If you’re planning a Croatia backpacking trip, Pula might not be on every traveller’s radar. But it should be! This charming destination has the crystal-clear beaches that Croatia is famous for, plus a rich Roman history that makes exploring the ancient city a delight. Time moves a little slower here, which is perfect for travellers who need a break during their whirlwind tour of Europe. What’s best of all, is that Pula is one of the best places to visit in Croatia where you can take in it’s beauty without battling floods of other explorers. If you’re not sure what to do in Pula, fear not! We’ve covered it in our list of the 13 best things to do in Pula, Croatia.
1. Explore Pula Arena
Pula’s number one attraction is their very own Roman amphitheatre. Yep, you read that right! Sure, Rome’s famous theatre is cool, but this one is too, just without the crowds, so it’s an essential thing to do in Pula. Pula’s amphitheatre was built out of limestone in the 1st century AD, under the reign of Emperor Vespasian. It hosted Gladiators and animal fights back in the day, when Pula was once the Roman city known as Pietas Julia. It’s still in use, and you can catch events like the Pula Film Festival and the Spectacvla Antiqva (symbolic gladiator fights), concerts, operas and ballets regularly. 20,000 people could once be seated in the arena, now it’s a spacious 5,000!
Tickets cost 50 Kuna (£6) for adults and 25 Kuna (£3) for kids and students.
November – March: 9am-5pm, April: 8am-8pm, May: 8am-9pm, June: 8am-10pm, July – August: 8am-11pm, September: 8am-9pm, October: 8am-8pm.
2. Marvel at the Temple of Augustus and Pula Forum
When seeing this ancient temple in real life, it’s hard to believe that it’s still standing. Six towering Corinthian columns appear to keep this structure in place, that was first built between 2 BC and 14 AD. The temple once stood with another twin temple in the square and was dedicated to Rome’s first emperor Augustus. Despite its appearance, it was actually destroyed by bombing in 1944 and rebuilt afterwards. Inside you can see a small archaeological museum, and from the outside you can also explore the ruins of the once standing Roman Forum. It’s fascinating to see the impact of the Roman Empire reaching all the way to Croatia!
There’s no cost for admission and no opening hours.
How to get there: you’ll find this ancient monument in the main square of medieval Pula. There are also vibrant restaurants and hostels in this area.
3. Sunbathe, swim or cliff dive at Cape Kamenjak
Did you really go to Croatia if you didn’t get a selfie swimming in clear blue waters? Visiting a Croatian beach is a must do, so heading to Cape Kamenjak Nature Park (on the Premantura peninsula) should definitely be up there on your list of things to do in Pula. Take the day to sunbathe, swim and have a few bevvies at the Safari Bar in the south of the park, taking in the some gorgeous backdrops. Keep an eye out for seals and dolphins! If you’re a keen bike rider, there are many cycling tours you can join too. See, a day in the sun doesn’t have to be lazy!
It costs 35 Kuna (£4) to enter by car, but it’s free for pedestrians.
How to get there: check if your Pula hostel offers day trips there, otherwise you can access it by car, or get a direct bus from Pula.
4. Walk up to Kaštel for charming views of the city
View from the hill at Kaštel
Not only will you find a stunning viewpoint of Pula on this hilltop, it’s also the home to a large baroque fortress! You’ll find the Historical and Maritime Museum of Istria up here too. The hill was used by the Histrian people as a co-living space before the Romans even settled in Pula. During the Venetian Empire, Pula was an important port for ships going to and from Venice, and the construction of this fortress in the 17th century further proved the Venetian’s dedication to defending their land. It’s quite the walk up from the city centre, so wear strong shoes!
If you want to enter the museum and get higher viewpoints of Pula, general entry costs 20 kuna (£2.50), or 10 Kuna (£1.50) for students.
Winter (1 October – 31 March): 9am – 5pm
Summer (1 April – 30 September): 8am – 9pm
5. Admire the beauty of Pula Cathedral (Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary)
Pula’s cathedral was founded all the way back in the 4th century and is still open to visitors to this day. You’ll find this modest Cathedral in the Old Town’s main square, near the Temple of Augustus and the Roman Forum. The cathedral is most famous for the five sarcophagi that were found underneath the main alter in the 1600s, which were believed to be Christian saints. The remains of Solomon, King of Hungary, were also said to have been discovered there. The floor features stunning 5th and 6th century mosaics that are worth checking out if you’re a fan of art history. This is a great thing to do in Pula if you’re exploring the Old Town, plus admission is free.
Opening hours: 10am – 6pm daily
6. Try Istrian Wine
While in the region of Istria, don’t forget to try some of their delicious wine! The region has a unique climate and soil created by the Mediterranean and Alpine weather, giving the wines a sweet taste. Malvasia white wine is their most popular concoction – it has acacia flower aromas, so it’s the perfect summer refreshment while you overlook Pula’s coastline. If you’re feeling bougie enough, there are plenty of wineries and wine tours to experience within Pula and its neighbouring towns. Benazic Winery just outside Pula is a handy stop for those with little time and a slightly bigger budget.
7. Grab a drink with James Joyce at Caffe Bar Uliks
Entry to the old town and close to Caffe Bar Uliks
For literature fans, there’s a surprise waiting for you in Pula! This famous café and bar was named after James Joyce’s novel Ulysses, to pay homage to the writer’s former 1904 home in the building. On the café’s terrace there’s a statue of the legendary writer, so you can literally have a drink with him! Grab a refreshing G & T (or an Istrian wine 😉) and enjoy the beauty of Pula’s Old Town in this historic spot. The bar is open from morning to the early hours, so there’s really no rush to leave… breakfast and bar all in one!
Opening hours: 6am – 2am
8. Wander around Zerostrasse
Zerostrasse is a series of underground tunnels that cover almost the entire city. They were built in World War 1 to shelter locals from the air raids, but are now used for cultural events, exhibitions and even parties. The tunnels can hold around 50,000 people, nearly Pula’s whole population.
Each August, the tunnels host the annual Dimension Festival, which guarantees the ultimate underground rave party (there’s also the Outlook Festival during late summer in Pula). Taking place in late August, experience experimental electronic music echo throughout the walls of the caves.
General admission tickets cost 15 Kuna (£1.70), or 10 Kuna (£1.50) for students. Have a look to see what’s on at Zerostrasse when you’re visiting Pula.
June: 10am – 8pm
July – August: 10am – 10pm
September: 10am – 8pm
9. Walk through the Arch of the Sergii
We think the Arch of the Sergii is very rem-arc-able! This archway goes back to the Roman Empire (27BC) and was commissioned by Salvia Postuma of the noble Sergii family to memorialise her three brothers who fought in the battle of Actium (where Augustus defeated Marc Antony and Cleopatra). It’s located at the entrance to the old Roman town and originally included a gate and walls that were destroyed in the 18th century. As you walk through this arch on the western side, you’ll get to admire intricate decorations. This monument is still greatly admired in Pula as a superb example of Late Hellenic Roman architecture.
There’s no cost for admission and no opening hours. You can find this monument in the centre of Portarata Square.
10. Stay at Riva Hostel Pula
Once all the dreamy wandering around the Old Town is done, it’s time to let your hair down at this relaxed and ambient hostel in the city centre! Riva Hostel has a courtyard and bar overlooking Pula’s waterfront, and the city’s major attractions are right at its doorstep. Previous guests have loved the super convenient location and the very helpful staff. If you need somewhere to have a social drink with other solo travellers, then this is your pick!
- Café, bar and restaurant
- Common room
- Backpack storage
Address: Riva 2A
Neighbourhood: Pula city centre
11. Party the night away at Uljanik
Croatians know how to party, and that’s no less true in Pula. Their love for dance music and raves is perfect for the party animals that also want a splash of culture. The legendary club Uljanik has been open since the 1960s and is popular with young people and students. It was traditionally a rock music club but now plays a range from RnB to 2000s pop. Head over there for a fun night out and end your time in Pula in style… (AKA hungover).
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday 8pm – 6am
Day trips from Pula
1. Hike Brijuni National Park
Think you’ve run out of things to do in Pula? Take a day trip to Brijuni National Park and you’ll be able to explore 14 islands in the Adriatic Sea off Croatia’s coastline. Throughout history these islands have been under many different ruling empires, including the Romans, Byzantine, Ostrogoths and Venetians. The largest island Veliki Brijun is actually the home to Croatia’s president and the Ministry of Defence. There’s so much to explore here, like The Byzantine Castrum, which has ruins to roam around from the Roman and Byzantium Empires to name a few, and footprints of around 200 dinosaurs memorialised in rock. By Verige Bay, you can also see the remains of a Roman villa by the water. Tickets to enter the national park include a tour via train ride and admission into the major attractions. They cost 230 Kuna (£26) per person (admission is the same price if you don’t want to do the tour).
How to get there: Get a bus to Fazana from Pula’s main bus station. From there you can take a boat ride to the national park.
2. Bike ride around Zlatni rt Forest Park in Rovinj
The city of Rovinj is made up of around 20 islands, with this stunning natural park located on the biggest one. The Zlatni rt (Golden Gape) park is the oldest protected site in Istria and is only a 15-minute walk from the city centre. The park has a rich flora and fauna, with many activities open to visitors including rock climbing. Cycling is a popular activity here and you can rent a bike in many places in town. Take some time to wander around the beautiful fishing town as well, and hey, maybe stop for some seafood in the afternoon too?
How to get there: Rovinj is about a 40-50-minute drive from Pula. You can also get a direct bus from Pula which run around every 30 minutes in peak season. Tickets are around 38 Kuna (£4.50).
3. Explore Hum – the world’s smallest town
If you’re a lover of quirky little towns, nothing can be better than Hum – the smallest town in the world! It’s essentially one curved street enclosed by an ancient brick wall and only has 17 residents. The drive to this town is around an hour and a half from Pula, so it’s an easy drive for a day trip. Take a look at the town’s attractions like Kotli (an abandoned village), St Jerome’s Chapel and Glagolitic Alley. If you’ve got some extra time and want to avoid the typical spots, go check it out!
When in Pula, do as the Romans do! As you can see, the Roman Empire still has a lasting impact on the city and continues to draw in travellers to its fascinating ancient landmarks. Pula also has some stunning natural spaces worth your time and energy, including dreamy beaches and national parks. BRB, we’re gonna go and chill on the Croatian coastline, wanna join?
Have you been to Pula and think we left something off the list? Let us know in the comments!