Diocletian’s Palace

sights / Historic

Diocletian’s Palace information

Location
Split , Croatia
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Facing the harbour, Diocletian’s Palace is one of the most imposing Roman ruins in existence and where you’ll spend most of your time while in Split. Don’t expect a palace though, nor a museum – this is the city's living heart, its labyrinthine streets packed with people, bars, shops and restaurants. A military fortress, imperial residence and fortified town, the palace measures 215m from east to west and is 181m wide at the southernmost point, altogether covering 31,000 sq metres.

Although the original structure was modified in the Middle Ages, the alterations have only served to increase the allure of this fascinating site. The palace was built from lustrous white stone from the island of Brač, and construction lasted 10 years. Diocletian spared no expense, importing marble from Italy and Greece, and columns and sphinxes from Egypt.

Each wall has a gate named after a metal: at the northern end is the Golden Gate, while the southern end has the Bronze Gate. The eastern gate is the Silver Gate and to the west is the Iron Gate. Between the eastern and western gates there’s a straight road (Krešimirova; also known as Decumanus), which separates the imperial residence on the southern side, with its state rooms and temples, from the northern side, once used by soldiers and servants. The Bronze Gate, in the southern wall, led from the living quarters to the sea. Just beyond the palace walls are two city landmarks made by sculptor Ivan Meštrović; the medieval bishop Grgur Ninski guards the Golden Gate and the literary scholar Marko Marulić watches over Trg Braće Radić (Voćni Trg) just off Riva.

There are 220 buildings within the palace boundaries, home to about 3000 people. The narrow streets hide passageways and courtyards, some deserted and eerie, others thumping with music from bars and cafes, while the local residents hang out their washing overhead, kids play football amid the ancient walls, and grannies sit in their windows watching the action below. Each street has small signs at its beginning and end marking what you’ll find upon it: bars, cafes, restaurants, shops, museums. It makes moving around much easier, though one of the best things you can do is get lost in the palace – it’s small enough that you’ll always find your way out easily.