Diocletian’s Palace in Split (Croatian: Dioklecijanova palača) is one of the best preserved monuments of Roman architecture. It was designed and built for the Roman emperor Diocletian at the turn of the third and fourth century AC. He wished for a place to enjoy his retirement and chose the beautiful location by the sea and between the hills, which is now known as Split’s town centre. If you are visiting Split, even for a short time, Diocletian’s Palace should be at the top of your places–to-go list! 

Historical parts and function of Diocletian’s Palace

The palace of Diocletian is not just one building; it was an imperial residence built as a city-palace and a fortress. Its rectangular floor plan, thick walls, four entrance doors and sixteen towers greatly resembled the structure of a Roman military camp. The gates were facing the four main directions: Golden Gate in the north, Silver Gate in the east, Iron Gate in the west and Bronze Gate in the south, which you could access directly from the sea. 

The only two streets split the area in four parts: the guards and military were situated in the northern, while Diocletian’s residence was in the southern quadrants. 

The emperor’s residence, among other buildings, included a library, thermae, private promenade, basement and reception rooms, as well as waiting and dining areas. On the crossroads was the only square, Peristyle, where religious ceremonies were being held. Diocletian’s Mausoleum, emperor’s burial site, and Temple of Jupiter, a place of worship, were placed at the east and the west of the Peristyle square, along with granite sphinxes that Diocletian brought from Egypt.

Gate to the Diocletians Palace in Split.

What has changed since Roman times? 

Given that over 1700 years have passed since its completion, the palace of Diocletian was bound to change as a result of various circumstances, mainly wars and settlement of different cultures. 

After the death of Diocletian, the palace remained in Roman ownership until the Western Roman Empire collapsed, then the Byzantines took over. In the 7th century, the ancient city of Salona was destroyed in the invasion of Avars and its citizens found shelter in the Diocletian’s palace. They inhabited the area, incorporating their houses and crafts in the walls and the basements of the palace. That is considered the beginning of an organised life and evolution to the town named Spalatum.

Diocletians Palace from air in Split Croatia.

That was also when Diocletian’s Mausoleum was turned into the Cathedral of Saint Domnius. The Temple of Jupiter was later transformed into Baptistery and the Romanesque bell tower was added to the cathedral.

What can you do and see in Diocletian’s Palace? 

Diocletian’s Palace is the very core of Split’s town centre and you can visit all the remains, although some sites have the entrance fee. You will have to pay to visit the cathedral, baptistery and cellars or climb the cathedral’s bell tower. All of them are, of course, worth seeing for their uniqueness, historical importance and heritage. This is globally recognised, as the Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian was included on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list in 1979.

Diocletians Palace interior structure.

The Cellars of Diocletian’s palace (or its Substructures) are not only the most preserved site but were also the setting in filming Game of Thrones. One of the most popular TV shows ever chose this historic location for various scenes in Mereen including Daenerys’ Throne Room and her dragons’ room. There are guided tours available and you can even visit the Game of Thrones Museum nearby.   

If you are looking for extra activities or sights in and around Diocletian’s Palace, one of the most popular places is certainly Peristyle. Not only can you sit on the stairs of the ancient square while having a drink in the local cafe, but you can also enjoy theatrical performances in perfect scenery. 

Accommodation near Diocletian’s Palace 

Housings in the town’s centre and among the ancient ruins remained popular to this very day, although a big part of them made way for restaurants, cafes and shops. A place to stay in the town’s centre is not impossible to find, but the sooner you start looking the better. If you stay at Nirvana Luxury Rooms or PRIMA Life Spalato, you will only be 3-4 minutes walking distance from the Golden Gate. Residing in Central Square Heritage Hotel, on the other hand, would mean you are sleeping a minute away from the Iron Gate and might even see the cathedral from your bedroom window. Explore your accommodation options – come and see what imperial Roman life was like!  

Luxury room accommodation in central Split Croatia.

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