Be sure to stroll down Split’s spiffed up Riva, one of Croatia’s busiest promenades. In the morning, people linger over coffee at the Riva’s sidewalk tables before work, after the market, or in preparation for a day of sightseeing. From then on the tables aren’t empty until closing time. Never deserted, the Riva is at its busiest in the evening when people dine, stroll the concrete length, or arrive and depart on the late ferries.
Another important point of reference is Marmontova Street, a broad, paved pedestrian street that forms Old Town’s western border, lined with international clothing shops such as Zadar and Bershka, and mobile phone company stores. West of Marmontova, you’ll run into the Prokurative (aka Trg Republike), a horseshoe-shaped set of neoclassical buildings, some of which are now cafés and restaurants, with outdoor tables on the car-free square.
Exploring the Palace
There are several access points for entering Split’s historic core, but the best place to start your exploration is the Bronze Gate, where the sea once lapped at Diocletian’s Palace’s back walls. Today the Bronze Gate opens outward from the palace’s southern flank to Split’s Riva and the ferry port beyond. Inside, it leads to the podrum, or basement, that meanders under the structure. The underground space was sadly neglected until the mid-1950s, and parts of it have yet to be restored and cleared of centuries of debris. The upper-level cryptoporticus (gallery) that runs east-west from the Bronze Gate was an open promenade and probably the site where Diocletian went to catch a sea breeze. Today the promenade can only be imagined from the form of the long corridor beneath it. The part of the podrum that extends from the Bronze Gate toward the steps to the Peristil above it is a passageway lined with stalls selling jewelry, leather goods, paintings, and other souvenirs of Split.
At the far end of the aisle that runs through this section of the podrum you’ll find a staircase that leads up to the Peristil, which was the palace’s main courtyard and the place where Diocletian received important visitors. Today, the Peristil is one of the busiest spots in the historic city, and home to the cathedral, Luxor Café, and various passages leading to the heart of the Old Town.
Note the black granite sphinx standing guard outside the cathedral. It was one of 11 acquired by Diocletian during battle in Egypt, one of only two left (the other sits next to the nearby Temple of Jupiter).
If you are approaching the palace from the Silver Gate on the eastern wall, you first must walk through the jumble of stalls that is the fruit and vegetable market (Pazar). The Silver Gate leads directly to Decumanus, the original east-west street that intersects with Cardo, the original north-south artery, at the Peristil. These former thoroughfares sectioned the palace into quadrants, which in turn became districts.
The Golden Gate on the north side of the palace was the portal to Salona and the most ornate gate into the palace. It has a guardhouse that contains the 9th-century Church of St. Martin. Ivan Meštrović’s statue of Bishop Grgur (Gregorius of Nin) Ninski, a 9th-century bishop who defended church use of the Glagolitic script and Slav language, towers over visitors approaching the gate. The sculpture is entirely black except for one toe, which is bronze because visitors inevitably touch it for good luck as they pass. To the west, the Iron Gate’s guardhouse is the site of the oldest Romanesque belfry in Croatia and the 10th-century Church of Our Lady of Belfry.
The Cathedral of St. Domnius is on the eastern side of the Peristil. The Temple of Jupiter (now the cathedral’s baptistery) lies down a narrow alley on the Peristil’s western side.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.