The most logical place to begin your Istria itinerary is in Pula, the largest city in the region and also home to the international airport. Pula has a fascinating history dating back thousands of years and it is a city that is very worth exploring. Plan to spend three nights here in order to get a good feel for the city, appreciate its history, and also explore some of the surrounding areas. These are our suggestions for things to do in Pula:
Perhaps the most iconic site in Pula is its imposing Roman amphitheatre, located right in the centre of town. Constructed between 27 BCE and 68 CE, it was originally used for gladiator games and had a capacity for 23,000 spectators. Still excellently preserved today, it operates as a tourist attraction and a venue for concerts and cultural events like the Pula Film Festival.
Though smaller in size to the Coliseum in Rome, there is an undeniable grandeur to the Pula Arena and its distinct lack of tourist crowds only amplifies this. Entry to the amphitheatre costs 50 HRK for adults and 25 HRK for students, seniors, and children.
Winding underneath central Pula is a series of tunnels that were originally commissioned to be built by Tito to serve as a bunker. Now it is possible to wander through these tunnels, called Zerostrasse, and see them for yourselves. In the present day, the tunnels serve as an art and photo exhibition where you can see photos of Pula past, mostly from the days when it was still part of Yugoslavia and it was a favourite destination of Tito. Entry is 15HRK for adults and 10HRK for students and seniors.
The Brijuni Islands are a fantastic day trip to take from Pula. Located just off the coast from the city, these islands were once served as the summer home for the Yugoslav dictator Josip Broz Tito and today are a nature reserve.
While you can opt to take a day excursion around the islands directly from Pula, the only boat that has permission to actually land on the islands leaves from the nearby town of Fazana. Ferry tickets cost 210HRK for a return journey and leave frequently — they also include a tour of the island on a motorised train.
Rather than taking the packed train, however, we recommend hiring a bicycle and going around the island at your own pace. There you can see the wildlife park — including ostrich, zebras, llamas, and Shetland ponies — that Tito established, maybe hit the golf course, or find a stony beach virtually all to yourself.
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