The History Buff's Guide
Croatia’s Historic Sites: 3 Must-See Roman Ruins
Wondering which Croatia historic sites to visit? Steeped in over 2,000 years of history, it’s no wonder Croatia is a history-buff’s dream. Its geographic location, temperate climate, and outstanding natural beauty once made it a favorite settlement for both the Greeks and the Romans — and many more would-be invaders! As you travel through Croatia, it’s impossible not to encounter artifacts reminding us of its elaborate heritage, whether that be a pile of roadside rubble or a major tourist draw. Here are the top three major Roman ruins you must visit in Croatia.
Diocletian’s Palace, Split
Diocletian’s Palace is Croatia’s most notable historical site — and a must-see for every breed of traveler (especially Game of Thrones fans.) The palace was constructed in 305 CE for Rome’s retiring ruler, Emperor Diocletian. At the time, Split belonged to Rome’s Illyrian province. Surrounding the Palace was a massive fortress-complex, comprised mostly of military garrisons. It boasted an area of 30,000 square-metres, and room enough to accommodate 3,000 people.
Though most of these early structures are gone, visitors to Split will stumble upon traces of them while strolling through the city centre; what does remain from centuries past has today been converted into shops, bars, hotels, restaurants, and even apartments. The Palace itself still stands, inviting you to roam amidst its white marble and granite pillars — can you spot the 3,500 year old Egyptian sphinxes?
Pula Amphitheatre, Pula
In the heart of Pula sits this imposing and historic structure. Dating back to the 1st century CE, the Pula Amphitheatre was synonymous with Roman games and celebrations — including infamous (and bloody!) gladiatorial contests. It is the sixth largest in the world (the Colosseum in Rome being the first), and remains impressively intact.
During the day, you can explore the amphitheatre for a small entrance fee of ~6 euros, or opt for a guided tour. As you stroll through the grounds, it’s easy to picture the toga-clad crowd cheering as a seasoned gladiator faces off against a ferocious lion. If you’re visiting during the summer, make sure to check out the Outlook Music Festival and the Pula Film Festival, which are both held inside the arena — just make sure to book your tickets well in advance, as these are both very popular events.
Salona Roman Ruins, Solin
You can find these extensive (and often overlooked) ruins just five kilometres northeast of Split, in the sleepy suburb of Solin. Once a great Roman settlement, Salona was home to some 60,000 citizens — equivalent to Pula’s present-day population. At the time, Salona was also Dalmatia’s capital. Unfortunately, it was sacked in the seventh century by invading Slav and Avar tribes, forcing many refugees to seek asylum at nearby Diocletian’s Palace.
As a result of the sacking, most of the city was laid to waste. What remains today is the arena’s stone foundation, flanked by lonely granite columns and fallen mounds of stone. So why visit a massive field of rocks, you ask? Walking through a vast, destroyed city isn’t a daily affair for most of us, and is certainly a memorable experience.
It’s clear that Croatia is a land of archaeological and historic splendor. While this list is by no means exhaustive, it’s a good place to start as you embark on your journey to discover the very best of Croatia’s historic sites. If you haven’t yet booked a place to stay, check out THE STELLA’s outstanding collection of Croatian vacation rentals, and book yours today!