Thanks to its strategic location at the southern end of the Istrian Peninsula, Pula has long been an important city. Its ancient Roman monuments are a testament to that and give visitors a chance to take a step back in time. Start with the superb Arena, one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheaters in the world. Remarkably, large parts of the amphitheater's interior are still intact. You can even stroll through the underground passages that led gladiators to the fight.
You'll see more ancient monuments at the Forum, which has been the beating heart of the city since the days of the Romans. You can admire the history here, but it's also often home to modern events and festivities. The undisputed highlight of the Forum is the Temple of Augustus. Over 2,000 years old, this building is in exceptional condition. It was originally built as a temple during the reign of Augustus and later converted into a church when Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire.
While you're in town, you'll find historic monuments from later eras, too. Kastel, a 17th-century Venetian fortress, is set high on a hill. This star-shaped castle was used to defend Pula from invaders. Visitors can walk along the ramparts and get a closer look at the cannons.
Rent a car in Pula to head out to Cape Kamenjak. This craggy, rocky outcrop is a wonderful spot for a walk. Gaze out over the clear waters of the Adriatic Sea at the tiny islands scattered across the horizon. This headland has a stark, dramatic atmosphere, but the water here is perfectly suitable for swimming. You'll find the best beaches on the west side of the cape, with rustic rocky steps leading all the way down to the water. Some daring locals even jump from the high rocks into the sea!
Renting a car or van in Pula will also let you visit Brijuni National Park, which covers several off-shore islands. Drive to the town of Fazana to catch a boat out to the park, which is ripe for exploring! White beaches, dark forests and ancient dinosaur footprints are just a few of the attractions. The ruins of a Roman villa and a church of the Knights Templar also stand here. It's a great place to spend a whole day. Fazana itself, with its beautiful beaches and fun water park, is also worth more than just a fleeting visit. It's particularly popular for families with kids, as the water here is gentle and shallow, ideal for youngsters to take a dip.
Driving in Pula
Pula is primarily a tourist destination. This means that rush hour traffic is not a concern, but in the summer months, parking can be tricky. The city is divided into five parking zones. Only residents can park in Zone 5, but other areas are open for visitors. Specific rules govern each zone.
Parking costs can vary significantly between zones. Prices are higher close to the old town, which is a pedestrian area. Wherever you park, you can either pay at an on-street parking meter – making sure you are carrying enough cash – or via text.
Parking fees are in place from May 1st through September 30th, from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm every day of the week. During the rest of the year, parking fees apply from Monday through Saturday from 7:00 am to 8:00 pm. You can park for free on Sundays and public holidays.
You can expect traffic to be at its busiest during summer weekends when both domestic and national tourists flock to the coast. If you're staying in Croatia for a longer period, you might want to plan your trip so you'll be exploring Pula on weekdays.
Visiting Pula in the off-season is an attractive choice for those who want to avoid crowds. You'll need to be aware of the road rules, though. Headlights must be switched on from November 1st through March 31st. In the area of Istria, you do not need snow tires or snow chains. However, in other parts of Croatia, they are mandatory. If you are planning a longer road trip across the country, be sure to check the relevant rules beforehand.
There are several toll roads connecting Croatia's large cities. You can pay tolls with cash or card. It's worth checking your planned route before you travel, as the prices of tolls vary and are quite expensive in some places! In general, roads are well-maintained unless you veer off onto quiet country lanes. Even village roads in Croatia are generally in good condition. Back roads may be very twisty and narrow, and are popular with cyclists, so take care. Watch out for animals when driving off the beaten track, and don't be surprised if you get stuck behind a tractor!