Diocletian Palace Split

The Diocletian Palace in Split is one the highlights and should not be missed when you visit the city. It is a fascinating place to explore. It is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site as it is one of the best preserved monuments of Roman architecture in the world.

What’s the best part of the Diocletian Palace? If you are a Game of Thrones fan you will recognize many of the sites, especially those filmed inside the palace in series 5. But, seriously, there is so much more to see and enjoy.

 

Clock Tower St Domnius
Clock Tower St Domnius Split

 

Who was Diocletian?

 

He was a Dalmatian, who came from a modest background. He soon rose through the ranks of the Roman army. In November AD 284 he was chosen by the soldiers, to avenge the death of Numerian. Having accomplished this he was hailed emperor on 20 November AD 284 and assumed the name of Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletian as his Imperial title.

 

Four Gates

 

There are four gates, one in each wall named after a metal: Golden, Silver, Iron and Bronze that guard the entrance to the city. The Bronze gate leads from the basement of Diocletian’s Central Hall ,now filled with souvenir stalls, and takes you to the Riva. The gates are not around today, but the pillars and archways that held them are still there as a reminder of a bygone era. If you want more detailed information on the gates then this is a great guide.

 

Golden Gate Split
Golden Gate Split

The Diocletian Palace

 

The Diocletian Palace was built as a military fortress as well as an imperial residence and fortified town. The palace is 215 metres from north to south and 180 metres wide covering an area of 38 700 square metres.

Building began in the 4th century and no expense was spared. The beautiful stone was transported from the island of Brač. Marble came from Italy and Greece and the columns and sphinxes from Egypt. The palace took around 10 years to complete.

Within the walls there are numerous buildings and homes. It is a delight to wander through the maze of streets that are now filled with restaurants, trendy boutiques and apartments. I came across a couple of courtyards that were totally deserted. This is quite hard to believe when you consider that around 3000 people live within the walls of the palace.

 

 

Sphinx at Diocletian Palace Split
Sphinx at Diocletian Palace Split

 

The Vestibule

 

The vestibule was the entrance to the residential part of the palace and was used only for ambassadors and to impress people. There is a hole in the roof which I found rather strange, but the space is quite impressive. The vestibule has fantastic acoustics and there was a klapa (traditional Croatian version of cappella) group performing an impressive piece of music. I was so enthralled, sadly I did not record it, but I hunted down something suitable on YouTube. If you like this type of music you will really enjoy this clip. In 2012 klapa was included in UNESCO  Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

 

The Vestibule Diocletian's Palace Split
The Vestibule Diocletian’s Palace

 

Cathedral of Saint Domnius

 

Originally built as Diocletian’s mausoleum the octagonal shaped building was converted into a church and consecrated at the turn of the 7th Century. This is somewhat ironic because Diocletian was known far and wide for his persecution of Christians.

It is the oldest Catholic cathedral in the world that is in use in its original structure. The structure itself was built in AD 305. The bell tower was added much later in the 12th century. If you are prepared for a climb the views are amazing.

The crypt below the cathedral is eerily quiet and quite chilly even on a hot day. It is now a chapel dedicated to Saint Lucy.

 

St Lucy the crypt Diocletian Palace
The Crypt

 

The Temple of Jupiter

 

The location of this temple was chosen specifically to show the connection between the emperor and Jupiter, the Roman god of thunder,heavens and king of the gods. The temple was much later converted into the baptistery of St. John and the crypt below became the church of St. Thomas. There is a striking modern bronze statue, by Ivan Meštrović, of St. John the Baptist placed probably where the statue of Jupiter stood.

 

St John Temple of Jupiter Split
St John Temple of Jupiter

 

The Diocletian Palace is a great place to visit any time of the day, but if you are looking for solitude it is best to get there early in the morning before the crowds arrive. Split is charming and if you like old cities then this is a perfect place for you.

 

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Diocletian Palace Guide Split Croatia
Diocletian Palace Guide Split Croatia

 

Diocletian Palace Guide
Diocletian Palace Guide

 

 

 

Diocletian Palace Split, Croatia : Sightseeing Guide
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18 thoughts on “Diocletian Palace Split, Croatia : Sightseeing Guide

  1. I loved visiting Split and the palace of Diocletian. I agree it’s definitely better to see early in the morning – or in the evening – when the cruise visitors have left. Evenings are still busy, but not in an insane way.

    1. It is very pretty. I spent 3 full days and 2 nights there.It was enough to explore the town as well as having some down time.

  2. The architecture still surviving in Croatia is really stunning. Diocletian Palace looks gorgeous. I just love the cream-colored stone. Perhaps it’s because they spared no expense and got the best stone and marble. I can’t believe there are still so many people living within the castle walls. Croatia is on my list but I want to go during the shoulder or off-season to avoid the summer crowds.

  3. I’m not really into GoT, but this is a lovely and well-kept place that I won’t mind visiting. Croatia has been popping out everywhere lately and I must say I’ve already put it on my to-go to list! Can’t wait to explore it myself. 🙂

    1. Croatia does seem to be flavour of the month at the moment. GOT is a bit of fun really,but it does seem to have a huge following. It is also bringing in revenue for the country so that’s a big plus.

  4. Croatia has been on my list for a long time, and I appreciate the history lesson – there is such a vast history in Split. Great pictures of the Palace- bookmarked!

    1. I love finding out the history of a place. It makes it so much more meaningful for me. I hope you do have an opportunity to visit it is really beautiful.

  5. I have certainly heard of Diocletalian Palace but I’m afraid I’ve never given much thought to it’s history. I love that he rose up from the working class as well as the celestial influence on its location

    1. It is interesting. There is always so much to the story behind what you actually see. I love delving into the past.

  6. Fascinating post. I was in Split before the Game of Thrones even came out, but it was just as mind blowing. I’ve truly never seen a city that looked so much like an ancient stage set. Interesting how Diocletian rose from the ranks, there’s hope for us all yet!

    1. Indeed there is! I had wanted to go to Croatia long before GOT but just managed it this year. You are so right about it looking like a movie set. Did you visit Dubrovnik? I felt the same way about that!

  7. Totally agree that the Diocletian Palace is a must see – it was one of the highlights of my memories from Split. Such a fascinating place to explore!! I’m a big fan of archaeology and history, so I was in my element here. I’ve not see Game of Thrones (blasphemy I’m told!!) but I can definitely see how the palace and surrounds would lend itself to that type of ancient / medieval time period.

    Excellent tip on getting there early morning to beat the crowds – we try to do this in every place we go, and it really pays off!

  8. The architecture is stunning and the Diocletian Palace looks incredible. I enjoyed reading the history of the palace and Dalmatian. It is indeed ironic that the mausoleum was converted into a church. Have yet to visit Croatia and I look forward to discovering Split.

  9. I am especially drawn to old places & architecture. I feel a certain magic in visiting places like this and imagining that what might have happened inside those walls. I’m a big fan of the Game of Thrones books & series and I wish I could visit Croatia someday. I am impressed on how knowledgeable you are with Diocletian Palace that I did not have to check other websites for some background and history. 🙂

    1. Thank you! I love architecture as well so it wasn’t a difficult post to write.I am sure that you will get there one day. It really is impressive. Don’t forget to include Dubrovnik as well, although I must say it was not my most favorite city. I felt like Iwas an extra in a GOT episode!

  10. I love Split. I’ve been there twice. The first time was back in 2009 when I travelled to Europe for the first time. It was Zagreb, Split & Belgrade. It was also when I first started filming and documenting my trips (but my travel blog came much much later). So Split has a special place for me. I was so excited to be there and so impressed with the differences compared to North America I didn’t really learn about anything I saw. I love this post because now I finally get to read about everything I saw. Thank you for this 🙂

    1. It’s a pleasure. It is difficult when you are travelling to try and take it all in. There is often so much to see and do that digging deeper is difficult. Split was a surprise to me. I had no idea what it was going to be like, but I loved it!

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