Split, Croatia: The Emperor’s Hideaway

Split is Croatia’s second largest city situated on a Dalmatian coast and accessible by boat, airplane or train with daily connections to most of the islands.

Split is most known for the old part of the town, the  Diocletian’s Palace, an ancient palace built for the Roman Emperor Diocletian at the turn of the fourth century hiding most of the tourist attractions and sights. And most of them you can enjoy for free!

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5Km Walking Map of Split

Top Attractions in Split

Four Gates of Diocletian’s Palace

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On your quest to explore the Diocletian’s palace, you are bound to enter it through one of the four gates all named after four different metals:

Bronze Gate, Golden Gate, Silver Gate and Iron Gate. Knowing the locations of these gates will help you get better orientation when exploring Split and its old part by foot.

Diocletian’s Palace and the Peristyle (Peristil)

The 1700-year-old palace is one of the most important architectural heritages of Roman Empire in Dalmatia and as such is listed and protected as the UNESCO’s World Heritage site. Roman emperor Diocletian built this massive palace as a place where he would retire, and as such, the palace had to have the qualities of the luxurious villa and at the same time the qualities of a military camp, with its huge gates and watchtowers.

Peristyle, as the central square of the Palace with surrounding columns and for a long time the religious center was intended for Emperor Diocletian to appear among his subjects and to be celebrated as the living son of Jupiter. We would recommend having a coffee on the steps circling Peristyle and letting your imagination go wild. Do not miss the perfectly preserved sphinx that is even today, 3500 years later, a witness to times and people passing by.

Cathedral of St.Duje (Saint Domnius)

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The symbol of Split town built in the 13th century dominating the today’s Perystile with its 57 meters high bell tower. You can climb the tower and enjoy the view of the inside of the Diocletian Palace and its waterfront.

Tickets cost 20 kuna and working hours are from 8 AM to 8 PM with an exception of Sunday, from 11 AM to 8 PM. There is a unique ticket you can buy that costs 45 kuna and gives you access to the Cathedral, Bell Tower, Jupiter’s Temple and Treasury.

Jupiter’s temple

Jupiter’s temple was one of the three temples at the Peristyle, with the other two dedicated to Venus and Cybele. Later on, the temple  was converted into a baptistery, which carries the name of St. John the Baptist.  You can get to the temple by passing the narrowest street in the palace conveniently called ‘Let me pass, please’.

Tickets to the baptistry cost 10 kuna and working hours are from 8 AM to 8 PM.

Etnographic Museum of Split

The Ethnographic Museum of Split is housed in one of the early medieval palaces of Split near Peristil, in a palace whose depth of the building layers date back to ancient times. Displayed collection offers a glimpse into the life of Split inhabitants, the islanders and the Dalmatian hinterland from times past. Interestingly, the museum is located in the place where in the 4th century were Imperial chambers, that is, the Emperor Diocletian’s bedroom as the most intimate part of the Palace.

Synagogue

Apparently, Split is home to the second oldest continuously used Sephardic Synagogue in the world still in use. It was created in 16th century in the one-time Jewish ghetto today known as Get by the conversion of the second floor of two attached medieval houses.The most sacred place of the worship,  the Aron Hakodesh,  is built into the western wall of the Diocletian’s Palace.

Grgur Ninski Statue

To the north of the palace, is the Golden Gate that was only used by an emperor and his family leading directly towards Salona as the capital city of the Roman Province Dalmatia. Today in front of the gate is a statue of Grgur Ninski.

Bishop Gregorius of Nin (Grgur Ninski) is the work of a great Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic and is among one of the favorite tourist spots in the city. Local myth states that rubbing the statue’s toe brings good luck.

Riva: Split’s Waterfront

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This is the favorite meeting point, cities living room filled with coffee shops. Architecture wise, when taking a walk down this pedestrian zone you can enjoy the sight at the south facade of the Diocletian Palace, with the entrance into the Substructures, the view at the Franciscan monastery with the church of St. Francis, and the Bajamonti Dešković Palace as well as the view at the Port Authorities building on the east end.

The Substructures

From Riva the waterfront step into the substructures to cool off from warm Croatian sun. Enjoy one of the best preserved ancient complexes of their kind in the world, still bustling with life. Initially, the substructures’ function was to elevate the Emperor’s chambers on the floor above, but they were also used as the storage area for the Palace as well as the residential area in the early Middle Ages.

Today, one part of the substructures you need to pay an admission to see, and is used as a venue for different art exhibitions, workshops and fairs. The other part has stalls of various souvenirs and works of art.

Tickets cost 45 kuna and working hours are from 8 AM to 8 PM.

Squares of the Diocletian’s Palace

Piazza: People’s Square is one of the most popular squares with the first town hall situated here as well as the Renaissance palace of aristocratic family Karepic.

Fruit Square: Walking from the People’s Square to Riva promenade through narrow Split streets you’ll come across of the small square, officially called ‘Rodic Square’ but known as Fruit Square (Vocni Trg). On the west side of the square rises the octagonal tower built by Venetians and on the opposite side of the tower you will notice the Baroque facade of Milesi palace an example of traditional Dalmatian architecture.

Republic Square: Still, many will say how the award for most beautiful square goes to the beautiful Neo-Renaissance square Prokuarative known also as the Republic Square. It is the place that is especially vivid during the summer nights with concerts and summer festivals.

Mestrovic Gallery

Worth a visit is gallery named after famous Croatian sculptor and architect of the 20th century. Enjoy the permanent exhibition covering two floors of the building, and an outdoor sculpture park by Ivan Mestrovic who has sculptures scattered all around the world.

Tickets cost 40 kuna. Working hours are Tuesday to Sunday 9AM to 7PM from May through September and Tuesday to Saturday 9AM to 4PM, Sun 10AM to 3PM from October through April.

Varos – Old Split suburb

One of the oldest parts of Split, with small and tight streets. It was once inhabited only by farmers and fishermen. It is west of the center of the city, at the foot of the celebrated Marjan hill.

Marjan Hill

Known as the lungs of the city, the Marjan Hill is a favorite destination for walking, jogging or riding a bike. The southern slopes of Marjan are a 15 minute walk from the historical center of Split and through Varos. Enjoy the view at Split from several Marjan hill lookouts and explore several centuries old churches up there.

Bacvice beach and Picigin game

Bacvice beach and its promenade have an iconic status among people of Split as the birthplace of the Picigin game and as an epicenter of nightlife in Split.

Do not miss to witness an attractive game of Picigin, traditional ball game from Split played on the beach in shallow water consisting of players keeping a small ball from touching the water.

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