Istria with its ancient cities, countryside charm and aromatic food is without doubt amazing. I’ve been there twice already and oh, I’ll definitely be back, alright!
Aside from Rovinj, I was most impressed by Pula and Poreč when we’re talking about history and foreign architectural style. All of Istria has been inhabited since prehistoric times so both Pula and Poreč has really fascinating architecture.
Let me show you.
PULA – ANCIENT ROMAN RUINS
Aside from being the largest city in Istria, Pula is best known for its Roman ruins and ancient history. Can you believe it’s 3,000 years old! You instantly get the feeling that it’s larger than other cities in Istria, although it only takes 2-3 hours to see all the major sights around town. There’s a sightseeing bus, but I really liked to just walk and see the small streets and alleys on the way.
Things to do in Pula:
- The Amphiteathre
- Porta Gemina (the twin gates)
- Temple of Augustus
- Cathedral of the Assumption
- Arch of Sergius
- Swimming and tanning (Valovine, Valkane, Valsaline, Zlatne stjene are some of the most popular beaches)
- Take a day tour til Brijuni Islands (just 30 min with car and ferry) or a bike tour to Kamenjak National Park (just 10km from Pula)
Entrance fee: 20 Kuna (3 Euro)
Did you know that the Colosseum in Rome isn’t the only one in Europe? There are six in total and one of the best preserved is right here in Pula. In the old days it was used for gladiator flights and it housed up to 25,000 spectators.
The amphitheatre is the highlight of Pula so it should be at the top of your list if you’re visiting. The best time to visit is by sunset when the sky lights up.
This is my second visit to Pula and although it’s a standout when it comes to history, it isn’t my favorite city in Istria. It’s a nice place for urban sightseeing and impressive Roman architecture, but it didn’t charm me like other Istrian towns such as Bale, Rovinj or Labin.
POREC – UNESCO SITE AND YOUNG VIBE
Pula was great for a few hours of sightseeing, but I could stay in Poreč for days! I’ve been there a couple of times already and I like this town more each time.
It’s not as large as Pula, but that’s what makes it unique. Poreč is by the Adriatic Sea and aside from a promenade with wonderful seafood restaurants, it also has a UNESCO site and a cute Old Town. Poreč is more intimate and one of the most lovely towns in Istria.
Things to do in Porec:
- The Euphasian Basilica
- Neptun’s temple
- The Old Town
- Wine tasting
- Bar hopping
- Go to the beach (Pical, Brulo and Porto Busola beaches are the most popular)
The UNESCO Byzantine Euphasian Basilica
If you’re in Poreč, your first stop should be the Byzantine Euphasian Basilica. It’s super impressive! The Basilica was built in the 6th century and has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 1997.
The basilica has a 16th-century bell tower that you can climb to get a beautiful view of the city. In the basement you’ll find the remains of several mosaics from ancient times and some of them have a fascinating story. Maybe you already know this, but in Roman times it wasn’t allowed to be a Christian, so they had to keep it a secret for the Romans. They decorated their mosaics with a fish symbol (also known as Ichthus), which helped Christians identify one another as believers. You can see one of the oldest remaining fish mosaics on the image below.
In short, I adore Poreč for many reasons. It’s a lovely little town and if you have the time, I highly recommend visiting. There’s much to do there, both in terms of history, food and a vivid night scene.
If you had to choose, which city would you pick?
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