What to do in Pula, Croatia
On the coast of the Adriatic Sea, Pula in Croatia is a charming city marked by its Roman past – though it was also in the hands of the Slovenes and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it was part of neighbouring Italy until the early 20th century. Nowadays, at the end of cobbled pedestrian streets selling artisan goods from paintings to local wines, pieces of history remain standing.
The Istrian area is also known for its beautiful coastlines and myriad sailing opportunities. With a relaxed pace of life that’s inevitably absorbed by its visitors, no wonder Pula has become a trending destination, with BA the latest airline to fly there from the UK. Tempted? The Citybond team highlights just some of the best attractions on offer.
Experience the amphitheatre
Top on the sightseeing list should be The Arena, Pula’s amphitheatre built in the 1st century AD. Similar in look to The Colosseum in Rome, it’s the sixth largest ancient amphitheatre that exists today. When it was built, it was used for gladiatorial combats in front of an audience of 23,000. It’s still in use today, with municipal events, concerts and the Pula Film Festival taking place within its well-kempt walls. Pay it a visit both during the day and in the evening to see the structure in two different lights.
Close to Italy and with favourable soil, one of Pula’s proud boasts is that it has excellent truffle hunting opportunities nearby. In fact, Istria once had the world record for the largest truffle, which weighed in at 1.3kg. Though professional hunters are sometimes territorial over their patches, local food tours have sussed out areas to take guests within the forests of Oprtalj, Livade and Buzet to search out these prized delicacies. They’re often combined with a visit to restaurants that serve truffle-infused dishes, as well as to Istria’s winemakers. For any foodie, it’s a valued – and tasty – experience.
Take a day trip to the world’s smallest city
An hour’s drive from Pula lies the smallest city in the world: Hum. If you believe the legend, it was made with the few stones left over from when giants built the larger towns around the Mirna Valley. Today, it’s known for its tiny population of 30, though still classified as a city by Croatia. Despite its small size, it elects a mayor every year and is known for producing Biska, a brandy that follows a 2,000 year old recipe by spicing it with mistletoe. If this aspect sounds intriguing, you could head over at the end of October for its Grappa festival.
Admire the Lighting Giants
One of the must-see spectacles of Pula is its Lighting Giants: a light installation that brightens up the Uljanik shipyard. Unveiled by renowned lighting designer Dean Skira in 2014, the project took 14 years to realise. Four times an evening, on the hour, the dominant skyline of the shipyard cranes are illuminated in a 15-minute show that involves 16,000 different colour schemes and patterns. Better still, holidays and special events are granted a special show of their own. The reaction from both locals and visitors has been overwhelmingly positive - it’s a thoroughly modern twist for one of the world’s oldest docks.
Amble around Pula Market
While it’s unlikely there’s a pressing need for fresh vegetables or fish on holiday, Pula Market is still worth a morning trip. Found at the end of Flanaticka Ulica, its colours and characters tell of the vibrancy of Pula. Outdoors, the fruit and vegetable stands offer a wide range of Croatian favourites, or look for their specialty of lavender-infused honey or dried figs to take home. Within the impressive 19th century Art Noveau building, you’ll find sellers of all descriptions including the popular fish market – Istrians travel here specially to pick up live lobsters, mussels and Brancin (sea perch).
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