Pula, the Little Rome of Croatia. With an intriguing ancient Roman history dating to 46 BC under Julius Caesar, Pula remains a hidden gem among Croatia’s more popular destinations. It’s well preserved Roman structures are some of the best found in Europe. Situated on the coast of the Adriatic Sea at the southern tip of the Istrian peninsula, Pula was a part of Italy until the end of the Second World War when it became a part of Croatia.
Be Amazed By Pula’s Amphitheater (Pula Arena)
Constructed between 27 BC and 68 AD, it is the sixth largest surviving Roman arena in the world and the only remaining Roman amphitheater to have four entirely preserved side towers.
Originally capable of seating 23,000 Romans, the elliptical theatre hosted gladiator fights, fairs and tournaments. It now hosts theater productions, concerts and the summer Pula Film Festival.
Walk Through Pula’s Medieval Gates
Initially a fortified walled city accessed through ten gates, only a few remain today, one of which is the Twin Gate. Constructed at the end of the 2nd century, the gate served as the entrance to a Roman theater.
Pula’s Arch of the Sergii
What appears to be to be another gate, the Arch of the Sergii is, in fact, a monument constructed between 29 and 27 BC. Paid by private funds from the Sergii family during the rein of the Roman Emperor Augustus, it is an impressive structure that now serves as an entrance to Sergijevaca Street leading into Pula’s popular Old Town.
The Sergijevaca is a pedestrian only street paved in large flat stones that extend the entire length of Pula’s Old Town. Lined with shops and restaurants, it leads to some of Pula’s most historical sites including …
The Roman Forum of Pula
Constructed in the 1st decade of the 1st century BC, it was initially anchored by two twin temples, although today only the Temple of Augustus remains intact.
The Second Temple, which located to the right of the Temple of Augustus, was replaced in 1295 by the Communal Palace, the seat of Pula’s municipal government.
Insider’s Tip: Walk to the the back of the Communal Palace and you will see the facade of the Second Temple which was incorporated into the Palace’s structure.
The Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Continuing your walk along the Sergijevaca and you will see the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Mary and Bell Tower. Initially a small church built in the 5th century, a series of expansions created today’s Cathedral with the Bell Tower added in 1707.
The interior of the Cathedral, while simple, is serene and comforting with columned arches on both sides.
Continuing your walk, you will pass countless amazing architecture and passage ways so well preserved that you will feel transported back in time.
Enjoy An Evening Meal and Entertainment
Enjoy an evening meal in Pula’s Old Town followed by a live performance just outside the Arch of the Sergii.
Although the Old Town is captivating, there is so much more to see beyond the Arch of the Sergii.
Visit Pula’s Green Market
Walk along Istarska ulica and you will come to the Pula Green Market, a modern marketplace with its origins dating from 1902. Built entirely of iron, the Art Nouveau architecture remains as beautiful as when it was constructed 120 years ago. Comprised of a two story indoor market and an expansive outdoor market, it is the perfect setting to browse both markets or simply enjoy a cup of coffee or glass of wine.
The Indoor Market houses a Fish Market …
and a Butcher Shop …
While the Outdoor Framer’s Market houses vendors offering fresh produce and flowers.
Open seven days a week, the Market is understandably a favorite of locals.
Browse Pula’s Street Markets
Street Markets can be found throughout Pula with local vendors offering everything from vinyl records, books to antiques and old military relics. Take the time to browse and you may find that perfect souvenir to take back home!
Explore Pula’s Underground Tunnels
Just past the Roman Twin Gates, you will find a series of underground tunnels created during World War I as shelters for the citizens of Pula. They were once again used during the bombings of World War II and could accommodate up to 50,000 people, virtually the town’s entire population.
The underground system is so expansive that it stretches underneath the entire town of Pula and consists of two levels with four entrances. Underground corridors lead to a massive space in the middle.
The entrances are designed in a way that the air distribution throughout the tunnel system keeps temperatures between 14° and 18° C year round assuring the occupants remained comfortable even while the city was being bombed.
Enjoy The View From The Pula Castle
Directly above the tunnels is the Pula Castle, a fortress constructed between 1630 and 1633. Since Pula was always a significant seaport, the fortress was used to defend the city and bay. After World War I, it lost its significance and is now a major tourist attraction providing amazing views of the city below.
Relax In Pula’s Green Spaces
Like so much of Croatia, ample green space can be found throughout Pula and especially along the Marina.
Continue along the Marina and you will come to Tito’s Park, easily identifiable by its impressive monument commemorating Croatia’s fallen solders as well as busts representing national heroes.
Besides being a memorial park, it is also a gathering place favored by locals and tourists alike especially during the evenings when temperatures cool.
Walk Along Pula’s Seaport
Although wrapped in ancient Roman antiquity, Pula has a more recent history as well. The largest city on the Istrian peninsula and seventh largest city in Croatia, Pula has been a major seaport, both commercially and militarily, since 1859. Once a thriving commercial seaport bustling with cargo ships, Pula was devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
While ferries continue to operate and cruise liners bring tourists into the city, the Seaport’s Container Terminal closed during the pandemic shutdown and never reopened. Once employing several thousand workers, it now sits empty with the exception of one rusting cargo ship.
Yet, through all the setbacks of the pandemic, Pula remains a vibrant, fun city!
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