Pula, Croatia is located near the southern tip of the Istrian Peninsula and is more industrial than other places in Istria. The large cranes in the shipyard, which can be seen on the approach by bus from Rovinj, certify that Pula is a ‘real’ working town, but the preserved historical and architectural features are what prompted our visit to Pula. There are many sights that can be seen with one day in Pula, Croatia, but we were most looking forward to seeing the 1st century amphitheater. Since we were already making the 40-minute trip down, we also added 7 more sights to see on a walking tour through the city center.
Sights to See with One Day in Pula, Croatia: Amphitheater
For timing purposes, I had formulated a plan that would begin in the old town, allowing time for lunch at the market, and – saving the best for last – would end at the amphitheater. But, all that changed when our 10 minute stroll from the bus station landed us directly in front of the main attraction.
The well-preserved Roman structure was completed in 80 A.D. and used until the 5th century for gladiator battles. Man versus man, man versus beast and woman versus women entertained crowds of 25,000 people who cheered on the gruesome and bloody battles.
The fall of Rome and the outlawing of gladiator fights led to the disuse of the amphitheater. Builders used the interior stones and materials for construction elsewhere. But, the majority of the structure is marvelously intact. Its position on a hillside near the water make it even more of a sight.
Sights to See with One Day in Pula, Croatia: Cathedral
We took the shop-lined street from the amphitheater to the town square, stopping briefly at the Cathedral. The church interior is rather plain and is slightly underwhelming, but considering that it dates back to the 5th century A.D. made it a worthy stop.
Sights to See with One Day in Pula, Croatia: Forum and Temple of Augustus
We continued to the town square, still named ‘the Forum’, and were wowed with another 1st century relic: the Temple of Augustus. On the square, it is the only building that survives from that time. Next to the Temple of Augustus is the town hall, which is a mishmash of architecture, and flies five flags: Pula, Istria, Croatia, Italy and European Union.
Sights to See with One Day in Pula, Croatia: Roman Floor Moasic
Leaving the Forum, we only walked a short distance before sidestepping through a building to see two more features of Pula’s preserved past: the Roman Floor Mosaic and the Chapel of St. Maria Formosa. The 2000-year-old mosaic, discovered in the 1940s, lies several feet lower than street level today and tells the story of Dirce, a Greek legend.
Sights to See with One Day in Pula, Croatia: St. Maria Formosa
The Chapel of St. Maria Formosa is all that remains in the large field, but an outline and stones from the basilica can be seen. It dates to the 6th or 7th century, built under the Byzantine rule.
Sights to See with One Day in Pula, Croatia: Arch of Sergius
As we continued on our route, we were getting rather hungry. There were many restaurants offering fast food hamburgers and busy chain bakeries, but we were looking for local specialties. We passed through the Arch of Sergius, another 1st century artifact that marks the original edge of town, before arriving at the market.
Sights to See with One Day in Pula, Croatia: Market Hall
The expansive market hall was already quieting down during our early afternoon arrival, but we found a small crowd at the bakery on the market square. We were looking for quick, local fare and could smell the fresh baked burek – a savory and heavy pastry popular in the region. Without asking if the clerk spoke English, I rattled off my order: One burek with meat, one burek with cheese, but it wasn’t understood. The man in line behind me helped translate and I felt certain we were at a truly traditional spot. The price for each heaping portion cost only $1 USD, leaving plenty of money to also splurge on dessert.
Sights to See with One Day in Pula, Croatia: Fort Kastel and Roman Theater
With full stomachs (and a tinge of regret from eating both the burek and dessert), we started our climb to Fort Kastel on the hill. The fort now houses a museum, which we weren’t interested in seeing. Instead, we wanted to tromp around the grounds, get a better view of the amphitheater and check out the remains of the Small Roman Theater.
We had ticked off the boxes on all of Pula’s major sights, but had one more thing we wanted to do while in town. One of our all-time favorite beers, Nova Runda, which is brewed in Zagreb, is on tap at a bar on the outskirts of town. Giving us the opportunity to see the neighborhoods that surround the center, we walked a mile to The Beer Club. We spent the last hour of our one day in Pula, Croatia sipping craft brew before hopping a bus back to Rovinj.
We want to know: Have you visited Pula? What would you add to our list of sights to see with one day in Pula, Croatia? Tell us in the comments!