The Best Bars in Pula, Croatia

After some sightseeing and perhaps some good food, you can hang out at one of Pulas bars
After some sightseeing and perhaps some good food, you can hang out at one of Pula's bars | © Jon Arnold Images Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo
Amar Grover

The low-key gateway to the Adriatic, Pula, in Croatia, offers a varied and sophisticated nightlife that somehow encompasses James Joyce, a New Orleans-style speakeasy and an Italianate mansion. The Roman amphitheatre is what brings people to the city – but once here, why not stop off at a bar too?

1. Rock Caffe

Bar, Beer

For more than 20 years Rock Caffe has been the place to hang out over a beer and enjoy live music from (usually covers) bands wedged onto a small stage. Despite its name, this is undoubtedly a bar, complete with an imposing wooden counter. Posters of local artists and large monochrome prints of icons like Jim Morrison, David Bowie and Frank Zappa add to a distinctly grunge-rock vibe. It’s barely a stone’s throw from the great amphitheatre.

2. Uliks

Bar, Beer

Who’d have thought you could have a James Joyce moment in Pula? The writer taught English here in the early 1900s in a mansion beside the monumental Roman Arch of the Sergii, originally a city gate. Uliks (or Ulysses) nestles in the arch’s shadow, with a statue of Joyce to commemorate the writer’s stay. A rather plain terrace belies the faintly art nouveau interior blended with nautical knick-knacks. All your favourite Irish beverages are here but no one minds if you just want a G&T, an esoteric liqueur or a humble coffee.

3. Kunstkafe Cvajner

Bar, Cafe, Beer

Occupying a former bank premises in an Italianate mansion, Cvajner feels more like a cafe but also serves a decent array of mainly European beers. Lofty ceilings and walls painted to resemble part-restored frescoes lend the impression of an airy if not eccentric art gallery. Its downtown location – in a square alongside the former Roman forum near the harbour – is ideal and if the terrace’s blazing sunshine gets too much, you can always retreat to the hall-like interior, where light streams in through tall, arched windows.

4. Fiorin Jazz Bar

Cafe, Bar, Beer

This centrally located den decorated with jazz-tinged Americana, posters and prints is a great place to come for live music, as well as whiskey, beer or coffee. Small, dark, smokey and filled with garage-sale curiosities, bands often perform on the buzzing pavement outside ringed by patrons and passers-by. With a bit of imagination, you could be in a New Orleans speakeasy.

5. Caffe Bar Scala

Bar, Cafe, Beer

Standing in the shadow of Pula’s great amphitheatre, this workaday bar-cafe boasts an informal terrace across the road, which directly overlooks the spectacular arena. Rather like the balcony in a theatre, it offers expansive vistas of the monument’s bleached oval court, an aerial view framed by millennia-old pillars. It’s satisfyingly unpretentious, the sort of place you might linger on a warm, sunny afternoon far longer than planned.

6. Boca Wine Bar

Bar, Restaurant, Croatian

It’s a wine bar. It’s a beer bar. It’s also a tapas bar with a restaurant. In the old town a block back from Pula’s marina and harbour, Boca might initially coax you in for a drink but many punters succumb to a meal of tapas, cheese and charcuterie platters. Knowledgeable staff can guide you through a range of Istrian wines and there’s occasional live music – often jazz – to help animate proceedings. It’s small and often busy so expect to wait for tables or book in advance.

7. La Playa Beach Bar

Bar, Cafe, Beer

Set in a rocky inlet on Pula’s southern fringes, La Playa’s relatively tranquil setting is the main draw. Trees frame the limpid Adriatic while a pergola shades a mix of high tables, stools, deckchairs and low-slung chairs with stripey cushions arranged on terraces. It’s all very low-key and relaxed, and plenty of punters swim at the pebbly beach alongside. There’s often live music and DJs on summer evenings.

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