Here’s a list of the 15 best things to do in Pula in Croatia, along with famous landmarks, museums, and other points of interest.
Pula is the largest city of Istria and one of the most populated cities in Croatia with approximately 60,000 residents. The city is famous for its well-preserved buildings from Roman times, making it one of the best places to visit in Croatia for history buffs.
Moreover, the city of Pula is also well-known for shipbuilding, winemaking, and fishing. In this article, I’m sharing some of the best places to visit in Pula as well as attractions and activities that shouldn’t be missed.
Pula’s Amphitheater is one of the highlights of the city. It was built in the 1st century AD by Emperor Vespasian and served as an arena for gladiator fights. Historians believe that around 20,000 people could fit into the arena during those times.
Today there is space for around 5,000 spectators when the amphitheater hosts operas, concerts, or the annual Pula Film Festival. There are also historical gladiator “fights” taking place in the summer, a real spectacle.
Visitors will also find the former underground passage interesting, it was turned into an exhibition focused on the olive growing traditions of ancient Istria. Many interesting restored pieces of machinery can be found here.
The Benazic Winery is a family-run winery that’s known as being one of the best wineries in Istria. Especially the red wines are considered world-class and have made a name for themselves in many parts of Europe.
Visitors are invited to a wine tasting experience at Benazic Winery, which also has a great restaurant as well as a wine shop selling the entire selection of Benazic Wines.
The best thing about this business is that despite its success the owning family welcomes every visitor with an open heart and makes sure everyone feels comfortable at their estate.
Temple of Augustus
The Temple of Augustus is a very impressive structure built in the 1st century BC and is known for its four magnificent 17 m high Corinthian columns and its richly decorated frieze.
It is considered one of the best-preserved Roman buildings in the world and has been a symbol and landmark of Pula since its construction.
The temple is dedicated to the Roman emperor Augustus and features the famous engraving: “To Roma and Augustus Caesar, son of the deity, father of the fatherland”.
Monastery and Church of St. Francis
The Monastery and Church of St. Francis was initially built in 1285 but received plenty of additions later on, such as the 14th-century Romanesque church and the 15th-century altarpiece.
The site is known for its many interesting mosaics and wall paintings, depicting aspects of the history of the region and mystic creatures like a hippocampus (a fish-tailed horse).
Another notable fact is that the monastery has retained much of its original charm and has even in today’s busy world remained an oasis of peace and tranquility.
Cape Kamenjak is a natural park located in proximity to Pula at the southern tip of the Istrian peninsula. The park consists of many kilometers of rugged coastline featuring many breathtaking cliffs, beaches, and hidden caves that are worth exploring.
Different boat tours are guiding around the area and if you want to get more active, you can also hike or cycle around the cape (either on a guided tour or alone).
One of the most scenic spots is the so-called “Lonely Beach”, it is a rocky beach that features plenty of hidden caves that can be explored. Cape Kamenjak is one of the best places to visit in Pula for outdoor enthusiasts.
Take in the views from Kaštel
Pula’s Kaštel was built by the Venetians in the 17th century and is today a very well-preserved historic monument. Due to its location on a hill, it offers fantastic views over the sea, coastline, harbor, and city of Pula.
Not only that, but the Kaštel also houses the Historical and Maritime Museum of Istria which history-buffs shouldn’t miss when coming to this area.
Caffe Bar Uliks (James Joyce)
The Caffe Bar Uliks is dedicated to James Joyce’ book Ulysses as the author lived in the very same building that today houses the café.
Uliks is one of the most popular venues in Pula and offers plenty of historical charm as it aims at reminding its guests of its history as a work- and living place of the great James Joyce.
There is even an iron sculpture on the terrace of the café depicting the author. Apart from all the historic flair, Caffe Bar Uliks also offers great food and drinks, it is popular throughout the day and is even frequented until late evenings.
Arch of the Sergii
The Arch of the Sergii was built in dedication to three members of the Sergii family, a patrician family of the ancient Roman Empire. The arch was constructed in the years between 29 and 27 BC and has been a landmark of the city ever since.
The Triumphal Arch features a frieze depicting cupids, garlands, and bucrania. Especially at night, the area surrounding the arch is coming to life as many bars and restaurants are situated in its proximity.
Make a day trip to Hum
The historic settlement of Hum is rich in history and almost seems like a place where time stood still for the last 100 years. Only around 30 people live here today and it’s often regarded as the smallest city in the world.
The village is full of historic architecture that is very well preserved. Hum used to be heavily fortified with strong defensive walls and a watchtower offerings protection to its inhabitants.
All these defensive structures and the Assumption of Mary church are well preserved and are found almost completely intact today. The church and the museum of Hum are home to some interesting wall writings that shouldn’t be missed.
Cathedral of the Assumption of the Holy Virgin
Pula’s cathedral is one of the religious highlights of the city and acts as a co-cathedral to the Euphrasian Basilica. The church can be found in a scenic location at the foot of the 17th-century Venetian fort.
The site on which the cathedral is built has been used as a Christian place of worship since the 4th century, making it one of the oldest in the region.
One of the characterizing features of the Cathedral is its free-standing baroque-style bell tower as well as the mosaics of the Holy Virgin. The cathedral is home to many interesting relics discovered in 1675, they are said to include the remains of Christian saints and King Solomon of Hungary.
Pula Market Hall
Pula’s market hall is a fascinating structure and one of the landmarks of the city. It was constructed in the early 20th century and was one of the first buildings in Croatia that used iron and glass as its defining building materials.
The market is considered a great example of Secession architecture. After its renovation in 1998, the Pula Market has become one of the main centers of commercial activity in town combining architectural beauty with a modern-day market.
All the goods you would expect from a large market can be found here, fresh fruits and vegetables, animal products but also clothes, souvenirs, and more.
Brijuni National Park
The Brijuni National Park is a heavily protected archipelago consisting of many beautiful islands accessible by boat from Pula and its surroundings. Most visitors come here on guided group tours but private tours are also available.
Brijuni’s main island Otok Veliki Brijun offers plenty of historic ruins that are worth exploring. Of course, there are also plenty of beaches to be found here, many of them are very quiet and offer total serenity, ideal for nature-lovers.
Hunt for truffles
There are special tours available in Istria that explain the local tradition of truffle hunting by taking them on a real truffle hunt, which is without a doubt one of the best things to do in Pula!
The truffle hunters are bringing specially trained dogs that use their sense of smell to detect the delicious mushrooms in the fertile soil of the peninsula.
Of course, there are also plenty of truffle specialties when it comes to Istrian food and you can bring these delicacies home as a gift or a treat for your taste buds.
The underground tunnels of Pula, known as the Zerostrasse, were erected during the First World War to protect the residents against air raids and artillery shelling.
Today the interesting network of shelters, tunnels, and galleries can be explored on very interesting guided tours. The guides have many fascinating stories about this era of Pula for you and can tell you all about the construction and use of the Zerostrasse.
These tunnels can hold shelter for more than 50,000 people, and you really get to sense their enormous size once you go for a walk here.
Interesting Facts about Pula
- Archaeological findings have shown that the area surrounding the city was inhabited by Homo erectus at least 1 million years ago.
- Throughout the years, Pula has been ruled by Romans, Ostrogoths, Byzantine Empire, Frankish Empire, and the Venetians as well as the Habsburgs.
- The name of the city is said to come from the Greek word “Polai” which can be translated as “City of Refuge”.
- According to Strabo, an ancient geographer, the city of Pula was founded around 3000 years ago
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