The best places to see and visit in the old town of Split. The OLD TOWN is the central part of the city, the Historical complex of Split with the Diocletian's Palace, UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979.
The old town of Split: Diocletian's palace in the center; a part of the historical complex on right and around the Palace.
The MAP of 19 top attractions in the Old Town: Map of Top 19 attractions in Split Old Town
Overlooking the port of Split, the Diocletian's Palace is one of the most impressive architectural accomplishments of the Roman Empire. Enclosed by the walls (up to 28 meters high and up to 2 meters thick), it measures 215 meters in the direction East-West and about 180 meters in North-South. At the center of each side of the walls there is a gate, named after one of the metals: Golden gate (on North), Bronze gate (on South), Silver gate (on East) and Iron gate (on West). Two narrow rectilinear streets, typical of the antique Roman city, connect the gates. Cardo, connects the Northern gate to the Southern gate and Decumanus, connecting the Eastern and the Western gate. The original purpose of the streets was to divide the palace into two segments. The Southern part was destined to the emperor's residence (apartments) and lodgings of the officials and praetorians as well as to the auditoriums, baths and temples, while the Northern part was designed for soldiers and servants.
Though at the origins its intended use was the residence of the emperor (palace), the term can be missleading, as what you can see today are actually the remains (mainly well preserved) of the original structure: parts of the defensive walls and fortresses, 4 gates of the Palace (Golden, Silver, Iron and Bronze gates), Peristyle square, Vestibule, antique archs, squares & streets, rests of the temples, ...
Roman Emperor Diocletian's Palace as it (most probably) was at its origins.
Though you won't be able to see the Palace as from the photo above, what you will see will certainly delight you. Since the beginning, throughout centuries, and still nowadays, the palace has been always inhabited, which makes it unique and the best preserved monument of its kind in the World.
Diocletian's Palace today.
Today, the Diocletian's palace is a unique mixture of structures dating back from Roman age, throughout centuries, to more recent Gothic and Renaissance palaces and squares, built over time inside its massive defensive walls.
What do you need to know about visiting Diocletian's Palace?
Diocletian's Palace is located in the city center of Split, or, better, IT is the heart and the City Center of Split. Diocletian's Palace is an "open source" World heritage site: there are no entrance tickets or fees (local people still live there, and there are plenty of small hotels, apartments and rooms for rent). There are no opening hours - you can visit it whenever you want, 24/24 hours, free of charge. Some attractions inside the Palace are on payment and open for visits daily, within the working hours: St. Domnius cathedral, St.Domnius tower bell, temple of Jupiter and a part of Diocletian's cellars (substructure halls). The entire Palace is approx. 215 x 180 meters. In approx. 1 hour of walking you can see the most important attractions in the Palace, up to 2 hours if you make an extension of your tour to discover some hidden corners, and up to 3-4 hours if you decide to visit also the cathedral, the tower bell, the temples and the entire substructure halls.
#1 St.Domnius Cathedral & Bell Tower
The Cathedral of St. Domnius (Katedrala Svetog Duje), originally built as the mausoleum of Roman Emperor Diocletian, has been consecrated later on in the 7th century. Among all the European cathedrals, the St. Domnius cathedral in Split stands in the oldest building, built together with the rest of the original Palace, between 295 and 305 AD.
St. Domnius Cathedral and St. Domnius bell tower, 57 meters high.
The St. Domnius Bell Tower (Zvonik katedrale Svetog Dujma), originally erected in the Romanesque style between the 13th and 16th centuries, was completely rebuilt after the collapse in 1908. From the peak of the tower, 57 meters high, you can enjoy one of the most impressive panoramas of Split and the entire Diocletian's Palace.
Panoramic view from the peak of St. Domnius Bell Tower.
Entrance tickets: approx. prices:
Cathedral of St. Domnius: 3,3 € / person; St. Domnius Bell Tower: 3 € / person
“The center of Split and the whole World” according to Splitians, the Peristyle is the main square of the Diocletian's Palace. The square is surrounded by authentic columns & arcs and charming Gothic and Baroque style palaces, belonging to the patrician families of Grisogono and Cipci (on the Western side). On the Eastern side is the Cathedral of St. Domnius with the bell tower, at the entrance of which there is a 3.500 years old Egyptian sphinx, able to preach the future. On the southern side is the Prothyrum, and Vestibule, the ancient entrances to the imperial apartments. If you arrive at the square exactly at noon (in high season only; during the winter and autumn the Emperor is still having a rest), you will be able to see Diocletian himself greeting the people from his entrance door (Prothyrum).
Peristyle by night.
On the western side of the Peristyle square, set inside the remains of a temple dedicated to Venus, there is a pleasant coffee bar called Lvxor. Sitting on the stairs in a truly unique antique scenery, you can enjoy a wonderful evening with a drink and live music.
The Vestibule is the antique entrance hall to the Roman Emperor Diocletian’s apartments, the circular dome, under which the traditional choirs (klape) perform live “a capella” singing every day.
Vestibule, the circular cupola and the ancient atrium of Diocletian's apartments.
#4 Diocletian's cellars & Bronze gate
A massive stone staircase, located under the Prothyrum, leads to the Diocletian’s cellars (Dioklecijanovi podrumi), the substructure halls of the Diocletian's Palace, the oldest best-preserved complex of its kind in the World. The original purpose of the cellars was to raise the level of the apartments on the upper floor and to facilitate their construction. Today, the basement of the Palace, is employed by local crafts and souvenir stands, occasionally hosts various events such as exhibitions, flower fairs and theatrical performances.
Diocletian's cellars and the Bronze gate at the end of the corridor.
The central corridor of the basement takes to the “Porta Aenea” (The Bronze Gate – Mjedena or Brončana vrata), the Southern entrance of the Diocletian’s Palace. At the time of Diocletian, the gate was the entrance from the pier (from the sea), today it is the outlet door to Riva, the main promenade of Split.
The main corridor of the cellars is free of charge for visits, meanwhile the Western part of it (and the most interesting one) is on payment. Tickets price approx. 6 EUR / person.
#5 Golden Gate
The Golden Gate (Zlatna vrata), originally in Latin, Porta Aurea or Porta septemtrionalis, is the Northern and the main entrance of the Diocletian’s Palace. Most probably, Diocletian used this door to enter for the first time in his new palace, on June the 1st, 305 A.D. Originally, together with the massive walls, a part of a simple military defensive system, today, the Gate is one of the most significant attractions in the city of Split. Over the centuries, along the Northern wall, the inhabitants built their condominiums, still populated by local people.
The Golden Gate of Diocletian's Palace.
#6 Silver Gate
The Silver Gate (Srebrna vrata), originally in Latin, Porta Argentea or Porta orientalis, is the Eastern entrance to the Diocletian's palace. The original gate was greatly damaged during the Allied air raids at the end of the World War II, and therefore completely restored in 1952. Curious, the gate was completely walled up in the mid-15th century, as a measure of the imminent Ottoman attack, and reopened only after the WWII. In 18th century, in the proximity of the Silver gate, another small gate was created, still open to the passage, the Venetian Gate (Mletačka vrata).
The Silver Gate of Diocletian’s Palace. A view from the square dedicated to Queen Jelena of Croatia (Poljana Kraljice Jelene), antique Decumanus street.
#7 Iron Gate
The Iron Gate (Željezna vrata), originally in Latin, Porta Ferrea or Porta Occidentalis, is the Western gateway to the Diocletian's palace. The Western façade of the Palace is the least visible one from the outside due to the expansion of the city in this direction and the construction of houses and condominiums alongside the walls. Up the gate, the Clock Tower, Roman tower with the Renaissance clock, and a small bell tower on top of it, both from the 15th century. Beyond, at the guard corridor above the gate, the Church of Our Lady of Belfry (Gospa or Zvonika), with impressive pre-Romanesque bell tower, the oldest in Split and one of the oldest examples of Dalmatian medieval architecture.
The Iron Gate, the Western entrance of the Diocletian’s palace, from the main city square (Pjaca).
#8 Cardo & Decumanus street
Cardo and Decumanus are two narrow rectilinear streets, typical of the antique Roman city, that connect the gates of the Diocletian’s palace. Cardo (today Dioklecijanova ulica), the perpendicular path, is connecting the Northern gate to the Southern gate and Decumanus (today Krešimirova ulica and Poljana Kraljice Jelene), is the transversal street connecting the Eastern and the Western gate. The original purpose of the streets was to divide the palace into two segments. The Southern part was destined to the emperor's residence (apartments) and lodgings of the officials and praetorians as well as to the auditoriums, baths and temples, while the Northern part was designed for soldiers and servants. The intersection of the streets is at the beginning of the Peristyle square, at the center of the Diocletian’s Palace.
Poljana Kraljice Jelene (the Square of Queen Jelena of Croatia), antique Decumanus street of Diocletian's palace.
#9 The Temple of Jupiter
From the Peristyle, a narrow passage (Kraj Svetog Ivana) leads to the Baptistery of St. John (Krstionica Svetog Ivana), originally the pagan temple dedicated to the celebrations of Jupiter’s cult, therefore, still today known as the Temple of Jupiter (Jupiterov Hram). The Scottish archaeologist, Robert Adam, an expert researcher of the Diocletian's Palace, considers this temple as one of the most beautiful monuments in Europe.
The Temple of Jupiter - The Baptistery of St. John
In front of the entrance, a headless sphinx (14th century BC), imported from Egypt in the 5th century, at the time of construction of the temple (a part of the temple has been built already at the time of the construction of the Palace, at the end of 3rd century). At the right side next to the entrance, one of the six early Christian columns that originally supported the portico, the only one still persisted. In the 6th or 7th century, the temple was consecrated to the Baptistery of St. John. Entrance ticket (if you want to enter and visit the temple): 10 HRK (approx. 1,3 EUR)
#10 Let me pass
Next to the Temple of Jupiter, there is a short and narrow passage, the famous “Let me pass” street (Pusti me proć), the narrowest street on the World, and among the shortest as well. The narrowest, the shortest? Could be and could be not, however, it is certainly something you will always remember from your visit in Split.
Pusti me proć - Let me pass street, the narrowest street in the World.
Old Town Of Split
(Outside the Diocletian's palace, but still inside the historical complex, UNESCO site)
People’s square (Narodni Trg) is the main city square, better known in Split as, simply, Pjaca (like in Italian, piazza). With the development of the city outside the Diocletian’s palace, Pjaca has become the center of political, social and economic life in Split from the 15th century onwards. A typical Mediterranean ambient, with numerous outdoor cafés and restaurants (even too many recently), was a favourite meeting point for the older generations, those of our fathers and grandfathers (today, it is probably the promenade). Surrounded by charming medieval palaces (Renaissance, Venetian and Gothic), of which the most important one is the first Town Hall, today an exhibition hall. At the former town hall’s loggia, in 1950 was founded Torcida, the organized fans of Hajduk Split football club, the oldest supporter’s group in Europe.
At the stone flag carrier in the middle of the square, the famous words of Tonći Petrasov Marović (Croatian writer, 20th century) have been engraved: "Ne treba nikamo ići, nigdje drugdje tražiti, što jest i tu je" (“There is no need to go elsewhere, no other place to look for, everything that exists, it is already here”).
Pjaca, the main city square. On left, the first Town Hall; on right, the Iron Gate with the Renaissance clock and the Roman tower.
#12 Fruit square
The Fruit square (Voćni Trg) is one of the most beautiful and charming little squares in Split. At the center of the square, the statue of Marko Marulić, the father of Dalmatian and Croatian literature in general. His poem "Judita" is the first testimony of Croatian literature as the first literary work printed in the Croatian language. The monument, with the bronze figure of the humanist who lived between the 15th and 16th centuries, is the masterpiece of Ivan Meštrović, the famous Dalmatian sculptor.
On North side of the square, the baroque Milesi Palace (beginning of the 17th century); in the Southwestern corner the Venetian Tower (Mletačka kula) from 15th century.
The Shore of the Rebirth of the Croatian Nation (Obala Hrvatskog Narodnog Preporoda), or simply the Promenade (Riva), is one of the most beautiful and fascinating places in the city of Split. The city's palm-lined promenade, with numerous open-air cafes, is a great place to sip a coffee for a long time, as the Splitians use to do. When the sun goes down, when the lights come on and lit up the promenade, the port and the Diocletian's Palace, you can enjoy one of the best backgrounds in the city of Split. In the evening, do not miss a long walk along the seafront, definitely recommended, because Split by night is a city full of charm, even more beautiful and romantic than during the day.
A view of the promenade from Deskovic palace.
On the Western side of the promenade, the Church and Monastery of St. Francis (Crkva Svetog Frane & Franjevački samostan) and next to them, the medieval Bajamonti / Dešković Palace, in front of which there is a small circular fountain with a view to Prokurative (The Republic square). On the Eastern side, the walls, the Bronze gate & the South-eastern tower of the Diocletian's Palace, and, at the beginning of the harbour, the Port authorities building.
#14 Grgur Ninski
The impressive statue of Grgur Ninski is located on North of the Diocletian’s Palace, in front of the Golden Gate. Grgur Ninski was the Croatian bishop from the small city of Nin, lived in the 10th century, famous as the great promoter of the use of Slavic language in the local liturgy and of the Glagolitic script (the ancient Croatian alphabet). His initiative constituted an important step for the evolution of the Croatian language and favoured the spread of Christianity in the Kingdom of Croatia.
The statue of Grgur Ninski.
The statue is a masterpiece of Ivan Meštrović (famous Croatian sculptor), a work of great expressive force and one of the most known symbols of the city of Split.
You will notice that the thumb (of the left foot) of Grgur’s statue is glazed and shiny, almost gold. It is because everybody is touching it. According to the legend, who touches his thumb will be lucky and will return to Split.
Likewise in many cities in the world which have their own legends, as in Rome at Trevi Fountain, where you throw the coins dreaming of luck and return to the eternal city, here in Split you polish the thumb hoping for the end with the same results.
#15 Green market
Pazar (the Green Market) is the biggest open-air fruit and vegetable market in Croatia. The stands with fruits and vegetables, farm cheeses, dried meat and smoked hams hanging in kiosks, but also flowers, aromatic herbs, the homemade extra virgin olive oil … a great variety of colors and natural scents make this traditional market survive in spite of the modern organized distribution chains. The quality and the freshness of the products are much appreciated by the locals, despite slightly higher prices (all to be proved), but still quite convenient. Once, as still today, Pazar is the place where different profiles of the locals interlink, farmers and mountain dwellers who sell and the islanders and Splitians who buy. A scenography that very often provokes likeable tensions and funny situations.
Pazar, the green market of Split, open every day of the year, more or less until 1 to 2 pm, though there are always some stands & kiosks open all day long, mainly in spring and summer.
#16 Fish market
Peškarija is the traditional fish market of Split set in a lovely white stone building and at the open space in front of it. Perhaps, it is the only fish market in the world without no flies, thanks to the strong smell of the sulphurous waters that rise nearby.
The fish market in Split: Anchovies, mackerels, basses, lobsters, scampi, monkfishes, ... you will find them all here, in a small lively "popular theatre" with stands set up both inside and outside the building.
#17 Marmont Street
The Marmont’s Street (Marmontova ulica) is the main city avenue. The street that many consider the be the most beautiful in the city, is dedicated to the Marshal of the French Napoleon, Auguste Frédéric Louis Viesse de Marmont (1774-1852). The army commander in Dalmatia and the governor of Split at the time of the French occupation, marshal Marmont made an important contribution to the urbanization of the city, the reason why the citizens of Split dedicated him one of the most beautiful city streets.
Marmontova Street is the vertical promenade stretching from the seaside promenade (Riva) up to the square in front of the Croatian National Theatre (Hrvatsko Narodno Kazalište, HNK) and the Monastery and Church of Our Lady of Health (Gospe od Zdravlja).
At the beginning of the street, you can see one of the oldest pharmacies in the city and after it, in a gallery, the first cinema in Split, Kino Karaman. Proceed up the street to the fish market and to the small square in the middle of the street, with a curious modern fountain called “Pirja” (the Funnel). It is witty and curious because no one knows exactly what it really represents. From the thumb of the hand (located at 4-5 meters up the wall), the water is spread into a funnel-shaped shaft, in the middle of the street.
At the time of the exhibition, the fountain has aroused so much clamour and numerous interpretations of the meaning, never fully identified. Perhaps this was the author's final (and only) intention?!
#18 Republic Square
The Republic Square (Trg Republike), is commonly known as Prokurative (the synonym of the portico, being built according to the model of porticos of the ancient Cardo and Decumanus, the two main streets of the Diocletian's Palace). In addition to outdoor cafes and restaurants, it is not unusual to see also children playing football here, even in the middle of summer, with temperatures exceeding 35 C.
Prokurative, the square of Republic.
Matejuška is a small fishermen’s harbour, located in a bay of the port of Split, on the west side of the promenade and in front of the Monastery of Sr. Francis. Once, the most loved bathing establishment in the city, today Matejuška is the favourite meeting point of fishermen (in the morning) and of young people (at night) who gather on the dock that encloses the small port.
Matejuška, the small fishermen's harbour in the heart of Split.
The MAP of 19 top attractions in the Old Town: Map of Top 19 attractions in Split Old Town