Pula Arena Croatia
Pula’s Roman ruins include the magnificent Pula arena.
Did you know the Colosseum in Rome is not the only colosseum? There are actually dozens of Roman amphitheaters in the world, one of which is the Pula arena in Croatia. Pula is situated on the southern tip of Croatia’s Istrian peninsula, only a 45-minute drive from Rovinj. If spending any time in Istria, I recommend including a day trip to Pula’s Roman ruins in your Croatia travel plans with a side trip to nearby Vodnjan where a number of famous saints are interred.

Pula is Istria’s largest city and a working port. But Pula is also home to a number of Roman ruins, some of the best in Europe, including the Pula arena, the Temple of Augustus in the Forum, the Arch of Sergius, and a preserved Roman floor mosaic. While Pula is large, its old town and tourist sites are easy to navigate on foot, with all being located along a loop that starts and ends at the Pula arena.

Pula Arena

The Pula arena is the sixth-largest Roman amphitheater and one of the best preserved. A visit to the Pula arena not only includes the ability to walk around the interior, but also tour the museum in the subterranean hall below where the gladiators and animals were held. The Pula arena’s outer walls are almost completely intact, and when inside it is easy to imagine how the amphitheater looked in Roman times. It is now still used for filming, stage productions, and concerts, though louder concerts are no longer held within the arena as the vibrations can be destructive. The museum below is actually an exhibition of Istrian olive oil and wine production in ancient times.

Cathedral of the Assumption

The loop through Pula’s old city starts with the cathedral which originated as a Roman temple. The cathedral is open to the public, but is oftentimes closed. The separate bell tower was built using stones from the Pula arena.

The Forum

Every Roman town had a forum and Pula was no different. The Pula forum contains two buildings, the town hall and the Temple of Augustus. The Temple of Augustus is a tall but tiny temple which was dedicated to the first emperor of Rome. The temple was hit in World War II and was later rebuilt by the Allies. The small room now contains fragments of sculptures and small artifacts.

Roman Floor Mosaic

Located off the main street next to a building and through a parking lot is an incredibly well preserved Roman mosaic floor. The mosaic dates from the third century and was discovered by locals during the cleanup process after World War II.

Arch of Sergius

The final Roman ruin on the loop through Pula is the Arch of Sergius which marks the edge of the original Roman town. The large carved arch is framed by the bright more modern buildings of Pula.

Market Hall

Before completing the loop through Pula back to the Pula arena, make a short detour to the National Square and Market Hall. Pula’s modern glass and iron market hall has two levels. The ground level contains the market selling fresh fish, butchered meat, and other fresh products for Pula’s residents. The upper level is where you will find small kiosks selling meals made from the fresh products on offer downstairs. We had a fabulous and inexpensive lunch of perfectly cooked squid and fried sardines.