thank you - Hvala
- Good morning - Dobro jutro
- Good evening - Dobra večer
- Good night - Laku noć
- Excuse me - Oprostite
- I don't understand - Ne razumijem
- Do you speak English? - Govorite li engleski?
- I can't speak Croatian - Ne govorim hrvatski