Split is the second largest city in Croatia after the capital Zagreb.
Do not loose interest to visit Split when you see so much concrete while entering the city, and discover all these buildings, legacy of the communist past.
Once you pass this concrete barrier, you will discover a true jewel hidden in the heart of the city: the palace of the Roman emperor Diocletian.
This is a must see during your vacation in Croatia!
The old town of Split mainly consists of the palace of the Roman emperor Diocletian. We call it a palace but don’t expect to see a small building, it is a small town that was built 1700 years ago.
The Emperor Diocletian is known as one of the greatest persecutors of Christians, and as well as the first and only emperor to have abdicated. His palace was buil in only 10 years, from 295 to 305, this can be explained by the fact that many Egyptians slaves participed to the construction. Not only slaves where brought back from the trip to Egypt, but as well some ‘souvenirs’ such as sphinxes. You can still see one sphinx in front of the cathedral and one in front of the temple of Jupiter.
Before he built his palace the emperor Diocletian was living in Salona, just a few kilometers from the present town of Split. At that time Salona was the capital of Dalmatia. It was a large city of 40,000 souls.
Like any Roman city it had its baths, its shops, its main square called Forum, as well a theater and an amphitheater. Do not miss to visit the archaeological site of Salona. You can still see the stone foundations of Roman buildings. You can walk to the amphitheater where there used to be gladiator fights and executions of Christians. This is the place where was killled St. Dujam, the patron saint of Split. You cannot see much of the amphitheater today, it was intentionally destroyed during the Turkish invasion, so that they wouldn’t use it as a fortress in case of invasion.
When you arrive in Split, coming from Salona, you can notice on your left side the aqueduct that used to bring potable water to the palace.
At the beginning ot the 7th century when the inhabitants of Salona were pushed away by various invasions, they found refuge in the palace. After the persecution of Christians by the emperor Diocletian, the Christian people of Salona destroyed all the statues in his effigy and transformed his mausoleum into a cathedral. They also built many chapels and churches inside the palace that are barely distinguishable today. One chapel was even built on the top of the golden gate that is the main entrance to the palace.
1 – Cathedral Saint Domnius
This is the oldest cathedral in the world. Indeed it was built on the mausoleum of Emperor Diocletian, which dates from the year 300.
It is dedicated to the patron saint of the city of Split, Saint Dujam as well called Saint Duje. Duje is a typical name from the town of Split and still today many men bear this name.
2 – Temple of Jupiter
The temple of Jupiter is located just a few meters from the peristyle. To go there take the narrow street going from the perystile along the Cafe Luxor. It was dedicated to Jupiter, the god of sky and thunder and king of the gods.
It was built around the 3rd century. In the Middle Ages, at the fall of the Roman Empire, the temple was converted into Saint John’s Baptistery.
3 – Peristyle
The peristyle (a courtyard enclosed by columns) was the center of the palace. On one side of the peristyle is the cathedral, on the other side is the Cafe Luxor which facade was even built between the columns.
Climb the few steps and turn toward the peristyle as the emperor Diocletian would do when he was greeting his people. If you take a few steps back you will be entering in another part of the palace, in the emperor’s apartments.
4 – Substructures
The Diocletian’s Palace substructures is the perfect place to get some fresh air during the hot summer! It is always cool down there, all year long.
These substructures directly connect the Riva to the peristyle, so it’s one more reason to pass through if you do not want to go all the way around.
During the Roman times, their function was to elevate the Emperor’s place of living on the floor above, but they served as well as a storage area for the Palace. Their structure is identical to the structures of the upper floor, which means that they give us an exact idea of the way the Emperor’s place of living looked like.
Later, when the town expanded the inhabitants used the substructures to throw in garbage, through openings that you can see in the ceiling. The good thing is that this garbage helped to preserve objects that were captured inside, and that were discovered during the big cleaning of the substructures in the 19th century.
5 – People’s Square
People’s square, in Croatian Narodni Trg is actually called Pjaca by the people of Split, which is the Dalmatian dialect for the word square.
It is a very lively square with beautiful monuments as the gothic building of the old town hall, that is today an exhibition centre. Notice as well the city clock with its unusual 24 digits instead of 12.
6 – General Marmont’s street
The street of the General Marmont remind us on the times when Dalmatia used to belong to the French emperor Napoleon. This is the main shopping street in the pedestrian area of the city.
Aside from shops you will find there the fish market. Its particularity is that you will no see flies there, they are repelled by the smell of the sulfur coming from the spa situated just next to it.
What is this awful smell in Split?
Strolling along the Riva and in Marmont’s street, you will feel a strong smell of rotten eggs especially near the sea. It’s not a smell of waste or garbage as one might think, but that smell comes from the sulfur source which is located in this specific area.
During Roman times emperor Diocletian did build a spa that was using sulfur water. Still working today, it is situated just next to the fish market.
1 – Take a coffee on the Riva
The Riva is the part of the Diocletian palace situated on the harbour, looking over the islands.
To have a coffee on the Riva is the national sport in Split!
So sit down, relax, slowly sip your coffee, and enjoy the view. Not only talking here about the view on the sea and the islands, but as well as the fashion parade of the stylish ladies of Split, considered as the most beautiful women in Croatia.
2 – Strolling through the narrow streets of the palace
Get lost in the narrow streets of the palace and look up the details left by 1700 years of architecture.
3 – Touch Gregory of Nin’s toe
Gregory of Nin was a Croatian bishop who lived in the 10th century and struggled to impose old Croatian as a liturgical language instead of Latin. This statue was created by Ivan Mestrović, the most famous Croatian sculptor of the 20th century.
Touch the big toe of Gregory of Nin brings luck, so make a wish!
4 – Take a walk to the Marjan hill
You can access the Marjan hill taking the stairs situated just a few steps from the Riva. Go to the top of the hill and enjoy the view on the old town, on the sea and the islands.
5 – Visit the fish market
Walk to the fish market situated in Marmont’s street. Notice that you will no see flies there, they are repelled by the smell of the sulfur that is coming from the spa situated just next to it.
6 – Have a stroll in Sustipan’s park
It is situated on a cliff, and will give you a breathtaking view on the islands of Šolta and Brać. If you go there during the evening, you will have a romantic view on illuminated palace when you will walk back to the Riva.
7 – Go to the fruit and vegetable market
Do not miss to visit the fruit and vegetable market, it is situated just next to the Diocletian palace, a few steps away from the Riva. It takes place every day of the year.
8 – Play Picigin
Picigin is traditional ball game from Split, that is played on the sandy beach of Bačvice. It is a sport played in shallow water that consist of keeping a small ball from touching the water by doing some acrobatic figures.
9 – Attend a soccer game
The inhabitants of Split are strong supporters of the football club Hajduk. So during your vacation in Split check if there is a match and discover the atmosphere of the stadium Poljud.
Before the match supporters meet on the square behind the theatre, drinking beers, singing songs and go together by walk to the stadium. After the match grab a famous čevapčići sandwich in front of the stadium.
Rent this luxury apartment in the center of Split, next to the Diocletian palace
Book a hotel in the Diocletian palace or anywhere in Split