Diocletian’s Palace in Split, Croatia is a monument that is equally fascinating to historians, architecture enthusiasts, and the common traveler alike. Built by the Roman emperor for whom it is named, this palace in Split has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, meaning its place among the most phenomenal monuments among the world is undisputed. The Palace of Diocletian is simply one of the largest and most glittering jewels in Croatia’s crown, and visiting is one of the best things to do during a vacation to the country.
One of the things that make this palace in Split so interesting is that it is built in an intriguing fashion; it's not like a palace that one would normally expect, but more like a city within another city. Diocletian’s Palace was, at one time, home to as many as 9,000 people. It was constructed at the behest of Emperor Diocletian, who decided to build this palace in Split when he retired to his birthplace in Salona (which is near Split and certainly worth a visit if you have the time). Today it is simply amazing to see how the Palace of Diocletian has survived through the centuries since its birth in the seventh century, and it now serves not just as a tourist attraction but also as a residential and commercial center.
The architectural style of the Diocletian’s Palace is a hybrid of many different influences as it historically lies between the classical and medieval Christian societies. And, as this is still very much a living part of the city, the palace continues to take on new looks and hues as more modern edifices now sit alongside its ancient style.
In some ways Diocletian’s Palace seems like an impossible and oxymoronic combination of a luxury royal villa and a prison or a highly fortified camp. The palace contains a vast array of diverse forms such as the rectangular Split Temple of Jupiter, the mausoleum or Cathedral St. Dominus (which is shaped like an octagon), circular temples that pay tribute to Venus and Cybele, and the lower level of the church vestibule, which takes the shape of a cross.
Looking upon this array of architectural wonder, you come to realize the Palace of Diocletian reflects the capability of the Roman empire; the palace, in its vastness, absorbs an array of styles that may appear utterly foreign to one another and integrates them with ease. This is particularly evident in the Egyptian-style sphinxes outside the Temple of Jupiter and in the octagonal mausoleum.
As Croatia’s second largest city, Split boasts more than just Diocletian’s Palace. This historic city also houses the Archaeological Museum and the Mestrovic Gallery, which is widely considered the best art museum in the city. The main tourist hub at Split is located along the Obala Hrvatskog Narodnog Preporoda, more commonly known simply as the Riva, which is east of the seafront promenade. Diocletian’s birthplace is very nearby, as are the lovely beaches at Zlatni Rat, Brela, Pakleni Island, Solta, and Milna.
As a result of these many attractions, the city is well-equipped in preparation for incoming visitors: there are many hotels in Split, from luxury ones to more budget-minded guesthouses, and dining out is simply a pleasure given the impressive mixture of international cuisines on offer in the city. Undoubtedly, Split Croatia is a great place for travelers—especially those who are keenly interested in the history and culture that is so ingrained in the city’s walls.