Pick Pula Croatia for your next city break. It's a natural choice after Dubrovnik and Split. It's laidback and cosmopolitan. Home to some impressive Roman ruins. And it retains a refreshing sense of authenticity. The compact historic centre is as picturesque as any in Croatia. But its shipyard's giant cranes indicate a working city.
Pula's also an ideal hub for exploring Istria. A region of Venetian towns, olive groves and forests. The information in this article is taken from The Rough Guide to Croatia, your essential guide for visiting Croatia.
Pula’s highlight is the first-century Roman amphitheatre. Its imposing outer walls are second only to Rome’s Colosseum. And in summer it's the setting for a range of events.
The city's old-town streets are a fascinating mix. Byzantine chapels mingle with Venetian townhouses. You can even see Hapsburg palaces. Graceful Roman ruins stand in the Forum. This has been Pula’s main square for over 2000 years. Look for tall Corinthian columns. That's the Temple of Augustus. And it's one of several ancient sites involved in Pula's annual Spectacvla Antiqva.
Done the antiquities? Hire a bike and head to forested Verudela peninsula. It's just five kilometres south of Pula. Here you'll find a series of white-pebble Adriatic beaches. Verudela is also home to several large hotels. But they tend to be hidden from the shore. And the beaches are as popular with locals as tourists.
Look for the Holy Rock at the peninsula’s western tip. It's a dreamy vantage point for sunsets. And good for dolphin spotting too.
Want more guaranteed sightings? Take a sunset dolphin watching cruise from Pula.
Need a stretch of beach all to yourself? Hop a ferry at nearby Fažana and sail to Veli Brijun. This is the Brijuni archipelago's main island. It's protected as a national park. Ringed by a pristine coastline. And its waters are blissfully clear.
The Brijuni islands have links to Josip Broz Tito. He was the former President of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. And, for an Eastern European dictator, remains oddly popular. There's even a Tito on Brijuni photo exhibition. You can see it at Veli Brijun’s ferry dock. It contains images of Tito entertaining everyone from Fidel Castro to Sophia Loren.
Veli Brijun also has Roman ruins, cycling routes and forest trails. Or you can visit the remaining residents of Tito’s private zoo.
Try a Brijuni National Park boat tour to explore Tito's stomping ground.
A Venetian influence and good local produce make eating in Pula a joy.
Istrian truffles are famously rich. Try them simply grated over pasta.
Istria's the top olive oil producer in the world. And the oil created here has a warm, spicy kick. Long-living locals recommend a daily spoonful.
Local chefs claim Istrian waters are home to Croatia's densest concentration of seafood. Typical dishes include brodet sa palentom (fish stew with polenta). Or there's stuffed squid and crni rižoto (risotto with cuttlefish ink).
Try the Dolce Vita-themed Bistro Alighieri restaurant. Or eat on the vine-covered terrace at Pizzeria Jupiter. Or head out of Pula. The best Istrian cooking is found in nearby villages.
Overlooking Pula Marina, Ribarska Koliba is known for seafood. And budget-friendly Stara Konoba is on Fažana's harbour. Don’t miss their njoki s tartufima (homemade gnocchi with truffle).
Istrian wines range from crisp Malvazija whites to rich Terrano reds. Pull up a stool at Brajda wine bar and work through the 40 plus tasting menu. Cute Scandal Express is earthier, but no less inviting.
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To find luxury hotels and apartments head for Verudela peninsula. Park Plaza Arena is a good choice, close to Havajka beach.
Arty Pipistrelo in Pula has a prime central location. Boutique Suites Joyce is an interesting pick. It occupies a language school where Joyce once taught English. Apart from that it also has great views of the Arch of the Sergians.
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