News Top 15 attractions and things to do in Pula and Rovinj

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Top 15 attractions and things to do in Pula and Rovinj

Pula offers an abundance of sandy shores and fresh seafood on a city break in Croatia. Rovinj is the Italian cherry on the top of this pretty peninsula - here are the best ways to discover it.

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1. Walk with the Romans at Pula Arena

Tiny Pula is home to the world’s sixth largest surviving Roman amphitheatre, built to accommodate 22,000 spectators in the 1st century BC, despite Pula’s population being closer to 5,000 at the time. Explore its remarkably intact outer walls, which still stand sentry over the port. From here, plan your route along sandal-smoothed streets tangling their way through the Old Town to the Roman Forum, now a café-flanked square that is Pula’s premier people-watching spot.

Opening hours: 8am-12pm during summer, 8am-7pm October-April
Tickets: 70kn per adult, 30kn per child
Address: Scalierova ul. 30, 52100, Pula

2. Follow the pirates down Limski Kanal

Gather yer shipmates and go a swashbucklin’ up Limski Kanal, a deep inlet that was once the favourite haunt of local pirates. They used it as a base to attack the Venetians but today it’s used to cultivate oysters and mussels instead, and is the best place to shuck and slurp the local shellfish, washed down with a dry Istrian malvazija at a table overlooking the water. Head to Fjord restaurant for the freshest fish, served up on a terrace overlooking the water.

How to get to Limski Kanal: Tours go from Pula and Rovinj. The tour starts at 9am from Pula, and returns at 6.30pm.
Tickets: 300kn per person
Address: Limski Zaljev, Croatia

3. Get on your bike in Zlatni

Zlatni rt Forest Park is closed to cars so you’ll have to explore its indigenous plantlife on two wheels instead. Start in Rovinj, Istria’s most Italian town and one presided over by a miniature St. Mark’s – the slender, confectionary-coloured St Euphemia’s bell tower. Photo opportunities abound en route, as you cycle from the small harbour, where luxury yachts moor alongside wooden fishing boats, to the headland’s pebbly beaches, lapped by water the colour of liquefied glacier mints.

4. Up the population of the world’s smallest town

Ok, so it’s self-declared, but Hum has good claim to be the smallest town in the world. Its chunky stone farmhouses house just 17 people, but they still have all the attributes of a major town, from honey-hued Medieval wall to an oversized neo-Baroque church. Take a seat on the terrace of the town’s only konoba and enjoy the peace and quiet over a shot of humska biska – a mistletoe brandy the locals swear will cure almost anything.

How to get to Hum from Pula: You can get to Hum using the local bus, but the easiest way to get there is by rental car.
Address: Hum, Croatia

5. Hop over to Tito’s island on Brijuni

Long an offshore paradise, the Brijuni Islands became the private retreat of President Tito after World War Two. He turned Veli Brijun, the largest, into something of a playground and today you can take a boat trip over here, to ride the miniature train which passes grand villas en route to a safari park still stocked with Tito’s animals. These include elephants from Gandhi, and Koki the yellow-crested cockatoo, who chirrups phrases taught to him by the Yugoslav leader.

How to get to the Brijuni National Park: You’ll need to catch a boat to Fazana, 8km north of Pula. It takes 20 minutes to get to Veliki Brijuni.
Tickets: You can catch a tour from Pula for 300kn per person, which will take you around a number of the islands as well as the Tito exhibition.
Address: Brijuni Islands

6. Jump off Kamenjak cliff

Cape Kamenjak sits at Istria’s far end, beckoning visitors away from the slick resorts further north. The spiky heathland here runs down to a craggy coastline where sheer-sided fingers of rock splay out into the Adriatic in all directions and shelter tiny coves backed by pebbly beaches. You could just sit and sunbathe but this is also one of Europe’s best cliff-jumping hotspots, those rocky fingers offering up launchpads some 70 feet high and tempting you to jump.

How to get to Kamenjak: The 28 bus runs from Pula to Kamenjak, but you’ll need to rent a bike for the rest of the journey. It’s easier to reach the park if you have rented a car in Pula.
Address: Rt Kamenjak, 52100, Premantura, Croatia

7. Dig for gastronomic gold

The Motovun forest hides a secret. Here under a shady canopy of oak trees the unpromising looking dirt harbours gastronomic gold: black and white truffles the size of cricket balls – and larger. Don the wellies and follow truffle hunter Ivica Kalcic and his dogs into the woods to sniff them out before indulging in a truffle-drenched lunch at Restauran Zigante. You may want to skip the truffle ice cream though – taking it a little too far, perhaps?

Opening hours: 12am-11pm daily
Address: Livade 7, Livade

8. Bathe au naturel

Swimmers are not only attracted to Istria for its position on the Adriatic, those in the know head inland instead, to the natural water features of Kotli. At this more or less abandoned village, the River Mirna gurgles its way down through a series of small bowls carved out of the limestone, creating al fresco whirlpool baths backed by waterfalls tumbling over the rocks in lacy veils.

How to get to Kotli from Pula: The easiest way to get here is by driving from Pula. It’s one hour away from the city.
Address: Kotli, Istria, Croatia

9. Drink with James Joyce

Well, a statue of him, at least. Pula was briefly home to the Irish writer, and Uliks café bar honours this with a life-sized bronze statue of Joyce sitting on one of the chairs on its terrace. This was once the language school Joyce taught in, now it’s a place to linger over coffee and debate why Joyce failed to fall in love with Pula, instead calling it a “naval Siberia”.

Opening Hours: 6am-2am daily
Address: Trg Portarata, 52100, Pula

10. Admire the view from Saint Euphemia Cathedral in Rovinj

It’s believed that St Euphemia was tortured by the Diocletian Emperor for her Christian faith, before she was thrown to the lions (304AD). It’s believed that her body then showed up off the coast of Rovinj, and it’s now encased in the marble cathedral you’ll see in the cathedral today. The tower of Saint’s Euphemia’s cathedral is worth climbing just for the view of the islands and Adriatic out to the south. You can also catch a glimpse of Rovinj’s terracotta roof topped Old Town.

Opening Hours: 8am-9pm
Tickets: Free to enter
Address: Trg Sv. Eufemije, 52210, Rovinj

11. Discover the Arch of the Sergii

This is an arch that was built to honour the three brothers of the Sergii family, one of the oldest patrician families in Rome. Their sister was the one to have the gate erected, and you’ll see all of their names inscripted on the arch.

Address: The Arch of the Sergii, Pula

12. Walk Zerostrasse

This is the name given to the network of underground tunnels from WW1 in Pula. They were used when the city was under attack for evacuation and shelter from the bombings. You can now walk through the tunnels to the centre to get to a photo exhibition of Pula’s earliest aviation.

Opening Hours: 9am-5pm daily
Tickets: 15kn per adult, 5kn per child
Address: Carrarina ul. 3, 52100, Pula

13. Festival in Fort Punta Christo

The nineteenth century fort at Punta Christo is now home to the popular Outlook festival, that takes place here every summer. DJs like Giggs, Akala and Goldie have previously performed in the magical ampitheatre. The festival is capped off with beautiful weather and boat trips around the venue.

Address: Stinjan, Croatia

14. Hike Bosco Siana

Just 2km outside of Pula, you’ll find a woodland that could have been taken from a fairyland. The park is currently used for cycling and hiking, but it has a heavy history. It was used as a place to relax by the Austro Hungarian soldiers in WW1, and if you ask the guards they’ll tell you the story of a bloody murder that happened here in the thirteenth century.

Address: 52100, Pula

15. Stroll the Old Venetian town of Rovinj

This tiny fisherman’s city is as charming and idyllic as can be. Wander through the streets, between buildings as old as the fourteenth century on your mission to find Balbi’s Arch, built in the seventeenth century. Once you’ve walked your feet into submission, reward yourself with an ice cream from Gelateria Italia (Piazza Campitelli N 60) where you’ll find Rovinj’s best scoop.

Address: Rovinj 52210

How to get to Pula

You can fly directly to Pula from London, Leeds, Manchester, Edinburgh, Bristol, Birmingham or Nottingham. View connecting flights from all other major U.K cities here.

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Where to stay on a city break in Pula

If you’re looking for a hostel:

Flashpack in Boutique Hostel Joyce – with 21 air conditioned rooms, all with flat screen TVs and wireless internet, you’ll be very comfortable.

If you’re looking for a hotel:

Amifeatar is an affordable option close to the Museum of Istrian Art, and they have plenty of children’s beds too.

If you’re looking for luxury:

Spend each morning soaking up the sunlight, nibbling on fresh figs and sipping coffee on your own balcony in Villa Vulin.

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