17 best sights of Pula – description and photos

Pula sights – Ancient Rome in Croatia

In this article I will tell you what you can see in Pula in just a few hours completely free and on your own. I will list all the museums with the prices of admission tickets, mentioned interesting events and activities, which are generously held in the city by the Ministry of Tourism to entertain holidaymakers.

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What is the city of Pula?

According to the ancient Roman historian Strabo, Pula was founded by the natives of the Kingdom of Colchis (Georgia) more than 3,000 years ago. Under the order of their king, led by the heir to the throne, the Colchians rushed to chase the kidnappers of the Golden Fleece. But their luck ran out, Jason and the Argonauts were not caught up. The son of the king perished in the chase and the long voyage. After this failure, the Colchians decided not to return home to avoid the wrath of their ruler, landed on a deserted shore and founded Pula.

Ancient Pula, a witness to many legendary events, it left a trace of the once powerful Roman Empire, followed by the Venetians with their winged lions and then the Habsburgs. Now Pula has become the capital of Croatian Istria, a major industrial center, an important port on the Adriatic and a fashionable seaside resort. Every summer, more than 360 000 people visit Pula for seaside recreation and an equal number of people from other Croatian resorts visit the city on a one-day trip.

Sightseeing on a map of Pula

I will describe the sights of Pula in order of their location in the city, not in order of historical significance. Significance is proportional to age.

City Sightseeing Pula bus

The old town of Pula is worth walking through, it is completely pedestrianized, and you can take the City Sightseeing tourist bus to see modern Pula, the beaches and the aquarium. It runs from April to October costs 120 HRK (ticket online).

In 2019 it was possible to buy a Pula Card to enter the 6 small museums of the city, but for 2022 the Pula Card is not supported because of the renovation of a number of objects included in it.

Pula Arena – almost a Roman Colosseum

Pula’s main attraction is rightly considered to be the Arena (ticket online). It is a symbol of the city and its center, although the Arena has always been located outside the walls of old Pula. In ancient times, it could accommodate 23,000 spectators, but now only 5,000. The arena is built into the hill and has three tiers on the sea side and only two on the hill side. Pula Arena is the sixth largest arena in the world, it is elliptical in shape with a diameter of 130 meters on the long side and only 100 meters on the short one, and was built during the reign of Emperor Vespasian, in the same way as the Colosseum in Rome. A total of 7 ancient arenas have survived, two in Italy, two in the south of France, one in Spain and one in Tunisia.

Pula, Arena

The Arena of Pula offers a great view right from the parking lot

There are paved paths around the Arena, you can easily get around the perimeter. There is a fee to enter the Arena itself. In the basement, where gladiators used to prepare for battle, there are now tools for making olive oil and wine, such a mini museum of local traditional crafts.

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During the tourist season the Arena hosts gladiatorial fights several times a week for 100 HRK, children from 5 to 18 years of age 50 HRK. The whole of Pula is covered with posters. In summertime events start at dusk at 8:30 p.m. and it gets unbearably hot during the day.

Where to go from Pula for a day

Since you have already seen the main pearl of the Istrian coastline – Pula, it is worth to pay attention to the neighboring coastal towns – Rovinj (40 km from Pula) and Poreč (60 km). Rovinj is very nice, very picturesque town located on a mountain above the sea. In Poreč is worth seeing Efrazeeva Basilica, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On each of these towns you will need no more than half a day.

Sights of Rovinj that you can see on your own and for free

Sightseeing in Poreč, you have to buy a ticket to the basilica, but you can walk around for free

It’s easy to go to Poreč and Rovinj on your own from Pula, buses leave from the bus station in Pula almost every hour, see the schedule on Omio.ru, many bus tickets do not need to be printed out, you can show on your smartphone screen. One way ticket costs 300-400 rubles. The bus station in Pula is located at Trg 1. istarske brigade 1 52100 Pula, not far from the Arena. In Rovinj and Poreč, the bus arrives the same way in the city center.

If I had to choose where to go in Rovinj or Porec, I would choose Rovinj, I like it better.

Also from Pula, it’s easy to travel to Brijuni islands on your own. From Pula, by bus №21, you will need to get to the village of Fažana, just 8 km away, and there take a boat to the island of Veliki Brijun. There you will find the former residence of Josip Broz Tito, a safari park, beautiful nature. A visit is possible only with a guided tour, the Russian language tours in 2022 do not conduct, the cost of pleasure in the high season is 270 HRK. Excursion lasts 4 hours. Sign up necessarily through the official website of the national park Brijuni, as there may not be enough seats.

From Pula you can also take a one-day or longer trip to Venice in a high-speed catamaran. Tickets for the catamaran look here. Venice, of course, is not the most budget-friendly of pleasures.

I have been to Pula three times and will go again. I like the sea in Croatia very much.

17 Sights of Pula worth seeing

Attractions of Pula

Pula, which is advantageously located on the Istrian peninsula, had to endure the claims of belligerent neighbors for many years. To the ancient Romans, this city seemed a real lure from a strategic point of view. When they made Pula their colony, they developed its architecture, as witnessed by the whole two Roman amphitheatres and the collection of triumphal arches and Roman mosaics.

The Romans were succeeded by the Venetians, making the Croatian city serve their Adriatic politics and enriching it with their monumental heritage. In the 19th century, the Venetians were replaced by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, choosing Pula Harbor to serve its maritime adventures.

The legacy of the Austro-Hungarians was reflected in the many fortresses they left behind, some of which could not withstand the furious onslaught of the Mediterranean flora. And in one of these fortresses now operates the largest aquarium in Croatia. Let’s take a look at the rich array of attractions that Pula offers us.

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Amphitheater in Pula

Amphitheatre in Pula

Amphitheater in Pula.

The majestic Roman Amphitheater, or “Arena” as it is called here, is one of the best-preserved Colosseum in the world. This is not only because all of its four towers and arched four-story walls have survived, but also because even now the amphitheater gives the impression of a complete structure, a single whole and unshakeable.

The construction of this grandiose Colosseum dates back to the 1st century AD. The amphitheatre has survived periods of prosperity and decline, but it has rarely been consigned to total oblivion: even in medieval times, 1000 years after its construction, the “arena” was sometimes used for jousting tournaments, which, however, were later replaced by fairs and even cattle grazing.

The many authentic details of the grandstands and the elliptical arena of the amphitheatre will take you back in time and make you feel like one of the spectators preparing to watch an ancient Roman competition. You can see many underground passages and even cisterns, from which aromatized water was sent to the fountains and sometimes to the spectators.

Address: Arena Pula, Flavijevska ulica, Pula, Croatia.

Forum Square

Forum Square

Forum Square. | Photo: Marie Thérèse Hébert & Jean Robert Thibault / Flickr.

The Forum is where the ancient Romans used to gather to discuss issues and make decisions. In short, it was the city’s central site, which continues to fulfill its original purpose today.

Any event of any significance is guaranteed in advance: it will take place at the Forum, be it a concert of visiting stars or a gathering of Croatian fans who have come here to cheer on their favorite soccer team in the World Cup.

So if you are wondering what to see in Pula first, here is the answer: Pula Forum. Even if nothing major happens at the hour when you come to the Forum, you will understand from the format and monumentality of the square why this place has always attracted and united people.

Address: Trg Forum, Forum, Pula, Croatia.

Sergiev Triumphal Arch

Triumphal Arch of Sergiev.| Photo: wikimedia.

This arch was erected to commemorate the participation of several members of the powerful Sergiev family in the decisive battle of the French Actium. The victory in the 1st century B.C. was the perfect occasion for the erection of this solemn structure leading from the seaport to the city.

It’s hard to imagine how many people have passed under these carved vaults over more than two thousand years, still holding images of cupids and garlands and bas-reliefs of battle chariots.

Address: Arch of the Sergii, Flanatička ulica, Pula, Croatia.

Temple of Augustus

Temple of Augustus (left)

Temple of Augustus (left). | Photo: Troy Smith / Flickr.

When you are in Pula’s Forum, the majestic ancient monument decorated with a magnificent colonnade will immediately catch your eye. Erected during Roman rule (1st century B.C.) the temple is dedicated to the memory of Emperor Augustus.

The change of times and governments influenced the transformation of the pagan structure, first into a Byzantine church, then into a granary and then (in the 19th century) into a museum of monumental architecture. Restored to its present form, it continues to do so and once inside you will be able to admire the urban sculptures and samples of masonry on display.

Address: Temple of Augustus, Forum, Pula, Croatia.

Istrian Archaeological Museum

Istrian Archaeological Museum

Archaeological Museum of Istria.| Photo: wikimedia.

Perhaps the transformation of the Temple of Augustus into a museum of monumental architecture, which occurred in the 19th century, was the impetus for the founding of another museum dedicated to the study of the culture of the ancient Istrian peninsula.

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Although the collection of historical material assembled by the French commander Marmont had been assembled by him much earlier, the idea of such a museum could not be realized until 1925.

Since then, his collection has been steadily enlarged, and it is now a rich collection, with numerous exhibits telling of the historical abundance of the region. A visit to the museum will turn into a fascinating journey through its halls, beginning with prehistoric caves and ending with Byzantine marble petroglyphs found during the excavations of the first city cathedral.

Address: Archaeological Museum of Istria, Carrarina ulica, Pula, Croatia,

Franciscan Complex

Franciscan Complex

Franciscan Complex.

To the east of the Forum, at the foot of the hill, a well-preserved architectural complex shines in the sunlight. It consists of the Church of St. Francis and the Franciscan monastery with the same name.

The Franciscan cathedral dates back to the 14th century, when this monastic order first appeared in Pula. Already in the following century the monastery buildings were erected next to the cathedral whose tall windows and elegant facade were a classic example of late Roman architecture.

The inner courtyard of the monastery sometimes resembles a veritable green oasis where, in silence under the canopy of palm trees, one can stop and sit and admire the sculptures of saints and martyrs lurking in the shadows. If you visit the monastery in summer, be prepared to be distracted by little turtles basking in the sun.

Address: Church and Monastery of St. Francis, Uspon Svetog Franje Asiškog, Pula, Croatia.

Kaštel Fortress

Kaštel Fortress

Kaštel Fortress. | Photo: wikimedia.

At the top of the hill, located in the historic center of the city, there is an indispensable attribute of any ancient European city – the Kaštel Fortress. Kaštel Fortress was built in the early 17th century by the Venetians who sought to control the Adriatic.

The elevated location above the city was ideally suited for the construction of the fortress structure. The curved line of the walls of the fortress, which resembled a star, was an innovative idea at the time to protect the city from possible attack.

For a long time Kaštel fortress fulfilled its defensive functions perfectly and was a reliable stronghold protecting Pula and its strategically important harbor. If you climb the still strong walls, you can see the watchtower and the cannons. Kaštel Fortress is not only an open-air museum, but it is one of the venues (along with the Arena) of the International Film Festival of Pula, which is held there every July.

Address: Kaštel, Gradinski uspon, Pula, Croatia.

Hercules Gate

Hercules' Gate

Hercules Gate. | Photo: wikimedia.

This is the second, but by no means the last gate of Pula, which seems to be more modest compared to the Arc de Triomphe, for example. Nevertheless, the Hercules Gate is one of the oldest monuments of Roman heritage in the city.

On the arch you can still see the image of Hercules, a bearded giant with a club in his hand. But if you look closely, you can also see the names of two Roman citizens – Gaius Cassius Longinus and Lucius Calpurnius Pizonus. In the middle of the 1st century B.C., the Roman Senate commissioned them to establish another Roman colony in Pula. Hercules’ Gate is connected to the ancient city walls that for a long time surrounded and protected the city.

Address: The Gate of Hercules, Giardini 5, 52100, Pula, Croatia.

Small Roman Theatre

Small Roman Theater

Small Roman theater. | Photo: wikimedia.

The arena is not the only amphitheater in the city; before it was built, an earlier and smaller amphitheater entertained the citizens. It probably got this name later, after it became possible to compare the two finished structures.

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In fact, the Small Roman Theater was not so small: in its heyday it could seat up to 5,000 spectators and was used for various celebrations and festivities. After the advent of the Arena, the Small Amphitheater gradually began to decline, and its stone blocks were stolen by the population for construction needs.

The city authorities plan to restore its original and quite roomy appearance, and after that Pula will have another venue for public events.

Address: Little Roman Theatre, Hercuov prolaz, Pula, Croatia.




The original approach of Croatian oceanologists to the idea of creating an aquarium within the walls of the historical Austro-Hungarian military fortress “Verudela” is one of the reasons for its enormous popularity. In this aquarium, the largest in Croatia, an impressive collection of not only marine, but also freshwater dwellers are gathered.

The spacious construction of the fort has allowed for a harmonious combination of tanks with various representatives of the sea and river depths, the only turtle conservation center in the country, and an entire room dedicated to walruses. In the former atrium of the fort there is a separate aquarium with several species of sharks, which attracts crowds of visitors.

Address: Aquarium Pula, Pula, Croatia.

Town Hall

Town Hall

Town Hall | Photo: wikimedia

Let’s return to the Forum once again to see another distinctive structure with an unusual history. It is the City Hall, which is a mixture of several architectural styles – due to the fact that the building retains traces of several reconstructions, the history of which also began in the 1st century BC.

At first it was a temple of the goddess Diana, which over time gradually began to take on the function of the town hall. In the 13th century, it was replaced by the current building, but the masonry of the original temple is still visible at the back of the current structure. The town hall is not very tall, but it is an elegant building that harmoniously blends in with the overall architectural ensemble of the Forum.

Address: Trg Forum, Forum, Pula, Croatia.

Cape Kamenjak

Cape Kameniak

Cape Kamenjak.

Tired of urban attractions you can diversify your leisure time by observing the natural beauties of Croatia. A perfect place for this is at the southern tip of Istria, the rocky Cape Kamenjak, beyond which begins a whole group of enticing islets.

The cape lies on an elongated, rugged peninsula where pine forests alternate with the rugged beauty of Martian landscapes of varying heights of bare rock, sometimes forming a shallow entrance to the water. However, everyone can find a place to his liking: a long chain of cozy coves and bays, formed by a winding coastline, offers a wide choice.

Address: Rt Kameњak, Premantura, Croatia.

Brijuni National Park

National Park Brijuni

Brijuni National Park.

The only way to reach the Brijuni archipelago from Pula is through the neighboring town of Fažana, where a regular ferry service operates. In 20 minutes of a short boat ride you enter a magical tropical paradise with lush vegetation and amazing animals.

The fact that Brijuni – a reserve, a walk through which turns into a fascinating adventure, the actors that you and the animals living here: zebras, horses, antelope, goats and elephants. The stunning flora of the park intoxicates with exotic scents and ends only at the water’s edge, which are often secluded bays with dazzling white sandy beaches and crystal clear water.

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You can explore the islands of the archipelago for 24 hours, so it is possible that you will want to use the services of several hotels located on the islands. In addition to close acquaintance with their amazing flora and fauna, the islands offer another curiosity – paleontological. Footprints of prehistoric dinosaurs were found on four of the 14 islands of the archipelago, which many want to see.

But that’s not all: it turns out that the beauty of these flat islands already attracted the ancient Romans thousands of years ago. On Brijuni you can see not only the remains of Roman buildings, but also the ruins of the Templar Church.

Address: Brijuni National Park, Fažana, Croatia.

Austro-Hungarian Fortresses

Austro-Hungarian Fortresses

Austro-Hungarian Castles.

During the Austro-Hungarian era, Pula was the main seaport of the empire. Those times did not pass without a trace: they left the city a large collection of coastal military fortifications.

In total, Pula has 26 surviving forts. Batteries, trenches and tunnels remain in the city, some of which continue to wage an unequal battle with nature, where the latter inevitably wins.

All forts are distinguished by their circular shape, considered most successful for repelling artillery strikes. While in Pula, you can easily become the owner of a map of the location of all the forts and explore them during your walks through the city. What is particularly noteworthy is that many of them, such as Fort Bourguignon or Fort Punta Cristo, are located on the tops of hills, from where you can enjoy stunning views of Pula.

Address: Austrohungarian Fortress Punta Christo, Pula, Croatia.

Luminous Giants Show

Luminous Giants

The Luminous Giants show. | Photo: wikimedia.

When in Pula, don’t miss the daily light show that begins at the oldest shipyard in the world, Uljanik, at 9 p.m. sharp each evening. Designer Dean Skira decided to light up the legendary cranes of this shipyard and now they shimmer in 16,000 different shades, illuminating everything around them and reflecting in the harbor water. Don’t worry if you walk up to the shipyard and don’t see anything: it means that the show is not constantly on, but every 15 minutes to an hour.

Address: Lighting Giants, 52100, Pula, Croatia.

Mythological mosaic depicting the punishment of Dirki

Mythological mosaic depicting the punishment of Dirky

Mosaic with mythological depiction of Dirka’s punishment.| Photo: bishib70 / Flickr.

One of the most intriguing things about Pula is that reminders of its ancient Roman heritage can appear here in the most unexpected places. One such place, a perfectly preserved 3rd-century floor mosaic, is hidden behind the parking lot on Flaciusova Street. The central panel of the mosaic, surrounded by geometric motifs, depicts a plot from ancient Greek mythology: the punishment of a girl by tying her to the horns of a bull. It is said that it is almost impossible to find the mosaic “Dirka’s Punishment” without a guide.

Address: Roman Floor Mosaic, Ul. Sergijevaca 18, 52100, Pula, Croatia.

Zerostrasse Tunnels

Zerostrasse Tunnels

Zerostrasse Tunnels.

The “Zerostrasse” is an underground tunnel system that was built in Pula during the First World War. It served to shelter the inhabitants of the city from the raids and was an ammunition storage facility. Now the Zerostrasse houses a photo exhibition about the first steps of aviation in Poole. There are three entrances to the exhibit, one of which is located at the cab rank on Giardini Street. To get to the photo exhibit, located in the middle of the interwoven underground tunnels, you have to walk for a while through one of them.

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