The Windows of Diocletian’s Palace – Split, Croatia

Windows of Diocletian's Palace - Split, Croatia Tricia A. Mitchell

Split, Croatia is the stuff of explorers’ dreams. Situated along the sparkling Adriatic Sea and crowned by the Palace of Roman Emperor Diocletian, its Old Town features maze-like passageways and weathered limestone buildings and lanes. In the Fourth Century AD, Roman Emperor Diocletian had his retirement palace built here.

Emperor Diocletian indeed recognized the good life. In 305 CE, he stepped away from the throne, opting to retire along the Dalmatian Coast in what was then known as Spalatum. He is the only Roman emperor to voluntarily resign. Roman senators would later approach Diocletian and ask him to return to public office. Diocletian, enamored with life in his seaside palace, refused to do so and remained in Spalatum until his death at the age of 66.

Eventually, residents from neighboring areas found shelter within the palace walls, building their own homes and businesses within the palace’s protective shell. Today one can explore these winding, cobbled lanes and spy the remnants of the Roman architecture mingled with a hodgepodge of architectural styles from the last few hundred years.

In the windows of the palace’s 1,700 year-old walls, you might also catch a glimpse of more ordinary sites:  flower pots brimming with colorful buds, dogs soaking up the sunshine, or a set of red Snoopy sweat pants drying in the breeze.

Where in the World?

Planning Pointers:

  • We’ve spent two winters in Split, finding accommodation in apartments that would be packed during the summer months, but are practically empty during winter. During our first 2.5 months there, we stayed at the lovely Kaleta Apartments (affiliate link) which are located within Diocletian’s Palace. Our studio apartment (called the ‘Diocletian’s Suite’) featured much character, including Roman brickwork, and views of Old Town Split below. Owners Novica and Negri were thoughtful citizen ambassadors too. Two years later, we returned to Split, staying in the charming Varoš neighborhood, characterized by stone homes with hunter-green shutters. For those 2 months, we stayed in quaint studio apartments at the Guesthouse F (affiliate link). We especially enjoyed 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, which previously belonged to Anja’s grandfather. Shawn and I dubbed it the ‘horseshoe cottage’.
  • If you’ll be staying in Split for a few days, you might be interested in the Split Card, which gives you free entry to certain museums and galleries, and reduced rates to others. Back in 2014, guests staying in Split for 3 days or more could pick up the Split Card for free, but as of 2016, there is a fee to purchase the card. The link above details the current cost, as well as the participating museums and businesses.
  • Need more inspiration? This link contains an index of all my posts from 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.

29 thoughts on “The Windows of Diocletian’s Palace – Split, Croatia

    1. I can see why, Suzanne. They’re easily overlooked, but in some parts of the world they have so much character! It looks like you had a fun time at BlogVille; do you think you’ll go back this summer?

    1. You’d love it here then, Mark. There are so many layers of history, which are often quite visible. In the apartment in which we’re staying, one of the residents through the centuries decided to fill in an old doorway with authentic Roman bricks. He, like many other Split residents, didn’t go to a quarry for stone; instead, they just took bricks from Emperor Diocletian’s Palace structure.

  1. Love windows and doors – love YOUR windows and doors. The colours, the textues, the individuality one sees. Such a glorious change from cookie-cutter North America. XX V.

    1. We say the same thing about the indistinguishable architecture in the U.S., Virginia. Of course there are some older buildings with whimsical details, but so much of the new construction lacks character. We’re spoiled – so happy to be here for much of the winter; I feel like a kid exploring all these nooks and crannies. Some history buffs we’ve met here have lamented that many locals take the 1,700 year-old palace remnants for granted, as they go about their business within the walled part of the old town. I suppose it’s easy to get used to this incredible architecture, but I suspect we won’t. :)

    1. Split does have everything going for it – much history, dramatic natural scenery, manmade beauty, and friendly people. Wish you a wonderful start to the weekend, Deepak, and thanks for dropping by!

    1. Thank you, Bespoke Traveler. I loved the contrast of those red, modern, cartoon-adorned pants surrounded by a 1,700 year-old structure too. An example of the great whimsy to be found here in Split! :)

      1. Hi
        Sorry I have been such a dilatory blog reader lately. I amtrying to catch up now but using a very creaking wifi here in Yallingup, WA! You are making a very good case for Croatia. As always, a fascinating and beautiful blend of words and imagery.

      2. Rachael, if I’m making a case for Croatia, you’re making one for Australia! Which brings me to one of my new year’s resolutions – to be more efficient at responding. :) Looking forward to catching up on your adventures.

  2. Beautiful images, Tricia, it seems like you are enjoying your time in this Split-splendid place you have nestled in. Since I was a child I was fascinated by doors and windows, it always seems to me like that there are some secrets behind them, some people life in between walls and I always wondered what that life would be. Enjoy the holidays! What is a typical Christmas celebration in Croatia?

    1. Belated Weihnachten greetings to you, Cornelia! I can imagine what it must have been like for you and your siblings to explore this part of the world as children. So many nooks and crannies, doorways and windows once or twice filled in, only to create a new living space. It’s fascinating what stories these buildings could tell if only they could speak!

      In Croatia, we heard that dishes featuring cod and fritule (lightly-sweetened fritters or donuts) are common on Christmas Eve. Our ‘landlord’ and his wife were kind enough to give us a whole basket of fritule, and Shawn was lucky to be the one to solely devour them on Christmas Day. :)

      On Christmas Eve, we had sunny weather, and along with the locals, went outside to soak up the sunshine along the seaside promenade. There was a cod-cookoff, where locals were given fish to feast upon, as traditional klapa singers (somewhat like a cappella) serenaded attendees. We attended Christmas Eve midnight mass in the nearby cathedral, which was converted from Diocletian’s mausoleum into a church hundreds of years ago.

      We recently happened upon this vintage Pan Am video promoting the former Yugoslavia, and since you had traveled here as a child, I thought of you. Split, Dubrovnik, Trogir, Korcula, Kotor and, Perast, Lake Bled, and Sarajevo are all featured:

      1. Dear Tricia, thank you for sharing how your Christmas eve went, sounds very lovely the midnight mass in the cathedral. Love the cod-cook-off. It is really so interesting how different cultures celebrate Christmas. On the second day after Christmas I initiated a xMas with friends picnic at he beach, cheeses, baguettes, olives etc. and some red wine, were layed out on a while table cloth, I even brought a mini xmas tree and some red ornaments rolling around in the sand. We all had the guts to go swimming in the ocean, as this is very unusual at this time of the year, first moment it was Bbbbrrrrhhhh cold, but after a few seconds it felt so heavenly, water temperature was around 56 F……A magic day was finished with candle lights in the sand, moon and stars above us.
        I wanted to thank you for the youtubevideo about Croatia, that was really great to watch, thank you. Enjoy your days in Croatia and have a magic 2014

      2. Belated greetings, Cornelia. Your Christmas celebrations sounded very eclectic – California beach living meets French picnic… How fun! Your mention of surviving a dip in the chilly ocean gives me encouragement that perhaps I could do the same here in Croatia. I have a feeling the water temperature might be about the same. I’ll keep you posted. :)

  3. Tricia, this is a fascinating and beautiful photo essay. I must admit that I’m particularly fond of the Snoopy sweat pants. :) It looks like you picked the perfect place to be for the holidays. Wishing you and Shawn Happy Holidays and a fabulous 2014. All the best, Terri & James

    1. Terri & James, thank you for the holiday greetings – undoubtedly you two are enjoying the last days of 2013. Indeed, we’re excited to be here; just the other day we saw Santa and one of his elves riding a motorcycle on the seaside promenade. Split’s young pyrotechnic enthusiasts have also been giving residents a preview of things to come on New Year’s Eve – the firecrackers are routinely cracking! Until next time…

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