Spotlight on: The Arena, Pula

The stunning Arena in Pula is one of the most magical sights in all of Croatia. This three-story (on its largest side) Roman amphitheatre is the sixth-largest amphitheatre in the world but – with all four sides intact – it is the best-preserved amphitheatre. Imagine that! Read on for more details about this ancient gem in Pula, how to visit it and what to see there.

Getting There

The Arena is located in the northeastern part of Pula, a short distance from the sea. Take a look at our Getting to Istria page for details of flights to Pula Airport, and then out Getting to and from Pula Airport for how to get to the city itself.

The Arena is actually a short walk (no more than 15 minutes) from the bus station and a similar distance from the train station. It is also very close to the port in Pula, should you be making your way to the city by boat.

You can also take a local city bus to the Arena – buses 4, 5a, 8, 9 and 71 go past this wonderful building.

An aerial shot of the Arena in Pula
An aerial shot

About The Arena and Its History

The Arena was built in several stages or iterations during the rule of several different Roman Emperors between 27 BC and 68 AD. The foundations of the first amphitheatre were built during the time of Emperor Augustus. This was extended during the reign of Emperor Claudius and completed under the reign of Emperor Vespasian. At the time of its construction, Pula – then called Pietas Iulia – was the centre of Roman rule in this part of the Empire; the Arena was built just outside the Town Walls.

The Arena is named after the Latin word for sand (harena) which is what the floor of the central part would have been covered in. Its external walls are made from limestone.

Arena Pula
A close-up of the exterior wall of the Arena

During its use in Roman times, it would have held up to 23,000 spectators. These days, about 5,000 people usually attend events held here. Back in those Roman times, the amphitheatre was used for what you can expect – gladiatorial fights and other entertainment occasions, as well as being a place for social meetings.

Gladiatorial fights were banned in the 5th century and the Arena subsequently became used for a cattle market. In that same century, parts of the stone of the structure began to be used as a source of building materials for the local area although this practice was stopped in the 13th century.

In the 16th century, the Venetian Senate proposed to dismantle the amphitheatre in its entirety and rebuild it in Venice although this was (thankfully!) prevented by Sentator  Gabriele Emo. A plaque in tribute to him was placed on the northwestern tower.

The restoration of the Arena began in the 19th century.

Arena Pula
Peeking through one of the arches in the Arena

Features of The Arena

The oval-shaped Arena stands just over 32 metres high, stretching out over an area of about 132 metres wide and 105 metres deep. The central part – where Roman entertainment would have taken place – measures 68 metres by 41 metres. One side of the amphitheatre, the one closest to the Adriatic Sea, has three visible stories (plus a fourth foundation story) whilst the other three sides have two. This is because the Arena is built on a natural slope.

Built in limestone, the two lower stories contain 72 arches whilst the top story is made up of 67 square windows with a cornice feature placed on top. There are four rectangular towers set within the walls which strengthened them; these towers contained water reservoirs.

Arena Pula
A view of the exterior walls showing the arches and the square windows of the top story

Below the main Arena floor were constructed a series of chambers for storing animals and passageways to lead them and gladiators up to the Arena.

Perhaps surprisingly, the Arena could have been covered up in the case of bad weather through a series of pulleys and ropes attached to wooden masts that would pull sails over the roof.

Opening Hours and Entrance Price

The Arena is open year-round with extended opening hours – usually until 10pm – in the summer months.

Entry costs €10 for adults and €5 for children.

The interior of the Arena, Pula, Croatia
The interior of the Arena

What to See and Do at The Arena

Stroll through the Arena and really get a feel for what it must have been like back in Roman times. Unlike, say, the Colosseum in Rome, you can have an uninterrupted stroll right through the centre of this amphitheatre. At times, it almost feels like quite an intimate venue…but then imagine standing in the centre and being watched by 23,000 people!

Take yourself up to the seating levels where you can and now imagine yourself as a Roman spectator. Entry to the Arena was free back in those days but a seating system based on social class would have existed…so make sure you sit in the “best seats”. Whilst you’re up on this level, do also peer out of the Arena.

Arena Pula - Interior
The interior of the Arena – you can see the seating as well the setting up of a concert

Head down below ground to walk through the passageways and chambers. Here, you will find an exhibition on viticulture and olive oil production in Istria during Roman times with a particular focus on how oil was derived from olives in those times.

There is also a large collection of well-preserved Roman amphorae, which were used for transporting liquids.

The Arena, Pula - Roman Amphorae
Roman amphorae at The Arena

Do be sure to also spend some time walking around the outside of the Arena to fully realise the magnificence of this large, wonderfully preserved Roman structure.

There are no guided tours for the Arena itself once you are inside. You may like instead to join a guided walking tour of Pula – as shown below – which includes entry to the Arena:

Powered by GetYourGuide

Other Ways of Seeing and Enjoying The Arena

These days, the Arena is often used as a concert and entertainment venue in the summer months, and there’s something rather special about enjoying this kind of experience in such a historic venue. Perhaps most famously, the Arena is used as a venue during the Pula Film Festival which takes place every July. In 2024, the 71st edition of the festival will take place meaning it is the oldest film festival in Croatia.

There are also numerous concerts held in the Arena in the summer. For example, in 2024, Dua Lipa, Avril Lavigne, Simple Minds, Lenny Kravitz and Duran Duran will all be performing there. Previous performers over the years have included Sting, Elton John, The Foo Fighters and Luciano Pavarotti. One-off sporting events are also sometimes held here.

Special opening night events of some of Croatia’s music festivals – such as Outlook – have also previously been held here in the past when such festivals were held in the Pula region.

Summer also sees the regular Spectacula Antiqua gladiatorial and Roman reenactments take place. Just the thing to take you back all those many centuries ago!

More info

You can learn more about the Arena on the Archeological Museums of Istria website.

Gates of Agartha 2024

Gates of Agartha 2024 returns to the amazing Cave Romane near Pula

Following an amazing debut event at the historic Cave Romane near Pula last year, Gates of Agartha 2024 will return to this amazing venue on the 7th and 8th June 2024. The epic event will see more headliners than ever before perform, with Adriatique, Bedouin, Dixon, Vintage Culture, Seth Troxler, TSHA and Avantgart Tabldot all already on the line-up.

The festival will once again combine a truly historic setting – just a stone’s throw from Pula with its mix of historic Roman sights and modern amenities – with a contemporary soundtrack from the cutting edge of melodic house and techno.

Gates of Agartha 2024

New for 2024 are exclusive experience packages to make your festival experience even more extraordinary. Full experience packages include a luxurious stay at the Pula Brioni Hotel – indulge in world-class amenities and enjoy breathtaking views of the Adriatic Sea. Also exclusive to full-experience package holders is a special pre-party that will be held at the historic Pula Castle on the Thursday before the festival.

Join 4000 other revellers on a mystical journey to an ancient realm at this year’s Gates of Agartha!

About Gates of Agartha

Brothers Yaaz and Yalim Acar are the team behind Gates of Agartha, having first established the Echoes From Agartha experience in Cappadocia, Turkey. They’ve teamed up with local driving force BSH Events which specialises in hosting events at unique venues around Croatia and the wider region.

The 2023 event in Croatia was declared the Best New Regional Festival at the Ambassador Awards.

Gates of Agartha 2024

About the venue – the Cave Romane

The festival is once again being held at the truly magical Cave Romane – an ancient quarry, carved into 50-metre-high limestone walls, that first existed in Roman times. The quarry was crucial to the construction of the famous Pula Arena during the reign of Emperor Vespasian.

Located near the small village of Vinkuran, just outside Pula, Cave Romane stands as a reminder of ancient craftsmanship and the architectural legacy of the Roman Empire. Legend has it that Cave Romane was a sacred place for ancient tribes and mystical beings which resonates with the broader tapestry of myths surrounding Istria’s enchanting reputation as ‘Terra Magica.’ 

For the full two days of the Gates of Agartha, the cave will come alive with a bespoke projection mapping show in collaboration with the cutting-edge media collective OUCHHH. They will transform the cave into an immersive and wondrous place to dance to world-class music.

Gates of Agartha 2024

Tickets for Gates of Agartha 2024

Regular tickets for the two-day event are currently priced at £127.13 whilst VIP tickets are priced at £180.44. VIP tickets allow entry into a special elevated VIP area, as well as a VIP bar and fast-track entry. Backstage tickets – which have all the benefits of the VIP tickets plus entry into the backstage area – are priced at £328.08.

As I’ve mentioned, it’s also possible to book packages for Gates of Agartha 2024 that include festival tickets plus hotel or villa accommodation.

To book tickets, head to www.gatesofagartha.com.

Gates of Agartha 2024

More info

Check out the official Gates of Agartha website for all the latest news, and do also look them up on Instagram, Facebook and Soundcloud.

Gates of Agartha 2024
7th & 8th June 2024
Cave Romane, near Pula
www.gatesofagartha.com

Brand new festival Gates of Agartha to take place in a Roman quarry near Pula

There’s a brand new festival for Croatia’s events calendar and it’s one that will take place in a very impressive location! Gates of Agartha (23rd – 24th June 2023) will be held in Cave Romane, a historic Roman quarry near Pula that was in use for centuries by the Romans to extract Istrian limestone – a material that was used to build the Colosseum in Rome. How impressive is that?!

Gates of Agartha

About Gates of Agartha & Line-Up

The two-day festival will blend together the past and the present, combining the region’s rich history with its wonderful and vibrant culture.

On the bill will be Crosstown Rebels boss Damian Lazarus, classy tech house from Italian titan Marco Carola, new school Dutch house star Chris Stussy, Spanish hit maker Dennis Cruz, Greek mainstay Echonomist, plus more from Pablo Panda and The Ace Brothers. There’s also a special guest that is yet to be announced. It’s a great line-up for what will surely be a spine-tingling event.

Gates of Agartha
Credit: Julian Duval

The festival is brought to you by the same people behind the Echoes from Agartha experience in Cappadocia, Turkey. This festival in Croatia is the first of their new series of destination events that explore mystical and mythical places around the world ad where art, culture and history collide. 

Gates of Agartha is also being held in partnership with local promoters BSH Events, renowned in Croatia for their out-of-the-box approach to unique venues. Clearly, they’ve knocked it out of the park in this case! Cave Romane will be lit up with immersive and cutting-edge lighting technology, as well as filled with world-class sound systems.

Gates of Agartha
Credit: Julian Duval
Gates of Agartha
Credit: Julian Duval

4000 partygoers are expected to attend the two days of the festival, mixing festivities at Cave Romane with everything Pula has to offer as well – amazing ancient architecture, wonderful cuisine and more.

Tickets for Gates of Agartha

Tickets for the event are priced at $150 and can be purchased here.

Gates of Agartha
Credit: Julian Duval

More info

Find out more about this wonderful event on Instagram, where all the latest news will be revealed.

Gates of Agartha
23rd – 24th June 2023
Cave Romane, near Pula, Istria
www.instagram.com/gatesofagartha

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A weekend break in Croatia - Pula

Pula – Zadar catamaran re-introduced for 2017

Details of the popular Pula – Zadar catamaran route – which ceased to operate a few years ago – have finally been announced for summer 2017, just a few weeks ahead of the route actually starting!

Now run by Croatia’s main ferry operator Jadrolinija, this catamaran will start running on 3rd June 2017, and will in fact be run as a year-round service. (With a greater frequency of sailings during the peak summer months, and far less – in fact, just once a week – in off season.)

The full route also takes in the islands of Unije, Susak, Mali Losinj, Ilovik and Silba en route.

Pula - Zadar catamaran

In June and September, the catamaran will sail twice-weekly, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The catamaran will depart Pula at 7am, and arrive in Zadar at 1.15pm. For the return journey, the catamaran departs Zadar at 4pm, reaching Pula at 10.15pm.

During the peak months of July and August, the catamaran will operate five times a week (every day except Tuesdays and Thursdays). Again, the catamaran will depart Pula at 7am, reaching Zadar at 1.15pm, or 1.05pm on the days it does not make a stop on Ilovik. For the return journey, the catamaran sets sail from Zadar at 5pm (4pm on Fridays), arriving in Pula at 11.05pm/11.15pm (10.05pm on Fridays).

In off-season (early October onwards), the catamaran will only operate on Fridays.

The full timetable – including the times at which the catamaran calls at the islands – can be found on Jadrolinija’s website.

Tickets for the Pula – Zadar catamaran

Tickets can be booked online on Jadrolinija‘s website. A one-way ticket from Pula to Zadar (or reverse) costs 200 Kunas in high season (June to September inclusive). In low season, a one-way ticket costs 160 Kunas.

Prices for any of the other legs of the journey e.g. Pula – Mali Losinj, Zadar – Ilovik and so on, can be found on the above website.

Getting to Zadar - Ferry

Istria and Dalmatia are connected by sea!

This catamaran is certainly one that has been missing for many travellers in recent years, judging by the feedback we’ve had. We are sure many will welcome its return.

There are hardly any (actually, none!) ferry or catamaran routes from Istria to other parts of Croatia. That means this catamaran will be very handy for those in this part of the country.

In fact, there are currently hardly any sailings from the north Croatian coast to areas further south/Dalmatia. This Pula – Zadar catamaran is therefore a great way of connecting the north and south parts of the Croatian coastline.

Alternatives to the Pula – Zadar catamaran

One route that does exist connecting the north and south (ish!) parts of the coastline is the Rijeka – Rab – Novalja (on the island of Pag) catamaran. Also run by Jadrolinija, this sails daily year-round. Full timetable can be found on the Jadrolinija website.

There are frequent bus connections from Novalja/Pag to Zadar, so you can still reach this town by utilising this route.

There are also daily, year-round flights connecting Pula and Zadar. Operated by Croatia Airlines, this is the most suitable option if you need to travel quickly – flight time is only 40 minutes! (Although you obviously do need to factor in getting to and from each airport.)

Other useful travel information

The following sections may also be helpful to you:

New flights to Croatia in 2017

We’re pleased to say that there have been many, many direct flights from the UK and Ireland to Croatia for years…but that doesn’t stop new routes being announced all the time! Here we check out new flights to Croatia in 2017 to make planning your trip that little bit easier.

New flights to Croatia in 2017

New Easyjet flights to Zadar, Dubrovnik and Pula

Despite already having a very strong presence in the country, Easyjet announced a handful of new routes to Croatia for 2017. For the first time, they will fly to Zadar – flights from London Luton will start on 27th May (to 30th September) and operate on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

They’ve flown to Dubrovnik for a number of years, but this year they will also operate flights from Manchester and Belfast Airports. From Manchester, they will fly twice weekly (Wednesdays and Saturdays) from 22nd July, whilst from Belfast it’s also twice-weekly (Tuesdays and Sundays) from 14th May.

Bristol Airport – already connected to Dubrovnik and Split – will now also see flights to Pula with Easyjet this year. This route will start on 27th May (to 30th September) and only operate once a week, on Saturdays.

Unfortunately, Easyjet have dropped their Newcastle – Split route

New Ryanair flights from Bristol and Glasgow to Zadar

Zadar is very firmly Ryanair‘s base in Croatia and to their long-established routes from London Stansted, Manchester and Dublin, they will also start flying from Bristol and Glasgow. Bristol – Zadar has already started for the season (to 28th October 2017), flying on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Glasgow – Zadar will also fly twice a week (Mondays and Fridays) but only in peak season – this route starts on 3rd July to 28th August.

Ryanair have dropped their London Stansted to Osijek route in 2017, meaning Osijek is no longer connected to the UK.

Jet2.com new flights from London Stansted to Pula, Split and Dubrovnik

London is of course very well connected to almost all of Croatia’s airports, but a few more flights just adds to the choice available to travellers! Jet2.com will fly from London Stansted to Pula from 24th April (Sunday initially; Wednesdays and Sundays from 1st May); to Split from 26th June (Sunday initially; Wednesdays and Sundays from 3rd July); and to Dubrovnik from 24th April (initially Saturdays only; Tuesdays and Saturdays from 1st May; Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 22nd May).

Jet2.com will also start flying from East Midlands Airport to Split from 24th April to 1st October 2017 (once a week, on Sundays) and from Glasgow to Dubrovnik from 24th April to 22nd October 2017 (on Sundays).

New Monarch flights to Zagreb

Croatia’s coastal airports see new routes introduced all the time…so it’s very pleasing to see that capital city Zagreb will also get some new connections this year! From the 28th April, Monarch will fly thrice-weekly from London Gatwick (on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays) and twice weekly from Manchester (on Mondays and Saturdays) to Zagreb. The latter route is certainly very welcome as it is the first non-London connection to Zagreb for quite some time. It was also recently announced that these routes will operate year-round – very pleasing to hear.

British Airways to fly to Pula in 2017

There aren’t many flights from London Heathrow to Croatia, but British Airways is seemingly doing its best to change that! Already flying to both Zagreb and Split from that airport, they will also fly from London Heathrow to Pula in 2017 – twice a week (Tuesdays and Saturdays) from 1st July to 30th September.

Aer Lingus introduce a Dublin to Split route

Already operating flights to Pula and Dubrovnik, Aer Lingus will now fly from Dublin to the central Dalmatian city of Split in 2017. From 27th May to 28th October, they will fly twice a week, on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Other flight news

Norwegian appear to have dropped their Gatwick – Pula route for 2017, although will still fly to Split and Dubrovnik.

Thomson have dropped their Newcastle – Dubrovnik route.

Croatia Airlines have sold some of their London Heathrow slots; however, they are currently leasing some of these slots back so for the time being, continue to fly to Zagreb eight times a week.

Happy flying!

History of Pula

Travel question: Travelling from Ljubljana to Pula

Hi there, not sure if you’re able to help us at all but my friend and I are coming to Croatia this August for a festival in Pula. We are landing from London in Ljubljana, Slovenia at 19:00 on 27/08/13 and need to get to Pula to our apartment. We want to know if there is a relatively cheap/safe way of us travelling this distance at this time. The apartment owners are aware that we need a late check in but we want to arrive there at a reasonable time. Any information you have would be greatly appreciated. O. H-S

Ljubljana to Pula
The Arena in Pula

Unfortunately, I have to say that you will find it difficult to travel from Ljubljana to Pula at that time of the day (well, evening). There is a direct daily bus from Ljubljana to Pula at that time of year, but it runs at 9.30am. (See the timetable on the FILS website – scroll down for the seasonal, summer line.) I believe a one-way ticket should be about 200 Kunas, or the equivalent in Euros.

The alternatives I would suggest also don’t really work at that time of the day. I would have suggested getting a train from Ljubljana to Rijeka, but the two a day are at 6.35am and 3.10pm. (From Rijeka to Pula there are several buses per day.)

Another possibility would be to take a train to Zagreb (if you did this, it would be best to take a taxi from Ljubljana Airport to Kranj, which is about 15 minutes away, rather than travel to downtown Ljubljana, about 30-45 mins away), and then a bus to Pula.. There are several trains per day from Kranj (or Ljubljana) to Zagreb but again, these all run before your 7pm arrival time.

(If you wanted to look up train timetables, the Die Bahn website is the best place to do this.)

These above options are all relatively cheap and safe (travelling in Croatia/Slovenia is very safe, just use your common sense with personal possessions, of course!) but, obviously, the most important issue is that they don’t get you to Pula the same day! Aside from renting a car (which isn’t an especially cheap option, and not everyone wants to drive) I’m afraid the best thing I would suggest would be to stay in Ljubljana one night and then get the bus direct to Pula the next morning. I’m assuming you’re attending Outlook so the bus will still get you there in time for the opening concert on the 28th. (Not sure if you’ll be able to amend your booking in Pula by a day.)