The ancient Central Dalmatian city of Split was born when Emperor Diocletian chose the area as his new retirement residence. While the ancient core is remarkable with its Roman squares, temples and walls, Split extends well beyond that. You’ll find many impressive places to visit inside and outside the historic center.
Best Places to Visit in Split
Constructed around the turn of the 3rd/4th century AD, the palace takes up almost half the historic center. Walk the maze-like complex with its narrow ancient streets and you’ll feel like you’re taking a trip back in time. You’ll be able to marvel at the influences from multiple periods, Greek, Roman and Venetian, glimpsed in the many landmark buildings like the Saint Dominus Cathedral, one of the world’s oldest of its kind, dating to 305 AD. This is the hub of daily life in Split, filled with outstanding cafes, bars and restaurants along with little independent boutiques and shops where you can find all sorts of unique items.
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The Palace Cellars
Located within the southern half of the complex, you can reach the palace cellars by taking a stroll along the seaside promenade, entering through the Brass Gate to find the underground passage with its many souvenir shops. The basement here once served as the spot where boats would make berth, dropping off supplies and receiving noble guests. Look for the large press, once used to make wine from grapes. After the passing of the emperor, the space was used for storage and trash, and many of the items from that period were well preserved. A 19th-century excavation uncovered numerous archaeological finds. This was also a filming site for the HBO hit ‘Game of Thrones,’ it was where Daenerys trained her dragons.
The Riva is the city’s seaside promenade. This picturesque area serves as a popular gathering spot for locals and visitors who can enjoy sipping coffee or wine in the many sidewalk cafes, as well as enjoy tasty snacks and shopping souvenir stands. Locals like to take part in ‘fjaka,’ or the art of doing nothing, a state of mind where time stops and all worries fade so that you can enjoy the moment.
Don’t miss visiting Marjan Hill which overlooks Split, nearby islands and the sea from nearly 600 feet above. Covered with dense pine forest, this sprawling nature reserve serves as the ‘lungs of the city,’ ideal for escaping the hustle and bustle below. You’ll find meandering trails for hikes that lead to scenic lookouts, a 16th-century Jewish cemetery revealing the city’s Jewish heritage, and even cave dwellings where Christian hermits once lived. This is a great place to be at dusk as you’ll be able to watch a breathtaking sunset while enjoying food and cocktails at Vidilica café which sits at the summit.
The Archaeological Museum
The city’s Archaeological Museum is located near the town center. Croatia’s oldest museum, it opened its doors back in 1820 and displays tens of thousands of artifacts from prehistoric, medieval, Roman, Greek and early Christian times. The majority come from the ancient city of Salona nearby, and Split, but it holds valuable objects from more than four dozen different archaeological sites around the country. Some of the items, including an Egyptian sphinx statue, were taken from the emperor’s palace itself. It’s filled with impressive sculptures, jewelry and classical mosaics too. One of the most captivating pieces is a nearly intact warrior’s helmet dating from 400 BC. It also houses the largest gem collection in the country, Roman glass and Hellenistic pottery.
Ivan Mestrovic Gallery
Ivan Mestrovic is the country’s most famous modern sculptor and his works are displayed in the very home the artist once spent many of his summers. It was designed by him, built in the 1930s and eventually donated, along with his works to the state after his passing. Visitors can marvel at his most significant pieces, including sculptures, drawings, furniture and architecture. There are finished works exhibited across two floors and the front garden, and nearby, Kastelet-Crikvine is a restored chapel that hosts a set of wooden wall panels carved by Mestrovic.
The Ancient City of Salona
While it’s not technically in Split, the ancient city of Salona is just a few miles northeast near the suburb of Solin at the foot of the mountains. A must-visit for anyone who is interested in Croatia’s history, it’s the country’s most important archaeological site, the place where many of the remarkable finds in Split’s archaeological museum were uncovered. The extensive ruins testify to the importance of the colony under Roman rule and include multiple churches, an aqueduct, burial ground, public baths. Roman amphitheater and much more. Walking through will take you on a grand adventure, back to a time of emperors, gladiators and Christian martyrs. There is a small museum here too, with souvenirs and some artifacts from Salona, though most can be found in the archaeological museum in Split.
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