Are you planning your holidays in Croatia this year and want to see its historical sights and monuments but not sure where to go? We’ve prepared a list of seven most beautiful places every culture and history lover needs to visit when in Croatia:
1. Dubrovnik city walls
The medieval city of Dubrovnik is so well preserved that it’ll give you the impression of being relocated in history. The city owes its name to an old Croatian word for forest – “dubrava” and its origin dates back to the 7th century. The “must see” attractions are the Medieval city walls, the set of fortifications built from the 13th to the 17th century for defence against Venice. Walls surround the old part of the city, stretch over 1940 m (6365 ft.) and consist of the main wall, sixteen towers, three forts, six bastions and two corner forts.
The Minčeta turret was built in the 15th century, when Byzantine Empire was conquered by the Ottomans, as a protection against them. Legend has it that the architects didn’t have enough stone blocks, so the city authorities ordered that any passanger who wants to enter the city must bring at least one stone block with them.
2. Amphitheatre in Pula
This spectacular arena is the most preserved and the biggest monument from the Ancient Roman period in Croatia.
It was built in the 1st century AD, at the same time when the famous Roman Colloseum was built, during the reign of Emperor Vespasian. In the arena gladiator fights took place and it’s considered that the Pula arena could host up to 20 000 spectators at the time. Today it can receive „only“ 5 000 people and is used for concerts, opera, ballet and Pula film festival, the most popular film event in Croatia.
3. Diocletian palace in Split
If you like Ancient Roman history and architecture, you’ll definitely like this palace in which the Emperor Diocletian lived after he resigned the throne in 305 AD.
The palace was built around 300 AD near Salona, a capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia. It’s one of the best preserved monuments of Roman architecture in the world and was added to UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1979. The Palace was a combination of a luxury villa – summer house and a Roman military camp (castrum), divided into four parts with two main streets. Over time, inhabitants of Split modified parts of the palace but the outlines of the Emperor’s original palace are still very visible.
Visit Peristyle, once the central square of the palace, where celebrations of Emperor as the living son of Jupiter took place. You should also visit the substructures of the palace that represent one of the best preserved ancient complexes of their kind in the world. They are, structurally, a replica of the chambers above, giving us an opportunity to see what the Emperor’s chambers looked like.
4. Euphrasian Basilica
Situated in Poreč, a small city in Istria, this basilica is a place every fan of the Byzantine history and culture must visit.
The church is the best preserved monumet of the Early Byzantine art in this part of Mediterranean. The present basilica was built in the sixth century during the period of Bishop Euphrasius (and Emperor Justinian) on the site of the older basilica. Parts of the former church were used in construction of the new one, and the marble blocks were imported from the coast of the Sea of Marmara.
This basilica is the most complete surviving complex of its type and is protected by UNESCO.
5. St. Donat Church in Zadar
According to legend, it was built by the Zadar’s archbishop Donat in the 9th century and a century later it was even mentioned in the famous De administrando imperio (About the Governance of the Empire) written by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII.
St Donat Church was built in Preromanesque style and is unique example of this kind of architecture in Croatia. Due to its excellent acoustic features, it hosts many musical events during summer.
6. Croatian castles
If you’re a history lover, you shouldn’t miss some of Croatian castles situated in north Croatia. The most famous castle is Trakošćan, once owned by mighty Drašković family. Here the visitors can see how the Croatian nobility lived, learn about the Drašković family and see the original weapon collection from the 19th century.
Another castle worth visiting is Veliki Tabor, which belonged to mighty count Celjski, whose daughter Barbara (later known as „The Black Queen“) was married to the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. A legend of forbidden love between Barbara’s brother Fridrik and a young girl Veronika with a tragic final is connected to this casle. It is believed that Veronika’s weeping can still be heard from the castle during cold, stormy nights.
7. Temple of Augustus and The Golden Gate in Pula
The Temple in Pula is dedicated to the goddess Roma and Emperor Augustus, constructed in the early 1st century AD.
The function of the Temple changed through the years: with the ending of the pagan era its original pagan function ceased and the temple was afterwards used as a church, granary, and in the beginning of the 19th century it was turned into a museum.
The Golden Gate were built between 27 and 29 BC in honor of the mighty Sergi family. The arch captured imagination of many artists, among them Michelangelo, who drew it on one of his sketches.