15 Reasons to Visit Pula, Croatia

Pula Amphitheatre
Pula Amphitheatre | © Peter Collins/Flickr
Peterjon Cresswell

The main city of Istria, Pula is known for the near-intact Roman monuments that are still the main features of its city centre. The Amphitheatre hosts major concerts and festivals in summer, while a short drive or bus ride away lie the beach destinations of Verudela and Medulin.

1. For Pula Amphitheatre

Stadium

Pula Amphitheatre | © Christoph Sammer/Flickr
© Christoph Sammer/Flickr

In the centre of Pula, the Amphitheatre is a Roman colosseum with a near intact circle of stadium walls dating from the time of Claudius. Hosting gladiatorial battles 2,000 years ago, the Pula Arena today stages an annual film festival, live concerts and the Outlook music festival.

Pula Arena, Flavijevska ulica, Pula, Croatia

Pula Amphitheatre | © Miroslav Vajdic/Flickr

2. For James Joyce

The long European sojourn of Irish writer James Joyce began in Pula, where he spent the winter of 1904-05 teaching English to naval officers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His stay is now marked with a statue outside a café themed in his honour, Uliks (Ulysses).

James Joyce statue, Sergijevaca 67, Pula, Croatia

James Joyce statue | © Igor Stamatovski/Flickr

3. For Rojc

Set in a former military school and barracks, Rojc was converted in the late 1990s and now plays a vital role in the cultural life of the city. An arts and community centre, Rojc is the main outlet in town for alternative artists, staging exhibitions, workshops, DJ sessions or live shows.

Društveni centar Rojc, Ljudevita Gaja 3, Pula, Croatia

https://www.instagram.com/p/BXbdZTRj1t9/?taken-at=4447021

4. For Pula Market

Market, Food Stall, Food Stand, Croatian, Vegetarian

Pula Market
© Chris Yunker/Flickr
Pula Market has been at the centre of the commercial life of the city since 1903, when it opened. Completely reconstructed in 1997, it now houses some 60 fixed outlets, with sections for fish and meat traders. Outside, fruit and vegetable stalls are piled high with produce from nearby gardens and orchards.

5. For the Triumphal Arch

Built around 30BC, the Triumphal Arch was originally a city gate, erected in honour of the Sergii brothers who took part in the Battle of Actium. A war chariot is depicted on the frieze, the names of the Sergii inscribed elsewhere. Providing access to a busy, pedestrianised street in the city centre, the arch is still very much part of the urban fabric.

Triumphal Arch of the Sergii, Laganjina 1, Pula, Croatia

Triumphal Arch | © Christoph Sammer/Flickr

6. For the Milan restaurant

Restaurant, Hotel Restaurant, Croatian

For that final, formal, holiday blow-out, head to the Milan, a top-notch hotel and restaurant set near the Naval Cemetery. Shellfish is the speciality, as your waiter will indicate as he shows you the impressive display case. A full range of Istrian wines is also available, though it a quality bottle might push the bill from reasonable to pricy.

For Outlook

Occupying two key locations around Pula, Outlook is a celebration of underground dance music that takes place every September. The main site is the abandoned fort of Punta Christo, its surrounding beach and substantial greenery on a headland a short drive from the centre. The other is the Roman amphitheatre right in town, providing a historic backdrop to the house, techno and dubstep.

Punta Christo, Pula, Croatia

Pula Arena, Pula, Croatia

Outlook

7. For Pula Fortress

Museum

Pula Fortress | © Donald Judge/Flickr
© Donald Judge/Flickr

Set on the hilltop vantage point of the Roman citadel, the star-shaped fortress built by the Venetians in the 1600s commands views over the city centre and gaggle of cranes dotted around the Uljanik shipyard. On the lower slope nearest the Amphitheatre stands the Archaeological Museum of Istria.

Pula Fortress, Pula, Croatia

Pula Fortress | © Donald Judge/Flickr

8. For Verudela

Aquarium

With no real beaches in Pula itself, many take the city bus to the peninsula of Verudela, where shingle beaches fill with holidaymakers. Should the heat become too much, you can entertain the kids for a while at the Aquarium, set in a former Habsburg fortress.

Verudela, Croatia

Verudela | © Christoph Sammer/Flickr

9. For the Forum

Still the city’s main square, the Forum was laid out by the Romans in the first century BC and still contains the wonderfully preserved Temple of Augustus. A collection of Roman finds is on display inside. Alongside, the Communal Palace dates back to the 1200s, its arcaded Renaissance façade added some three centuries later. A table on the terrace of the Cvajner café provides the perfect view of the historical scene.

Forum, Pula, Croatia

Pula Forum | © Christoph Sammer/Flickr

10. For the Archaeological Museum

Museum

Much of this impressive collection was housed in the original Museum of Antiquities that stood near the Arch of the Sergii in the early 1900s. Constantly replenished with new finds, today’s Archaeological Museum is divided into Prehistoric (stone implements, pottery and jewellery), Roman (statuary, coins and kitchenware) and medieval sections (floor mosaics, items engraved with vernacular Glagolitic script).

11. For Medulin

Resort

A short drive south-west of Pula city centre, Medulin is the best equipped resort in Istria for active recreation, most notably watersports. Diving, parasailing, jet-skiing, sailing, windsurfing and many more, they’re all available here. With plenty of cycling, horse-riding and court sports too, plus the long sandy beach of Bijeca, it’s no surprise that the coast here is one of the busiest in the region.

Medulin, Croatia

Medulin | © Ales Kladnik/Flickr

12. For the Enoteca Istriana

Right on the Forum, the Enoteca Istriana is the ideal spot to sample the products for which Istria is best known for: prosciutto, cheese, olives and wine. With a dozen available by the glass, there’s also the handy option of tasting three types and seeing which one suits. Staff will talk you through the menu. There’s also a selection of cakes if you’re here mid-morning or late afternoon.

Enoteca Istriana, Forum 11, Pula, Croatia, +385 95 414 4441

13. For Pula Summer Festival

Pula Summer Festival | © Xiquinho Silva/Flickr
© Xiquinho Silva/Flickr

The Summer Festival is a loose term for the string of high-profile, open-air concerts staged at the Pula Amphitheatre during July and August. Guests in recent years have included Elton John, David Gilmour, Sting, and big-name opera singers, for whom the historic Roman setting provides the perfect backdrop.

Pula Arena, Flavijevska ulica, Pula, Croatia

Pula Summer Festival | © Xiquinho Silva/Flickr

14. For the Cathedral

Cathedral

Pula Cathedral
© Christoph Sammer/Flickr
First built in the sixth century, Pula Katedrala, officially Katedrala Uznesenja Blažene Djevice Marije, has been added to, destroyed, rebuilt then added to over the centuries. You can still make out Romanesque and Byzantine features that have survived the various onslaughts.

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