If you are planning a vacation in Croatia, this article provides some reasons why you should include the city of Pula on your list. This beautiful and historic area is located just south of Rijeka.
Pula is the largest city in the region of Istria. It is located in the southern part of the Istrian peninsula and is an important civil and military port. Istria County is located in the western part of Croatia and is a part of the country where many people speak Italian as their native language. This area is bilingual, and you can hear the Italian language on the streets just as often as the Croatian.
This part of the country has always been unique and very different from the other parts of Croatia. Pula, and Istria as a whole, have always been the multicultural capital of Croatia. Besides great beaches and fantastic scenery, you can visit many outstanding historical, cultural, and religious monuments here. Enjoy a unique gastronomic experience, and see some tremendous festivals (music, theatre, film).
Be with the friendly locals who will be happy to tell you some stories, legends and myths from this region because Istria is primarily known as a region full of mythology. For example, the world's first vampire, who was later the inspiration for the creation of Dracula, came from Istria. Get ideal tips about driving in Croatia before visiting Pula.
This area is also ideal for a road trip. The roads are in good condition, the scenery is beautiful, and as mentioned before, there is a lot to see and do here, so do not hesitate, buckle up and drive safely. And if you are taking a road trip through Istria, Pula should be on your list of cities to visit. The most famous and iconic attraction in Pula is undoubtedly the Arena, but believe me, besides the Arena, there is a wide range of things to see and do here, so let us look at what reasons to spend a few days in Pula.
VISIT THE FORUM
The forum was built in the 1st century BC and was an administrative and religious centre of the city in ancient times and later in the Middle Ages. In the beginning, there were three temples, but today only the temple of Augustus remains. The remains of the second temple are still visible, as it was used to construct a town hall. So you can admire a mixture of architectural styles, especially Romanesque and Renaissance.
Today, the square is bustling and a place where many locals meet to have a coffee or lunch, as there are many bars and restaurants. It is still an administrative centre of the city, but it also hosts many concerts and other cultural events.
VISIT THE TEMPLE OF AUGUSTUS
It is located on the forum right next to the city hall. It was built between 2 BC and 14 AD and is dedicated to the goddess Roma. In the past, the temple was used for various purposes. Besides its primary use, it was also used as a Catholic church, granary, museum, and gallery.
The temple was destroyed during World War II but was renovated and rebuilt immediately after the war ended. Today, this temple, along with other architecture and monuments on the forum, represents one of the most beautiful parts of the city. It is trendy among tourists and locals and an attractive filming location for various shots.
For example, the commercial for the Champions League was filmed here in front of the Temple of Augustus a few years ago. Oh, and not to forget that the temple's name comes from the emperor who had it built.
THE TRIUMPHAL ARCH OF SERGI OR THE GOLDEN GATE
This famous arch was built around 30 BC to honour the three Sergi brothers. Today it is one of the most photographed monuments in Pula. It was also an inspiration for many artists in the past. For example, Michelangelo also made a painting of this triumphal arch.
It was part of the city walls and was used as a gate in the past. It has two sides. The west side, which faces the outside of the old city walls, is much more ornate and full of small details that make this monument even more beautiful, while the east side of the arch faces the inside of the old city walls and is much cruder. It is mainly because of the image of the city, which was very important and thanks to this and other gates.
Pula was a much more beautiful and prosperous city from the outside. Because of the many golden details, the gate was called Porta Aurea. In the 19th century, the walls were removed to expand the city centre, but the Golden Gate remained, and today there is a small square around the gate with a small stage for various cultural events that take place here. You can also have a coffee or a beer in a café with a statue of James Joyce and look at the Triumphal Arch of Sergi.
EXPLORE KAŠTEL (VENETIAN FORTRESS)
This impressive fortress was built in 1630 to defend the port and the city. At that time, Pula was an essential port with many ships arriving and departing daily, which meant that it was also a frequent target of various attacks and robberies. Hence, the Venetian government decided to build a strong fortress to protect Pula and the traffic in the sea around the city.
There is much evidence that there were military objects in this place much earlier. Romans also built a fortress in this place, and some historians claim that the buildings here existed before Roman times.
Today Kaštel houses a historical and maritime museum of Istria. The museum has a pervasive collection of objects found in the area. You can see many flags, postcards, coats of arms, pictures, tools, weapons, and maps. But visiting the museum is not the only reason you should visit Kaštel.
The fortress also offers a breathtaking view of the bay. So if you visit Pula, do not forget to visit the Kaštel fortress; you will not regret it.
FIND A CHURCH AND MONASTERY OF SAINT FRANCIS
This monastery complex is located on the western slope of Pula hill, halfway between the forum and the medieval fortress. It was built by the Franciscans, who came to Pula immediately after St. Francis founded the Franciscan order. It was built in the 14th century and is dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi.
The architectural style of this church and monastery is Romanesque with Gothic ornaments, and it is known as one of the most beautiful and essential religious objects in this area. In this church are the remains of Blessed Otto, who came to Pula in the 13th century to found a monastery.
He came to Pula in the 13th century to establish a monastery. He died there a few years later, and his remains are still in this church. Saint Otto is still an important religious figure for the people of Istria.
GO TO THE SMALL ROMAN THEATRE
Pula has always been a city where culture plays a major role. It is still evident today, as many different cultural festivals are held in Pula. One of the most famous is undoubtedly the Pula Film Festival, which is every summer. In the past, there were three different theatres in Pula.
Of course, the most famous and biggest one was the Arena, which was not only a theatre but also a building where all kinds of events took place. Then there were two smaller theatres, the larger of which stood outside the city walls on Monte Zaro and of which only a few remains are preserved today.
However, in the northern part of the city, a small Roman theatre with about 500 visitors is now very well-kept, and some features have even been restored. Therefore, you can visit this amazing place and enjoy the atmosphere of this ancient artistic centre, which today also hosts some cultural events, especially in summer.
DISCOVER THE UNDERGROUND TUNNELS ZEROSTRASSE
Pula has a very lively underground with an extensive tunnel system built during the First World War and even expanded after it. Since Pula has always been an important city in many ways (transition, economy, transport, tourism, military objects, connection to other parts of the world), it meant that it was also always a target for enemies, so in case of an attack, the citizens of Pula could permanently hide in the underground tunnels.
It is interesting to note that there are so many tunnels under Pula that it is possible for all citizens to find shelter here in case of an emergency. The tunnels were also used for storing military equipment and communications.
Today, a part of these tunnels, the Zerostrasse, is open for tourists, and it is a unique experience to visit it. Exhibitions are held there, and since the temperature in the tunnels is always between 14 and 18 degrees Celsius, especially in summer, you have an excellent opportunity to hide from the hot sun and find refreshment here under the surface of the fantastic city of Pula.
ENTER THE CITY THROUGH THE TWIN GATE
Pula was surrounded by walls that offered protection to this important city and its citizens. You could enter the city through one of ten gates on these walls. Unfortunately, many of the gates were destroyed in the 19th century when the walls were also demolished to expand the city centre.
But some of the gates remained untouched and were even restored later. One of them is the Twin Gate, which is characterised by two arches and is of historical importance and is still important today. You enter the Small Roman Theatre, the Zerostrasse and the Archaeological Museum of Pula through this gate. Another gate that you can visit today is the Gate of Hercules.
VISIT AQUARIUM PULA
This fantastic aquarium is located 3 kilometres outside the city on the peninsula of Verudela. It is located in the Austro-Hungarian fortress of Verudela. Covering an area of 2000 square metres, it is home to fish and other marine and aquatic animals worldwide. There is also a rehabilitation centre for sea turtles here. So there are many reasons to visit this fantastic aquarium with more than 60 tanks with different kinds of marine and aquatic animals.
ENJOY THE PULA FILM FESTIVAL
It is the oldest and most important film festival in Croatia and an essential and popular one. It was founded in 1954 and is usually held in the summer, in July or August. The main venue of the festival is the Arena, where you can enjoy numerous film screenings worldwide. Quality films are always selected, and besides international artists, you can also see films by local filmmakers.
RELAX ON THE LOCAL BEACHES
Pula and its surroundings are also known for their beautiful beaches. A place where you can spend a great holiday with your whole family is Štinjan with its beautiful beach Vila. Here you can also go snorkelling, as there is a diving centre on the beach. In the tourist zone of Verudela, you can visit Ambrella beach.
This beach is famous for its crystal clear water and excellent infrastructure with many water sports that you can practise on the beach. Near Ambrela is Brioni beach, which has also been awarded the Blue Flag for its clear waters. Finally, Stoja beach is located in the area of Verudela below the tourist settlement. It is famous for its wide range of different activities.
Another beach you should not miss is Histria beach near the hotel of the same name. Valken beach is another great beach in this area. An essential feature of this beach is that it has access to the sea suitable for people in wheelchairs. It is one of the best beaches for disabled people, as there are a lot of supportive infrastructures that allow you to move around with a wheelchair, for example.
Then there are Gortanova uvula and Havajsko, two other famous beaches in Pula. Of course, there are also many beaches outside the city area. If you take a road trip through Istria, you will find some extraordinary beaches that you will discover during your trip to this unique region.
DISCOVER LOCAL GASTRONOMY
Istria is known for its unique gastronomy. Many quality wines come from Istria, and several specialities are typical of this region. One of them is undoubtedly the truffle, which is part of the tradition that many people specialise in finding. Of course, there are also many fish specialities.
We must not forget that high-quality olive oil is produced here because some olive trees grow only in this area, which gives a unique taste to the oil obtained from the oil olives of these trees.
One of the specialities here is also Boškarin. It is a local type of cattle that is bred here. So you can try some products from the Boškarin meeting in combination with other flavours traditional for this area.