I've read somewhere that Poreč is Croatian second most visited town, after Dubrovnik. I don't know if that's true, but the fact is that Poreč is one of the closest Croatian seaside towns to Italy and Central Europe. This is why many Germans, Austrians, Dutch, Slovenians, and especially Italians choose Poreč as their holiday destination. Italians go there mostly in August during their collective holiday season called Ferragosto.
Every waiter in Poreč has to know at least English, Italian, and German, and the festivals and street performances are also adapted to the foreign public.
Add the fact that Poreč is a city with a rich history that began before the Roman period and continued under the Byzantine Empire. For a long time, the city was under the Venetian rule which left many traces, for example, bilingual names of streets and squares (Croatian and Italian).
Picturesque cobbled streets and squares with Roman and Byzantine remains, all types of beaches with plenty activities inside and outside the water, romantic walks along the sea coast and through the Old Town, lively evenings with street performances and music from every corner make Poreč an ideal summer holiday destination.
What to do in Poreč
1) Explore the streets of the Old Town
Different rulers left their heritage in the Old Town of Poreč, located on a peninsula. The city still has an old Roman street organization with two main streets Decumanus and Cardo Maximus that meet on the old Roman Forum.
Decumanus Street is the main pedestrian zone, where you'll find most of the souvenir shops, clothing shops, and fast-food stands. You can admire the beautiful palaces built in Gothic-Venetian style from the 15th and 16th century, such as the Zuccato Palace, the Lion Palace, and the Sinčić Palace (where the Heritage Museum is located).
The old Forum is today's Marafor Square. A large area surrounding the square is filled with many restaurants, fast-food stands, souvenir shops, and a park Matije Gupca, which is especially lively during summer nights. Here you can enjoy typical Istrian dishes and drinks with a live rock or jazz music coming from the small stage in the park. Some of the Roman remains are still partially preserved on the Forum, such as the Temple of Neptune from the 1st century.
On Marafor Square, you'll also find an interesting Romanesque house from the 13th century with a wooden corner balcony. Today it holds the ethnographic collection of the Heritage Museum, the oldest Istrian museum that preserves important artifacts since the prehistoric era through the Antique and medieval period until modern days.
Walking through the city streets, you'll also find tree medieval towers from the 15th century, Pentagonal Tower in Decumanus Street, the Round Tower on the Promenade of Marshal Tito, and the North Round Tower near Peškera bay. On top of the Pentagonal Tower, there is a pretty expensive restaurant with a great view of the Old Town.
The main modern square and the center of the city today is the Freedom Square with the Church Of Our Lady Of Angels built in Baroque architectural style. Have a coffee in one of the many bars on the square and observe people passing by or simply sit on the stone stairs in front of the church and enjoy an evening performance in front of the odd-looking bronze monument.
2) Visit the Euphrasian Basilica
The Euphrasian Basilica is the landmark of Poreč. It's the most important city monument and the only complete church from the Byzantine period in the world. The Basilica is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites from 1997.
In the 6th century, the Bishop of Poreč, Euphrasius, built a cathedral on the site of the older city basilica. The new complex, built in Byzantine style, consists of the atrium, baptistery, bishop's palace, and other sacral buildings. You can even see remains of the old Roman houses while walking through the complex.
The inside of the Euphrasian Basilica still conserves stunning golden Byzantine mosaics depicting various scenes from the Bible. In the lapidarium, you can also see many examples of well-preserved Roman mosaics. The most popular mosaic is the one with a fish as a symbol of Jesus Christ.
The entrance fee is 50 kn and it includes a climb to the bell tower with a panoramic view of the city of Poreč. A visit to the Euphrasian Basilica is absolutely worth every kuna that you'll spend for it. When you enter the complex, just follow the numbers with an explanation of every part of the basilica. You'll be stunned by the beauty and the importance of this unique cultural site.
3) Relax on one of the many beaches
In Poreč, you primarily go on a summer holiday, whose purpose is leisure. You'll want to swim and snorkel in crystal clear waters of the Adriatic Sea. You can choose between various beaches on both sides of the city center.
South from the Old Town, you have popular resort destinations Blue and Green Lagoon. You'll find there various types of beaches: rocky, sandy, pebbly and asphalted ones. You can lie down on the spacious grass area under the pine trees where you'll find shadow during a hot summer day. Put your towel on the ground or rent a deck chair (about 30kn/day). You can also relax in one of the hammocks in the area for free.
Since we stayed north of the city center, we mostly explored northern beaches: Pical, Borik, Špadići, and Materada.
Pical and Borik are beaches mostly for families with small children. They are pebbly (or even sandy in some parts) with easy access to the sea. Those two beaches also offer many entertainment activities both for children and adults (jumping castles, floating aqua park, mini-golf, ping pong, massage, bars, and ice-cream stands), so you'll definitely won't be bored.
Špadići was the closest beach from our apartment, but it's mostly asphalted and always full of people on deck chairs. There are a few restaurants, souvenir shops and bars in the area.
Our favorite beach is Materada, the most northern one. We lied on the grass in front of a big hotel and swam in the deep sea next to the floating aqua park. The beach was asphalted, but there was another pebbly beach covered with deck chairs right next to it. You could also choose to swim in a pool belonging to apartment houses Materada, but open for public.
4) Try different water sports
If you get tired of lying on the beach and sunbathing or you're more of fond of an active holiday, Poreč has a lot of opportunities for you. Almost every beach offers different rides on the water. You can go on a crazy banana ride (50kn/10min), floating UFO ride (80kn/10min), rent a paddle boat with a slide or try to drive a jet ski, a kayak or a boat.
If you prefer the underwater world, you can go scuba diving among the small islands (for example, island Fržital) near the Green Lagoon.
My favorite water sport was ski lift located in the Green Lagoon. You'll pay 70 kn for 5 rounds on a ski lift or 140 kn per hour. You can enjoy this activity for half a day or even the whole day, but the price is much higher then. I wanted to try it, but, unfortunately, I didn't have enough time. Some say that you have to leave something for your next visit to Poreč, so...
There is something for the smallest ones in Poreč, as well. Your children can climb and jump on the floating aqua park (40-60kn/30min), which you can find almost on every beach. You can have a family fun time in a large Aquapark Istralandia just outside of Poreč sliding on various toboggans. Daily ticket to Istralandia costs 220 kn/adult or from 520 kn/family.
5) Rent a bike and follow the Parenzana bike trail
Parenzana was an old railway in the early 20th century connecting Poreč and Trieste in Italy. Today it's a bike trail long approximately 135 km between Trieste and Poreč. The trail passes some of the most beautiful hilltop towns in Istria, such as Motovun, and continues through Slovenian seaside towns Piran and Portorož to Italy.
You can rent a bike in one of the many Rent A Bike shops around Poreč. The price to use a bike for a day goes from 60 kn. You can also rent it for a few hours and explore the city from a different perspective.
To cycle along the whole Parenzana bike trail, you'll need a few days. You can always choose a shorter route (for example, from Poreč to Motovun) and spend a day cycling among beautiful Istrian hills and vineyards. It's all up to you.
6) See Poreč and the surroundings from the air
Have you ever heard of a gyrocopter? It's a mix of helicopter and airplane, supposedly the safest mean of transport in the air. A Spanish airplane engineer don Juan de la Cierva introduced to the world the first Auto Gyro in 1923.
The rotor of gyrocopter is not driven by a motor, but by the air stream. It's always in auto-rotation which is why the gyrocopter can continue flying even in case of engine failure. It will safely float towards the ground.
The gyrocopter flies with the speed of a car on a highway, 120 km/h, which is extremely slow for an aircraft. In Croatian gyrocopter, you'll fly only 330 m above the ground over Poreč, Rovinj, and Vrsar.
If you're interested in seeing Poreč from another perspective, definitely try the flight. For a price of 840 kn, you'll get a one-year membership in Aeroclub GYRO-CRO and a 30min of an introductory flight over the beautiful Istrian landscape.
7) Visit the Baredine cave
Only 5 km from Poreč lies a geomorphologic monument of nature, the Baredine Cave. The cave is open for the public since 1995 and you can also explore it in a guided 40-min tour for 75 kn.
Inside this beautiful cave, you'll pass 5 “rooms”, you'll see many stalagmites and stalactites, some of them in the shape of an animal (frog, octopus, etc.) and the endemic Croatian animal, an olm. The name of an olm in Croatian is čovječja ribica, which literally means human fish. During the guided tour, you'll learn more about the making of stalagmites and stalactites, crystals, and the history of the cave, which is also an important speleological site. You'll also have “a fitness program” because you'll need to pass 268 slippery stairs on your way back from the cave.
When you're finished with the tour, you can refresh in a bar and restaurant of the complex, walk through the “prehistoric stone kitchen” just like the one in the Flintstones serial, visit a small exhibition about the cave or take a photo with friendly local donkeys.
8) Take a ferry to Venice
If you somehow get tired of Istrian landscape, which is impossible, or you think it's cool to drop by in Italy for an afternoon with pizza and real Italian cappuccino, you can always take a ferry to Venice, the world's most romantic city. Ferries depart from ports in Poreč or Rovinj and it will take you 2 and a half hours to get to Venice from Poreč.
Two tourist agencies offer a one-day trip to Venice, Kompas and Venezia Lines. We chose the second one for our trip since the Kompas web page was really confusing and we didn't find the necessary info on it. The ticket for a day trip is 550 kn and includes a ferry ride to Venice and a guided tour of St. Marco Square. You can read more about our day in Venice in a special blog post.
9) Enjoy Poreč street performances and nightlife
With the first sunlight, Poreč wakes up from its winter dream and comes alive. You'll notice that in the lively summer nights. During the summer, nobody goes to sleep before midnight, not even children. There is simply so much to do!
Poreč Open Air festival is organized in the city from the 1st of July to the 14th of September. During that period, the whole town becomes one big stage. There are music nights with live jazz performances, circus acts, concerts, street food events (for example, Tunalicious Street Food Festival), and a summer cinema showing different movies every evening. What's the best thing - everything is for free!
This year, we went to see a circus show (it was every Monday), enjoyed live music in Lapidarium and Marafor Square and saw the “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the summer cinema.
After you've taken your other half to the romantic jazz performance or your children to see the newest cartoon in the summer cinema, you can always go clubbing in one of many Poreč discotheques: Saint and Sinner, Palazzo Club or the most popular Byblos in the Green Lagoon. Just let yourself to the summer rhythms.
10) Eat and drink like a local
Like any city on a seacoast, Poreč also has great fish and seafood. On the restaurant menu, you'll mostly find whole gilt-head sea beam (orada in Croatian) or European bass (brancin in Croatian), tuna steak (each more than 120 kn), Adriatic calamari (120 kn), octopus salad (about 60-70 kn), mussels (about 60-70 kn) or shrimps (about 130-140 kn) in buzara sauce (a white sauce made of garlic, breadcrumbs, parsley, white wine and olive oil).
You can also have fried Mediterranean sand smelt (girice in Croatian) as a quick meal. It's also a dish that is often served for a very low price on feštas, festivities in villages all along the Adriatic coast.
During our holiday, we mostly cooked at home, but we had to try burgers in a restaurant Fora Le Porte on the main Freedom Square, which my mum recommended us. They have various types of meat burgers (as well as other more traditional meals) for an average price of 70 kn, but they'll also serve you an original octopus burger (hoboburger). Simply delicious!
Istrian specialty, besides seafood, are truffles or “those smelly mushrooms that pigs are hunting”. Inland Istria has a moisture ground rich with truffles. You'll find them on restaurant menus mostly in inland Istria, but you can try them in Poreč, as well. They'll be mixed with the traditional Istrian pasta called fuži (about 120 kn) or you can buy various truffle products in one of the souvenir shops (the cheapest one is truffle chips for only 20 kn).
Istrians have their own Orangina or Fanta. It's artificially red and it's called Pašareta. You can order it in some of the restaurants or buy it in small local shops. Istria is also known for its wine, for example, white wine Malvazija. A new tradition of craft beers brought us Istrian Bura Brew, a delicious Ale that goes great with hot summer nights on the Adriatic coast. You can buy it in Istrian Kaufland or order it in many bars along the coast.
btw, 1€ = 7,39kn.
If you're scared of Croatian exchange offices, there is an ATM literally on every corner. Just be careful with those ATMs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1Hh8kY_hOY!