Pula, Croatia is the perfect off-the-beaten-path destination for a relaxing weekend!
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In Europe it’s sometimes hard to balance the destination with how you want to spend your time. Going to a place like the Amalfi Coast is incredible, but it’s also expensive and crowded. So if you want a quiet weekend away, maybe not what you’re looking for.
If you want a coastal spot to truly unwind, I recommend Pula, Croatia! It’s quieter than some of the more headline destinations, but still has all the amenities you’d want for a relaxing weekend. The water is vivid turquoise, some of the most beautiful I’ve seen in the Mediterranean.
This region of Croatia used to be part of Italy, and you see it in much of the food and culture. During Roman times it was a major port city, and even after WWI was declared part of Italy. So pasta is pretty common on menus, although I’d argue it’s evolved into a slightly different style than traditional Italian.
Park Plaza Arena
We stayed at the Park Plaza Arena, which was fantastic! It and its sister property, Park Plaza Histria, offer resort-style feel, but still very reasonably priced. We stayed in a hotel room, but they also offered larger apartments for families or groups.
The hotel sits right next to one of the main beaches in Pula, so you have access to good beach space. Both hotels offer quieter beaches too, but know you have to pay to use their beach chairs. It’s still free to lay out your towel though!
Keep in mind that Pula (and much of this part of the coastline) doesn’t have sand beaches. It’s pebbles, and they can be awkward to walk or lay on. You definitely want to pack chacos or water shoes!
The good part of this is that you can also just find a spot on the rocky coastline and get a relatively quiet/private beach day.
Park Plaza has a great buffet breakfast with plenty of options (both local and American). The pool was great, with plenty of chairs and good bar service. The staff was quick to offer help and gave several great recommendations when I asked!
You can also use the amenities at Park Plaza Histria, which is an easy walking distance away. I know they offer a daytime kids’ club to give parents a break, and both resort locations had spa services!
While Pula is best as a “relax on the water” destination, take an hour or two to explore the city. I recommend coming into Pula a few hours before you want to have lunch, then head back to the beach after eating!
You can reasonably see all the sights in less than two hours – most spots are a stick your head in, soak it up, and move on. Some of the below sights charge an entry fee, but we opted to just see them from the outside or doorway and call it a day. They’re all small and not necessarily worth the fees, but if you visit and love one, let me know!
The biggest thing to see in Pula is the arena. It’s one of the largest and best-preserved ancient amphitheaters still in existence. You can pay to go in, but I don’t think you need to – nearly all of it is viewable from outside!
Walk a bit uphill, and you hit Fortress Kastel. It’s a good walk to get up there, offering views of the city from above. Inside, it contains the Historical Museum of Pula if you want to learn a bit more about Pula and the Istrian peninsula.
The Temple of Augustus sits near the waterfront, and in true European fashion is surrounded by touristy restaurants. But the temple itself is cool and very well-preserved. The Arch of the Sergii is free and marks the old city limit.
If you want to do a bit of hunting, seek out the ancient floor mosaic. You have to walk through a parking garage to find it, but it was only uncovered during WWII bombings, so things definitely built up over it through the centuries.
What to know before traveling to Pula
The biggest thing for travelers to remember is that Croatia is not part of the EU. That means they use kuna, not euro, as the local currency. We managed to get by for the weekend with only credit cards and didn’t carry any kuna, but we always asked before sitting down at a restaurant. You should always be prepared!
Croatia is significantly cheaper than Italy. While our resort was about what we’d expect to pay for a reasonably-priced place, the food, Ubers, and activities were all significantly cheaper than I’m used to seeing in western Europe. That’s a big plus!
It’s not on American tourism radars, but enough travelers visit that many locals still speak English. So you get the best of both worlds. That being said, I always try to learn a few words of the local language – it’s respectful and usually opens doors when you try. In Croatian, hello = zdravo, thank you = hvala, yes =da, and no =ne.
Pula is a great spot to head for a relaxing weekend! I’ll share my restaurant guide to Pula next week, because the city has some great restaurant options!