Pula is fun, vibrant and historical. It has a bit of everything that Croatia is famous for – all packed in one destination.
Situated on the lower tip of the Istrian Peninsula, Pula is a coastal town with an abundance of distinctive rocky beaches. It is more than just a beach destination, it has a LOT of history too. There is so much more to this charming, medieval town that makes it worth the visit and the perfect destination for you to start or end your adventures in Croatia.
Pula is one of the biggest and most important towns of the Istria region. Due the history surrounding this area, Pula is often viewed as a little Rome with many impressive Roman ruins dispersed around the city. With comfortable, mild weather year-round and an eclectic nightlife scene, you would be remiss to avoid Pula during your travels.
Pula has a massive shipyard that lights up at night with different lights. We saw this view from our hostel window every night and it was unbelievable.
Where is Pula
Ever noticed on the map that there’s a part of Croatia that’s on the opposite side of the sea as Italy? That’s where Pula is! With Venice just across the Adriatic Sea on the left, Pula is situated on the bottom angle of the Istrian Peninsula.
If you are planning to visit multiple places in the country, then Pula is the best place to start your Croatia itinerary. Istria is the westernmost county in Croatia which makes it an ideal place to begin your escapades around this mesmerizing country.
A Bit about Istria
You have noticed how I have mentioned Istria many times while introducing Pula. Well, here’s a little info about it. Istria is a peninsula in the Adriatic sea that’s mostly in Croatia, and some parts are also in Slovenia and Italy.
A big part of the Istria region inside Croatia is called Istria County – so, they’re not the same thing. When someone says “Istria”, they usually mean the entire region that is much bigger than the Istria County of Croatia.
In the Ancient times, Istria was called Histria and was much bigger than the present day region. This region has a lot of history, but I won’t go into that in this post. You can read about the history of Istria here.
How to Reach Pula?
It is simple to reach Pula by many different ways. We arrived here on bus from Slunj town but below are all the other ways to enter Pula:
Reaching Pula by air – Pula has an International Airport (Zračna luka Pula) which enables travellers to easily access the city from many different parts of Europe. Not just budget airlines but also bigger international carriers like Lufthansa and British Airways fly to Pula too.
Reaching Pula by bus – Travelling around Croatia is relatively simple with a reliable amount of train and bus routes that can help you access anywhere you want to go within the country and to its neighbours as well. We arrived here on a bus from Slunj (near Plitvice Lakes) and had to change it in Karlovac. You can arrive here on a bus from Rijeka, Zagreb, Split, Karlovac, Belgrade (Serbia) and Venice (Italy) to name a few. Here’s more information about reaching Pula on bus.
Reaching Pula by sea from Italy – Spending some time in Italy? Pula is nestled up to the Gulf of Venice which means you can ride a catamaran directly from Venice to Pula for a unique experience. Please note, just journey can only be done in summer.
Things to do in Pula, Croatia
Pula is situated right on the coast of the Adriatic Sea so you can be assured that there is no shortage of picturesque beaches to spend your days here. Go with the family and lounge on the shore or take part in some water sports with your friends. If you are searching for paradise, you will be able to find it.
Taking a dip in some of the most popular beaches such as Ambrela Beach, Hawaiian Cove Beach, or Valkane Beach comes as a given that it is one of the best things to do in Pula. We loved Stoja Beach the most and you can even camp here if you are road tripping or camping around Croatia.
Below are some of the beaches of Pula that you should consider visiting:
One of the most popular beaches of Pula, it is a blue flag beach. It is a pebble beach that’s on the Verudela peninsula. The famous Brioni Hotel is on this beach. Ambrela beach is perfect for swimming because the water is shallow and very clear. There are also two floating lines on the water along this beach.
Ambrela Beach tends to get very crowded, so as you move a further ahead, you will notice a few secluded shaded areas where you can enjoy some quiet time.
Out of all the beaches that I visited in Pula, I somehow enjoyed myself the most on Stoja. It was so because there are a few beaches that are together and you can see them from some spots. There’s the Stoja Beach, Seagull’s Rocks Beach, and the Valovine Beach (see the next point).
Valovine Beach is next to Stoja Beach. A very small part of this beach is sandy and most of it is pebbles. This beach has Big Mama Beach Bar, which is a good spot to watch the sunset.
Valkane Beach is near Stoja beaches in the Zelenika Cove. This blue flag beach has two beach bars – Valkane Bar and Sumi More. It isn’t the best looking beach in Pula because it is highly furnished.
It is a small beach with pebbles. The water is very clear. On one side of this beach are the Verudela Beach Apartments and on the other side is the Verudela Canyon. Park Plaza Arena Pula is behind the beach.
Saccorgiana Cove is at the end of Ambrela Beach. It is extremely small and has the Zeppelin Beach Bar on one side of it.
Another pebbley beach, Valsaline-Mornar is on Soline cove.
Gortan’s Cove or Gorton Cove Beach
Gorton’s Cove beach is next to the monument of Vladimir Gortan. It is a very small beach and is shallow, so is perfect for swimming. Gorton’s Cove has a small shaded area where you can sit. This beach has Pomidor Bar that has a small children’s play area too.
Felsen Beach or Seagull’s Rocks
Seagul’s Rocks beach is also called Felsen Beach, it is next to Stoja Beach. You can’t just walk into the water here because these rocks are a little high. There are many cliff jumping spots on this beach at different levels.
Beach Park Plaža
This beach is where the Park Plaza hotel is situated, and this is why it is sometimes called Park Plaza Beach. It is a very small beach.
Another unique experience to enjoy here in Pula is to sunbathe at a naturalist friendly beach (marked FKK). Naturism is a very common movement in Europe and is all about being free and comfortable in your own skin.
Visit Pula Arena – the Roman Amphitheatre
No, your eyes are not deceiving you. Pula Arena is resemblant of the famous Colosseum in Rome and is one of the six remaining ancient amphitheaters still standing. Constructed in 27 – 68 AD, Pula Amphitheater is the best preserved ancient monument in Croatia. The best part is that, one of its sides faces the sea.
Despite it’s cousin in Rome gaining worldwide notoriety, the impeccable restoration work done on this one has developed it into a pristine example of the ancient building style. It is the ONLY remaining Roman amphitheater with all three Roman architectural orders and side towers entirely preserved.
After arriving in Croatia, you will surely get the Croatian currency from an ATM or a ForEx kiosk. Take out the note for 10 Kunas and flip it over. If you have one of the older 10 kunas, you will see the Pula Arena depicted on the note. Interestingly, the entry to the amphitheater is also 10 Kunas.
It was once the setting for epic gladiator fights but nowadays, Pula Arena is still widely used as a key venue for festivals and huge musical performances. International superstars like Alanis Morissette, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, Sinéad O’Connor, Elton John, Micheal Bolton, Foo Fighters, Norah Jones, Jamiroquai, Anastacia, Sting and Status Quo have performed in Pula Arena.
Imagine attending an art or musical performance with the backdrop of Roman ruins – sounds awesome, no? Pula Arena is also the venue for multiple festivals. Scroll to the bottom of the list of things to do in Pula to see the information about the festivals.
Want to see something different? Once every month, there is a small show here that mocks gladiator fights and is funny.
Walk Around in the Old Town
One of the most interesting things about Pula is that it is filled with Ancient Roman buildings and ruins. The Old Town is the perfect place to wander around and see some of these former structures.
Some of the top sites to check out are all within walking distance of the main square, also referred to as the Forum.
Start at the Arch of Sergii (Zlatna vrata); an arch built in 27 BC devoted to three brothers of the Sergius family, a leading house that ruled over the area for a few centuries.
Then to head the Temple of Augustus. The first Roman Emperor, Augustus, built a series of temples similar to the one you can see in Pula all over the Ancient Roman Empire.
Lastly, you don’t want to skip Pula Cathedral. Although built quite a bit later than the other two recommendations and furthermore revised over the centuries, it is still a prime example of Ancient Roman architecture.
Visit the Open Food Market / Pula Fish Market
Alright all you foodies and photographers, this one’s for you! While visiting Pula, you have got to take a trip to the Open Food Market that’s open from 7 am to 2 pm. Follow your senses through the aisles of this fresh market as you taste samples from the many vendors selling their homegrown goods.
The merchants are separated with meats and fish sold inside the market hall and produce available outside. You can find things like fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, honey, olives, olive oil, You can also grab a bite to eat, drink coffee, eat cake and enjoy your breakfast on the go. There are breakfast shops that are upstairs, but we recommend eating in the coffee kiosks that are outside.
Get ready to click loads of pictures because this market lis in Pula’s lovely city centre and looks gorgeous outside. You can see merchants lined up on each side of narrow paths – it all makes Pula Marketplace an interesting sight.
My husband, San is half Italian and as per him this market reminded him of Italy. For us, the most interesting part was cheese. We highly recommend a stop here, even just to see and mingle with the local community.
Pula Nightlife & Party Scene
What you are guaranteed to get when searching for Pula nightlife are unique venues and a variety of music. There will be a spot on the beach for you whether you are looking for a high energy DJ to spin you up some house and techno music or a mellow reggae bar. If you are looking for a more chill and alternative vibe, you will find venues in the Old City more your style.
Day Trip to Rovinj
There are many interesting small villages near Pula to take day trips to but Rovinj is a town you don’t want to miss. Rovinj is a harbour town that is lined with brightly, warm toned buildings and cobblestoned streets, featuring a pleasant mix of Italian and Croatian culture.
Getting there from Pula for the day is also really easy with buses leaving on the 40 minute trip at all times throughout the day and costing only about five euro each way.
Visit one of the Islands near Pula
You could go island hopping all the way from Pula down to Split if you wanted to as Croatia has over 1000 islands off of its eastern coastline. The Croatian Islands offer a much different experience than island life in more tropical climates can give you. Expect a mesh of incredible beachy landscapes with ancient European flavour.
The most popular islands to visit near Pula are the Brijuni Islands. Here you can visit the ruins of a Roman Villa, explore a protected Croatian National park, or even track down some dinos from the cretaceous period.
Take Your Kids to Pula Aquarium
If you are travelling with your kids (and lets be real, even if you are not) an exciting thing to do in Pula is visit the aquarium. The setting for Pula Aquarium is unlike anything you have seen before as it is located within Verudela – a 130-year-old fort! So, you pay for the aquarium but get to enjoy the historical fort too.
Pula Aquarium shows, educate, and protect the wildlife that inhabits the Adriatic sea as well as the lakes and rivers around Croatia. Learn about the evolution. Get up close and personal with hundreds of different species of fish and crustaceans. You will see some sharks, jellyfish, octopuses, seahorses, crocodiles and piranhas apart from just usual fish. You will see some beautiful corals too. There’s an Amazonian theme on the second floor, which is lovely.
The best part is that it isn’t very big so you won’t feel like you’re missing out on something if you have time constrains. It is small enough for you to explore it in 1 or 2 hours, but big enough for you not to be bored. It is one of the best places to visit in Pula if the weather is bad.
While here, make sure you go to the roof to enjoy the panoramic views from there. Pula Aquarium also has a reasonably priced snack bar where you can enjoy a cup of coffee.
Parking outside Pula Aquarium is free, but it may be difficult to find an empty parking spot during busy summer months. If you’re arriving here by public transport, then get on to bus 2A or 3A to Verudela and walk to the aquarium from the bus stop.
If you’re visiting Pula in summer, then you may want to check out the below festivals that occur every year at the Pula Arena amphitheater:
- Pula Film Festival – July or August
- Festival Visualia – mid September,
- Dimensions Festival – mid August
- Outlook Festival – early September
Pula Weather and What to Expect
Pula has made it to many travellers itineraries due to the mild climate that is in Istria county year round. The warmest months are from June to September, with temperatures typically being above 20 degrees celsius. With that being said, Pula rarely cools down to below 10 degrees.
One thing you should take into account when planning and packing for your trip to Pula is that it can get very humid. This is expected with its close proximity to the sea, but it can get uncomfortable in August when this region sees its warmest weather.
Our visit to Pula was in early August. During mid day, the weather was a little too warm for our liking.
Where to Stay in Pula
Colosseum Garden Studio Apartments
As the name suggests, these apartments are very close to the Pula Arena Amphitheatre. These apartments have a bedroom, sitting area in the garden, kitchen and literally all the appliances that you would need on your vacation.
We stayed here and loved it! Riva hostel offers clean and comfortable accommodations in close proximity to some major attractions including Pula Arena. The shining feature of this hostel was the furnished terrace; a perfect spot for relaxing after a day of exploring and meeting fellow travellers.
If you are on a camping adventure and in search of a safe place to stay, this is an incredible campsite right next to Stoja Beach. This campsite is within walking distance of everything you could possibly need to in your little oasis.
There is also a swimming pool as well as other water sports facilities nearby to give you things to do during the day. At night, enjoy the sunset on the beach and if you are lucky, you will even see some dolphins swimming home.
Where to go after Pula?
We have already raved about taking a day trip to Rovinj, however, if time permits you should stay here for a few extra days. Most people are attracted to Rovinj for it’s dreamy, photogenic scenery but there is so much more to this port town.
For one, the locals are extremely friendly and charming. If you are needing suggestions for a place to eat or thing to see, you can count on the locals to give you a top-notch recommendation with a genuine smile.
The Brijuni Islands are a cluster of 14 islands off the coast of Pula. As mentioned above, a day trip is possible here but it is worth a longer visit if you have time.
One of the main things to do in Brijuni is to visit the National Park. Depending on how you like to travel you can book either a guided tour, a self-guided tour, or rent a bike and go off and explore on your own.
If you are travelling with kids, they might really enjoy seeking out some dino footprints as there has been over 200 footprints found on Veliki Brijun Island.
To say that there are a ton of things to see here would be an understatement. Brijuni is rich in history which is evident through different sites around the main islands. You can find ancient Roman and Byzantine era ruins dating back to the 1st and 2nd centuries. There are structures from the Bronze Age that are estimated to be from the 14th century BC.
For those searching for some time to bask in nature, than you need to head to the astounding Plitvice Lakes. Here you will find a collection of 16 turquoise-hued lakes strewn around a limestone canyon and divided by magical cascades.
At this national park you can expect adventurous hiking trails, unique wildlife and, of course, unbelievable viewpoints. Due to the popularity of the Plitvice Lakes National Park, we highly recommend you spend some time here instead of attempting a day trip from Pula.
We absolutely loved our time here and made a whole guide with tips on how to avoid crowds when visiting this breathtaking sanctuary.
Krka National Park
Ok, did we grab your attention with Plitvice Lakes? Then you need to also add Krka National Park to your Croatia itinerary. Although it is not as grand as Plitvice, Krka National Park showcases a system of seven stunning waterfalls.
At Krka National Park, visitors are allowed to swim in the inviting pool that is created by the biggest waterfall, Skradinski Buk. There are also some fascinating sites to see here such as Krka Monastery which has been built on some ancient catacombs.
If you are following our Ultimate Croatia Road Trip Itinerary, you will already know that we visited Zagreb before making our way to Pula. Needless to say, that doesn’t mean that you can’t choose to stop in Zagreb after exploring everything that Istria has to offer.
Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, has its own charm with architecture that has been frozen in medieval times. Much like Pula, Zagreb has an intriguing history that you can discover throughout the Old Town quarters. You can take a walking tour around the city to see all of its main sites or wander around the cobblestone alleys on your own.
Did follow our travel recommendations for Pula?
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