This city of just over 54,000 is the largest of Croatia's historic Istria region, on the northern Adriatic coast in the country's northwestern corner. I recently visited Pula for three days, taking in its top sights and feeling its beauty. If you're interested in rich culture/history as well as leisure pursuits, the best time to visit is from April to October (and to build a better, customized experience, try the TripHobo trip planner). Its long, rich history dates back more than 2,000 years, and among its major attraction are monuments built after Istria became part of the Roman Empire in 177 BCE, while others are legacies from the Venetian Republic and the Habsburg Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Pula's Most Outstanding Attractions
The Roman Arena
Pictured at top, one of the world's best preserved Roman amphitheaters (in part because it was maintained during the Middle Ages as a venue for tournaments) is three stories high, was built of limetstone between 27 BCE and 68 CE, and could accommodate up to 20,000 spectators. Among the fascinating details visitors can still see are vast water cisterns and underground passages used by gladiators. These days it also hosts performances and sporting events.
The Pula Forum
The old town's main square dates back to Roman times, and includes landmarks from various historical eras such as the Roman Temple of Augustus and the Gothic/Renaissance/Baroque Communal Palace, built in 1296.
Built during Austro-Hungarian rule from the early 19th through early 20th century, these are Verudela (now home to the city aquarium), Punta Christo, and Monteparadiso.
Mostly located an easy drive south of the city, they're all pebbly, and include Ambrela (above, the most popular, and especially good for snorkeling), Banjole, Batana, Gortans, Hawaii, Havajsko, Svyetionik, Valkane, Valovine, and Vasaline, with varying levels of amenities.
Other Pleasant Pula Pursuits
Biking is popular locally - not just in the easy-to-navigate city centre but also on beautiful cycling routes in the beautiful surrounding countryside as well as mountain biking. Guided bike tours are also available.
Pula and its surrounding area are home to some 430 high-quality clay courts, a number of them in picturesque seaside settings.
Orca Diving Center
Several of the beaches above are great for snorkeling and diving from shore, and a number of local tour operators and outfitters (such as Orca Diving Center) run boat excursions as well as snorkeling tours to sites including underwater caves and reefs teeming with colourful sea life (which usually also include kayaking).
There are also plenty of spots up and down the coast for a wind-powered adrenaline rush, along with a number of outfitters and schools such as Tsunami.
Other fun stuff includes hiking, kayaking, Segway tours, panoramic flights, and go-karting. As you can see, a wide menu of holiday delights for mind, body, and soul!