Istria is a rich region, its richness is seen in hospitable people of Istria, natural phenomena and tradition. It is a melting pot of cultures, lifestyles, art and construction, history and people. To make your planning easier, below are our recommendations what to visit. Feel the spirit of Istria, our people, past and recent times; let each morning of your stay be the start of a new adventure!
Also called by people Divić-fort, an amphitheatre, is the largest well preserved monument of Roman architecture in Croatia. It was built in the 1st century BC for gladiator fights, wild animals fights and other knight games. The arena could hold 25,000 spectators.
It is the only amphitheatre in the world with almost fully preserved facade and characteristic staircase towers.
Arena has been surrounded by folk legends since ancient times: that it was built overnight by fairies who were carrying stone from Učka; that its erection was ordered by Emperor Vespasian as a gift for his mistress (it is also called Vespasian's Arena).
Arches are commemorative free standing monuments mostly built from stone in the shape of a portal. The one preserved in Pula is called the Arch of the Sergii. In the early 1st c. BC, Salvia Postuma had it built in honour of three members of her family, the Sergiis. It used to lean against the inner side of the Golden Gate (Porta Aurea), after which it was also named. In terms of architecture, it has characteristics of the late Hellenistic Roman period in architecture. It is monumental and its arch reaches the height of eight meters. The door against which it used to lean as well as the wall next to which it stood were both destroyed in the early 19th century for urbanization purposes i.e. the expansion of the town.
Nesactium (Vizače) is an archaeological site situated on Glavica hill above the Budava bay near Valtura (east of Pula). It used to be the royal seat of the Histri as documented by ancient written sources. The proof that Nesactium today holds the remains of the settlement of glorious past is the find of the votive altar to Emperor Gordian from the 3rd century bearing the inscription Res Publica Nesactiensium. Today it is an archaeological park with preserved architectural remains from the Roman and Late Antiquity era. The settlement survived the fall of the Roman Empire and the awakening of the Christianity, but did not weather barbarian attacts in the early 7th century. The integral picture of pre-historical periods is given by grave analyses; of the Roman settlement by the remains of the forum, temples, public and private buildings, spas, necropolis; of the Christianity by the remains of the two early Christian basilicas.
The Temple of Augustus is the only preserved temple of once three located on the forum in Pula. It was dedicated to the goddess of Rome and Emperor Augustus. Its function has been changing throughout the years – apart from its initial purpose, it was also used as a church, a grain storage facility, museum of stone monuments…. During the WW2 bombing (1944), it was heavily damaged.
On the north-east part of the slope underneath the Castle within the walls are the remains of the Roman theatre. It is called small because in addition to the Pula Amphitheatre, the town also had two other theatres. The second, bigger was located outside the town walls on the slope of Zaro hill (Monte Zaro). No significant remains have been preserved until today unlike the remains of the Small Roman Theatre i.e. the stage foundations and a part of the viewing area which were partly reconstructed. Below the theatre is the historically significant building of the former German high school. It has been the home of the Archaeological Museum of Istria for a number of years.
This cultural monument is located in the center of Pula's historic core. It is called 'Kaštel' (castle) as well as the Venetian Fort. During the course of time, others also built their forts on this site – the Histri, the Romans and medieval feudal lords.
In light of the importance of Pula as a port and a naval center, the Venetians decided to erect the star-shaped square fort with pointed walls on this site in the 17th century.
The fort played its part during the Thirty Years' War (1618 – 1648), when it was, in one period of the time, the Venetian strategic defence point monitoring the sailing ships on the Adriatic Sea.
Today it is the home of the History and Naval Museum of Istria exhibiting a rich collection of old naval charts, naval instruments, and various items which facilitate the understaning of the historical development of maritime affaits as an important economic branch.
The Communal Palace, fully restored, was built on the area of the Roman Forum (some parts of the Roman temple are still embedded in its walls). During the course of time it was used as a central point of town operations by Venetian lords and governors as well as by current municipal authorities. Between the 10th until 16th century it underwent numerous construction changes. Therefore, it is characterized by a number of achitectural styles. At the corners of the structure one might recognize the Renaissance sculpture of Telamone and the Mermaid.
Istrian Assembly Hall was once the church of St. Francis from the 13th century bearing the characteristics of early Gothic. It is located in the old core of Poreč, between Juraj Dobrila Park and Obala Matka Laginje. In the 18th century, it underwent numerous changes. The Baroque tower bell was added, the ceiling was decorated by rococo stucco, frescoes with religious topics. The church was closed in 1806 under the Napolen decision on abolishing monasticism, and the Franciscan monks left the town. Today it is a home to numerous cultural events and a place for holding official meetings of the Assembly of the Region of Istria. Recently, a valuable early Christian floor mosaic was discovered in its garden, most probaly the ornament from the Church of St. Thomas the Apostle.
The Euphrasian Basilica is the most valuable monument of culture in Poreč and one of the most important Croatian monuments. It was built in the 6th century on the foundations of an older three-nave basilica during the time of Bishop Euphrasian, after whom it was named. The tower bell provides a unique view of Poreč and its surrounding.
The Euphrasian Basilica complex is an important world historical monument, which was acknowledged by its inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Basilica is a cathedral complex which developed gradually. This continuity of the Christian liturgical life (17 centuries of interrupted sacral role) along with the integrity of its layers represents its biggest value. Aesthetically, it is enhanced by well-known golden mosaics of St. Maurus, the patron saint of Poreč.
Dvigrad, an old abandoned medieval town (inhabited until 1631) near Rovinj, is a special attraction of this area. Preserved town ruins (parts of some two hundred buildings) outlay a monumental and unique structure of the town and bear witness to the medieval lifestyle. Best preserved are the parish court and the town guard building. The remains of the Church of St. Sophia, located on the main hill of Dvigrad, are also visible. In the past there were two settlements on this location. The Romans used to call them Duo Castra (Two Towns), Parentin and Montecastello. Parentin was destroyed in the 14th century during the war between large naval forces of Venice and Genoa. It was located on the opposite side of today's Dvigrad/then called Montecastello.
Motovun is a town surrounded by walls and situated above the valley of the Mirna river. It is Istria in miniature as it encompasses all its charms and represents a perfect place for fans of history; its stone keeps the memories of different historical periods, styles and peoples which ruled and/or influenced it.
Motovun characteristic lies in the two rows of defensive walls erected in phases from the 11th until the 17th century. A major part of these walls was destroyed in the 17th century under orders of the peace treaty signed between Austria and Venice.
Have a walk to the main square of Motovun and conquer the longest staircase in Croatia with as many as 1952 steps. Do not forget to visit the widely known Motovun Film Festival as well.
National Park Brijuni (the Brijuni Archipelago) is one of the most attractive destinations in Croatia today. Brijuni includes the islands off the west coast of Istria and its accompanying aquatorium, i.e. two large islands (Veliki and Brijun), and 12 smaller islands with rich history going back to prehistoric times. During the 1980s it was proclaimed a national park. It is only 6 kilometres away from Pula. Separated from the coast by the Fažana Channel, visitors arrive to Brijuni daily by ships from Fažana port. The Park is frequently the site of cultural events.
The Cape is a part of the Medulin archipelago. It is only some 10 km away from Pula. It was inscribed on the list of protected areas in 1996. It is a home to numerous vegetation and animal species characteristic for south Istria. Some six hundred species of plants can be found, in particular more than 30 species of orchids. It is surrounded by the crystal blue sea and 11 uninhabited islands. One you will especially notice is the island with a lighthouse called Porer. The quality of the sea surrounding Kamenjak is best proven by recent visits of the Mediterranean monk seals, species known for inhabiting only the locations with best sea quality. It is ideal for excursions, picnics, sport activities such as water jumps or a day long swimming.
A well-known tourist guide Lonely Planet listed Kamenjak as one of the must-visit locations for a secret vacation on the Mediterranean.
The Baredine Cave, a well known Istrian speleological site, is a geomorphologic monument of nature. The education trail goes through five large embellished halls and descends towards an underground lake at a depth of 60 meters. A particularly interesting animal living here is an olm, endemic species of the Dinaric karst. The Cave is located between Poreč, Višnjan and Tar, at the west coast of Istria. It has been continuously explored during the last one hundred years. The find of ceramics must be highlighted, which speaks of ancient people who used to live inside. Apart from the tour of the cave, visitors can also use additional facilities: a speleological climbing polygon and a geomorphological pillar. We also recommend the visit to the oldtimer Tractor Story exhibition.
The Lim Channel – the Lim Fjord, a sunk canyon karst valley, also known as the Lim Channel, is a popular Istrian tourist destination for several reasons: its geographical peculiarity, magnificent landscape, fish and shellfish-based gastronomic offer, and cultural events. The channel is 12 m long and in sections more than 200 meters tall. A so-called Romuald's Cave is also located there. It used to be a home to extinct Ice Age animals. It is a known fact that it was a home of Paleolithic hunters. It was named after a historical data claiming that St. Romuald (year 1000) used to live in the cave for a couple of years as a hermit. In late spring and during summer one can see the colonies of a protected large bat. Romuald's Ground Beetle, an endemic subtype of bettles which lives in the caves of Istria and Kvarner, can also be found in the Cave.