For two thousand years, Croatia’s Klis Fortress (Kliška Tvrđava) has held a coveted position among Central Dalmatia‘s craggy landscape. The fortress has been the scene of dramatic battles over the millennia. In more recent years, it served as one of the filming locations for season 4 of Game of Thrones. Given its fabulous setting and captivating history, the Klis Fortress has undeniable appeal to both Game of Thrones fans and history enthusiasts looking to take a day trip from Split.
In this piece, I give an overview of the history of the Klis Fortress and include details about the Game of Thrones filming sites in the Split area. I also share highlights of our visit to the fortress and to the nearby Antoničin Mlin restaurant. This atmospheric restaurant is housed in a centuries-old watermill and serves up traditional Dalmatian specialties. The restaurant has earned present-day fame for being a Game of Thrones filming site in 2013.
Klis Fortress: A Brief History
- As early as the 2nd Century BCE, Illyrian tribes (the Dalmatae) inhabited the area around Klis.
- Over the centuries, this strategic spot (which straddles Mosor and Kozjak mountains), was also controlled by the Romans, Avars, Slavs, Croatian kings and nobility, Ottomans, Venetians, French, Austro-Hungarians, and Italian and German troops.
- In 1990, Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia. Today, the fortress’ Oprah Tower again flies the red, white, and blue flag of Croatia.
- In 2014, the Klis Fortress appeared in season 4, episode 4 of Game of Thrones.
Visiting the Klis Fortress
When we explored the Klis Fortress one February afternoon, the countryside was coming to life. Green patches added splashes of color to the rocky landscape. Almond trees burst with white blossoms. As we walked along the rugged pathways, we admired the extraordinary views of the countryside, the mountains, the azure Adriatic Sea, and a few of Croatia’s islands.
Shawn and I spotted a weathered canyon, ramparts, and look-outs. At times, we tried to imagine what battles took place at Klis over the centuries — especially during the period when it overlooked the border between the Ottoman and Venetian Empires.
Our hosts explained that the climate is different on the north and south sides of the fortress. The climate to the north is more Continental, but the southern, coastal areas are Mediterranean.
Shawn and I have visited other popular fortifications and castles, such as the Kotor Fortress, Dubrovnik’s city walls, and the Neuschwanstein Castle. These tourist meccas can be swamped with visitors.
Klis Fortress, on the other hand, felt relatively undiscovered during our visit. With the exception of our small group, we only saw one or two other couples strolling the grounds.
We did see signs of restoration work. However, we also realized how much work was left to be done when we saw parts of the site that were so untouched that someone could have easily tumbled off the edge of a cliff.
Lunch at Antoničin Mlin, a Historic Mill and Game of Thrones Filming Site
We ended up exploring Klis for a few hours and worked up ferocious appetites. Hopping back into our host’s car, we bid farewell to the fortress and headed to the village of Žrnovnica via winding roads. On the way to Žrnovnica, we passed the stone quarry that served as another filming location for season 4 of Game of Thrones.
Tiny Žrnovnica is home to Antonica’s Mill (Antoničin Mlin) restaurant. This business is located in a watermill that still functions. Incredibly, it might have been built as far back as the 13th century. Originally called Benzon Mill, the historic building is one of the few remaining mills in the area.
Arriving at the stone mill, we felt like we’d stepped back in time. The restaurant was surrounded by an expansive green space. Fresh water raced underneath the mill. Inside the charming building, millstones revolved as they have for centuries, grinding a fine stream of wheat into wooden bins.
Antonica’s owner, cook, and waiter were delightful to chat with. One man mentioned that he was the one who’d caught the trout that we’d be feasting upon for lunch. The man had a twinkle in his eye when he showed us a photograph of himself playing the role of King Arthur in a theatrical production. In the photo, a small Lhasa Apso pup sat on his shoulder. He held a dagger and sword in hand, and a playful entourage surrounded him.
The lunch proved to be a traditional Croatian feast. We enjoyed homemade wine, as well as water naturally flavored with wild sage. Also on the menu were Croatian Swiss chard (blitva), grilled fish, and vegetables and meat roasted to perfection under a peka bell. When we returned to Split a few hours later, our bellies were very content.
Game of Thrones Filming Locations in the Split Area
Admittedly, I’ve never seen an episode of Game of Thrones. However, during our three months in coastal Split back in 2014, Shawn and I couldn’t escape the hype surrounding this popular television series.
From comments like “my brother was an extra and met Daenerys” to “our friend acted as a slave girl” to “they filmed a scene on the cobbled street in front of our office,” Split residents were excited and speculative about which scenes would make it into the upcoming episodes. Trailers helped them exercise their detective skills and pinpoint some Game of Thrones filming locations even before season 4 debuted.
Eventually season 4 was released, much to the delight of Split’s inhabitants. The Klis Fortress appeared in episode 4 as the city of Meereen. In addition, a few other Split-area locations were featured:
- the eerie basements of Diocletian’s 1,700-year-old palace
- Papalićeva Street, a narrow, cobbled lane near Split’s City Museum
- a quarry in Perun
- Antoničin Mlin, a centuries-old watermill in Žrnovnica. (This is where we ate our traditional Croatian lunch after visiting the Klis Fortress. If you visit the restaurant’s website, you can see backstage images from the Game of Thrones filming that took place there in 2013.)
For more information about Croatia’s Game of Thrones filming locations, also take a peek at:
- Game of Thrones Guide to Croatia (TimeOut)
- Game of Thrones Filming Locations In Real-Life (Bored Panda)
Our Video of This Experience:
Where in the World?
The Klis Fortress website features more information about opening hours and ticket prices, as well as the fortress’ history, architecture, and any special events taking place.
How to get to the Klis Fortress:
The Klis Fortress is located above the village of Klis, 15 km (10 miles) north of the coastal city of Split. Driving to Klis takes approximately 20 minutes.
The first time we visited the Klis Fortress in 2014, our friend drove us there.
In 2020, we hiked to the fortress from the nearby city of Solin. The scenery along the way was delightful, but much of this hike was uphill. Still, I’d highly recommend the experience as it gives you even more respect for the fortress’ formidable position.
Parking: There are several free parking lots below the fortress. The closest one is at the base of the stairs leading up to the fortress.
Public transportation: Bus lines 22, 35, and 36 connect Split and Klis. To see prices and timetables, visit the Promet website.
Klis Fortress opening hours:
Opening hours vary throughout the year. Sometimes, there are even night tours.
You’ll want to confirm that the fortress is open when you plan to visit. You can call Klis Fortress staff at +385 212 40578 or contact them via the Klis Fortress Facebook page. They were very responsive when I sent them a message via Facebook Messenger.
Klis Fortress ticket prices:
- Adults: 60 kuna
- Children: 20 kuna
Unfortunately, the Klis Fortress is not wheelchair-accessible.
When you explore the fortress, be mindful of steep drop-offs. Though the site was undergoing restoration work when we visited in early 2014, there were some sections where a mis-step could cause you to fall a considerable distance.
Accommodation in the Split area:
Shawn and I have spent a total of five winters and one summer in and around the city of Split, using it as a base to explore Croatia’s popular Central Dalmatia region. We’ve made it a habit to create new memories by staying in a different property each year. Over the years, we’ve had long-term stays in Split, Trogir, and Makarska.
We would happily revisit all of the following apartments. (Please note that some are affiliate links.)
- Apartments Mirkec (Trogir) – We spent 7 wonderful weeks in this studio apartment, which is located in the heart of the town of Trogir. 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.
- Kaleta Apartments (Split) – These lovely apartments are located within Diocletian’s Palace (well, technically just a few meters from the Iron Gate). 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. We spent about 2.5 months here.
- Guesthouse F (Split) – This cozy studio apartment is located in Split’s Varoš neighborhood, 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. 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.” Aside from our central location, we loved having a tiny terrace. We also appreciated the kindness of our hosts, Anja and Miro. In total, we spent about 2 months here.
- Viola Apartment (Split) – We spent roughly 3 months in this wonderful 2-bedroom apartment, which is also in the Varoš neighborhood of Split. The apartment also has a lovely sun porch and garden. It is in an old stone home, but the interior has recently been remodeled. We were in a perfect location for accessing Diocletian’s Palace and Marjan Forest Park, too. On foot, it takes about six minutes to reach Split’s most famous lookout point near the Caffe Bar Vidilica. The owner, Ljubica, lives upstairs. She is easygoing and helpful.
- Apartments Missy (Makarska) – This 1-bedroom apartment was our home for about 5.5 months. The apartment is on the top floor and features skylights. A small balcony on the back of the apartment overlooks Makarska’s harbor — the views of Makarska’s dramatic mountains are wonderful! It takes about 8 minutes to reach Makarska’s bus station on foot. In a matter of minutes, you can also walk to Makarska’s Riva (seaside promenade), several grocery stores, restaurants, and cafés. The owners, Mise and Anna, are exceptionally friendly and helpful.
Looking for more Croatia trip-planning inspiration?
See my Croatia guide.
Hvala / thanks to our friend Srđan and his Game of Thrones Tour colleagues for allowing us to tag along on this maiden tour of the Game of Thrones filming locations. The tour appealed not only to the Game of Thrones fan in Shawn, but also to our love of history and Croatia’s delicious food.
These words, experiences, images, and opinions are entirely my own. Video footage is courtesy of my husband, Shawn.
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Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.