Pula Arena is one of the biggest Roman amphitheatres in the world and certainly one of the best preserved. Though unavoidable in the city's landscape, it is the biggest attraction in Pula and deserves a closer look. The sails that used to fly above spectators watching gladiatorial combat are no longer there, so the venue is shade free and battered by the sun in summer. The best times to visit, particularly if you're taking children, are outside of the main season. Opt to visit on a cloudy day, in the morning before it gets too hot or in the evening when the sun's strength begins to wane. Visiting rock, classical and dance music stars also play here, the Arena providing a spectacular backdrop to their performances.
From the amphitheatre, walk between Tito's park and King Petar Krešimir park and take a left up Carrarina. Before the end of the street, you'll be met with two more of Pula's Roman architectural riches in the Double Gates (Porta Gemina) and the Gate of Hercules. The Double Gates and few surrounding remnants are all that's left of Pula's old city walls, which date back to the second century. As you pass through the gates, you’ll encounter another example of Roman architecture, a tunnel, which has been renovated in very recent years and which you can now go inside. The Gate Of Hercules is perhaps slightly less impressive to look at, however, the gate is older than Porta Gemina and highly significant in holding markings that accurately place the founding of Pula as a Roman colony as far back as 47 BC.
Turn back on Carrarina and when you reach the end of the park, swing a left, ascending up Castropola. This long and winding street will take you to the heart of the old inner-city area, most of which is still inhabited, albeit many within modern constructions. At the top, you will find the outdoor theatre area of Malo Rimsko Kazalište, which is still used for public performance today. This space would be appreciated well in any city, but after seeing Pula Arena it's possible you may find it a little underwhelming. The Kastel, a Venetian fortress with its defensive walls, a museum and from where you can see wonderful panoramic views of the bulk of the city, will make an impression. It's a great place to get to grips with Pula's geography.
There are several routes to descend from, however, retracing your steps, down to the bottom of Castropola, leaves you at the start of Kandlerova. This charming shaded, stone-paved street runs right the way through Pula city centre and is lined with cafés, bars, gift shops and restaurants. Some of the restaurants take advantage of their opportune location and charge over-the-odds for what is essentially a bit of white fish and chard. Shop around – this is a lovely street to stop for lunch and afterwards, take a stroll. It is one of the prettiest routes on which to navigate the city.
If you keep going straight on Kandlerova, the street eventually becomes Forum and then Sergijevaca. This part of the route is named after the Arch of the Sergii, an old Roman gate that was once part of the city walls. Don't forget to walk underneath the actual arch to see the spectacular eagle carving on its underside.
At the end of Sergijevaca, you will arrive at a street called Giardini. Here you have the option of picking up bus line 2a which takes you south, out of the city centre. Stay on the bus until the last stop, Verudela and here you will find Aquarium Pula. The Aquarium is housed within Fort Verudela, once part of an Austro-Hungarian fortress, a fascinating building in itself. By this point though, any children in your company may prefer to meet some of the 200 species of marine and freshwater fish, reptiles and amphibians that are on display here within the tunnels, hallways and moat.
It's time for the beach! Some of Pula's best beaches are located on the Verudela peninsula. Just a short walk from the aquarium is the Park Plaza Histria hotel and its complex. The hotel and outdoor swimming pools are placed next to a wonderful slice of beach. Grab supplies from the supermarket near the entrance before you head down. There's also a beachside restaurant which is part of the complex open to non-residents. On the beach itself, sample some of Pula's beautifully clear waters and, when you've had enough, look here for the Betina health and beauty treatment set up. A family run business operating throughout the season and the oldest on the beach. Under the white-cotton shade, you can receive a blissful massage, aromatherapy, anti-cellulite treatments or a body scrub.
Take the 2a bus back into town. Next up is the Augustus Temple. Located back on Forum, next to the baroque Pula Communal Palace, you'll have sauntered past this earlier in the day. Truth be told, Forum square is a fantastic place to visit at any time of day. Early in the morning, it's a popular meetup point for locals having coffee. In the daytime, you can enter the temple to look at Roman sculptures. In the evenings, this point of Pula has a pleasant atmosphere and, like the Arena, is a must-see, as its colours alternate in response to the arrival or departure of the sun. In summer months, music or theatre performance can be seen in the area, and young people happily hang out around here for much of the night.
Pula hasn’t got a great reputation for nightclubbing except when some of the world's best DJs visit nearby Fort Punta Christo site for the Dimensions and Outlook festivals. But after a long day taking in Pula's sights, consider a laid-back drink on Dante square, at the south of the city centre. Containing a fountain and set partially under a canopy of trees, there are tables and chairs serviced by several bars – one even sells craft beer. Arts and community centre Rojc has long flown the flag for alternative music and culture, check their Facebook page to see what’s on.