Diocletian Palace in Split is one of Croatia’s top sights and one of the most magnificent monuments of the Roman period. Frankly speaking, if I were emperor Diocletian, I would have chosen the same place for the palace.
It is no coincidence that he chose this place to spend his last days of his life. The natural conditions were excellent, Split (Aspalathos) was a secluded, sun-drenched bay on an attractive peninsula, in the center of the Adriatic coast.
Protected from the sea by the islands of central Dalmatia, from the land by the Dinaric massif, and very near quarries were resources of excellent building stone. Only from these aspects alone it was an ideal place to build a palace.
If Salona, or some place just near, was really the birthplace of Diocletian , than this choice of a site only a few miles from the main town of the Province of Dalmatia, was comprehensible desire to spend the rest of his life near his birthplace.
Diocletian Palace Map
Watching above palace aerial view map for us common mortals, seems huge in size but in reality its irregular rectangular ground-plan is only approximately 175-181 x 216 meters. Its form and arrangement of the buildings within the Palace represent a style of an imperial villa, combination of Hellenistic town and Roman camp.
With its shape resembles as a Roman castrum – a military camp with two main rectilinear vertical streets (Cardo and Decumanus). Both streets were typical in Roman camps and cities. While Decumanus street goes from East to West, Cardo street extends from North to South.
Diocletian Palace Gates
There are four different gates or access points to enter the palace, all named after four different metals – Brass, Golden, Silver and Iron.
For most visitors, the best entrance point, will be the Brass Gate (Brončana Vrata) (called also Bronze gate). This is the south entrance to Diocletian palace, once sea entry and today entrance from Riva front sea promenade. It leads to Diocletian palace basement (or cellar), a colonnade connecting to the Peristyle, palace’s main square.
This underground palace area, probably the most visitors will spend some time browsing the marketplace filled with merchants and craftspeople selling souvenirs.
The second palace gate, you’ll probably will use is Silver Gate Srebrena Vrata). The reason for this is its position as this gate is located on Eastern side, very close to Split harbor and next to Split open air green market. This gate leads to Decumanus street and ends with Iron Gate which is the main gate entering into popular People’s Square (better known as Pjaca).
The Golden Gate (Zlatna vrata), originally in Latin, Porta Aurea is the Northern and the main entrance of the Diocletian’s Palace. Most probably, Diocletian used this door to enter for the first time in his new palace, on June the 1st, 305 A.D.
This gate makes a part of Cardo street (today Dioklecijanova street) that connects Northern gate (Golden gate) to the Southern gate (Bronze gate). The intersection of two old Roman streets is at the beginning of the Peristyle square, considered the center of the Diocletian’s Palace.
Diocletian Palace Top Sights
No matter through which gate you’re going to enter inside Emperor palace, you’ll need about one hour of walking to see the most important attractions in the Palace. The entrance inside the palace is free of charge and being an ‘open source’, it’s open 24/24 hours. You can visit it whenever you want.
Considering this palace as a huge museum, some attractions are subject to charges like St. Domnius cathedral, St. Domnius tower bell, temple of Jupiter and a part of Diocletian’s cellars. In case you decide to visit all of them you’ll need from 3 to 4 hours.
Let’s start planning a tour of the palace starting from Bronze Gate.as the main entrance to the substructure halls of Diocletian’s Palace (cellars).
Entering through Bronze Gate you’re get down to the substructure halls of Diocletian’s Palace (cellars) from the South. The main corridor of the cellars is free of charge for visits, while the Western part of it (don’t miss it) is on payment.(approx. 6 € per person)
The central corridor (as you can see on above image) will lead you through palace underground from the Bronze gate up to the Peristyle square.
Stepping on Peristyle Square, on your right side you will see the St. Domnius cathedral and on your left side you will see the entrance to a narrow passage.
Entering this passage, go forward for about 50 meters and you’ll arrive at the Temple of Jupiter and on left, next of it, the ‘Let me pass’ street.
The Temple of Jupiter – The Baptistery of St. John. In front of the entrance, stands a headless sphinx (14th century BC). Entrance ticket is 10 Kuna (1,4 €)
Next to the Temple of Jupiter, there is the narrowest street where only one person at a time can pass. Tha’s way is called ‘Let me pass‘ (Pusti me proc)
The vestibule is a impressive and spacious domed room, open to the sky. Being extraordinarily acoustic, during high season you can listen traditional choirs (klape) perform live “a Capella” singing every day. If you proceed on the right towards the cathedral, you’ll see some ruins of various Roman structures, including the imperial dining hall and a bathhouse.
Cathedral and Bell Tower of St. Domnius
St.Domnius Cathedral and Bell Tower are the must see sights inside the Palace. Just to remind you that among all the European cathedrals, the St. Domnius cathedral in Split stands as the oldest building, built together with the rest of the original Palace, between 295 and 305 AD.
The St. Domnius bell tower is 57 meters high and from its top, you can enjoy one of the most remarkable panoramas of Split and the entire Diocletian’s Palace.
Cathedral and Bell Tower of St. Domnius
Peristyle - The main square of the Diocletian's Palace
This central Diocletian’s palace square is the must to be place. This is a large courtyard at the center of the palace, with the mausoleum and bell tower on one side, an ideal place to stop for a cup of coffee.
During the high season, every night at 8pm the Luxor restaurant performs the free music in the Peristyle, with candles around the steps, creating an amazing experience. If you arrive at the square exactly at noon (from mid June to late August), you will be able to see Diocletian himself greeting the people from his entrance door.
The traditional Days of Diocletian will open on May at Peristyle, and it will continue through the end of summer. This cultural event has become one of the most recognizable and leading theme for the arrival of tourists in Split.
Hotels within the Diocletian Palace Walls
It’s not every night you can reside in the heart of the Roman emperor palace between the imperial chambers and the imperial Peristyle square. Here are some of special accommodation offers based on remarkable architecture, outstanding surroundings, and unusual charm.
Enjoy Like An Emperor
Hotel Vestibul Palace (4 stars) is located in the heart of Diocletian’s Palace, surrounded by ancient Roman walls.
The hotel is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Main city sights like the Peristyle, the Saint Duje Cathedral and the Riva promenade are only a few steps away
The Mix of Centuries
Jupiter Luxury Hotel is situated inside the UNESCO-protected, near the Temple of Jupiter. Free sauna facilities are available on site, as well as a a-la-carte gourmet restaurant. You can’t find better home!
Fabulous Food Cuisine
3 stars hotel located right next to the Silver Gates within the UNESCO-protected Diocletian’s Palace in Split, Hotel Peristil offers an a la carte restaurant. Free WI-Fi access is available throughout the property.