Poreč is a town and municipality on the western coast of the Istrian peninsula, in Istria County, Croatia. Its major landmark is the 6th century Euphrasian Basilica, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997.
Poreč is almost 2,000 years old, and is set around a harbor protected from the sea by the small island of Saint Nicholas/San Nicolo (St. Nicholas). The town’s population of approximately 12,000 resides mostly on the outskirts, while the wider Poreč area has a population of approximately 17,000 inhabitants. The municipal area covers 142 square kilometres (55 sq mi), with the 37 kilometres (23 miles) long shoreline stretching from the Mirna River near Novigrad to Funtana and Vrsar in the south.
Ever since the 1970s, the coast of Poreč has been the most visited tourist destination in Croatia.
Situated on the western coast of Istria and cooled by sea breezes, the local climate is relatively mild and free of oppressive summer heat. The month of July is the hottest, with a maximum air temperature of 30°C in conditions of low humidity, while January is the coldest with an average of 6 °C (43 °F). There are more than 2,400 hours of sun a year, an average of more than 10 hours of sunshine during the summer days. Sea temperatures can reach 28 °C (82 °F), higher than one might expect compared to the coast of southern Croatia where the air temperatures are higher.
The average annual rainfall of 920 mm (36.2 in) is more or less equally distributed throughout the year, although July and August are very dry. Winds here are Bora, bringing the cold, clear weather from the north in the winter, and the Sirocco warm Mediterranean wind from the south bringing rain. The summer breeze that blows from the land to the sea is called the Maestral.
Road traffic is the primary form of transportation. Poreč is well-connected with the rest of Istria and with larger cities such as Trieste, Rijeka, Ljubljana and Zagreb. The nearest commercial airport is in Pula. Sea traffic is less important today than it was in previous centuries; these days it is primarily used for tourist excursions. The closest railway station is in Pazin, which is the seat of the Istria County local authority. Between 1902 and 1937 the Parenzana, a narrow-gauge railway line connected the town to Trieste.
The town plan still shows the ancient Roman Castrum structure. The main streets are Decumanus and Cardo Maximus, still preserved in their original forms. Marafor is a Roman square with two temples attached. One of them, erected in the first century AD, is dedicated to the Roman god Neptune; its dimensions are 30 by 11 m (98.43 by 36.09 ft).
A few houses from the Romanesque period have been preserved and beautiful Venetian Gothic palaces can be seen here. Originally a Gothic Franciscan church built in the 13th century, the ‘Dieta Istriana’ hall was remodeled in the Baroque style in the 18th century.
The Euphrasian Basilica, rebuilt in the 6th century under the Byzantine Empire and bishop Euphrasius, is the most important historical site in Parenzo. It is a protected World Heritage Site, so designated by UNESCO in 1997.
Between the 12th and 19th centuries, the city had defensive walls, as the better-known Dubrovnik still does today.
In 1844 the Austrian Lloyd steamship company opened a tourist line which called at Parenzo. The first tourist guide describing and depicting the town was printed as early as 1845. The oldest hotel is the Riviera, constructed in 1910. Later came the Parentino and others.
Today, tourist infrastructure is intentionally dispersed along the 37 km (23 mi) long coastline, between the Mirna River and the deep Lim valley. The south hosts self-contained centres like Plava Laguna (Blue Lagoon), Zelena Laguna (Green Lagoon), Bijela Uvala (White Cove) and Brulo. To the north, mirroring centres are Materada, Červar Porat, Ulika and Lanterna. In the high season, the area’s temporary population can exceed 120,000.
Poreč’s heritage can be seen in the historic town centre, in museums and galleries hosted in houses and palaces, many of them still private homes as they have been for centuries. In the off season, weekend visitors from Croatia, Slovenia, Austria and Italy visit the area. Sports complexes are developed and used year-round.