It’s hard to imagine Split Croatia without Emperor’s palace. Almost as hard as imagining Rome without Roman Coliseum or Cairo without Great Pyramid of Giza. If a city has its heart then Diocletian’s Palace is Split’s vital life spot. It is more like a city within a city.
There are not many cities in the world that can as proud as Split to have almost two millennium of history. The difference is that this history is not just in some scribbled notes, but fully evident in today’s Split. Read more about Diocletian on Wikipedia!
Diocletian’s Palace is mostly built from white limestone from Croatia’s Brac Island. The very same stone used for many world famous buildings, including the White House in Washington DC. The difference is that the White House was built some 1500 years later. The Palace is also one of the few UNESCO World Heritage sites in Croatia.
Inside this rectangular Roman castrum (a military camp) measuring 175 by 216 meters, Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus has built an ideal residence for his retirement days. It took him nine years and 20,000 slaves to build it.
How to start your voyage though Split history
There are many ways describing how to start visiting Diocletian palace. It does not matter how you are arriving in Split, by bus, train, ferry or airplane, of even if you’re just passing through on your way to some nearby islands. If you (as I hope you do) decide to stay in Split for a couple of days, the first place you will likely find yourself in will be Split’s Riva, front shore promenade.
Start in the morning…
Let me take you on my favorite tour within the palace walls! Spend your morning starting from Bronze Gate (the gate you enter from Riva promenade, once sea access to the palace). It is the entrance to Diocletian underground cellars, open daily where you can stroll around exhibitions, craft or souvenir stands.
On the other side of the cellars, take stairs to the palace’s central piazza, called Peristil. This is the core of the Diocletian’s palace framed by two colonnades with the sphinxes, vestibule, the imposing Cathedral of St. Domnius and Diocletian’s mausoleum.
This is the perfect place to take some excellent photos or even better climb the Bell Tower to witness the fantastic panoramic views from the top.
If you need some refreshments, grab a good ‘kava‘ (eng. coffee) or pastries at Luxor café bar. Its name refers to one of two remaining Egyptian granite sphinxes. You can sit outside on the stairs, where you can also find many major international newspapers.
Don’t miss passing through the narrowest street in the world, one person at a time, called ‘Let me pass street’.
By the time you visit all these Diocletian highlights it will likely be lunch time. While strolling through palace’s narrow streets, the pleasant scent of local cuisine will invite you to visit one one of the old city restaurants, pizzerias or taverns (konobe).
Inside the palace walls there are plenty of choices where you can eat very good with reasonable prices. I can suggest only few of restaurants I know personally:
- Apetit (Appetite) restaurant in Subiceva street n° 5.
- Konoba (tavern) Bajamonte in Bajamonte street n° 3.
- Tifani restaurant, Poljana Kraljice Jelene, n° 5. It is right on Peristil. Highly recommended!
Don’t forget to read my overview of cheap Split restaurants with excellent food!
Keep on strolling…
If you keep on following Diocletian trails, visit City Museum in Papaliceva street n°1 situated in a medieval house ‘The Papalić Palace’. This museum is well set out in a chronological order starting with the Roman period to the after the second world war. Three floor museum shows the Roman, Venetian, French and Austro-Hungarian period. Entrance costs €3.
Don’t forget to visit Narodni Trg, a Piazza just outside the Western wall, Iron Gate. It is outside the city wall but is known as a popular meeting point for young generation.
Back to Riva promenade…
Walk all the way from Golden Gate to Bronze Gate, back to palm-lined Riva promenade, sit in one of many bars along the Riva or take 3 minutes walk from the Riva to another downtown location I recommend – Teraca Bamba (Babma Terrace) on Matejuska (old fishing port). It is a great place for a mug of beer, no matter if you prefer a local brand or many international ones available.
Sleep where Diocletian slept…
Looking for a place to spend the night within the walls of Diocletian palace? If you want to sleep as emperors do, Hotel Vestibul Palace is the most luxurious hotel between those found within the walls of the palace. Hotel has seven options, between elegant rooms and suites, all with views of ancient stone walls, and wooden furniture for authenticity. Find more here!
The next choice is Peristil hotel, exclusive with only 12 rooms, overlooking the Peristil Piazza. I recommend asking for rooms 204 or 304. These have small alcoves where you can see the ancient walls of the Diocletian Mausoleum.
Prices for accommodation inside Diocletian’s Palace can be rather steep so it’s not for everyone, but if you want to stay at the very heart of Split it will be worth it. You can check for some current discounts and deals on the widget above.
Take a guided tour
You can have your own professional local guide explaining everything along the way and taking you through Split’s rich history.
See you next time for a new walking experience, this time, outside of Diocletian palace.