Tourism started developing in Poreč with the arrival of Austrian nobility and today the town is one of the most popular destinations in Istria, with landmarks such as the Euphrasian Basilica, Old Town, great local food and interesting events attracting numerous visitors
The Rich History and Attractions of Poreč
To paraphrase the great Tolstoy, all Istrian coastal towns are happy in their own way. While Rovinj is known for being a town of romance, Poreč will get under your skin with a combination of ancient history and beaches made for a family vacation. Located in the western part of the Istrian peninsula as part of the indented 37-kilometre-long coastline stretching from the Mirna River to the small town of Funtana, the former capital of Istria is one of the most visited locations in the Adriatic.
Poreč’s Old Town: A Roman Legacy by the Sea
The Old Town is located on a peninsula floating on the sea like a stone ship. Inhabited since the Neolithic, its current form was designed by the Romans two centuries ago. First, it was a military camp, then a fortified town, before finally becoming an important administrative and economic centre. The Old Town retained most of its original town plan and the two longest streets, horizontally and vertically on the street grid, still bear their Roman names – Decumanus and Cardo maximus.
From Roman Legacy to UNESCO Gem: Euphrasian Basilica
Poreč’s crown jewel is undoubtedly the Euphrasian Basilica, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, one of the finest examples of early Byzantine architecture in the Mediterranean. The main street, the Decumanus, is the location of a Gothic palace built in 1473 with floral Gothic elements.
Another popular site is the Istrian Council House, originally a Gothic Franciscan Church, located between the Juraj Dobrila Park and Laginja’s shore. The Baroque building features an impressive ceiling that has Baroque plastering with frescoes in medallions.
The Marafor Square is another thing not to be missed. It used to be the central town square and next to it you can visit the remnants of a temple thought to have been dedicated to Neptune. Some sources suggest that Poreč used to have 11 towers, three of which are still standing: The Northern, Southern and the Pentagonal were built in the 15th ct as additional protection against the possible invasion of Turks.
Culinary Delights in Poreč: A Gastronomic Journey
Poreč is not just about history and architecture; it’s also a haven for food enthusiasts. Explore the town’s gastronomy scene, featuring a diverse range of restaurants, wine bars, and street food joints. From traditional Istrian dishes to international fusion cuisine, Poreč has something to satisfy every palate.
Pentagonal Tower Dining: A Unique Experience
The Pentagonal Tower, one of Poreč’s historical landmarks, now houses a restaurant. Dine in this charming setting with ancient stone walls as your backdrop, and savor delectable cuisine that reflects both tradition and innovation.
Wine Bars and Fish Taverns: A Taste of the Adriatic
Discover the quaint wine bars and fish taverns scattered throughout Poreč’s Old Town. These hidden gems offer a chance to indulge in fresh seafood and local wines, providing an authentic taste of the Adriatic.
The tourist history of this small Istrian town began in 1844 when the Trieste-based Austrian shipping company Lloyd opened up a route that included Poreč. The first tourist guide with pictures and descriptions was printed in 1845 and the first tourists were members of the Austrian nobility.
An interesting piece of information is that Poreč became a bona fide tourist destination when the Crown Princess Stéphanie of Austria sailed into the harbour on her yacht Phantasy. Many celebrities from the era followed suit, such Maria Theresa, Archduke Charles Stephen and Karl Ludwig.
A consortium was established soon after that and the first bathing area on the Island of Saint Nicholas was built in 1895. Later on, the first ordinance on displaying price lists for food, drink and rooms was adopted and the first big hotel, Riviera, the symbol of tourism in Poreč, opened in 1910, while the tourist complexes created in the 20th ct became the basis for future development.
The waterfront became Poreč’s living room after it was recently renovated. The original lines, which are dark by day and light up with an indirect light at night, have become its trademark, telling the story of Poreč’s history and inviting visitors to explore the Old Town.
Poreč has also joined the Organic Cities Network Europe and its citizens have started doing biodynamic farming. Tourists are more and more interested in healthy food options, which is local and trendy, and interesting events like ‘Mediterranean Summer Tango Festival’ and ‘Lanterna Summer Nights’ are almost as appealing to guests as cultural heritage sites.
Sailors’ Haven: Marinas in Poreč
Sailors will be pleased to find that the Poreč area is home to three marinas. The Červar-Porat and Parentium marinas are located a mile away from the town, while the Poreč marina is located right in its centre, allowing you to enjoy the hustle and bustle of town. Having a sunset drink on the sun deck and admiring the view of the Old Town and the St. Nikola islet is a true delight.
Text Jasmina Stošić
Photos Đorđe Stošić, Swan-Lein Stošić, Ivo Pervan & Hrvatska turistička zajednica / Julien Duval, Ivan Šardi, Ivo Biočina, Damir Kvajo