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Is Pula Worth Visiting? 2024 Local Guide

Planning a trip to Croatia and wondering, is Pula worth visiting? As someone who has been living in Croatia since 2014 and traveling all over the country, I’m here to tell you whether or not you should spend some time in this coastal city.

Most people visiting Croatia automatically head to the most popular destinations like Split and Dubrovnik without a second thought. And I can’t blame them, especially when you have limited vacation days.

But if you’re looking for a place that is lesser known among tourists but equally packs a punch in terms of history and unique attractions, then Pula might be worth visiting.

There are some pretty cool things to do and see in this city that you can’t get anywhere else in Croatia (like the famous Roman Arena that is worth the trip itself)! Plus, Pula is a great starting point for exploring the rest of Croatia’s Istrian peninsula – my favorite region in the entire country.

So whether you’re taking advantage of the cheap flights from all over Europe or are planning a trip through the Istria region, here’s why you should visit Pula Croatia.

The Temple of Augustus in Pula, Croatia, with its ancient Roman columns and pediment, stands majestically under a clear blue sky, flanked by modern street lamps and set against the backdrop of pale contemporary buildings.

Is Pula Croatia Worth Visiting?

Yes! Pula is worth visiting, but it’s not on my list of must-visit cities in Croatia. There’s a bit of an industrial feel to it, and it doesn’t have the same quaint charm as some of the other fairytale-like towns in Istria.

I would recommend visiting Pula if you are flying into the Pula airport and using it as a jumping off point for exploring the Istrian Peninsula, or if you plan to do a road trip through Istria and want to include Pula as a stop.

I’m not here to throw shade at Pula; I’ve enjoyed my time there each time I visited. But if you’ve got limited vacation days, I’d say only incorporate Pula if it aligns well with your travel route. If it does, Pula can certainly be a great Croatian destination to explore.

Where is Pula Croatia Located?

Pula is located at the southern tip of the Istrian peninsula, in northwest Croatia. Check out the map of Pula below to get a better idea of its location:

13 Reasons to Visit Pula

1. For the ancient history

The ancient Roman Pula Arena is captured under a clear sky, its arches standing tall amidst the surrounding greenery, with a stone path leading up to the historic amphitheater in Pula, Istria, Croatia.

Pula is a city steeped in history, so much so that there are Roman ruins all around the Old Town.

The city was first occupied by the Romans in 177 BC and eventually became an important port city in the Roman Empire. Thanks to the Romans, the city has been left with the most well-preserved Roman amphitheater in the world!

Even if you’re not a history fanatic, this site is totally worth seeing, and when you do, it’ll be hard to believe you’re not in Rome! Once welcoming up to 23,000 spectators that came to watch gladiators, today, the arena serves as an open air stage for various concerts throughout the year, as well as the Pula Film Festival.

Today, visitors can still see remnants of ancient Roman architecture scattered throughout the city, including the iconic Arena amphitheater that could seat up to 23,000 people.

2. It’s less touristy

This is not to say that you won’t see any tourists here at all (you most definitely will), but when you compare Pula to other Croatian destinations like Hvar or Dubrovnik, the city gives off a more genuine atmosphere.

Pula thrives as a real, working city, so it offers a slice of authentic Croatian life away from the well-trodden tourist trails.

3. To experience the incredible nature

A woman walks along a pine needle-strewn path flanked by tall, slender pine trees in Brijuni National Park, creating a peaceful and secluded atmosphere.

Pula is perfectly situated for outdoor activities, whether its kayaking, cliff jumping, island hopping, or exploring sea caves. You can do all of these things in the three parks that are close by:

Brijuni National Park: Also called Brioni, is a picturesque cluster of pristine islands just off the coast of Istria. What makes these islands special is that they are uninhabited, aside from some pretty exotic animals, so the nature is pure and untouched. You can rent a bike for the day and explore on your own, or join a guided tour to visit some of the more remote parts of the islands.

Cape Kamenjak Nature Park: Located at the southernmost tip of Istria in an area called Premantura, Cape Kamenjak is a breathtaking park covered in pine tree forests and fringed with rugged and untouched beaches. It’s a popular place for cliff jumping, but if that’s not your thing, Safari Bar is your go-to for some relaxation amidst the raw beauty of nature.

Nature Park Učka: This protected area is a hiker’s dream, with trails winding through canyons, waterfalls & historical sites. Be sure to make your way up to Vojak, the highest peak of the mountain and the symbol of Učka Nature Park, where a stone tower from 1911 offers spectacular views.

5. To explore the rest of Istria

Girl sitting on a charming terrace in a summer dress wearing a straw hat overlooking the Adriatic Sea in Rovinj, Croatia.

There are so many day trip options from Pula, the city is truly a launchpad for countless adventures.

The town of Rovinj, with its charming streets and pastel-painted houses, is just a drive away. For wine enthusiasts, the region is dotted with world-class Croatian wineries, with Kozlovic winery being my favorite! If you do visit Kozlović, be sure to try their Moscato (Muškat Momjanski).

You can also venture to Poreč to admire its historic beauty, or explore the enchanting hilltop towns of Motovun and Groznjan, each offering breathtaking views and irresistible charm.

And for a day trip like no other, head to Svetvinčenat to explore the medieval Morosini-Grimani Castle. Here, you can immerse yourself in history, or sign up for the escape room that encompasses the entire castle area!

🍷 Discover the best vino on an Istrian winery tour!

6. To indulge in the delicious food

A dark gray ceramic bowl filled with wide pasta noodles doused in a creamy sauce with shaved black truffle on top.

Because of Pula’s location, and historic past having spent significant amount of time under Italian rule, the local cuisine is a combination of Italian and Croatian. Think lots of seafood, pasta dishes, pizza, minestrone soup, and an abundance of truffles and olive oil!

A few great places to eat in Pula are:

  • Pizzeria Jupiter
  • Konoba Boccaporta
  • Bistro Alighieri

📍 To find more locations like this, download my free Croatia Google Map pins!

7. To sample the local olive oil

A woman in a blue and white patterned dress smiles as she holds a glass of olive oil, standing at a tasting table with an array of olive oil bottles and informational materials at BRIST Olive Oil Tasting Room in Vodnjan, Istria.

When visiting Istria, you simply can’t leave without sampling some homemade olive oil and locally produced wine.

There are tons of olive oil producers in the area, but my personal favorite is located just a short 15-minute drive outside of Pula in the town of Vodnjan. Here, you’ll find Brist Extra Virgin Olive Oil Shop where you can pop in for a complimentary tasting.

They also offer tours of their olive grove and an “Evening Under Olives” experience where you can enjoy traditional Croatian bites and wine while surrounded by the beautiful olive trees.

To dig even deeper into the history of olives and olive oil product, you can also visit the Istrian Olive Oil Museum in Pula.

8. To relax on the beautiful beaches

While there are no beaches around Pula’s Old Town, venture out just a bit further and you’ll find some of the most magnificent and pristine beaches in Croatia. From rocky coves to sandy stretches, there are tons of gorgeous Pula beaches to be found.

For some of the prettiest pebbled shores, head to the Verudela Peninsula, where you’ll find the most famous swimming spot in the area, Hawaii Beach.

This area is also a wonderful place to stay if you’re looking for more of a beach vacation. Park Plaza Arena Pula and Park Plaza Histria are both excellent choices.

9. To kayak along its coast

People sea kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding over the clear emerald waters near the rocky shores of Pula, Croatia.

Pula’s wild and rugged coastline is dotted with mysterious sea caves and interesting rock formations. To get a totally different perspective of the coast, get out in the open sea and explore by kayak!

You’ll definitely want to join a guided kayaking tour so that you can find all of the best spots.

10. For the Pula Film Festival

The Pula Film Festival is one of the most anticipated events in Croatia, drawing in thousands of film enthusiasts every year. Held mainly in the historic Pula Arena, this festival showcases a diverse selection of films from both local and international filmmakers.

All of the movies shown have English subtitles, so you don’t have to worry about any language barriers.

If you do happen to be in Pula during the film festival, I highly suggest checking it out as watching a movie in an ancient Roman amphitheater isn’t something you get to do everyday!

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    11. To have a drink with James Joyce

    If you’re into literature, then you may be familiar with the Irish author and writer, James Joyce. From 1904-1905, he spent several months in Pula working as an English professor at the Austro-Hungarian naval base.

    To commemorate his time spent there, a statue of Joyce was erected in the Old Town just behind the Arch of the Sergii. His sculpture occupies a table at a cafe by the name of “Ulysses”, a nod to his famous novel set in Dublin, where you can, quite literally, have a drink with him!

    12. To save money

    A serene street scene in Pula, Croatia, showcasing the charming blend of historic architecture and casual urban life, with pedestrians strolling and resting along the paved road flanked by tall green trees and pastel-colored buildings.

    It’s no secret that Dubrovnik is expensive.

    And I’m not going to lie…the prices all over Croatia have definitely been on the rise in recent years. Thanks to its much more popular cousins down south, Pula and the surrounding area offer just as much beauty at a fraction of the price.

    So if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly vacation, you may want to consider spending it in Pula. You’ll find much better deals on Pula Hotels and restaurants compared to the more popular destinations like Dubrovnik and Split.

    13. To visit Italy

    A pastel view of Venice's canals with a gondola floating through

    Instead of choosing between Croatia and Italy, why not combine both into one epic vacation?

    Pula is perfectly located for a trip like this. You can easily take the ferry from Pula to Venice via Adriatic Lines, that provide service between the two cities 5 times per week.

    Check ferry availability and get your tickets here.

    🇮🇹 🇭🇷 Find your perfect Croatia and Italy itinerary here!

    How to Get to Pula Croatia

    There are a number of ways you can reach Pula Croatia, depending on where you are traveling from.

    • By Car: Renting a car and driving to Pula is one of the best ways to reach the city from other parts of Croatia. It’s also essential to have a car if you plan to do day trips from Pula, or visit any of the nearby nature parks.
    • By Plane: If you are traveling between the months of April and October, you can fly directly into Pula Airport, one of 8 commercial airports in Croatia. Outside that period, only domestic flights are available.
    • By Bus: You can travel to Pula by bus from Zagreb or most other major cities in Croatia. I like to use Flixbus because they offer more direct routes, free wifi, and are generally newer.

    While Pula does have a train station, traveling by train to Pula is not very common. In general, the train system in Croatia is not as developed as the bus system. However, there are trains that connect smaller towns in Istria to Pula.

    Best Time to Visit Pula

    Asking yourself, When should I visit Pula? That depends.

    If you’re mostly interested in seeing the Roman ruins and Pula Arena, then you can visit Pula any time of year. Pula is a thriving city, and the largest in Istria county, so it is alive with locals all year round. However, I’d recommend visiting during the months of April, May, September, and October for nice sightseeing weather.

    For a beach vacation, you’ll want to plan your trip for the summer months. Pula is quite popular among European tourists, so it can get busy from June to August.

    September is a wonderful month for traveling to Pula, as the weather is still warm but the crowds have thinned out. Additionally, September marks the end of peak season, so you may be able to find better deals on accommodation in Pula and activities.

    FAQs

    Is Pula a good holiday destination?

    Pula is a good holiday destination if you’re looking for pretty beaches, lively nightlife, ancient history, and overall good tourist infrastructure. Pula also tends to be slightly more affordable than the rest of Croatia, so it could be a good choice for you if you’re traveling on a budget.

    Is Pula a nice place to visit?

    Yes, Pula is a nice place to visit, especially to see the Pula Arena! One full day is enough to explore the Old Town, but there is plenty to do in the surrounding area.

    What is Pula famous for?

    Pula is famous for the Pula Arena, a 1st-century Roman Amphitheater that is the only remaining amphitheater to have all 4 towers intact.

    Is Pula expensive?

    Generally, prices in Pula tend to be cheaper than those in more popular Croatian tourist destinations like Dubrovnik and Hvar.

    Final Thoughts: Is Pula Worth Visiting?

    After reading this Pula blog, I hope you’ve gotten a better idea as to whether or not you should visit Pula. As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, Pula fits nicely into your Croatia travel plans, then go for it!

    If you plan to road trip around Pula (which I highly recommend), get inspired by this one week Istria itinerary!

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