Travel back in time when you visit Croatia. If Roman remains, medieval marvels and Byzantine beauties are what you’re after, focus on the country’s sensational towns and cities.
Spanning the twinkling Adriatic, this stunning Balkan nation is a history honeypot. Traces of empires past are stamped into its cities, with relics of the Romans, Venetians and Ottomans still clear to see today.
In between sunbathing and sunset watching, take day trips around the country to connect with Croatia’s rich heritage. Most of the top history hotspots are within easy reach, so you can squeeze more into your sunshine break.
Here’s our pick of the best places to go history hunting in Croatia:
The spotlight’s well and truly on this walled city, the country’s most popular tourist destination. And one glance of downright dazzling Dubrovnik and you’ll see why. It’s an astoundingly beautiful part of the world, in no due part to its ancient roots.
A rite of passage for any visit to Dubrovnik is a wander along the winding walls that safeguard the city, built in the 9th century. The 2km route is peppered with lofty towers that boast incredible views of the deep blue sea lapping at Dubrovnik’s door.
Down among the tangle of streets comprising the Old Town, you’ll find 15th century Rector’s Palace, with plenty of Gothic-Renaissance panache. Seek out the spectacular 14th century cloisters of the Franciscan Monastery and baroque Cathedral of the Assumption too.
Further north, Split’s a historic sensation too. Camera’s at the ready – Diocletian’s Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the city’s crown jewel, is an Instagram haven. This harbourside historic complex dates back to the 4th century, with twisting passageways teeming with bars, shops and restaurants. You can venture beneath the surface as well for a subterannean adventure. The palace’s labyrinth-like substructures are eerie and incredible in equal measure.
When you come back up to ground level, get lost among the streets until you find the Cathedral of St Dominus. An ode to the Romans that once ruled here, this ancient slice of history is worth seeing. More than 20 columns ring the cathedral, neighboured by a Romanesque bell tower. Climb the steep stone stairs to the top for sweeping views of the city’s signature terracotta-topped roofs.
Spellbinding Šibenik’s medieval heart is a must-see. Its white marble streets and ochre roofs contrast beautifully against the sapphire waters of the Adriatic.
Weave your way through the Old Town’s narrow backstreets in the direction of UNESCO-listed St James’ Cathedral. An incredible marriage of Gothic-Renaissance architecture, this stone showpiece is topped by a dome visible across the city and boasts 71 sculpted heads inside.
Perched above the Old Town, St Michael’s Fortress boasts some of the best views in Šibenik. Its ramparts and bastions date all the way back to the Middle Ages and are a joy to meander around today.
Get swept off your feet by Korčula Town. Jutting out into the azure Adriatic from its namesake island, this fortified town is an atmospheric spot that oozes historic charm.
Medieval walls encircle the white marble streets of Korčula Town below. Amble the walkways and visit the 15th century towers along the way, before heading to St Michael’s Cathedral in the centre of the town. This pretty Gothic-Renaissance church has an Italian air to it, with detailed sculptures etched into the exterior and a cupola-topped bell tower.
Perched on the Istrian Riviera, Pula’s a showcase of Roman ruins. In the heart of the city, you’ll find a well-preserved amphitheatre that’ll make you feel like you’ve landed in Rome. While it was established in the 1st century for gladiatorial contests, today it’s the city’s top attraction.
More evidence of the Roman’s rule here can be found at the Temple of Augustus. When you spot its six Corinthian columns, you’ll know you’ve arrived. St Francis' Monastery and Church is another must-see, hailing from the 13th century.
Posted: 19th May 2020.