A Walking Tour of Trogir, Croatia

The city of Trogir, Croatia is seen from afar, via a walking path that is surrounded by greenery. You can see mountains in the distance, as well as the Adriatic Sea.

Trogir was our Croatian home away from home for two memorable months. This picturesque old town has a fascinating history that goes back more than 2,300 years — in fact, it’s actually situated on an island!

During our first weeks in Trogir, we preferred to soak up the town’s details bit by bit, leaving much to imagination. However, when the opportunity presented itself to go on a walking tour with Natalija, a new friend and certified tour guide, we decided it was time we properly unravel the mysteries of the ancient town.

Meeting Our Guide, Natalija

We started our walking tour at the spot where we’d originally met Natalija – Trogir’s Petar Berislavić School, a handsome, century-old building with a commanding location on the Adriatic. When we’d gone there to make arrangements to visit an English class earlier in the month, Natalija (who works as the school’s legal advisor; she is a lawyer schooled in Split), helped translate. Our visit to the 6th grade class would turn out to be a fun diversion: we chatted about the students’ current lessons (their teacher kept reminding us that we could only speak to the kids in the present tense, as it’s the only one they’d yet learned), and their extracurricular passions. One boy was an up-and-coming water polo player, another was an avid basketball fan. The female students professed a love for studying, not sports. As we left the classroom, impressed by the young students’ fine grasp of English and feeling their contagious energy, we concluded that these Croatian youth weren’t very different from their peers we’d met in classes in Southeast Asia and India just a year earlier.

Trogir's Elementary School Building with palm trees in the foreground
The Petar Berislavić School, a favorite roosting spot for seagulls.

An Overview of Trogir’s History

Standing in front of the school on the day of our walking tour, we saw familiar student faces peeking out of the open windows; several students waved at us in a hearty fashion, sending us off on our way with Natalija.

Natalija started out by explaining Trogir’s etymology. Trogir was founded by Greek colonists in the 3rd century BC; they called the port Tragurion, similar to the Greek word Tragos meaning ‘male goat.’ After the Greeks, the Romans and Venetians would put their stamp on Trogir’s history, followed by Habsburg Empire rule and French troops. Trogir and Croatia as a whole would eventually become part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia. The town was also occupied by the Italians during WWII, incurring some bombing damage. Croatia finally gained its independence in 1991 and Trogir was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

Kamerlengo Fortress and flowers - Trogir, Croatia
In the wintertime, the Kamerlengo Fortress is not accessible, but during the summer months, performances are held here.

Nearby, the elementary school is the mid-15th-century Kamerlengo Fortress. Natalija drew our attention to the fortress’ tower, and what remains of a decorative frieze of the Winged Lion of Saint Mark. If you’ve been to Venice, or any spots once under the Venetian Republic’s rule, it’d be a familiar sight, except this one was largely destroyed after the fall of Venice in 1797. Natalija told us that we’d see the town’s only surviving winged lion in a few moments.

The Kamerlengo Fortress Tower, with a destroyed winged lion frieze
This winged lion, on the Kamerlengo Fortress’ Tower, was destroyed after the fall of Venice in 1797.
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Next, we strolled to a suburb of Trogir called Pašike, which Natalija explained was once the district of the city’s poorer people. Trogir’s adjacent historic quarter, on the other hand, is where the noble people called home, behind entryways adorned with elaborate coats of arms. Natalija explained that noble ladies would often come to the wall bordering Pašike, so that they could escape the stuffy air, and dark, high walls of Trogir, where it was difficult to soak up the sunshine.

Trogir's northern gateway with statue on top
Trogir’s north portal.

Entering through Trogir’s north gate, Natalija called our attention to the statue of Trogir’s town protector, St Ivan Orsini. Just a few footsteps inside is the Garagnin-Fanfogna Palace, the building that now houses the City Museum.

Garagnin-Fanfogna Palace
The Garagnin-Fanfogna Palace balcony. If the family wished to pardon someone awaiting execution, they would place a white sheet on this balcony.

The family that once lived here was very powerful – so powerful that they could pardon someone awaiting execution by simply putting a white sheet on this balcony,” Natalija explained.

Back in the palace’s courtyard was a haphazard collection of limestone olive oil millstones, and the city’s only Winged Lion of Saint Mark frieze that was not damaged after the 370+ years of Venetian rule came to an end. Natalija drew our attention to the open book at the lion’s feet, explaining that it’s widely believed that an open book indicates a period of relative peace, whereas a closed one symbolizes times of war.

Winged Lion Frieze in Trogir, Croatia
Trogir’s sole surviving winged lion frieze. The others were destroyed in the town after the fall of Venice.
Olive millstones in Trogir courtyard
Olive oil millstones.
Trogir courtyard
Trogir courtyard
Trogir courtyard

Nearing Trogir’s main square, Trg Ivana Pavla II, named after Pope John Paul II, we stopped at the Cipiko Palace, which was once home to the Cipiko family’s well-known writers, artists and historians. The large rooster replica in the entryway, Natalija explained, was seized from a Turkish ship by a Cipiko family member during a pivotal 15h-century battle. High up on the building’s front façade are beautiful windows that would be equally at home overlooking Venice’s canals.

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The large rooster that was seized from a Turkish ship during an important battle in the 15th century.

An Italian Connection

If you’re thinking that some of these names sound a bit Italian, you’re correct. During medieval times, Latin was spoken here. Even today, Natalija explained, many Dalmatian families still have Italian surnames. She compared the Dalmatian temperament to that of the Italian people (playful and less rigid than northern Croatians, who are said to have been influenced by the Austro-Hungarians).

The most prominent monument on the square and in Trogir is the St. Lawrence Church/St. Lovro Cathedral. It has a celebrated entryway, carved by the master Trogir sculptor, Radovan.

Natalija explained some of the symbolism behind Radovan’s work. Adam and Eve are represented, and the lamb represents good, the dragon symbolizes evil). She also shared an interesting art history tidbit about the column and sculpture just in front of the church.

“This statue is of Jesus,” she explained, “and many tour guides will walk past it without saying anything because it is a bit scandalous and only a year or so old.”

Trogir History and Walking Tour04
It looks rather old, but this sculpture in front of the St. Lawrence Cathedral is new and controversial.
Trogir History and Walking Tour03

Natalija elaborated, explaining that the city leaders and the church did not agree about whether or not to recognize St. John’s Day as a local holiday. Church leaders were upset when the patron saint’s day wasn’t recognized, so they erected the sculpture. I found this funny since I’d photographed the sculpture just days before — certain it was as old as the church. Natalija joked that someday it may be removed since putting it there could be seen as questionable given Trogir’s UNESCO World Heritage status.

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Wells like this are a common sight throughout Trogir courtyards.
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Other prominent buildings on the square are Former Duke’s Palace/City Hall, the town’s Clock Tower and Loggia, which was formerly a courthouse of sorts. Natalija showed us chains that once held the accused wrists during the trial, and explained that executions were carried out in the main square.

Trogir History and Walking Tour36
The Church of St. Lawrence
Natalija, our guide, in Trogir’s loggia.

Next, we wound through a charming courtyard, where multiple potted plants lined the stairways, and laundry lines criss-crossed overhead, before exiting through the town’s south portal, which amazingly still wears 15th century wooden doors (complete with intimidating iron adornments).

Trogir History and Walking Tour30
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Trogir History and Walking Tour08
For weeks, Shawn and I pondered what these stone protrusions are. Natalija explained that in the past, people put rods in them. With a sheet draped over the rod, cool breezes were brought into the home during the hot summers.
Trogir History and Walking Tour01
Trogir History and Walking Tour32

“After 1100 PM, people were not allowed to come into the town,” Natalija explained, so this Small Loggia (or Mala Loza) was a shelter for them while they waited for morning.” The loggia later evolved into a fish market, and today houses souvenirs during Trogir’s busy tourist months.

Trogir History and Walking Tour33

Having looped back to the elementary school, our tour had come full circle. We were thrilled to finally have acquired a greater appreciation of Trogir, thanks to Natalija sharing her afternoon with us. When we mentioned to Natalija that we’d likely be exploring nearby Split in the coming days, she tempted us with more intriguing historical tidbits about Diocletian’s Palace and beyond. She’s a true fountain of knowledge.

Where in the World?

Planning Pointers:

  • If you’re coming to Trogir or the Split area, and would like to arrange a private or small group walking tour, do consider getting in touch with our guide Natalija. Her English is fantastic, and as a lawyer, she offers an interesting perspective on the area’s culture and history. You can reach Natalija at: natalija.nov[at]gmail.com .
  • If you’re a Dr. Who fan, check out the Trogir locations where the Dr. Who episodes were filmed in 2009.
  • Are you looking for accommodation in the Split / Trogir area? Shawn and I have spent a total of three winters there, using it as a base to explore Croatia’s popular Dalmatia region:
    • The first time, we rented a studio apartment at the Apartments Mirkec (affiliate link) in Trogir. We enjoyed our 7 weeks immensely! The apartment had good Wifi, and a kitchen with all the basics. It was also perfectly situated in the heart of Trogir’s gorgeous Old Town, just a minute’s walk from the seaside walkway (the Riva). Trogir’s bus station was about a 5-minute walk from the Apartments Mirkec, making day trips using mass transportation easy.
    • We also spent two winters in holiday apartments in the nearby city of Split. These apartments were in prime locations and would have been in high demand if it was summertime. Our first 2.5 months in Split, we stayed at the lovely Kaleta Apartments (affiliate link), which are located within Diocletian’s Palace. Our elegant studio apartment (called the ‘Diocletian’s Suite’) had lots of character, including Roman brickwork embedded into the wall. We had overhead views of life on Split’s Old Town streets, and we enjoyed chatting with the friendly owners, Novica and Negri. Two years later, we returned to Split, but stayed in the Varoš neighborhood at the Guesthouse F (affiliate link). We especially enjoyed the studio apartments’ central location, plus our tiny terrace, and the kindness of our hosts, Anja and Miro. (One of Guesthouse F’s apartments was originally a horseshoe maker’s workshop, owned by Anja’s grandfather. Shawn and I dubbed it the ‘horseshoe cottage’.) Varoš is just a few minutes’ walk from Diocletian’s Palace. With its quirky narrow streets and stone homes decorated with hunter-green shutters and flower boxes, Varoš is charming.
  • Visit my Croatia page for more trip tips, plus an index of all my posts about Croatia.

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

48 thoughts on “A Walking Tour of Trogir, Croatia

    1. Kat, I guess it comes as no surprise that I highly recommend it. Having been here during the high season in 2007 and low season, I also think that now is a special time. I’m sure that in Dubrovnik it can be perpetually crowded, year round, but here in central Dalmatia, it’s very relaxed this time of year. From sailing, to going wild asparagus hunting, to wine tasting, and visiting an elementary school, we’ve had an extraordinary time here.

      Of course, I’m happy to help should you have any questions. :)

    1. We now call those the ‘medieval air conditioners.’ :) Our guide also mentioned that the original rooster’s hallway companion (another trophy of war) was stolen, so they wisely made a replica of the rooster. Cool indeed, though. Makes me wonder what the symbolism is behind the rooster?

    1. Paige, I hope I captured all the details correctly. :) What brought you to this lovely town for 3 months? We’ve been here since early February, and are getting sad at the thought of leaving. What season were you here?

      1. I was there in spring about two years ago. I think technically I was in Okrug, since I was over that big hill. Four years ago I made a good friend there (Marin, he owns the hostel). He helped me find a vacant vacation apartment–not too hard to find in the rainy season. I was there to write a book–or that was the rumor in town. My Croatian wasn’t good enough to disabuse the notion. Hehe.

        You’re there when everything is closed! :) It’s a different matter in August, for sure.

      2. We’re loving being here while everything’s shuttered up, but know the tourists will be unleashed rather soon. :)

        We just met a nice gentleman the other day while we were sailing out of Trogir and his name is Marin. While it’s probably a long shot, wouldn’t it be a small world if he was the same Marin? I’m sharing the post tomorrow with his picture.

        I saw from you website that you also spent some time in other countries in the Balkans. Did you spend as long a time elsewhere as you did here in Trogir? Which spots were special for you? We’re debating where to head next!

      3. WordPress is fussing at me. :) Perhaps my reply is too long.

        I really fell in love with that region, but my longest stay was in Trogir. I know there are a lot of Marins in Croatian, I’m going to bet it is the same Marin. Exceptionally friendly guy. :) I’ll check your post.
        Bosnia was a very important part of my travels. I loved Mostar. I went there once solo and once with my brother. Naturally, Sarajevo is a highlight too.
        If you want to stay coastal, Montenegro is also fun. I made fast friends there as well. Also, if you haven’t taken the bus down the coast of Croatia yet, it’s a treat in itself! I love the bus drivers–smoking right under the non-smoking signs and taking turns that unfazed the locals, but left newcomers feeling the full adventure of the trip. :)

      4. Our Marin didn’t speak any English, but he was so cheerful and gregarious, it didn’t really matter. :)

        I’ve seen Mostar and Sarajevo back in 2007, and was intrigued by both; my husband hasn’t though, so I’d love to return.

        I think we might be taking that bus down the coast that you mentioned. :) We actually took the bus from Munich to here in early February, but since it was an overnighter, we probably missed a lot of those rebellious details.

        In what part of the world are you now?

  1. Wonderful post… the pics, the architecture, the windows, the carvings… the washing.., the alleys – all utterly beautiful, utterly charming, and all in bright sunshine!

    1. Thanks, Phil. Using your incredible wildlife photograph as an example, I really need to get out in the countryside more and see what critters are lurking. We went asparagus hunting the other day and heard there were snakes, but none showed up for us. :)

  2. Great pictures! I am planning a 2 week travel to Croatia this summer, and I am impatient to visit this place!! Looks so peaceful! Thanks for sharing your experience!

      1. it’s my first time to Croatia so we’ll be visiting the main attractions. We have 10 days in the country and want to focus on Istria, the region of Split and the Dubrovnik area. Do you have any good advice??

      2. Esmé, I’ve seen different places during different trips: Zagreb, Trogir, Dubrovnik, Split and Šibenik.

        During this trip, We’ve spent all of our time in Dalmatia and we’ve enjoyed Šibenik, Trogir and Split. We’re headed to Dubrovnik on Monday, so it’ll be interesting to see how it’s changed from the last time I was there (in 2007).

        We were also hoping to make it to one of the national parks (Plitvice or Krka) but just haven’t made it this time around. All of our new Croatian friends highly recommend them! And the islands sound wonderful – Hvar and Vis are the ones regularly recommended to us.

        Much to see here; I hope to return someday soon, and wish you a splendid trip, Esmé!

  3. I enjoyed this posting so very much. Felt I was walking along with you. Your photos are wonderful!

    1. Mary Ann, Shawn and I keep saying how lucky we were to meet Natalija. Now, when we walk past each one of these spots, it’s as though the stories have been unlocked. We’re really going to miss it here! Hope you’re having a lovely weekend!

  4. I love your posts on Croatia! It’s a neighboring country to mine and i am truly fond of it, both of people and the landscape! I am so glad i found your blog, will follow with great interest!

    1. Thanks so much, Ruth – I’m pleased I happened upon your post on Montenegro, so that we could connect! In what part of Montenegro do you call home? We’re hoping to head there soon, likely after our time in Croatia.

      1. I am in Podgorica, the capital ;) Welcome to the Black Mountains, i hope you’ll like it here!
        p.s. if i can be of help, do contact me via blog or on fb (it’s listed on the website too ;))

      2. It’s so kind of you to offer to help us with any questions. Thank you.

        We were contemplating coming to Podgorica for a day or two. What are some of the special activities that you like to do there?

        I think we should start learning the Montenegrin Cyrillic alphabet soon. :)

      3. Tricia, sorry for the late reply, we had some stuff going on in the family, so i wasn’t really checking the notifications :( It’s latin alphabet here too, and if it’s not raining heavily a stroll in the old town is a good idea (Stara Varosh) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stara_Varo%C5%A1_(Podgorica)

        also, King Nikola’s summer castle and the art museum in it are really worth checking out (it’s close to the US Embassy.)

      4. Ruth, sound like some interesting sites to see there. Thank you for sending the links and for sharing your pointers.

        When I was in Montenegro in 2007, it seemed that the Cyrillic alphabet was being used more than it is now. We just spent two days in Herceg Novi and now we’re in Kotor, and most signs I’ve seen are written in the Latin alphabet. Do some parts of the country favor one alphabet over the other, or has there been a movement to use the Latin alphabet?

    1. Glad to know I passed the test, Natalija. :)

      Thank you again for taking the time to show us Trogir. We have such wonderful memories of that afternoon, and your commentary made us appreciate Trogir even more.

  5. I think my website visitors will be glad to know about Trogir guide. I’ll add a link to my website from Trogir page, so they can contact you!!!

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