Pula, Croatia: An Expert Travel Guide
Pula is a city in Croatia and one of the most popular vacation destinations in Istria. There are so many unique things to do in Pula! An absolute highlight is the Roman amphitheater, which is the landmark of this historically important port city. However, there are countless other fantastic attractions to discover in Pula! A really charming old town, ancient temples, ancient buildings and regional markets are just a few of the sights to marvel at. The nature and the beaches around the port city are just amazing and worth visiting! In addition, there are plenty of things to see around Pula and lots of possibilities for interesting day tours.
In this travel guide we will show you the absolute best things to do in Pula in Croatia. In addition, you will get lots of travel info on Pula; we will show you amazing pictures and tell you where to find the best places to stay.
General information about Pula
With about 60,000 inhabitants, Pula is the largest city in Istria. Located in the south of the Istrian peninsula, it is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the region, along with Medulin, Premantura and Fazana. A charming old town, many interesting attractions, good restaurants, a vibrant nightlife, the long shopping street and not to forget the many beautiful beaches make Pula an absolute highlight in Croatia. Especially in recent years, this city has become a really popular place for tourists from all over the world.
In addition, this city is one of the oldest in Croatia! The history of Pula dates back to the Neolithic Age. The first settlement of the city by the Illyrians dates back to the 10th century BC. In 177 BC the Romans conquered the settlement and then under Emperor Augustus in the 1st century the amphitheater was built. Today it’s the most important attraction and the landmark of Pula.
The best things to see and to do in Pula
During a visit in Pula, you can look forward to a whole range of attractions worth seeing. Most of them are located directly in the old town, which can be easily explored on a city walk. There are many other things that you can do and discover in the immediate vicinity. In order not to lose the overview, we have summarized the best things to do in Pula at a glance right here:
Triumphal Arch of Sergius
One of the most important attractions of Pula is the 8-meter high Triumphal Arch, which is also known as Triumphal Arch of Sergius. This historical structure dates back to ancient times and had been built as early as 29-27 BC by the Roman Sergian family as a kind of monument. At that time the arches were richly decorated with gold, which gave this attraction the nickname the “Golden Gate”. Today, just behind the Arch of Triumph, the walking mile of Pula starts, where countless boutiques and stores make you want to go on a shopping tour.
Not only the more than 2,000 years old history impresses here, also the square where this triumphal arch is located is beautiful and extremely worth seeing. A must visit on any sightseeing tour of Pula!
Tip: Right next to Triumphal Arch of Sergius is a cozy café with a lovely terrace, wherefrom you can enjoy the hustle and bustle.
Exploring the Old Town
The Old Town in Pula is an absolute must see in Croatia, as it is definitely one of the most beautiful historic city centers in the country. During a city tour, you can expect a whole variety of fantastic attractions from different eras. Especially the architectural mix of Roman, Venetian, Austrian and Italian monuments is interesting. Also the countless alleys with the ancient stone houses and the beautiful squares invite to linger and take pictures.
One of the most beautiful squares in Pula is certainly the Forum Square, the so-called Trg Forum or also known as Republic Square. It is the former main square and is located directly in the ancient city center. Around it are some of the oldest buildings of the port city. Especially in the evening, when the bars fill up and good music is played, this square charms everyone!
One of the most important places to visit in Pula is the Temple of Augustus. This imposing and also very well-preserved structure dates back to the 1st century BC and was built on the former forum of the Roman city, today’s Forum Square. Throughout history, the original function of the temple has changed; first, it used to be a Christian church then a granary and today it serves as a small museum.
The interior of the Augustus Temple is also worth seeing and can be visited for a small entrance fee of 10 kuna. There is an interesting exhibition here where you can see valuable Roman stone and bronze statues and portrait busts.
The amphitheater of Pula is the landmark of the port city and certainly the most important attraction of Pula. This imposing arena is the 6th largest amphitheater from ancient times and a visit is almost a must on every city tour. It was built during the reign of Emperor Vespasian in the 1st century, at the same time as the Colosseum was built in Rome.
This huge arena could hold up to 26,000 spectators. In the past, gladiator fights, animal fights and naval battles were held here in front of a huge audience. Today, the well-preserved arena can also be visited from the inside. It is also a popular location, especially in summer, for concerts with international stars, events such as the Pula Film Festival and the Spectacula Antiqua.
Tip: Cheap admission tickets for Pula Amphitheater can be found online here.
Sveti Antun Church & Monastery
Arguably one of the most beautiful churches in the city is Sveti Antun, located just behind the arena. This picturesque place of worship towers far above the city with its bell tower that is about 45 meters high. The inner courtyard is especially beautiful and from its garden you can enjoy a fantastic view of the amphitheater, the blue sea and the harbor. When the church is open, it is also worth visiting the interior. Most impressive is the mosaic image of Jesus, which is located behind the altar.
Market Hall in Pula
One of the best things to do in Pula is a visit of the old Market Hall. A visit to this 120 year old hall is a real experience, as it was built back in the K. u. K. monarchy and is still really authentic and a popular meeting place among locals. More than 60 stalls sell regional products such as fish, meat, fruit, dairy products and vegetables. But also Croatian delicacies, olive oils, nuts, cheese and honey are available here at a reasonable price. On the lower floor there is also a really interesting fish market and on the upper floor there are some restaurants and cafes.
The market hall of Pula is open daily from 7:00 am – 12:00 pm. Especially on weekends, countless outdoor market stalls also open. A great shopping experience that you should not miss on any trip to Pula!
Tip: Delicious fish dishes at a reasonable price are served in the restaurant Furia. A real insider tip that almost only locals know!
Another important attraction of Pula is the Fortress Kaštel, a fort from the early 17th century. It is perched on the highest hill in the city and offers a fantastic view of the historic center and the amphitheater from the top. Built in 1632, when the Venetians ruled the region, this attraction was made as a fortification to protect the port and the city.
Today, the fort houses a museum about the history of Istria. About 40,000 exhibits can be seen in the ancient premises of the fort. Among them are historical photographs, film footage and old postcards of Pula, but also valuable coins, weapons, ancient coats of arms and maps are exhibited here.
The beautiful green peninsula of Verudela with its fantastic bathing bays is a real highlight just outside the city center. Here is the place where you will find many of the most beautiful beaches in Pula. First and foremost there is the breathtaking Hawaii Beach, an absolute dream beach, where you get a real Caribbean feeling while sunbathing. Unique are especially the turquoise blue sea colors and the beautiful rock formations that surround this beach.
Only about 5 kilometers from the old town, the vacation paradise of Verudela can be reached by car, as well as cheaply by bus or cab. Moreover, this peninsula is the perfect place if you want to spend your beach vacation in Pula, because here you can expect some amazing hotels and apartments as well as a wide tourist offer of restaurants, cafes and sports facilities such as tennis courts, mini golf and water sports.
Tip: Directly behind the Hawaii Beach, in the best location, is the beautifully renovated 3-star hotel Park Plaza Arena Pula.
Pula Aquarium is another popular tourist attraction. This marine museum is located outside the center, on the already mentioned peninsula Verudela. Popular with young and old, there are many exciting things to experience during a visit. Even the location is unique, because since 2002, the current aquarium has been located in the premises of the former Fortress Verudela, a defense facility from the K.u.K. monarchy.
During a tour you can see hundreds species of fish from the northern and southern Adriatic, as well as various species from the tropical sea. And there are also freshwater fish from Croatian rivers and lakes to explore.
Pula Sea Cave
A real insider tip among the most beautiful natural attractions is certainly the Pula Sea Cave. It is hidden on the Stoja peninsula and can be reached either by a short walk through the forest or by kayak or boat tour. Surrounded by magnificent nature, an idyllic coastal landscape with a blue grotto delights tourists as a highlight. The turquoise sea here is ideal to swim and snorkel and to explore a magnificent underwater world. Right next to it is Cyclon’s beach, a true dream beach of the Pula region.
Tip: Guided tours by paddle boat to Pula Sea Cave can also be found and booked online!
Cathedral of the Assumption
Probably one of the most beautiful churches in the city is the Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary. This historical attraction is located in the center of Pula. Built between the 4th and 5th century, this church is one of the oldest in the city. The freestanding church tower, however, was built later in the 17th century of stones from the amphitheater. Several times this church fell victim to fire, it was even plundered and rebuilt again and again.
The cathedral is not only interesting from the outside; it can also be visited from the inside. Especially worth seeing is the impressive floor mosaic from the 5th century, which is located in the chancel.
Franciscan Church & Monastery
Another interesting place in Pula that is worth to explore is the Franciscan Monastery and the adjacent church. This monastery complex dates back to the 14th century and is somewhat hidden in a side alley between the old town and the fort. From the outside, the building appears in a simple Romanesque style, while the interior of the church is Gothic and has a beautiful altarpiece. Also worth seeing is the cloister of the monastery, the entrance to which is located at the front of the church.
One of the most beautiful attractions near Pula is Cape Kamenjak Nature Park. This natural jewel is located about 15 kilometers south of the city and the entrance is in the village of Premantura. Impressive is the fabulously beautiful coastline with its imposing cliffs and also a variety of the most beautiful natural bays of all of Croatia are located here.
In addition, a magnificent landscape awaits you in the nature reserve, through which countless hiking and biking trails lead. A real highlight that should not be missed on any trip to Pula.
Brijuni National Park
The Brijuni National Park is an archipelago consisting of 14 islands and is one of the most famous national parks in Istria. Not far from Pula, this attraction is a really popular destination for boat trips. The largest of these islands is Veli Brijun, where, among other things, you can explore things a safari park with llamas and zebras, a bird sanctuary in the south of the island, interesting archaeological sites and a 24 km network of cycling paths.
Where to stay in Pula
In the old town of Pula, but also in the surroundings of the port city, there is a great range of accommodations. From beautiful vacation hotels to lovely vacation apartments and campsites, everything is there. If you are looking for a recommended place to stay in Pula, then we can give you these hotel tips…It’s worth a look!
- 3-star Hotel: The Park Plaza Arena Pula is the perfect hotel for a vacation by the sea. Situated in a fantastic beach location, this hotel also impresses with its pool and excellent breakfast.
- Boutique Hotel: The Boutique Hotel Valsabbion scores with lovely furniture, a mega beautiful location with views over the bay and with very good breakfast.
- Vacation Home: The holiday Home Bukovac with pool is a great choice for the whole family. From here you can quickly get to the old town by bus and by car you are not far from the most beautiful beaches.
- Apartments (Old Town): If you like to stay in the city center, the great furnished Polai Panorama Apartments are highly recommended.
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