Today, the town of Poreč is known as one of the most famous tourist towns on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea.

Throughout the two millenia of its existence, many ruling forces from Roman, to Germanic and later Slavic, have left their mark on its development and Poreč has undergone many changes in the ethnic, political and social spheres. Taking in certain aspects of different civilisations and cultures, Poreč has gradually built its historical and urban identity.

Archeological analyses have proved that the area of today's town has been inhabited since the Iron Age. Archeologists assume that Poreč at the time was a small pre-Roman settlement on the peninsula. The 2nd century BC witnessed many historical changes due to the Roman invasion. With their arrival, Poreč, along with all of Istria, went through the gradual process of Romanisation and urbanisation. The town of Poreč was first mentioned in a written source by Pliny the Elder (1st century) as oppidum civium Romanorum, and soon, during the reign of emperor Tiberius or Caligula, Poreč became a colony – Colonia Iulia Parentium (enjoying all the rights and freedoms of Roman cities). Like every other city-colony, Poreč was organized as a regular network of larger and smaller streets, which, by following the regular urban layout, formed nearly equal blocks, the pattern which also continued beyond the city walls. From the ancient period until today, Poreč has kept this same urban network; the streets cross at a right angle, and the area of the town is split into regular rectangles (insulae) of approximately the same area. The main street, Decumanus maximus, stretches in the direction east-west, and it is crossed at a right angle by the other main street, Cardo maximus, which extends from north to south. The main meeting point and centre of life was the forum, today's square.

City of Poreč

In ancient times Poreč was an important naval port, but the populace wasn't entirely dependent on the sea. The largest income came from local trade and traffic because Poreč was a transit port on the way to Aquileia (the most powerful and important trading centre at the time). Since the town of Poreč was an important colony with exceptional economic and military qualities, it soon became clear that it was necessary to protect the city with walls. Unfortunately, the original ancient walls are poorly preserved, and their remains are mainly located on the town's northern side.

After two centuries of the Roman rule there came a large crisis which led to the decline of the town, while, at the same time, Christianity began to spread. Today the town is famous for its patron saint and martyr Saint Maurus and the Euphrasian Basilica, an early-Byzantine church built in the 6th century. To expand a bit and clarify: after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Istria remained administratively tied to Italy, but at the end of the 5th century it began to fall under the rule of the Ostrogoths. In 539 it became an integral part of the Byzantine Empire, under the rule of emperor Justinian I. The Euphrasian Basilica dates to the period under his reign.

At the end of the 6th century, the Exarchate of Ravenna became the centre of Byzantine power in Italy, and Istria was its important part until the Lombard invasion of Ravenna in 751. Istria was to belong to the Lombard country for a short period of 20 years or so, before becoming part of the Byzantine Empire once again, only to fall under the Frankish rule at the end of the 8th century. The Franks established the feudal system in the region, which was to achieve its final form in the 12th century. Until then the land in Istria used to belong to various different owners, from the Church to rich feudal lords. During the Frankish rule, i.e. the Holy Roman Empire, Istrian towns on the coast developed local forms of self-government – communes. Poreč became a commune in 1194.

The development of Poreč, along with other Istrian towns, started to depend on the Venetian rule very early because Venice had offered to protect the aforementioned communes. Poreč is the first Istrian city that willingly accepted the Venetian rule in 1267. Due to its long urban tradition and the fact that it had historically been a diocese (seat of the bishop), Poreč soon gained the status of a city (città). The chief magistrate of the city was called podestà.

The second half of the 13th century and the first half of the 14th saw the begining of intensive construction work and first major reconstruction of the ancient city walls. Many Romanesque houses were built, e.g. the Prebendary's House (1251), The House of Two Saints (13th century) and the so called Romanesque House (also 13th century). In 1270, the palace of the podestà was also built. It was in the middle of a square edged with public buildings and acting as the centre of the town's public life.

The medieval development was hampered by the conflict between Venice and Genoa, which made robberies and destruction by the Genoese a common practice. Additional problems occurred in the 13th century with a plague epidemic that persisted until mid-17th century. In the intervals between the epidemics, construction works continued. As a result, the city now has palaces representing the 15th century Gothic. The most beautiful examples are the Zucatto and Manzin palaces, as well as the Fontik.

The early modern period witnessed numerous crises and diseases that brought to an end nearly everything the town had built in the past centuries. At the end of the 15th century Poreč had around 3000 inhabitants, in 1580 the figure fell to slightly below 700, and in 1601 to only 300. But by far the most drastic drop was 20 years later, in 1621, when in the entire town lived only 30 people. Bishop Giacomo Fillippo Tommasini described the town as a graveyard that 'scares anyone who enters it'. In the 15th century, Venice, in order to aid Istria economically and demographically, began to colonise it. This also marked the beginning of the settlement of South Slavs, who gained various privileges.

The first signs of improvement were noticeable in the period between 1645 and 1675, thanks to the arrival of the new population. Restaurations of abandoned buildings began at the end of the 17th century, and a better organized communal life contributed to the improvement of living conditions in the city.

The 18th century may be called the century of restauration. We can see growth of trade, crafts, maritime affairs, fishing, agricultural production etc. However, the development of the maritime sector is the most significant because it became the basis of Poreč's economy. The number of inhabitants at this time was between 1500 and 2000. The center of public life moved south, because the old city walls had become useless as fortification, which led to their gradual removal.

After the fall of the Venetian Republic, Poreč fell briefly under the Austrian rule, which was to be quickly replaced by short Napoleon's rule from 1806 to 1813, only to be followed by the second era of Austrian sovereignty which, this time, lasted for over a hundred years, up until 1918 and the end of the First World War. During the 19th century Poreč lived quietly and peacefully, assuming little importance, just like most Istrian towns from the former Venetian Republic. At the time some 2000 people inhabited Poreč and the number which didn't change much even after the city was proclaimed the centre of the Istrian Markgraviate in 1861. In the same year the Regional Assembly was founded, also located in Poreč. Thus Poreč became the centre of political life in Istria.

During the Austrian rule, town life experienced improvement, trade and traffic developed, many associations were founded and actively functioned, many public projects were started (theatres, schools, old people's homes and a sports hall were built). The city infrastructure and communal services improved as well (such as the sewerage system, public lighting, telecommunication, energy network etc.) Tourism became the main branch of economy and began to rapidly develop in mid-19th century. Many institutions were founded, such as the first museum in Istria, the Regional Agricultural Institute, the first agricultural school in Istria and the Agrarian Bank. In 1902 a railway was built, connecting Poreč to Trieste. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries the medieval look of the city began to change and modernize. Embankments were placed in the south of the peninsula, the rest of the city walls were removed and first roads were built. Mounds were also made on the peninsula's southwestern coast, where, in 1910, the first hotel was built – Hotel Riviera. The city began to spread more and more to the east, outside the former walls.

During World War I life in the city became hard. Hunger, scarcity, riots, arrests, poverty, distrust and fear were an everyday reality. In 1915 air strikes and naval attacks became part of people's daily lives.

As World War I was coming to an end, on the basis of the secret Treaty of London (1915) between Italy and the forces of the Triple Entente, the Italian army entered Poreč and occupied it. This situation was ratified by the Treaty of Rapallo (1920) and was to remain such until the end of World War II.

In 1941 the National Liberation Movement was founded, with the goal of overthrowing the fascist regime and unifying with a new state of South Slavs. Partisan troops, brigades and battallions emerged. Before the very end of World War II, Poreč was bombarded by the Allied forces and a quarter of the city was destroyed.

The liberation of Istria came as 1945 was nearing its end, when the Yugoslavian army, with Istrian battallions, began to free the region. The Germans, who had occupied Poreč, were disarmed and forced to leave the city. Thus the city became the first one in Istria to be free from German occupation. The era of the Italian rule ended with the war time and exodus of the population.

After the war ended, as mentioned above, suddenly the population left Poreč in large numbers, and the people who stayed had difficulty with the renewal of their lives in a post-war environment. This process was made easier by becoming part of a new country – Yugoslavia. In the 50s and 60s tourism rapidly developed, which helped open up a new market for traditional Istrian products, but mainly it helped the economic growth in general. Hotels, camp sites and other tourist facilities began to be built.

After the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the formation of the Republic of Croatia, Poreč became one of its most famous tourist towns.