What to see in Split in one day: Tracing history’s footsteps

“If you could only see my cabbages, you would understand the impossibility of suggestion” – The reply of former Roman Emperor Diocletian on Maximian’s proposal to come back to the thron of Rome from Split

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Split is the largest Croatian city on the Adriatic coast and the capital of presently Croatian region of Dalmatia.

It is an ancient city with rich history dating back to Greek and Roman era, Byzantine and Venetian period, Napoleonic era, Habsburg Monarchy, Austria-Hungary, Italy and ex Yugoslavia times which are evident on every step visitor take in Split.

But nevertheless, Split is widely known to be the hometown of Roman Emperor Diocletian and the town where he retired after the abdiction of the thron of Rome to enjoy his last days living in peace and growing vegetables under the Mediterranean sun.  This tranquil and warm Adriatic town seats the Diocletian’s imperial retirement residence built in the 4th century.

The Diocletian’s Palace is a 30.ooo squared meters complex which used to encompass a luxurious emperor’s villa and a military camp. The palace was made of local white limestone, high-quality marble from the nearby island Brač, as well as Greek and Italian marble and was richly decorated with Egyptian granite columns and sphinxes from Luxor. In Diocletian’s times it was home to over 9.000 people. Nowadays the palace is melted into the city of Split, making its heart, in which over 3.000 people reside. The core of the old town of Split is Diocletian’s Place with its Peristyle (the main palace’s square), cellars, temples, vestibule, fortes, four towers and four gates on every side and thick net of narrow old Roman pedestrian-only alleys.

If you happen to be in Split only for one day and wonder what to see in Split in one day, here is my must-see list:

1. What to see in Split in one day:

Peristyle

What to see in Split in one day
The main square of Diocletian’s Palace

Peristyle is the central square of Diocletian’s Place and the northern access to imperial apartments. It is a open colonnade ceremonial court made of white stone from the island Brač and decorated with Italian marble and Egyptian siennite columns on the sides. For luxury aesthetic enrichment of his residence, Diocletian imported twelve Egyptian sphinxes and one of them still can be seen on the Peristyle.

During summer the place hosts many cultural and musical events and even “Roman gladiators” can be met there.

What to see in Split in one day
Egyptian sphinx from Luxor on the Peristyle

2. What to see in Split in one day:

St. Domnius Cathedral

What to see in Split in one day

The original Diocletian’s mausoleum, built in the 4th century AD, was converted into the Cathedral of Saint Domnius (Sv. Duje in Croatian) in the 7th century. Ironically, St. Domnius was beheaded in the persecutions of Emperor Diocletian. St. Domnius is saint the patron of Split and was the first bishop of Salona, the capital of Roman province Dalmatia, which was located 4 miles from Split.

What to see in Split in one day
Bell tower of the Cathedral of St. Dominus (St. Duje)

What to see in Split in one day

The bell tower of St. Domnius Cathedral was built in the 12th century in the Romanesque style. Visitors can climb the tower to enjoy great panoramic views of the town.

What to see in Split in one day
View of the Peristyle and rooftops of Split from the inside of the bell tower
What to see in Split in one day
A street mural depicts the Diocletian’s Palace and St. Domnius, the patron of Split

3. What to see in Split in one day:

Jupiter’s Temple

What to see in Split in one day

Diocletian as a Roman Emperor was believed to be the reincarnation of Jupiter, the Roman highest god and the god of sky, tunder and lightning and therefore he was worshiped as a god.

Jupiter’s temple was built in the 4th century AD honouring the cult of Jupiter. It is located just few steps from the Peristyle. In front of the temple stand an Egyptian sphinx as the temple’s keeper and a renaissance sarcophagus from the 16th century.

In the 6th century AD the temple was converted into St. John’s  Baptistery and nowadays it is open just one day in year, on June the 24th, the Day of St. John the Baptist.

what to see in split in one day

what to see in split in one day

4. What to see in Split in one day:

Vestibule

what to see in split in one day

Vestibule, the round from the inside chamber represented the entrance to residential part of the Diocletian’s Palace. The antechamber was rich with niches full of statues and covered with large cupola.

In contemporary time the space creates great acoustics for street’s musicians and a cappella Dalmatian Klapa singers.

5. What to see in Split in one day:

Narrow old Roman alleys 

what to see in split in one day

Let me pass’ street (or ‘Pusti me proć‘ in Croatian) is the narrowest street in Split, located just next to the Jupiter’s Temple.

what to see in split in one day

what to see in split in one day

6. What to see in Split in one day:

Homes and businesses within the walls of Diocletian’s Palace

what to see in split in one day
People’s homes inside of Diocletian’s Palace in Split
what to see in split in one day
Homes within the walls of Diocletian’s Palace

The Diocletian’s Palace is the only World Heritage site in the World where people still live within the original walls of the palace.

Exploring various parts of the palace visitors can find small shops, coffee and wine bars, restaurants and bistros within the historic walls.

7. What to see in Split in one day:

People’s Square

what to see in split in one day

Narodni Trg in Croatian, or People’s Square (known as Pjaca among the locals as well), is a place with a long tradition of people’s gathering. The most prominent square’s buildings are a Romanesque clock, medieval sundial, the City Cafe and Milesi palace (a baroque palace).

what to see I split in one day, the poeple's square
People’s Square (Place) and the City Cafe (Gradska Kavana)

8. What to see in Split in one day:

Fruit Square

what to see in split in one day

Fruit Square (or Voćni Trg in Croatian) with the octagonal Venetian tower and statue of Marko Marulić, father of Croatian  literature from the 15th century. Once a bustling fruit market is now one of the most popular gathering places in Split.

9. What to see in Split in one day:

Golden Gate

what to see in split in one day, the golden gate
Golden Gate of the Diocletian’s Palace

The Diocoletian’s Palace has forth gates named by materials: The Golden (Northern), Silver (Eastern), Iron (Western) and Bronze (Southern) Gate.

The Golden Gate, constructed as double doors in defending military purpose, was the main entrance to the palace. On June the 1st, 305 AD Emperor Diocletian walked through the gate officially entering the palace.

what to see in split in one day, the golden gate
Doors of the Golden Gate in Split

10. What to see in Split in one day:

Statue of Bishop Gregory of Non

what to see in split in one day, grgur ninski
Statue of Bishop Gregory of Nin (Grgur Ninski) made by Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović

In the 1oth century the Bishop Gregory of Nin (Grgur Ninski in Croatian) was a great advocate of using the Old Slavonic language and at that time national glagolitic script.

Famous Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović made his 6 feet (183 cm) tall statue standing just in from of the Golden Gate. Rubbing the bishop’s thumb is believed to make wish come true.

what to see in split in one day
I took my chance and rubbed the thumb

11. What to see in Split in one day:

Prokurative square

What to see in Split in one day, Prokurative

Prokurative (or Republic Square) is a square from mid 19th century, inspired by Italian architecture and St. Mark’s square in Venice. The square got its name for the red neo-renaissance Italian structure, called in architecture Prokurative.

The square, surrounded on the three sides with buildings and with the southern side open to the harbour, represents a great open stage for numerous concerts, cultural events and festivals.

12. What to see in Split in one day:

Riva

What to see in Split in one day
Split waterfront

If the Diocletian’s palace is the heart of Split, then Riva is the soul of Split. The waterfront promenade is the town’s living room, the most popular meeting point and the main place in Split for social and cultural events.

What to see in Split in one day, Riva

what to see in split in one day

45 comments

  1. What a beautiful and picture perfect city. We have added it to our travel list after seeing your pictures and reading your information. We have never been and your post makes it so inviting. Loved it!

  2. I would love to go to Split! Thanks for sharing the background of this city, I love hearing the history of places. This is a great list I definitely want to keep all these locations in mind if I ever go here!

  3. I’ve been dying to see Croatia and its beautiful pieces of history like Jupiter’s Temple. Thanks for sharing these tips I’m pinning them for later!

  4. What stunning photos and a great blog post. I have heard that Split is amazing, but I’ve never been there. Your post has made me want to go there right NOW. I’ll be pinning this for later 🙂

  5. wow when I am thinking about Croatia I can only need nice sandy beaches. I knew about the city but I didn’t realised how much of a history is there! Now I wanna visit even more!

  6. Croatia has been on my list for quite some time now! Funny name for a place, but I love all the architectural details! That green door is amazing! I will definitely have to go sometime soon!

  7. I usually hate to do a city in a day. It always feels too rushed and you can’t really absorb the culture. That being said sometimes it is just impossible because of time constraints. That is where tips like these become extremely useful. Lovely article and awesome photographs!

  8. Great round up! I loved my time in Croatia, and Split was probably my favorite city – highly underrated in my opinion, there’s so much beautiful and fascinating history and cultural heritage … and so wonderfully preserved 🙂

  9. I haven’t been to Croatia yet, and had no idea Split was so beautiful. Thanks for the wonderful photos to tickle the wanderlust. Officially bookmarked for future travel.

  10. I had no idea Split was such a beautiful city. You did see a lot in just a day. The view from the bell tower is breathtaking. I would definitely climb up there.

  11. You have nicely compiled all the historical places which one must visit in a Split. The Diocletian palace looks great and that view from Bell tower is cool. The statue of Bishop is so huge and neat and liked that picture too.

  12. I can see why a person would want to retire there. Diocletian must have been a clever man. You look so tiny compared to Gregory’s toe, what a giant statue! Marvelous images of a really intriguing place.

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