The Complete Travel Guide to Pula Croatia

If you are visiting Pula Croatia, then this Pula travel guide will help you discover things to do, the best places to stay, eat and drink as well as provide all necessary travel information about Pula.

Pula Travel Guide: Plan Your Visit To Pula, Croatia, Illustration
Pula Travel Guide: Plan Your Visit To Pula, Croatia, Illustration

Pula is the largest town in Istria. Located at the southern tip of the peninsula, the town stretches on and beneath seven hills.

Maybe this was the reason Romans chose Pula for their important administrative center. Today, Pula is an important shipbuilding center, but also a tourist center.

Pula beaches are among the best beaches in Istria. The town boasts a wealth of historical sites and lovely examples of Roman architecture.

The most famous town's site is Pula Colosseum, a Roman amphitheater dating back to 1st century AD.  It is well-preserved, and today it also serves as a venue for summer festivals and concerts.

Town's history is right in front of your eyes. You can touch it and feel it everywhere you go within Pula city center.

Where is Pula Croatia?

As we have already mentioned, Pula is the largest town in Istria and the region’s economic and administrative center.

The town is a bit rough around the edges, not as polished as Rovinj or Porec, but Pula is a bigger town where shipbuilding, fishing, and navy have always been more in the DNA of its citizens than tourism.

However, the town hides wonderful historical sites, as well as myriads of beaches in the southern neighborhoods.

The town is also less touristy than other Istrian coastal towns, and thus cheaper to stay in.

Below you’ll find the location of Pula on the map.

Best time to visit Pula

The best time to visit Pula is from June through September. July and August are considered top season in Croatia, and Pula isn’t different. June and September offer equal opportunities for swimming, sunbathing, and other experiences as July and August, but also fewer crowds, and more affordable accommodation prices.

Is Pula worth visiting?

Pula is a very interesting town and it is definitely worth visiting if you are already in Istria. I wouldn't recommend going out of your way to visit Pula. But if you are already visiting Istria, then yes, make sure you also visit Pula.

Town's main attraction is a well-preserved Roman arena, and some other ancient remains. However, Pula is not as picture-perfect as Dubrovnik, or as charming as Rovinj. Pula is a ship-building town that's becoming more and more touristy as the ship-building industry is declining. Pula has lovely beaches, good tourist infrastructure, good restaurants, and cheaper rates than other destinations in Istria like Porec or Rovinj.

Is Pula safe?

Croatia is generally a very safe country with a low crime rate. And Pula is a safe town too. In a survey conducted in 2018, Pula actually had the highest crime rate among the 29 surveyed towns in Croatia with over 20.000 inhabitants. It had 4 criminal offenses per 1000 residents. This is still very low on a worldwide scale. So, you don't need to worry much about theft, violence, or walking alone at night.

However, like everywhere, try to be mindful and careful in everyday situations. Don't leave your car or accommodation unlocked. Hide your valuables from the sight. Perhaps get yourself a travel purse where you can keep safely your money, credit cards, and documents.

Pula weather

The Pula weather in June, July, August, and September is normally hot and dry with the daily temperatures ranging from the mid-20°C (low 70°F) to low 30°C (mid 80°F). This is perfect weather for chilling by the beach. Not so much for exploring the town. However, early June and late September have a bit cooler days compared with the rest of this period, and they are ideal for both, exploring the town, and the surroundings and enjoying the beaches.

April, May, and October normally offer mild daily temperatures, around low 20°C (mid 60°F). While the sea isn't really for swimming, the weather is perfect to explore the region and the town. However, you can't completely rely on April, May, or October weather, as sometimes the changes arrive suddenly, and before you know it, it's cold and raining. In any case, it never happens for the entire month. You should have nice weather for at least 50% of the time in these months.

Winters are mild and rainy. Temperatures in winter are above 0°C. It almost never snows.

Arch of the Sergii in Pula, Croatia
Arch of the Sergii in Pula, Croatia

Reasons to visit Pula

Since you are already considering to visit Pula, I don't think you need much convincing. However below you'll find a few reasons to visit Pula.

History

You don’t need to be a history buff to enjoy Pula’s historical sites. From Roman Colosseum and Theatre, Temple of Augustus and Arch of Sergii to Venetian palaces, and an extensive number of the civil and military buildings constructed during Austria-Hungarian rule, Pula’s history is showcased in numerous monuments that can be seen throughout the town.

Beaches

A coastline in and around Pula hides some truly lovely beaches. Whether you like pebbly beaches within tourist resorts that also come with lots of amenities, wild beaches of nearby Cape Kamenjak nature park, or sandy beach so rare to find in Croatia, Pula has you covered.

And Pula beaches are just a quick hop from the center of the town, and the port.

Great local produce

Chiavalon Olive Oil, Trapan Wines, and Kumparicka Cheese are just some of the many great local products you can find in Pula and its surroundings.

Affordable Pula accommodation

If you are planning your holidays to Pula, you will like to know that accommodation in Pula, Croatia tends to be cheaper than in tourist destinations in Istria, like Rovinj or Porec.

So if you are trying to save some money, consider staying in Pula and making day trips to other Istrian towns and villages.

Things to do in Pula, Croatia

There are many things to do during your Pula holidays, and lazing at the beach with a cocktail in hand isn't the only one.

Forum Square in Pula Croatia
Forum Square in Pula Croatia

Explore Pula amphitheater

A great example of Roman architecture, Pula Coliseum is a must-visit site during your stay in Pula. Roam this ancient Pula amphitheater and don’t miss visiting the underground section with permanent exhibitions of olive oil production and amphorae.

Shop at Pula’s green market

First open in 1903, Pula green market consists of two parts: the closed part where you’ll find a fish market, butcheries, bars, and alike, and open market where you’ll find stands with fruits and veggies. The market building is beautiful, made of steel and glass, and thoroughly renovated in 1997.

Have a drink at the art café Cvajner

This unique café bar is located at Pula’s main square – Forum. The interior is beautiful, with retro furniture and interesting art on the walls. The outside terrace is a perfect spot to enjoy Pula’s past and present, watching Augustus’ Temple and the world go by. If you like beer, they have a good choice of local and international craft beers.

Visit Aquarium

This is the only real aquarium worth visiting in all Istria. It’s located in a former military fortress dating back to 1886 on the Verudela peninsula. The aquarium has over 100 fish tanks featuring over 250 species. The Pula aquarium also houses a sea turtle rescue center.

Eat local

In the vicinity of Pula you’ll find some of the best restaurants showcasing traditional cuisine of south Istria, above all amazing seafood. We highly recommend visiting Batelina in Banjole, Lanterna in Pjescana Uvala, Vodnjanka in Pula, and Alla Beccaccia in Valbandon.

Pula sightseeing

There are many things to see in Pula that are worth seeking out. And you should definitely take a day out to explore obvious and less obvious Pula sights.

Pula Colosseum

Constructed in the 1st century AD, Pula’s Arena was once a place of gladiator fights. The unique feature of the arena, compared to other colosseums, is that it has 4 rectangular towers. It had four floors and could accommodate more than 20.000 spectators.

Arch of Triumph (Golden Gate)

Constructed in 1st century BC by a wealthy Sergii family, the Arch of Triumph was incorporated within town walls and town gate. However, both walls and gates came down in the 19th century and today only the Arch remains in place.

Forum

Located in the western part of the town, Pula Forum has been the central town's square since the Roman times. Constructed in 1st century BC, it had all elements of a typical Roman Forum: temples dedicated to Roman gods, in Pula's case Jupiter, Juno, Minerva but also a temple dedicated to Roman emperor Augustus, and a Temple of Diana. Temple of Augustus is the only one of five that's fully preserved.

Mosaics

Some of the things to see in Pula aren't that obvious, and it takes some effort to find them. One of such Pula sights is “The Punishment of Dirce” floor mosaic hidden next to a car park, in the middle of an unassuming residential building. However, the mosaic is well-preserved, almost intact, and well worth finding.

Fortresses

While almost everybody who decides to visit Pula Croatia knows about its 3.000-year-old history and roman heritage, very few people have such an in-depth knowledge of Pula's more recent history, particularly during the time of Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. This era, from 1816 to 1920, has actually seen Pula develop into a large naval port of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The entire town with its surroundings has been fortified featuring as many as 26 forts, underground tunnels, and artillery batteries. Many of them are still perfectly preserved and although serving the different purpose they are still in use. Fort Verudela today houses Pula's Aquarium, Fort Punta Christo is a venue for many music festivals, and so does Fort Monteparadiso.

Food and Restaurants in Pula

Food in Pula is similar to other places in Istria and along the Croatian coast. Therefore, you'll notice many restaurants offer typical Croatian restaurant fare: pizza, pasta, risotto, and grilled meat or fish. These restaurants are mostly aimed at tourists. Here, you can have a light lunch for as little as 10 € per person. However, don't expect a great gastronomical experience.

But, you can also find some top-notch restaurants in and around town, if you are after a delightful feast. Central European and Venetian tastes influenced the food in Istria through centuries. Today, the result is a sublime mix of hearty dishes from the land and delicate plates from the sea.

Some of our favorite restaurants in and around Pula Croatia include Batelina in Banjole, one of the best seafood restaurants in all Croatia where simple, oily fish and other underrated Adriatic delicacies are the stars of the menu; then, Vodnjanka in Pula, a hidden gem where locals like to go for marenda (a mid-day meal).

Run by two fishermen (hence, the name!), the Hook and Cook attracts locals and tourists alike with its simple but tasty seafood like battered calamari, fried mixed fish and seafood, tuna burgers, and alike. Whether you feel for an elaborate seafood dinner or just a couple of tapas, you'll find them all in a restaurant and wine bar Lanterna in Pjescana Uvala, just 5 km south of Pula. For a hearty meat dishes and yummy stews head to Valbandon to the restaurant Alla Beccaccia.

Accommodation in Pula

You will find various accommodation in Pula: from large hotels and resorts to small family-run boutique hotels, private apartments, campsites, and even glamping.

While you can find private apartments all over the town, Pula’s neighborhoods of Stoja and Verudela are home to large hotels, resorts, and campsites.

Arena Pula is the largest hotel company owning and managing the majority of hotels, resorts, and campsites in Pula. Some of Arena’s properties feature the Park Plaza brand.

The best place to search, compare and book accommodation in Pula is Booking.com. Here you will find the vast majority of all Pula accommodation. The website is easy to use, and it offers the most competitive prices and booking conditions. No prepayment and 48h cancelation policy are just some of them.

If you are looking for private apartments, and you don’t find anything suitable on Booking, then you might also consider using Airbnb (SIGN UP HERE TO GET UP TO $$$$ OFF YOUR FIRST TRIP!).

If you plan to stay in Pula a couple of days, consider staying in downtown. Here you can check hotel Amfiteatar, City Center Rooms, City Center Arena Apartments, or Polai Center Apartments.

If you prefer to stay by the beach, consider the hotel Park Plaza Arena. It is a recently-renovated 3star property that offers good value for money.

Pula Beaches

When you mention Pula, perhaps beaches aren’t exactly the first image that comes to mind. But funnily enough, Pula beaches are some of the best beaches in Istria. The majority of beaches in Pula are located in the southern part of the city, in Stoja, Zlatne stijene, and Verudela neighborhoods.

Just like other Istrian beaches, beaches in Pula are either rocky, pebbly, or cemented. Nearby Medulin has a sandy beach if you are after that kind of Pula beach.

The most popular beaches include Ambrela Beach, Saccorgiana Beach, and Hawaii Beach on the Verudela peninsula. Then, Valkane Beach, Gortan’s Bay, and Valsaline Beach along the Lungomare, a seaside promenade.

Another popular swimming spots for tourists and locals alike are beaches of the Cape Kamenjak Park, Fratarski Island, and beaches in and around the campsite Brioni (ex. Puntizela).

Bars, Clubs & Nightlife in Pula

If great nightlife is important for you when choosing your next travel destination, then you perhaps won’t come to Pula in the first place. That said, here are few tips on where to find Pula nightlife.

Teens like to hang in the Titov park while the older crowd prefers various bars in the town. Later on, the party crowds head to some of the night clubs in Pula. Uljanik is the most popular club in Pula with two venues: one playing mostly rock/metal, and others playing electronic music. Also, it often features various live music events and concerts. Other clubs include Cargo and Pietas Julia. Cargo tends to play a lot of Balkan folk music.

We like to have a glass of wine and few tapas in the Wine & Tapas Bar Lanterna in nearby Pjescana uvala. If you are into craft beer, check Potaman or Shipyard Pub in Pula. For a day of swimming and chilling head to the Safari Bar in the Cape Kamenjak park.

Events in Pula

Pula hosts many cultural, musical, and gastronomical events throughout the summer.

Arena and Kastel are especially popular venues for concerts, plays, shows, and various performances.

A fair of Istrian hand made souvenirs is held at the Pula Forum starting at 8 pm every Friday and Saturday from mid-June through August.

At Pula green market, on certain Saturdays (in June and July every second Saturday) you can attend a fair of Istrian homemade and homegrown foods and drinks.

Traveling to Pula

Pula serves as a main regional hub for a variety of public transit options. The airport is only 5 km from the city center. This is a small regional airport that gets busy only during the summer.

Many companies flying into Pula airport are charter companies. However, during the summer Ryan Air flies into Pula from Berlin, Brussels, Stuttgart, London, and Frankfurt. Jet2 flies from a handful of UK destinations including Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leeds, London, and Manchester. Other low-cost companies flying into Pula airport from April through September include Eurowings, Norwegian, Vueling, Easy Jet, etc. To check all flights in and out of Pula, consult the Skyscanner website.

During the winter the only scheduled flight is from Pula to Zagreb.

Although Pula has a train station, traveling by train isn't very practical in Istria. Regional railroads run west to Slovenia, and not east to Croatia. Also, the trains are old, slow, and infrequent.

Town's main bus station is 15 minutes walk from the town center. Although there are some intercity bus connections, they are still too infrequent to travel conveniently by bus.

You can also arrive in Pula by ferry from Venice, and vice versa, depart Pula to Venice. Pula to Venice ferry runs from April to October. In high season, it sails every day. More info at Venezia Lines.

The best way to travel in and around the region is still in your own car or renting one.

Getting from Pula airport to city center

Pula airport is a small regional airport, located short 5 km away from the city center. However, it's not always cheap neither easy to reach the airport.

If you are looking for Pula airport transfer, you have few options: taking Pula airport shuttle, or taxi from Pula airport to the city center. Pula airport bus runs every 90 minutes. It connects the airport with the city center (station near the port authority building, in Ulica Svetog Petra), and a one-way ticket costs 30 Kn (approx. 5 €).

On the other hand, the cost of a taxi from Pula airport to Pula city center is around 20 €.

The shuttle also connects the airport with Verudela Peninsula, Fazana, Medulin, Rovinj, Porec, and Novigrad. This shuttle is run by different companies, and its schedule is adjusted to flight arrivals and departures.

The cost of a one-way shuttle ticket from Pula to Rovinj is 150 Kn (approx. 20 €), and the price of the ticket from Pula to Porec is whopping 300 Kn (approx. 40 €). For this reason, if you are budget-conscious, rather take a shuttle bus Pula airport to the Pula city center, and then just regular bus from Pula to Rovinj, or Porec. You'll save a lot of money. A regular bus from Pula to Porec costs anywhere between 6 € and 9 €, while a bus from Pula to Rovinj costs 4 € to 5 €.

Transport in Pula

With a population of 60.000 people, Pula isn’t a particularly big town. This means that a large part of the town can be explored on foot.

The part of the old town, around main sights dating back to Roman times, is a pedestrian-only zone. The same goes for few other downtown streets like Flanaticka Street that connects Giardini with Pula’s main farmer’s market.

From here you can easily explore the majority of Pula’s sights (like Pula Arena) by walk.

However, if you aren’t a fan of long walks in summer heats, you can move around Pula using city buses. The city bus system in Pula is pretty good and reliable. It is divided into four zones. Zone 1 covers the entire town, including the outer suburbs of Puntizela, Veli Vrh, or Stinjan. The single-ride ticket costs 11 Kn (approx. 1,5 €). The majority of buses within the Zone 1 run from 5.30 am to midnight, more or less every 20 minutes. Zone 2 covers neighboring villages and towns, including Fazana, Vodnjan, Premantura, and Medulin. The single-ride ticket costs 15 Kn (approx. 2 €).  Zone 3 and Zone 4 include villages further away, like Barban, Barbariga, or Rakalj. Ticket costs 20 Kn and 25 Kn respectively.

If you plan to use city buses extensively, you might consider buying prepaid cards. It costs 70 Kn, out of which 30 Kn is a cost of a card, while 40 Kn goes toward riding credit. The cost of a single way ticket goes down to 7 Kn for Zone 1, 11 Kn for Zone 2, 17 Kn for Zone 3, and 20 Kn for Zone 4.

Below you will find the map of Pula's urban lines. A detailed timetable and price list you can check at the Pula Promet website.

A map of bus lines in Pula
A map of bus lines in Pula

Car rental in Pula

If you plan to stay in Pula for at least 3 days, and you don't have your own car, we highly recommend that you rent one at least for a day or two in order to visit other sights in Istria.

Traveling in Istria by bus is doable, but not the best way to travel. In fact, if you would like to visit hilltop towns, you can't even do it by bus.

And being in Istria without visiting lovely Rovinj, Basilica in PorecUNESCO's World Heritage Site, visiting a winery or two, and taking a scenic route to hilltop towns, simply makes no sense.

The majority of car rental companies in Pula have their offices at Pula airport, but many also have a branch office within one of the hotels on the Verudela peninsula.

We recommend renting a car through Rentalcars. Use the form below to check availability and prices.

Parking in Pula Croatia

Parking in Pula isn't that easy to find during the summer, especially if you try to find a free parking spot.

However, at least paid parking in Pula, isn't that badly organized, and from our experience, you should be able to find your spot no matter what.

Parking in Pula is organized in three zones, depending on the location and proximity to downtown and town's main sights. Parking includes parking lots and street parking. Pula Parking is in charge of parking lots.

From June, 1 to September, 30, the parking charges apply 7 days a week, from 7 am to 10 pm. For the rest of the year, parking charges apply from Monday to Saturday, from 7 am to 8 pm; while on Sunday and public holidays parking is free.

Parking costs from 4 Kn (0,5 €) to 15 Kn (2 €) per hour depending on the zone. At the majority of parking lots you can pay with coins, or sending SMS to the designated phone numbers. You send your full registration (without spaces) to the following phone numbers: 708521 for Zone 1, 708522 for Zone 2, 708523 for Zone 3.

Just below the town's amphitheater, at the waterfront, there is huge parking with 200 parking spaces. It is convenient to park your car there if you are visiting Pula for a couple of hours. The amphitheater is just above, 2  minutes walk, and other historical sites are within 10 minutes walk from the parking.

You can find all Pula's parking lots at the following website.

Shopping in Pula Croatia

For locals, Pula is a shopping center of Istria. Here you will find all large supermarkets, but also DIY, construction, car dealerships, furniture stores, and few shopping malls with popular fashion retailers like H&M, Mango, Pull&Bear, Hervis, etc..

Downtown shopping in Pula

There are small grocery shops scattered all over the town. But Pula's green market is our favorite place to shop for food in Pula. The green market consists of a closed and open part. Here you can find a fish market, various butcheries, charcuterie and cheese shops, vegetable and fruit stalls, and even stalls selling cheap clothes. There are also bakeries, and bars around. The market is housed in a beautiful historical building dating back to 1903. Don't miss visiting a stand of the Kumparicka farm. They produce one of the finest goat cheeses in all Istria.

The main downtown shopping streets are Ulica Sergijevaca, from Giardini to Forum square; and Flanaticka Street that goes from Giardini to the Pula's green market. Both streets are pedestrian-only.

Supermarkets in Pula

All large supermarkets are located along Sijanska and Vodnjanska Cesta, two main roads leading into Pula either from highway or old state road. Here you will find the most popular supermarkets: Konzum, Kaufland, Plodine, and Lidl. Interspar supermarkets can be found in both, MaxCity and City, shopping malls.

Pula shopping malls

Max City shopping mall in Pula is the largest shopping mall in Istria. Open in 2019, and built within the former quarry, Max City spreads on over 30.000 m2, and features over 60 shops, bars, and restaurants. Popular shops include H&M, Skechers, Mass Shoes, Mango, Intersport, etc. The shopping mall is next to the popular beaches of Valkane and Stoja.

Pula City Mall is a smaller mall on the outskirt of Pula, in Ulica Prekomorskih Brigada. It features Interspar supermarket; Mueller store featuring various cosmetics, perfumery, fashion, specialty food, sweets, over-the-counter drugs, household products, toys, stationery, and books; fashion stores like New Yorker and C&A, etc..

Money and ATM

Croatia doesn't use Euro yet, although you can pay in Euros for many things like meals in restaurants, accommodation, pay toll on Croatian roads, and gas. However, while you can pay in Euro, you'll more often get a change in Croatian currency – Kuna. And the exchange rate might be less favorable than what you would get in an exchange office.

For 1 € you should get around 7,6 kuna; for 1$ about 6,9 kuna, and for 1 £ around 8,5 kuna. You can exchange money in many places all over the town: exchange offices, banks, hotels' receptions.

ATM machines are scattered all over the town. In fact, there are too many of them in all Croatian towns, that the town officials started thinking of the ways to limit the number of ATM machines, especially within old historical buildings as they ruin the look of the old towns.

ATM machines are operated by banks, but also by other money operators. We find that bank machines charge lower fees than the others. If you are budget conscious, avoid Euronet's, Auro Domus', and similar operators. Simply stick to the bank's ATM machines. If you don't mind a few euros here and there, go ahead and use any ATM machine. They are all safe to use, and some are located at more convenient locations than others.

Another thing to be aware of is the so-called dynamic currency exchange rate. When you pay with the credit card, you will be offered a choice to either pay in your currency, or in local currency. It's a tricky question, as it might seem logical to choose your own currency. But more often than not, you'll end up paying higher fees if you choose to pay in your own currency. So, we always choose to be charged in local currency.

Internet

Most of the hotels offer free WiFi connection, as well as many bars and restaurants. However, the connection is not open, and you'll need to ask for a password in order to connect.

If you have any questions regarding travel to and in Pula, Croatia, leave it in the comments section below.

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1 thought on “The Complete Travel Guide to Pula Croatia”

  1. Thank you very much for your guide in Pula, it is really well written.
    We are travelling by car from Germany to Triest and then to Pula, Krk etc and in Pula would like to stay around 6 nights but I am not really sure where to book the appartment in the city center or in the near from the beach. Maybe you have a recommendation, I hop you do not mind my question. Thank you.

    Reply

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