Pula is one of Croatia’s many happily sleepy and perfectly enjoyable small cities. It is marked out from the rest, however, due to the magnificent arena that can be found here. For decades, historians, architects, and humble vacationers have made a beeline for the arena in Pula Croatia, which is the only surviving Roman amphitheatre that has all four side towers intact. The Pula Arena is thus a lasting testament to the mastery of Roman architecture. But this is more than just a historically important artifact: The arena at Pula is also a magnificent edifice that’s as pleasing to the eyes as it is interesting to the mind. Whether or not you’re interested in ancient architecture, the Pula Arena is a must-see attraction in Croatia.
Also referred to as the Pula Colosseum, the arena hails from the somewhere between the first and second centuries AD. Since then it’s gone through various renovations and structural changes; the amphitheatre began life as a timber construct, before being reinforced by stone sometime around the fifth century AD. The structure vacationers can see today is composed only of stone, and it’s remarkably well-maintained, given its age.
Over the years, the arena at Pula has been witness to as many important historical occasions as it has gladiatorial fights. Today, events here are just as dramatic, though they're normally staged, as the Pula Colosseum puts on big live music acts and theatrical performances when touring companies are in town. Many eminent musicians have performed in this ancient roman amphitheatre, including Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli, Elton John, and Norah Jones.
And it’s certainly an exceptional place to experience live music. Not only are the acoustics great (it’s a circular auditorium, after all), but also the structure of the Pula Arena just happens to be jaw-droppingly inspiring. The entire external part of the Pula Colosseum is made of limestone, which lends a great old-world charm to the arena. Once inside, you can take in the whole structure, which instantly reveals its 72 arches—each crafted to a typically Roman standard of perfection—that circle the top of its high walls. What’s more, the arena at Pula is only yards away from the sea, which means the sound of gentle waves lends an atmospheric background to any musical event taking place within the building.
The Pula arena today holds as many as 25,000 people during a performance. When the arena isn’t being used to stage a show, it’s open to the public as a tourist attraction; if you do make it here, make sure to explore the underground passages that cut a maze around the foundations of the structure. They were built in Roman times with the purpose of helping performers and animals make their way undetected from one part of the arena to the next.
While you are in Pula, there are many other places that demand a visit. These include the Archeological Museum of Istria, the Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas, and the Castle and Historical Museum of Istria. Getting to and from the city to visit the Pula Colosseum and other attractions is a relatively easy task. Buses connect the city with other major Croatian hubs such as Zagreb, Split, and Dalmatia. There are also plenty of Pula hotels and guesthouses awaiting your arrival should you fail to book in advance.