Rick Steves recommends no more than 1 day in Pula, Croatia.
The Travel Medley, in the spirit of a slow, relaxing summer, stayed there for 1 month.
For the most part, we worked. (Which is kind of a weird way to spend an entire month when we had JUST quit our jobs to travel the world.)
But we both had side projects we loved and were excited to work on. I was blogging my little tail off for The Travel Medley and practicing my hand lettering. Michael was creating an iPhone game from scratch.
And so we stayed in Pula for 1 month. It was beautiful, cheap, and the perfect home away from home.
Soooo if you find yourself in Pula, Croatia (whether for one day or one month), here are some things you can do.
1) Learn some of the language.
Honestly, I feel like this should ALWAYS be the first thing you do – any time you travel, anywhere in the world. It’s only polite.
The Croatians walking along the street are not Disney World characters. You shouldn’t just grab somebody and start speaking English to them or snapping pictures.
Plus, Croatian is awesome.
Okay, fine. This was kind of a cheap shot. I promise all of the other things on this “12 Things To Do” list are more legit than this.
BUT SERIOUSLY. Learn the language. Please. Do it.
Your interactions with the locals will be so much richer, and you will enjoy your time in Croatia so much more.
2) Go to the Pula Arena
This is the one of the most well preserved Roman amphitheatres in the world. (Click for a lil geography refresher, to see how ridiculously close Croatia and Italy are.)
The Pula Arena was completed around the same time as the Colosseum (ya know, the big one in Rome), but it’s in much better shape and has approximately 100% fewer crowds.
The Pula Arena is huge, and it’s remarkably intact for being built from 27-68 AD. It’s also remarkably intact for occasionally being used as a filming location, and regularly hosting music concerts.
Whatever. Everyone just hangs out on the ancient Roman ruins in Croatia. Apparently this is fine.
3) See more ruins!
Pula’s Old Town has more Roman ruins. And more people hanging out on them.
The above picture is the Temple of Augustus. You can also see the Arch of Sergius, the Twin Gates, an old Roman theatre, and part of another temple – which has been incorporated into the Town Hall building.
Essentially, just wander around and you’re sure to see more ancient Roman treasures.
4) Go to the beach
I’m pretty sure Americans still don’t know about Croatia’s crystal clear, turquoise beaches. Because every time I told someone we were going to Croatia, they would ask “why???” and I would tell them to search Croatia on Google Images, and then they would suddenly understand.
There are several great beaches located at the end of the #2 or #3 bus route from downtown Pula. (A bus ticket is roughly $1.50 USD, so this is an amazingly cheap and awesome way to spend a day or two… or an entire month.)
The beaches are pretty rocky, so you can either 1) tough it out on your towel, 2) rent a chair, or 3) take a float & lay in the water.
Ahhhhhh y’all. These beaches are my happy place. I could lay out on the water for hours. But if you need more of an activity…
5) Go stand up paddleboarding!!!
Admittedly, if you’ve never done this before, the beach is a tricky place to try it. Because there are waves, and boats, and wind.
But there were plenty of people SUP-ing for the first time, and if you fall in the water, it’s just a nice refreshing dip in that gloriously clear water.
Metta Float is located right off the Verudela resort, and you can either book a paddle tour with them, or rent paddleboards by the hour and do your own thing.
Either way, DO ITTTT. SUP is the best.
6) Visit the harbor
Okay, I won’t lie. This isn’t super exciting unless you’re really into boats.
Pula is right along the Adriatic Sea, and it was under control of several different empires throughout history. At one point, this harbor was Austria’s main naval base and shipbuilding center. So when you think about this shipyard being open since 1856, that’s pretty cool, I guess.
And nearby, you can also…
7) Visit Pula’s WWII monument
This is a monument to fallen fighters and victims of fascism (as roughly translated from the inscription on the front of the statue).
In 1941, Yugoslavia was pretty quickly conquered by the Axis forces, but there was still plenty of local opposition. There were about 600,000 Yugoslavian casualties in WWII. This monument immortalizes some of those people that died fighting for what they believe in.
8) Go to the Museum of Contemporary Art of Istria
If you’re looking for art, this museum is located inside the old printing house, also near the harbor.
If you wander in and are confused by the giant open room without any people, just go up a few flights of empty stairs, and then you’ll see the reception desk. Admission is $1.50 USD.
Everything is from the 20th century, with rotating art and artists. While we were there, it featured paintings by Paulina Jazvić.
(Plus, the museum had fun toilets!)
9) Wander around and look at street art
There’s also plenty of non-museum art to be seen.
I love random art murals. Whether they’re just street graffiti or something slightly more legit.
Hey, Herman. I see you!
So you should totally walk around and see some random art. It’s everywhere.
10) Go to the market hall
There’s a marketplace in downtown Pula, open every day. It has a fish stall, fresh fruits and veggies, and of course, PASTRIES.
There are also various souvenirs, like postcards, towels, shot glasses, etc. And sunglasses.
And if you’re really lucky, you might also stumble upon a random local market that’s more like a giant street garage sale.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t know when or how often this happens. (And I couldn’t find it anywhere on the internet.) But I can tell you that we accidentally stumbled upon it on Flanatička Street, on the second Saturday of July, around 3:00 in the afternoon.
There were lots of antiques, trinkets, and war artifacts. (And to me, it was about a million times more interesting than the other, more touristy market.)
11) Eat delicious food
Okay, I already briefly touched on this point with the pastries (THERE ARE BAKERIES EVERYWHERE – PLEASE EAT ALL THE PASTRIES)… but y’all, there’s even more delicious food to be had. So don’t stop there!
Our favorite restaurant was Kantina Pula, at Flanatička 16. It has traditional Istrian and Mediterranean food, with a focus on local products and fish straight from the Adriatic Sea.
I got pljukanci (spindle-shaped homemade pasta) with ox meat. Also, that white wine is Istrian Malvasia, and it is ON POINT. (If anyone knows where I can get some in Texas, pls let me know.)
We also found fun things at the Billa – which was the grocery store we lived near for a month.
Like little iced coffee juice boxes! And 35 cent chocolate bars!
We also found “guacamole kits” – a little container of all the produce you need to make (phenomenal) guacamole.
So if you want to be a temporary local, totally check out the grocery store! It’s always interesting to see what kinds of foods are available in other countries.
Quick recap: A) ALL THE BAKERIES, B) Istrian restaurants with local food, C) Random, amazing grocery store finds, D) Eat all the delicious food
12) Take a day trip!
Is it cheating to make one of my “things to do in Pula” going somewhere else?
Ummm, I don’t care.
Because Rovinj is less than an hour away and IT IS ABSOLUTELY ADORABLE.
If you can’t tell, I have very strong feelings about Rovinj. They can be summarized as follows:
I’m serious, y’all. Don’t miss out. YOU MUST GO THERE OR I WILL YELL AT YOU IN ALL CAPS. (Unless you’re an American, in which case, stay away.)
And now I’m starting to get feisty, so let’s wrap this post up…
WOOOOO okay, so that was my 12 things for you to do!
It’s true. Pula is small. It has a population of 60,000 people, and we could walk across the entire city in about 45 minutes.
It’s not really on people’s radars.
And this is the airport.
But I give you permission to ignore Rick Steves when he says to spend, “two or three hours” in Pula, and “there’s no reason to spend the night.”
Because after a month here, Pula was like a second home to me. And it has plenty to offer for those willing to explore.
Do I really need to say more?
HEY. Did you enjoy this post? Are you traveling to Croatia soon?
Check out my other blog posts on this beautiful country!
- Snapshots of Pula
- Dear Americans, Don’t Go to Rovinj
- We Used Pokemon GO to Explore Rijeka (Yes, Really)
- The Peek&Poke Museum Lets You Peek AND Poke
- Feel Free to Skip Zadar
- Zadar Reviews The Travel Medley
- Split Music Jamz
- My Quest to Spread Picigin to the Masses
- Sweet Talk (Plus Chalk!)
- Hvar, Croatia: Beyoncé, Cake, and Other Things
- Amazing Views in Dubrovnik and Where to Find Them
ThaimerApril 16, 2017
Is rick steeve relly some reference to US tourists? I read somewhere that he give advice for cheap travel, but then I saw group of americans coming with RS agency on their “east european tour” and what’s best that tour cost what a fucking fuck 4500$ Per person WITHOUT flights to/from europe for fucking 16 days. Really cheap.
IstraApril 17, 2017
I’ve lived in Istra, Porec my whole life, and I am very surprised you enjoyed Pula that much. Comparing to Rovinj, Porec, Vrsar, Novigrad… Pula is really not a very preety city, but you definitely took the best out of it. Glad you liked it Istra this much! If you ever come again, consider spending your time in other cityies, plus take a roadtrip to Groznjan, Motovun(Google it, you will understand) 🙂
And very admirable that you took the time to learn some croatian, you girl are not a tipical american, bravo for you! 🙂 plus you know whats good! Malvazija all day every day!
But since you have an airport in Pula, Rt Kamenjak is a must see there. And Opatija as a city also!
walterSeptember 6, 2017
I’m actually moving to Pula next week so it was nice to read your post.
Although I know quite a few locals and I’m sure they have the inside scoop, when you go to a place you always look at it differently than locals do (at least I did the last 9 times I moved to another country 😀 ).
So (as we have a saying in dutch that translates to:”forward/cheeky people own half the world), any must do/must know tips for daily living that aren’t in here?
BriSeptember 9, 2017
Thanks for your comments, and kudos on not choosing Zadar as your new home (haha, JK!)
That’s exciting that you’re moving to Pula! I thought it was a fun city. It’s a great hub for exploring Istria, and of course, the proximity to Rovinj is awesome.
I’m sure you will get plenty of tips from the locals and learn a lot by just wandering around on your own! The Lighting Giants (cranes lit up at night) are cool – I wouldn’t call them a “must see,” but if you’re going to live there, might as well meander down to the harbor at night sometime. Since I grew up in Texas, I also appreciated El Pulari Parasol for some “Mexican” food in Croatia! (Not super authentic, but very different from the other restaurants in town.)
Most of my favorite things are already in this post! I’m a big fan of wandering around and popping into random bakeries and bars. (None of them disappointed me in Pula!) Enjoy your new home & have a glass of malvazija for me. Živjeli! 🙂
Karen LowApril 15, 2018
Hi Bri, your info is brilliant, thank you very much for posting this. Can you please tell me where the inflatables on the water are and do you have to book in advance to go on them?
BriApril 24, 2018
Glad you enjoyed the post! The inflatables are on the beach right by the Metta Float SUP rentals and Verudela resort. I don’t think they require an advance reservation, but it’s possible things may have changed since I was there! Hope you have fun on the beach 🙂
LisanneJuly 7, 2018
Nice post which is very helpful for my trip to Pula in september!
The idea with a daytrip to Rovinj is very nice, but can you tell, where the place exactly is, where the picture with the small chair and table at the water was taken?
Greetings from Germany!
BriJuly 12, 2018
I’m glad you found this post helpful. And YES, please go to Rovinj!!! The picture of the table and chair is taken right outside of a clothing boutique – down some stairs on a tiny back street almost directly across from Hotel Angelo d’Oro <3
RominaFebruary 26, 2019
I’m really glad to read this nice text about the town where I was born. It is always quite interesting to read what people from other parts of the world think about our city, us and our customs. If I may, i would like to add one important detail to your sentence “Pula is a small town”: “… where at least 50 bands actively plays at every moment”. Pula is strongly connected with one certain type of music. In fact, it is popularly known as Pula Rock City – and this Pula travel guide explaines the reason why. In other words, when it comes to “what to do in Pula”, music-related things represent a great variety of possibilities 🙂
VeronikaJuly 23, 2021
I’ve been dying to visit Croatia for a while now, this has just inspired even more cravings for this country. Thinking about renting a yacht with https://yachting.com/en-gb/croatia-yaccht-charter. Thanks for the inspiration, I seriously think I’ll find myself booking a yacht there next paycheck!
Love the photo heavy posts sometimes, they say a picture tells a thousand words 🙂