Best things to do in Pula
Find out more about those top places in Pula
Despite having some of the most impressive Roman ruins outside of Rome itself, Pula largely avoids the tourists that flock to the southern Dalmatian cities of Split, Zadar and Dubrovnik. Situated on the romantic Istrian Peninsula, it is one of Croatia’s busiest ports with a constant stream of ferries carrying passengers to and from Italy. As a working port, Pula has an energetic and vibrant character that keeps the city refreshingly gritty in comparison to nearby glitzy seaside resorts. Pula’s main draw in undoubtedly its Roman heritage, which includes the sixth largest surviving Roman amphitheater in the world and the awe-inspiring Temple of Augustus. However, the city is also an ideal gateway to the nearby Brijuni Islands National Park, which are covered in lush forests and surrounded by the sparkling waters of the Adriatic Sea.
Every visit to Pula begins with a tour of the city’s jaw-dropping Roman amphitheater. Built in the 1st century AD, the amphitheater is one of the best preserved in the world and would have once seated upwards of 20000 spectators bloody gladiator battles. For the best experience, guided tours can reveal some unexpected features of the arena, including the exotic animals that would once have lived in the cells beneath the arena.
Situated in the heart of downtown Pula, the Temple of Augustus has had a traumatic history. Built in the last century BC, the temple was subsequently converted into Pula’s first Christian church but was completely destroyed during World War Two. Thankfully, careful restoration work has restored this fine example of Roman architecture to its former glory.
Lying just off the Istrian coast is one of Croatia’s most enthralling landscapes, the Brijuni archipelago. Thanks to their diverse flora and fauna and important archaeological sites, the islands were designated as a national park in 1983 and today boat tours of these Adriatic gems depart regularly from Pula. For the best experience, take a snorkel so you can get a glimpse of Brijuni’s bio-diverse sea life.
The resplendent Arch of Sergii was once the grandiose entrance to the Roman town of Pula. Fascinatingly, the arch was erected in 27BC to commemorate the Sergius family who bravely fought at the Battle of Actium where Emperor Augustus defeated the forces of the famed Marc Anthony and Cleopatra.
Perched on the shores of the sparkling Adriatic Sea, Pula Cathedral is a vision in blindingly white marble. The site where the present medieval cathedral stands has been a place of worship for millennia and local tour guides will inform you of the area’s rich religious history and the cathedral’s relics.
Unlike any other aquarium in the world, Pula’s is housed in what was once an Austro-Hungarian fortress built to defend the empire’s most important port. With a vast array of species ranging from sharks (which are housed in an old artillery unit) to Indian sea pythons and gigantic starfish, the aquarium has displays to please any visitor.