Pula is a photogenic little town of 60 000 inhabitants and at the same time the historical and the cultural centre of the region offering shopping, culture, restaurants, hotels, nightlife, shopping and more. Located at the southern tip of the Istrian peninsula, the town stretches on and beneath seven hills. No wonder that the Romans chose Pula for their important administrative centre. Pula’s location right along the Adriatic Sea has always been attractive and thus Pula was under control of several different empires throughout history. At one point, this harbour was Austria’s Monarchy’s main naval base and shipbuilding centre.
Pula and the legend of Jason and the Argonauts
The Pula region has a 3,000-year history and the legend says it dates back to the Greek myth of the Argonauts who made a settlement called Polai. Regardless of the fact whether the myth is historically true or not, the fact that Pula was mentioned so early in history certainly indicates the antiquity of the city and its relations to the surrounding world in the classical times. Istrian way of life indicates its long traditions passed on from generation to generation.
Urban delights and culture at hand
Nowadays, Pula is as urban and as cultural as Istria gets. The city’s growing status is built around the focus on the arts. Two recently opened exhibition spaces: the spectacularly renovated former church of the Sacred Heart; and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Istria. The Pula Film Festival in July continues to attract the majority of tourists, as well as two major four-day events: Outlook and Dimensions.
A laid-back lifestyle
The major meeting point with cafés offering outdoor tables is the original Roman Forum remains. Take some time and have a morning coffee like a local on the square. Pula is a unique spot where you can drink coffee and enjoy yourself while looking at Roman heritage. And after a long day, consider a laid-back glass of famous Istrian wine on Dante square, at the south of the city centre. Uphill from the Forum is the Kaštel (the Fortress), built by the Venetians in the 17th century and now housing the Istrian Historical Museum. Back downhill towards the amphitheatre is the Archaeological Museum of Istria.
The Arena of Pula and Roman Empire in Pula at every step
Pula’s impressive Roman amphitheatre, or The Arena of Pula is the sixth largest colosseum in the world. Arena was completed around the same time as the Colosseum in Rome, but people easily notice it’s in much better shape and has approximately 100% fewer crowds. It is very well-preserved, and is also the only remaining Roman amphitheatre to have a four-sided tower. Arena was built in the 1st century A.D. and was an arena of gladiator fights as the famous Colosseum in Rome. Nowadays, it serves as a venue for summer festivals and concerts. It is a unique spot to enjoy culture surrounded by centuries old history.
Arena is not the only remnant of Roman times. If you want to dig up a bit more history, than visit The Temple of Augustus. The temple was built in the 1st century and was dedicated to the first Roman emperor, Augustus and it is not difficult to spot due to its location in the main square of the city that is called the Forum. Further ancient remnants are Double Gates (Porta Gemina) and the Gate of Hercules.
In case you are wondering what attracted the Roman Empire to Istria, besides its location, the answer may lie in Istrian wines. Istria is one of Croatia’s most developed wine-producing regions and its tradition has been kept for centuries. If you are a wine lover, don’t miss the chance to try it Istrian premium wines and soak in the fragrant taste and smell of hilly vineyards and ripening grapes that are nurtured with so much love and dedication in Istria, and its secrets passed on from generation to generation. The most famous ones are Tera – Red wine and Malvazia – White wine.
Dramatic beaches and paradise islands
Pula is located close to some paradise islands, such as the Brijuni islands, which are also a national park. Take this boat excursion from Pula to Brijuni National Park and experience the wonders of nature that easily remind one of the human intuitive need for the purity of nature. Some of Pula’s best beaches are located on the Verudela peninsula. The most popular beaches include Ambrela Beach, Saccorgiana Beach, and Hawaii Beach. Just like other Istrian beaches, beaches in Pula are either rocky, pebbly, or cemented but if you prefer a sandy beach, you can find it nearby Medulin. The Kamenjak natural park is a combination of stunning landscapes and a variety of fun activities. It is located near Prematura (8 km. from Pula city center) and it is a perfect place to relax, enjoy the view and sip your drink. A perfect secluded vacation getaway.
The last but not the least is the variety of delicious eats in Pula. Due to its unique mix of Central European and Venetian tastes that influenced the food in Istria through centuries, in Pula you can taste a sublime mix of hearty dishes and wines from the land, and delicate sea food in top-notch restaurants in and around town.
Pula is one of those cities where the city’s history is right in front of your eyes. As it is so intricately integrated within the life and soul of the city, you can touch it and feel it everywhere you go. And the best part is that most of the city’s highlights are within walking distance of the centre, which allows one to feel like a local, submerging into the beautiful side of life discovered by Romans many, many years before us.