As the heart of the "Istrian Riviera", the small coastal town of Poreč is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Croatia and attracts visitors with its cosy charm and impressive architectural monuments.
Besides Pula and Rovinj, Poreč is the most important town in Croatia, situated on the coast of the Istrian peninsula. Situated about halfway between Pula and Trieste, the well-arranged town can be reached by car via the coastal road.
Also known as the "Riviera of Istria", the area around Poreč is one of the most visited holiday destinations in Croatia and is on our list of the 10 most beautiful towns in Croatia. Nevertheless, the picturesque coastal town has lost none of its charming appeal and cosiness.
As the heart of the holiday region of Istria, hardly any other small town on the Croatian peninsula can boast as many tourists as Poreč. However, this leads to a shortage of parking spaces - especially in the high season! There is a paid car park right next to the old town, but free parking is available 10 minutes' walk from the centre on Ulica Gaspara Kalcica.
The winding alleys that branch off the main Decumanus street lead to magnificent monuments from past centuries and are ideal for exploring on foot. The entire core of Poreč can be visited within about an hour. Cars, by the way, are prevented from entering by a barrier.
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City wall and defence towers
The entire old town lies on a peninsula, the entrance to which is marked by the mighty Peterokutna Kula (Pentagonal Tower). The Venetian gate tower from 1447, which today houses a restaurant, is also the entrance to the Decumanus and the oldest defence tower preserved to this day.
In addition to the Peterokutna kula, two other towers remain from the 11 that once made up the city wall. The Obrambena Kula (Northern Tower), where remains of the city wall can still be seen, dates from 1473, while the Serenissima Kula (Round Tower) was built a year later. The latter is enthroned next to the Narodni trg (People's Square) and today attracts visitors with a café with a sea view on its terrace.
Slobode trg and Church of Our Lady od Andela
Freedom Square marks the entrance to the old town and can also be called the main square of Poreč. With numerous cafés and nice restaurants, it is a popular meeting place and venue.
The baroque church of Gospa od Andela towers in the east. The church of Our Lady of the Angels was built in 1770 on the foundations of a Romanesque church. The most beautiful street in the old town of Poreč, Decumanus, starts to the west of the main square.
Buildings at the Decumanus
Behind the Peterokutna kula stretches the Decumanus, the 2000-year-old main street of Poreč. The adjacent buildings of this shopping and promenade still bear witness to the thousand-year-old Venetian rule.
If you walk along the Decumanus, there are several interesting buildings to discover:
- The two late Gothic noble houses Palazzo Polesini and Palais Sinčič with the Municipal Museum
- The House of the Two Saints with two reliefs on its façade in the side street Svetog Eleuterija
- The Zuccato Palace, which today houses an art gallery
- The Romanesque House from the 13th century
- The Gothic building complex
- The canons' house from the year 1257
Roman Forum (Marafor trg)
At the end of the Decumanus lies the Roman Forum, Marafor trg. The former market square still has a few remains of the ancient temples and paving stones. Among the most remarkable are the Temple of Mars (once one of the largest temples in Istria) and the Temple of Neptune, both dating from the 1st century.
Harbour Road and Theatre
Turning right from the Decumanus, you reach the harbour road that leads to the famous Basilica of Euphrasius. Also worth seeing here is the theatre from 1886, which catches the eye with a sculpture on the roof and its two reliefs of the Poreč coat of arms on the façade.
City Hall of Poreč
Right next to the theatre is the Poreč Town Hall, decorated with pretty arcades and arched windows, built in 1909 by architects from Trieste. If you turn right at Marafor trg, you will reach Eufrazijeva, which leads directly to the most important sight of the old town of Poreč - the Basilica of Euphrasius.
The Euphrasius Basilica is the most valuable cultural monument in the whole of Istria. With its ornate stucco decorations and mosaics on the walls and floors, it is one of the most important sacred buildings in Croatia. In 1997 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site as an important example of late antique art on the Adriatic.
PICTURES: Euphrasius Basilica in Poreč
Origin of the Euphrasius Basilica
The construction of the Basilica of Euphrasius in the north of the old town took place under Bishop Euphrasius. Before that, the house of St. Maurus, the first bishop of Poreč, who was martyred under Emperor Valerian, was in its place.
In the 4th century, the house was expanded into a two-nave oratory and finally into a church. However, this was soon so dilapidated that it was completely demolished and rebuilt from 543 to 554.
Parts of the old church and the oratory, such as some floor mosaics, were included in the new building. The bishop is still remembered today by an inscription and a portrait on the mosaics of the large apse.
Things to see in the Euphrasius Basilica
The basilica in Poreč impresses above all with its ornate mosaics and intricately crafted column capitals, but also with its valuable marble, stone and mother-of-pearl furnishings. For a long time, due to the incredibly good condition of the mosaics, it was believed that they were only created in the 13th century. The first mosaic, an image of Jesus Christ on a golden background, can be admired right above the entrance portal.
The magnificent mosaics on the walls and floor of the basilica deserve closer inspection. With great attention to detail, Christ, the 12 apostles, the Virgin Mary, various saints, angels and other Christian symbols and inscriptions are depicted here in a wide variety of scenes.
Mosaics from the 4th century
Some of the floor mosaics with the Christian symbol of the fish even date back to the 4th century, when the basilica was still an oratory, and are amazingly well preserved to this day.
In addition to the mosaic paintings, the interior of the Basilica of Euphrasius is decorated with ornate stucco work and incrustations of stone and mother-of-pearl. In the centre, enthroned under a canopy supported by marble columns, is the silver-clad main altar from 1452.
Around the Basilica
The bell tower of the Euphrasius Basilica dates from the 16th century. The tower can be climbed and offers a magnificent panoramic view of the old town.
Diocesan Museum in the Bishop's Palace
Right next to the Basilica of Euphrasius is the Bishop's Palace of Poreč. It dates from the 13th century and also goes back to the era of Bishop Euphrasius. At that time it was directly connected to the basilica by a corridor, today it houses the Diocesan Museum. A visit to the museum is worthwhile not only because of the valuable church treasures, sculptures and paintings, but also because of the impressive reception hall.
Another sacral highlight in Poreč is the neoclassical Church of Our Lady, built between 1743 and 1770, situated on a pretty main square in the very west of the historic old town.
Street Art Festival
Every year in August, at the Pula Street Art Festival, young artists enliven the streets and squares of the old town with a fascinating symbiosis between antiquity and modernity.
PICTURES: Old Town of Poreč
Excursion tips from Poreč
Aquacolors Water Park
You wanted to swim in Croatia but not on the beach for a change? Especially families with children will enjoy this excursion. The soaking wet amusement park is located just 10 minutes by car south of Poreč and is one of the largest water amusement parks in Southeast Europe with water slides, wave pools and more.
If you need a break from your cultural and beach holidays in Croatia, a visit to the Baredine Cave is a good idea. The well-known stalactite cave is located near Nova Vas, about 15 minutes by car northeast of Poreč. You can also explore the caves, which are populated by grotto olms, off the beaten track on adventurous climbing tours.