View of Rovinj Croatia
View of Rovinj Croatia

Charming Towns of Istria Peninsula, Croatia

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Istria Peninsula in Croatia has many charming towns for you to visit.

And don’t be surprised if it feels like a little slice of heaven. At times you may even believe you are in the Mediterranean.

For you history lovers, you will find the perfect example of a:

  • Roman Amphitheatre
  • Roman Gates
  • Medieval old towns

And for those of you who love the sun, there are numerous beaches along the coastline.

Travel inland for tranquillity, the sample is locally grown olives while drinking local wine, feast on seafood or perhaps a slice of roasted pork may tempt you.

If you are planning an itinerary of Croatia, you need to put the Istria Peninsula on your best of Croatia.

To help you plan a Croatian road trip or a weekend getaway in Croatia, check out these posts:

How to Enjoy Split old town, beaches, and islands

Must-See Sights of Zadar


See more of Istria when you Hire a Car

Hiring a car to explore the 3600 sq km of Istria is a popular choice to see this amazing Peninsula.  A car gives the flexibility that public transport doesn’t offer.

If you need to hire a car before you arrive, then Europcar is a great option to use.

Where ever you are in Europe, Europcar online booking makes it easy with a good selection of cars.

To get started with your online booking, click on the banner for a quote.

PS. Make sure to check one-way rates before you commit to the hire.

1. A Walking Guide of Pula

Roman Amphitheater, Pula Croatia
Roman Amphitheater, Pula Croatia

Our first attempt to visit Pula was thwarted by a storm we encountered in Trieste that carried on for three days. So when we decided to revisit Croatia, we were determined not to miss seeing Pula.

Pula is a protected coastal harbour making it an ideal strategic location throughout the centuries.

It is well known for the Roman amphitheatre dating back to 27BC, one of the best-preserved arenas you will see.

The arena has three levels with a series of tunnels and could hold 26,000 spectators.  Tours are available although it is said walking the exterior is just as good.

Make sure you take an evening stroll to the arena as it’s very enchanting for sunset. Especially if you book a concert.

Highlights of Pula Walking Path

Temple of Augustus in Pula
Temple of Augustus in Pula

Triumphal Arch of Sergius leading to the old town and a walk along a Roman road.

Enjoy a coffee at Forum Square, and people watch.

Visit the Temple of Augustus (restored after WWII). It is one of the two best examples of Roman Monuments outside of Italy (the other is Maison Carree in Nimes, France).

The Venetian Fortress was built between 1630 and 1633 and has great views over the city.

Porta d’Ercole, or Hercules Gate, was built in the 1st century and is said to be the oldest preserved monument of Roman architecture in Pula.

Zerostrasse is worth a visit to walk a system of subterranean tunnels first built as war shelters in the early 1900s.


2. Wandering the streets of Rovinj

View of Rovinj Croatia
View of Rovinj Croatia

The seaside, hillside town of Rovinj draws you in with your first sight of the beautiful old town from the harbour below.

Make sure to take a walk along the cobblestoned streets and take a peek down some of the small lanes leading down to the harbour below.

We were surprised to find a very pretty silk dress shop tucked away down one of these lanes.

No trip to Rovinj is complete without a walk up to the Church of St. Euphemia, where you are rewarded with stunning views. Inside the church, you will find the tomb of St Euphemia behind the right-hand altar.

If people-watching is your thing, then head to the harbour, which is scattered with restaurants. Or, for a quieter lunch, the streets down from the church have an old character feel.

If a picnic is on your list, then the large local market has plenty of local fresh produce.

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3. Seafood Lunch at Porec

Seafood lunch in Porec Croatia
Enjoying Seafood on the Istria Peninsula

Porec was an administrative centre for the Romans in the 2nd century. Today you can still walk the ancient Roman Decumanus, the main street of Porec.

Porec is 35kms from Rovinj and nestled on its own little peninsula.

When the Roman empire fell, Porec came under Byzantine rule. It was during this time that the UNESCO world heritage Episcopal Complex of the Basilica was erected dating to the 4th century.

If you love Byzantine architecture and frescoes, the Basilica is well worth a visit as you will wander past old medieval walls and Venetian-style houses.

Porec is a great place for lunch, many of the restaurants have sea views enticing you to stop and taste the local seafood. Grilled calamari is the best.

4. Casanova’s medieval town of Bale

Bale in Croatia
Walking medieval streets in Bale, Croatia

Bale is an inland medieval town and was once a Roman Fortress. So when you enter the small medieval old town, you will find the streets encircle the church of St. Julian’s. If you decide to visit inside, you will find the 8th-century sarcophagus.

A great introduction to Bale and its local people is browsing the local Artisan shops and sampling the locally grown olive oil.

For us, the unexpected highlight was learning Casanova spent some time in Bale when visiting his lovers at Palace Bembo-Soardo.


5. Staying in the village of Sveti Lovrec

Sveti Lovrec - Istria Peninsula
Sveti Lovrec – Istria Peninsula

You may have guessed already our love for staying in one location to explore nearby places. And when visiting Istria, we made no exception.

We found a lovely Airbnb Apartment, Ana Radici, with a local family in the village of Sveti Lovrec.

Our one-bedroom apartment had an outlook of the garden with a terrace to relax with a coffee.

If you are yet to sign up for Airbnb, use our code to get a discount on your first booking.

Click on this link ⇒ Airbnb.

Enjoy Roasted Pork for Lunch

Roasting the Pig
Roasting the Pig

One of the things we often saw when driving in Croatia was a roadside restaurant with a pig roasting on the fire. Of course, we had to stop and investigate.

And as soon as the aroma reached our nostrils, we were tempted.

Make sure to check out the price first before sampling a flavoursome dish.

If you arrive for lunch at around 12.30 pm, this will ensure you a seat to enjoy the feast.

Visiting Istria is very popular, and in peak season, the number of European tourists can feel overwhelming. Be prepared for a long wait for border crossings and toll booths if you are planning a road trip.

To learn more about the region, its beaches, and history, check out this website on Istria.