I had the nicest time in Pula both times I have visited the area. It is a lesser known destination in Croatia and I wanted to tell everyone just how great a place it was to visit so let us dive in to things to do in Pula!
Where is Pula?
Pula, for those who do not know, is located along the coast of Croatia in the north, in a region called Istria. The town and surrounding area are rich with Roman history and the coastline is absolutely stunning.
Little did I know when writing this post originally in 2018 I would end up back in the area a year later, leading me to wine a post on things to do in Medulin, which you can read about if you want more information about Istria and what there is to do in the region!
Amazingly, considering it was August, the place was not too crowded. It wasn’t deserted, but it was not too difficult to find a spot on the beach or a seat in a restaurant, which was perfect.
How to get to Pula
More and more of the UK’s budget airlines are putting on regular flights here, so we decided to go now before it gets too popular like other areas of Croatia.
We flew from Stansted on a direct Ryanair flight, which lasted 1hour 55min and incredibly was not late! I know I was shocked too. The coach from Victoria, on the other hand, was zero fun and took forever to get through central London and I will not be persuaded to do that again!
I would not recommend flying from Southend, unless you live in Essex, if your flight is delayed getting back there it is a pricey taxi to London…!
We stayed in a Park Plaza called Arena in a secluded little bay which had its own beach away from the main one, which was great. It had a pool and some sun loungers and hammocks in the shaded area between the hotel and the beach, but we didn’t spend any time there as the beach was prettier. It also had one of the most insane breakfast buffets I have ever seen and I even had cheesecake for breakfast one day which I was pretty pleased about.
The room was perfectly ok, pretty standard double room all being said, it did have a balcony but facing the car park!
We spent most of our first day on the beaches near our hotel, enjoying a swim and making use of our new toy, a GoPro Hero 2018, which we really bought for Vietnam but it seemed a good idea to test it out now and get a feel for it – side note we are super impressed with it and really enjoyed having it with us and would definitely recommend investing – the basic model which came out in April 2018 which we got is only £199.99 but if you feel fancy it’s more sophisticated siblings are available, but it has the app and wi-fi capability and the waterproofing which was what we wanted! Also recommend the floating handle so you can drop it without it sinking to the bottom of the ocean!
The beaches were pretty, if somewhat busy and full of children. They are also all stony beaches in the area so it was hard to lie comfortably for too long, but this gave us a good excuse to go find some lunch, which we did at a nice restaurant on the Marina. Craig had some Seafood, because coast. I had salad, because fussy – this was rather a trend as I only ate pasta, pizza or salad the whole time oops. We also had our first bottle of Croatian wine which was pretty tasty.
We then went to their roof terrace for drinks and my ‘I am in Europe so I must drink all the Radler’ brain kicked in.
Sunset dinner and cocktails were obviously a must for that evening so we went to a cool place near the busier main bit of beach which we had been to. We both had tasty pizzas and spent the sunset taking in the views.
The cocktail bar we went to was owned by the same establishment (E&D Lounge and Grill) and their cocktails were cheap, strong and tasty, just as one hopes on holiday! Plus they had a delightful fountain/pond and we saw a really fluffy dog.
Pula town centre
The next day after another beach trip where someone took their phone swimming (smooth) we headed off to explore the town to go and find the Colosseum and other fun Roman things. We began with the Temple of Augustus, which is right in the square and obviously had to have a beer there to admire it. Then we found a lovely square to have al fresco lunch in, before heading to the Colosseum. We got lost on the way but we found an amphitheatre on route which was pretty cool, and the castle, which we didn’t actually venture into.
The entry wasn’t cheap but it was so worth it. I’ve never been to Rome and this was my first genuine Colosseum experience. It is pretty incredible how large it is! And how well preserved! It did have a stage in it which was being dismantled, which rather ruined the photos as they use it as an actual arena but oh well.
After a wander along the harbour and back through town, we found ice cream and a waterside pub for pre-dinner drinks. Then we headed to the famous Jupiter Pizzeria, which we had both found online and wanted to check out for cheap but delicious pizzas in a really cool terrace setting.
We had to wait 10 minutes for a table but it was completely worth it, we had more Croatian wine and some traditional Croatian liqueur which the waiter recommended, still not sure what it was but it tasted of berries and was surprisingly pleasant!
We decided to wander back to the square for post-dinner drinks and there was a rock band playing on the steps of the temple with the temple all lit up which was random but cool. We then went to another bar which we had seen earlier, called the Old Square Bar, where we had a drink however much to our chagrin we seemed to have found all the hen parties/stag parties/loud English tourists, so we didn’t hang around too long and got an Uber back to the hotel.
Brijuni National Park
On the Saturday we had prebooked a ferry to the national park island of Brijuni, as the internet had recommended advance bookings. We got there after a slight Uber based debacle and grabbed our tickets and then we were off. The queue was pretty long, so definitely get your tickets in advance if you want to go!
We wanted to take some pictures and at this point the GoPro decided to have a hissy fit which continued all day re battery, which was charged but it kept saying it wasn’t (swift removal of battery and replacing it a minute later seems to have fixed this so fingers crossed it was just dislodged…) so that was nice.
When we got to the island we bought a map, as we did not want to go on the guided tour. There is all sorts to see in the park, but we chose to go in search of the fossilized dinosaur footprints – anyone who knows me will know how much I love dinosaurs – and the Roman ruins for Craig.
We set off and eventually hit the coast on the other side of the island, after being savagely attacked by thousands of giant unidentified flying insects and clambered on the rocky edge for a while, until we eventually found the little dinosaur footprints. They made me very happy.
Then we headed back through the insects to go see the famous Roman villa remains of Brijuni. It was apparently a rather vast thing once, covering most of that bay, but there were just little pieces remaining, which we had a good wander through. It was surprisingly quiet at both of these sights, despite the number of people who had been on the ferry with us, so we assume they all went to the zoo or one of the beaches or did the tours but who knows. It was lovely and peaceful and awesome to get photos without hoards of people in!
Lunch involved beer, truffle cheese and crying children everywhere (the worst). After that we did a little sunbathing and relaxing before heading to the ferry to go back. When we made it back to the mainland we went in search of a bus stop, as we believed there to be a bus back to Pula. We found it, there was one bus every 1-2 hours and we had a solid 40 minute wait, so we practised living like backpackers and bought some tinnies and drank them on the beach whilst we waited.
The bus was not actually that bad and we were dropped off in Pula. We went for a good wander again and then decided to treat ourselves to dinner in the square, which actually was not as expensive as one might assume from experience in other European towns and cities. There was no live music that night but we still enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere for one last evening, before heading back at a reasonable time as we had to pack since we had an early start.
Before we did though, we headed down to the beach for one last look, it was pitch black and there were stairs so we didn’t actually go down to it, but we did chill and look up at the stairs from the grassy bank at the top, which was lovely seeing as we don’t ever see stars at home in London.
The next morning was final breakfast time, which I used as an excuse for a waffle and a doughnut (I am still thinking about that waffle with cherries tbh a week on) and then after failing to get an Uber, we had to get a taxi back to the airport.
It wasn’t a big airport, but Craig got his traditional wine from the county and then I insisted we had Radler’s because drinking in airports is mandatory and I hadn’t had chance to try the grapefruit flavour they did, plus 2% is basically non-alcoholic right?
The size was fine this time, but on my next visit I was stuck in the airport for 3 hours which really sucked as there is nothing to do – take some playing cards for sure just in case!
Then we had the fun of a row of small children fighting and screaming for the whole two hours behind us on the plane. But we made it to a pub in time for a pub lunch whilst watching the football so all was good.
I would definitely recommend the north coast of Croatia, it was really pretty and I imagine if you went off season, very quiet, given how non-busy it felt mid-August. I enjoyed my first trip to the country, another one down on my scratch map and my second of three new countries that I will be visiting this year.
Next stop, Vietnam, can’t wait!
Some points of note / handy tips:
- Uber has been in Pula since April now. Great we thought, much cheaper than regular taxis – the one we got from the airport cost about £25 for the 20 min journey. However, they do not appear to have that many drivers yet. Both on the morning we needed to get to Fazana and the airports, we spent over 40 minutes trying to order a car with no luck and had to resort to regular taxis. Things seemed to pick up in the afternoon / evening, so maybe they just aren’t morning people in Pula, who knows! But worth bearing in mind to order early if its important ie the airport so you have time to get a regular taxi instead if needs be.
- If you go to Brijuni, definitely pre-book the ferry. The queue was massive and it was very busy on the way out so I am not sure it would be wise to turn up on speculation as you may end up waiting a while (ferries are only once per hour!).
- Don’t take your phone into the sea, especially if the screen is already crazy smashed up! Check your pockets before you swim kids!