Located in the northern Adriatic, Istria is a verdant peninsula in Croatia. A microcosm of 20th century eastern European history, Istria is a magical modern playground filled with sunny beaches, hillside towns, Roman ruins, fine wine and first-class dining.
Istria is a beautiful and compact region that is easy to explore. You can base yourself in one of its main towns and go on day trips from here. Istria boasts many natural and historical attractions with an abundance of things to do. Read on to learn about the great places to visit along this picturesque peninsula.
Seaside towns in Istria
Most visitors touring Istria are drawn to the spectacular seaside towns of Rovinj and Pula. The inland medieval hillside town of Motovun is also worth a visit for its artsy communities and eateries serving truffle-laden pasta dishes. These are just some of the notable towns that make up the food lover’s paradise that is Istria.
Rovinj is a beautiful medieval town that was founded by the Romans. Visitors can marvel at the 18th century Baroque Cathedral of St. Euphemia, with is massive bell tower situated at the highest point in town. In the main square, you can explore the old Town Hall and Balbi’s Arch which opens to the harbour with many wonderful cafes and restaurants. The ornate arch stands at the entrance to the old Venetian quarter, a pleasant area with quaint piazzas and back streets in diverse architectural styles. At Rovinj’s Old Town you can taste Istrian wine, sample homemade olive oil and enjoy a great seafood meal with stunning views of the Adriatic Sea.
Located on a hill in the Mirna River Valley, Motovun is a splendidly scenic old walled town dating back to the 14th century. Today it is famous for hosting a popular summer film festival, along with its fairy-tale good looks and artistic vibe. In the city centre, visitors can admire Gothic and Romanesque buildings that host cafes, restaurants, boutiques and artist studios. Motovun is nestled at the base of Motovun Forest which is home to Istria’s famous truffles. The most famous activity here is a truffle hunt and then cook up a delicious truffle meal with cheese, eggs or sausage. Motovun is also a great place to dine on delicious homemade Istrian pasta.
Pula is a university town featuring a lively community, great hotels, restaurants and cultural events. Pula’s Roman ruins are its main attraction, in particular, the marvellous Pula Amphitheatre. One of the biggest of its kind, the amphitheatre was built in the 1st century around the same time as the Colosseum in Rome. During summer, the arena is transformed into a venue for festivals and performances. The Roman Forum is another point of interest that still functions as one of the city’s central meeting points. The Temple of Romae and Augustus is the best-preserved section of the Forum featuring numerous Roman sculptures. Aside from its historical landmarks, Pula is also a great place to try Istrian desserts and sweets. Visitors can sample tasty ice cream with olive oil, as well as delicious cottage cheesecake.