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The southernmost Istrian town, Medulin is known primarily for its coastline, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Yet the place has much more to offer than just sea and sun.
- How to get to Medulin and get around
- 5 things not to miss
- Where to stay?
- Where to eat?
- Top 5 day trips from Medulin
- 5 things you didn’t know about Medulin
A couple of decades ago, Medulin was a sleepy fishing village. In fact, it kind of still is during the winter months. Then the town turned to tourism, and by now became one of the most visited places in Croatia! In Istria, only Poreč and Rovinj attract more visitors yearly. Unlike those two, however, Medulin doesn’t have a rich cultural heritage and is known primarily as a resort place. This is the place to be if you want a simple, undemanding holiday. However, if you want more than that, you will find plenty to entertain yourself with.
Medulin is very easily accessible from Pula’s airport. It is only 15 minutes away from it by road, and getting a taxi from the airport is an option. Make sure to get licensed taxis, such as Cammeo or Bolt / Uber, as local taxi drivers are notorious for being prone to scamming gullible tourists. There is also a shuttle bus service, which will take you to Pula’s bus station. More info on how to get to Medulin from there follows.
Other flying options are Rijeka or Trieste’s airports. Keep in mind that it will take at least 2 hours of additional travel by road from either to Medulin. If you fly to Trieste, you will also need to pass two international borders.
Medulin sits close to the southern end of Istria’s “Y” motorway. Once you exit it at the toll booths, just keep going straight along road 5119. Then, make a left turn on the roundabout on Medulinska street.
Medulin is not served by intercity bus lines, so you will have to travel to Pula if coming by bus. There are good local bus connections from Pula, and the line’s starting point is, handily, Pula’s bus station. For info on the timetable, check the local public transport operator’s webpage.
When in Medulin, it helps to have a car or a bike. Some of the places most worth a visit are not so easily accessible by foot. The town itself is a small place and easy to get around. There is also a tourist train connecting the two local campsites, and passing along the town’s hotels as well.
Perhaps the best thing about Medulin is the variety of landscapes it offers. Its most popular beach is Bijeca, located right next to the central part of the town. Bijeca beach is famous for being one of the few sand beaches in Istria.
Only a couple of hundred meters away from Bijeca, in Arena campsite, the beaches are much more like Dalmatian ones. You can enjoy the pebbles, rocks, and pines towering over the sea there.
Marlera peninsula, a bit outside of the town, is another story altogether. Its green fields bordering rocky beaches make it look more like Ireland than anything in Croatia. This is a place to be if you prefer a bit of solitude – and swimming naked. One special treat is Levan islet, close to Marlera, accessible by boat taxi, boasting a sand beach and one of the most spectacular sunsets in Istria.
Yet the most stunning place around Medulin deserves its own entry – right below!
The southernmost point of Istria is cape Kamenjak. Still somewhat of a secret, it’s a place with flora and fauna so rich it is a protected area. It is located just across the bay of Medulin. However, it’s a deep bay, so it will take some 15 minutes by car to get there. The entry point to Kamenjak is in the Premantura village. Please note that an entry fee applies for motor vehicles, and watch out on the bumpy roads! Biking or hiking is also a good idea. Kamenjak is worth visiting for its scenery alone, as it offers not only the best view of Medulin and its archipelago, but also of Kvarner bay, the vastness of Adriatic Sea, and, on fair days, even of Velebit mountain.
It is also a popular place for swimmers – if your thing is pebbles, rocks, and jumping off cliffs into crystal clear waters, this is a place to be. Just keep an eye on possible strong currents and never go swimming on windy days accompanied by big waves! Guided educational tours are also available – more info on the official web page. For refreshments, check out the charming Safari bar, located almost at the very tip of the cape.
Archeological park Vižula
This peninsula, located a bit outside of the town centre and easily reachable by foot, would be a nice place for a walk on its own. The thing that makes it really special are the Roman ruins found there! Seems like Medulin used to be a tourist spot back in ancient times as well. The most important finding on the site is the luxurious Roman villa. It used to be a part of a bigger settlement – so far the biggest structure unearthed is a 30-meters long pier. The area has been turned into a park, which offers VR tours of the site. For more info, check the park’s website.
If you get bored with lazying on a beach, Medulin will have plenty to offer. Consider boat trips – a sea trip with a view of Medulin bay and the archipelago will make for a memorable experience. Medulin Excursions and Tajana & Zlatni Rat are the most renowned providers. Stand-up paddling is also a popular option. Check Metta Float SUP Tours, which offer programs such as SUP yoga and night-glow tour. The area around Medulin is also known for windsurfing – Tsunami Windsurfing can help with that. As much as Kamenjak is rich in flora and fauna, so is the underwater world around it, so you might want to try snorkeling – check out diving centre Shark for that.
Much like the rest of Istria, Medulin has many marked bike trails. A big thing in Medulin is horseback riding – check out Istria Star Ranch, Libora equestrian club, or Samy’s Ranch for that. The last one also offers activities such as quad safari and paintball. For more of that, go to Adrenalin Park Medulin.
Medulin even has a small airport so panoramic flights are also available.
Istria’s most renowned cooking classes and wine&food tours provider, run by the author of this article and his partner, is located close to Medulin. Wine tours happen around the peninsula, as Medulin itself is not a winemaking area.
The cooking classes we do in Scuola, our cooking studio located in an olive grove in the countryside outside of Medulin. We teach Istrian dishes, traditional and modern, from pasta, through fish, up to truffles. If you want to experience how locals eat and bring home some culinary knowledge, Scuola is a place to be.
As the town’s economy relies mostly on tourism, plenty of apartments and private houses are readily available. There are also two big hotels, Park Plaza Belvedere and Arena Holiday. Both built during the socialist times, but have recently beennicely refurbished and modernized. Each has their own beach, and a nice view of Kamenjak. If you love camping, Medulin has two big campsites, Arena and Kažela. Arena is the smaller one and located on a peninsula right next to the town, inside another protected nature area, park-forest Kašteja. Kažela is located on the aforementioned Marlera peninsula and has a naturist part too. Both campsites offer mobile homes for rent.
For a long time, there wasn’t much to recommend for dining in Medulin – and you still have to watch out for the tourist traps! This changed with the opening of restaurant Malin, surely the best place in town. It offers elaborate cuisine, preparing local ingredients with a modern touch, and has a nice view of the marina.
Other decent places are Salt & Pepper, Casa Nostra, pizzeria Kantun, and Financa in Arena campsite, easily on the best location in the town. Also worth checking out is Mižerija, located on the waterfront, which is a bar where the locals go in winter, but offers the simplest local food in tourist months.
If visiting Kamenjak, a good option is Ancora in Premantura. One of the most creative restaurants in Istria is also not far. You can get to Banjole in 10 minutes, and that’s where fish restaurant Batelina is. It’s run by Croatian star chef David Skoko, he of the Anthony Bourdain fame.
Istria’s only national park is among its main attractions. A seaside resort for the Austrian elite over a century ago, later the summer residence of Yugoslavia’s president-for-life, Tito, the islands are now open to all visitors. They are most famous for their parks, boasting rich flora and fauna, with about 600 autochthonous species, and some imported ones, such as deer, ostriches, or llamas, who wander around freely. There are also archaeological sites and Tito’s museum, with memorabilia from his famous guests, from Elizabeth Taylor to Jawaharlal Nehru. To visit it from Medulin, you will have to get to the town of Fažana, which will take some 30 minutes by car, and take a boat to Brijuni. Fažana is also reachable by public transport (see the cited Pula Promet for timetables).
Makes sense to visit Istria’s biggest city if staying in Medulin, given that it’s so close. Car ride will take some 15 minutes, and a bus ride is about half an hour. Once in Pula, do not miss its main attraction, the Arena, but make sure to check out other Roman ruins, scattered around the city. For a great view of the area, climb to Pula’s Kaštel, for an even better view, climb the abandoned Austro-Hungarian fortress on Musil peninsula outside the city. Also, check out the programmes in the Arena – Pula’s renowned film festival is held there, along with occasional big-name concerts and gladiator fights (staged, mind you!).
East Istria’s biggest town is 45-minute car ride away from Medulin, and is worth visiting not only for its art, architecture, walking trails, views, and food, but also for the ride. If you are not scared of rough roads and trails, you might wanna choose the road Ližnjan – Šišan – Valtura – Kavran – Krnica, as you’ll be in for some surprising views on Kvarner Bay, and places like Rakalj make for nice stops if you want to swim alone. A very special treat in that area is Blaz bay, with abandoned mills and creeks bursting from the hills and running straight into the sea, worth a visit on its own.
We did mention windsurfing, but there is more – a beach close to Medulin is one of the few places in Croatia where surfing is possible. True, California-style surfing! The most popular spot is located in Kažela campsite, facing south, where, in days of strong jugo, coastal Croatia’s southeastern wind, shallow waters provide for waves big enough to ride the board.
Old town’s ladonja
Ladonja is a tree species, found throughout the Mediterranean area, and very common in Istria, where it was once planted on the town or village squares, with its shade serving as a gathering point. The one found in the centre of Medulin’s old town (a very different place than the touristic coastline!) is considered one of the most beautiful trees not only in Croatia but also in Europe. In 2020, it was named the winner of the Croatian Tree of the Year competition, and ran for the title of European Tree of the Year title, finishing in 10th place.
Easily the most recognizable symbol of Medulin is the old malin (local word for “mill”), a windmill located near the entrance to the Arena campsite. It was built in 1870s when an old tower was turned into a windmill, unique in Istria. In its prime, it served farmers from the area, outperforming even local steam mills. A long time closed, it was preserved; recently it underwent a renovation, and is now open to visitors.
Seems like Kamenjak could pride itself on rich fauna hundreds of millions of years ago already, as dinosaurs left their footprints on the cape, still visible today. One dinosaur trail is found on the cape itself, on the smaller cape Grakalovac, and can be easily visited if coming to Kamenjak. Yet one of the richest dinosaur trails in Europe is found on islet Fenoliga, next to Kamenjak’s coast, with over 150 footprints of various species of dinosaurs, providing valuable info on the size and behaviour of the dinos. Although located close to Kamenjak, Fenoliga is accessible by boat only – swimming there might be dangerous.
Medulin could have been a very different place had one entrepreneur managed to realize his vision. Paul Kupelwieser was a Viennese industrialist (1843 – 1919) known in Croatia as the man who bought the unkempt Brijuni islands in 1894 and turned them into a resort place, pioneering Istrian tourism. In the process, he brought Robert Koch in to successfully eradicate malaria, then rampant on the islands, and also established the world’s first diesel boat line from Brijuni to Pula.
With Pula being Austria-Hungary’s main military harbour at the time, Kupelwieser wanted to build a merchant and passenger harbour too, and choose Medulin bay for its location. He bought the land around it, including Kašteja peninsula, where nowadays the Arena campsite is located and even planned a railway link to Medulin. The aforementioned military, however, wasn’t sympathetic to his ideas, so Kupelwieser proposed building an – oil refinery in Medulin. With that idea also (perhaps luckily!) refused, Kupelweiser finally decided to use his estate for – tourism, preceding Medulin’s tourist boom by more than half of a century. His legacy is the aforementioned park-forest Kašteja.
To follow the latest news from Medulin, check out the dedicated TCN page.