Ironic is the fate of Pula: the capital of the Istrian peninsula, a very important regional centre with a busy trading port, is in fact remembered by all for its… Roman ruins.
Yet it is well worth a visit to see the remains of the Roman era in this city: the famous Pula Arena, with the sea glimpsed through the arches of the walls and the white colour of the stone creating a striking contrast with the blue of the water, is the ideal setting for exciting memories and breathtaking photographs.
Beautiful beaches, a wide range of hotels and rooms for rent and a lively nightlife, combined with the ease with which Pula can be reached and from which one can travel to visit other famous locations in Istria, make this town a very popular tourist destination.
Joyce and Pula
The Irish writer James Joyce, author of the literary masterpiece “Ulysses”, lived in Pula for several years while working as a teacher at the Berlitz School. You can see a statue of the writer on the terrace of the café bar Uliks.
The old part of the city follows the original urban layout of the Roman period, with circular streets around the citadel, while the newer area is rectangular in shape.
Pula’s most famous attraction is the Roman amphitheatre, probably the most famous and best preserved outside Italy.
Overlooking a bay to the north of the ancient city and built of local limestone, the amphitheatre is an impressive sight even for those who have already visited its more famous ‘relatives’, such as the Arena in Verona or the Colosseum. The outer wall, 30 metres high, is still almost intact today, while the stone tiers were removed in medieval times to construct other buildings.
Used in the past for gladiator shows and naval combat, it could accommodate up to 20000 spectators. Today it hosts summer theatre and music festivals as well as the Pula Film Festival, the most important summer film event.
Walking around the city of Pula you can still see numerous remains from the Roman period.
They are still visible:
If you are interested in history, you can visit the Istrian Archaeological Museum, with exhibits from prehistory to the Middle Ages from all over Istria. Behind the museum garden you can see a small Roman theatre.
If Roman antiquity is not your thing, you can stroll through the old town centre or shop at the green market founded in the Habsburg era where, in addition to fruit and vegetables, you can buy herb liqueurs, jams, dried figs and lavender products.
To keep your children happy or to make up for a sudden rainy day, you can visit the Pula Aquarium, located in a rather unusual location for an attraction of this type, namely the Austro-Hungarian military fortress Verudela.
Built in the late 19th century, the fortress is located just 3 km from the city centre and overlooks the Verudela peninsula.
The city’s most interesting religious buildings include the Cathedral, rebuilt in the 14th century on the remains of an earlier Roman construction, and the Chapel of Santa Maria Formosa, which represents what remains of an ancient Benedictine abbey. The mosaics that decorated its walls are on display in the Archaeological Museum.
There is no city beach in Pula, but the city is surrounded by a long series of rock formations that create a variety of small beaches. There are very few sandy beaches in the area, among them Debelijk.
Below are three of the most beautiful beaches in and around Pula.
The beaches of Punta Verudela are the most touristy in the area around Pula. Among them, the most famous are undoubtedly Ambrela, which can boast of having won the Blue Flag, and Hawaii Beach, which despite its name is not a sandy beach in the shade of palm trees, but a pebble beach with a few rocks from which you can dive.
The tourist facilities on the Verudela peninsula can also be reached by city bus.
Valkana, or Valkane, is a pebble beach stretching along a bay southwest of Pula. There are several cemented terraces for sunbathing and it is close to several bars and restaurants.
If you want wilder-looking beaches, visit the Kamenjak Nature Park, located at the end of the Premantura promontory, about 10 km from the centre of Pula.
The park is beautiful in itself, with numerous nature trails – including a dinosaur trail that will delight the most curious children – but the great attraction of the area are the wonderful beaches, mostly rocks.
A must-see is Kolumbarica beach, bathed by a sea of extraordinary colours. It is famous for its rocks suitable for adrenalin-pumping dives and for its underwater caves, which, if you are adventurous, you can swim through.
Pula is an excellent base for exploring other Istrian towns and surrounding islands. Just a few kilometres away you will find fascinating destinations such as Kamenjak Park, Medulin and the boat mooring for the Brijuni Islands Nature Park.
Poreč and Rovinj, the most famous tourist resorts in Istria, are also easily reached on a day trip.
Those who enjoy active holidays in the Pula area can enjoy water skiing, parasailing, diving or rent rowing and motor boats.
Pula is only 120 km from Trieste and can be reached quickly by car via Slovenia. There are buses from other European cities, and if you are already in Croatia you can take a bus to Pula from Rijeka and Zagreb.
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