5 Best Things to see in Split’s Old Town

You have already booked accommodation and bought an airplane ticket and now you need a plan for what to do in Split. Whether you visit Split for a day or plan to stay longer, there are lot of things to do. An unvoidable must-see attraction is the 1700 years old Dioclenian’s Palace inside Split’s Old Town. Enlisted in UNESCO’s World Heritage List it belongs among the best-preserved monuments of Roman architecture in the world. Follow us through the text and find out what to see in Split’s Old Town. Places which, without advice, you would easily skip – and they are worth a visit.


1. St. Martin’s church
2. The garden
3. Zlatna Vrata cinema
4. The Crypt of St. Lucy
5. Temple of Jupiter in Split and its sphinx

St. Martin’s church

Duration: approx. 2o min

Situated on the North and surrounded by an antique defensive wall, lies a Golden Gate. There are many reasons why to start a walking tour from here. Above all, as the palace’s main entrance, Golden Gate is a great orientation point. For 1300 years northern wall of the palace is more than just a defensive wall – it is also home to an early Christian church of St. Martin. The church was built in the 6th century, after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, when the towers and watchtowers of the palace were converted into churches. Because it is located within the defensive wall of the palace which originally served as a passage for the guards, the church has a unique interior appearance. Only 1.64 meters wide and 10 meters long, it is the smallest, and one of the oldest churches in Split.

The Church of St. Martin is still in the sacral function. Holy Mass is held every year on 11th November, when citizens of Split celebrate this saint. Next to the church is a convent of the Dominican Sisters. Since the 14th century, sisters are taking care, using it as a prayer space. You can visit this unique church according to the schedule at the entrance of the monastery.

The garden

Duration: approx. 15 min

The only garden inside the Diocletian’s palace is a hidden gem that you won’t find on tourist maps. The easiest way to reach the garden is by entering Diocletian’s palace through the Golden Gate and by continuing straight with the main street inside the palace. On the second crossroad turn right, pass a vault, and a small Mediterranean garden will be in front of you. If you now think: well, it’s just a garden, we encourage you to go in and explore. Why? First of all, it is a place where you can feel the palace’s life pace. Secondly, it is also genuine proof that the 1700 years old Diocletian’s palace is still inhabited. People are living inside of its walls making it a truly living museum.

Until the early 2000’s today’s garden didn’t exist. That was just an empty spot between the houses where people used to dump household items they didn’t need anymore. Then the neighbors started an initiative. They brought soil, planted trees and greenery, and the rest is history. Looking at the ropes with freshly washed clothes, or the lovely stone setting, the garden is a great place to take some authentic photos. It is also a place surrounded by café bars with some high-quality specialty coffee. These bars are popular destinations among locals. Therefore, if you want to feel life lived by locals, put a garden on your must-see list.

Zlatna Vrata cinema

Duration: depends on cinema’s schedule

If you are a movie buff and like movie theaters in all shapes and sizes, you might find it interesting visiting Zlatna Vrata or Golden Gate cinema. Unlike any blockbuster cinema, it is situated in a Gothic palace, inside the UNESCO-protected Diocletian Palace. This cinema is open since the 1960s when it had its first movie projection. Afterward, it continued nurturing a diverse program that ranges from European cinematography to American independent movies. Here you can watch documentaries, classic and art movies, but also be a part of public discussions, literary evenings, or even a concert.

The Crypt of St. Lucy

Duration: cathedral & crypt, approx. 45 min

When you visit Split, Croatia, its Saint Domnius cathedral is usually one of the must-see places on everyone’s list. Less known is the fact that underneath the cathedral lies a crypt dedicated to St. Lucija or St. Lucy. She was a Christian martyr who lived at the same time when Diocletian was alive and enjoyed his palace. In those days the crypt of Saint Lucy was part of Diocletian’s mausoleum. A couple of centuries after his death Split’s inhabitants converted the mausoleum into the cathedral dedicated to St. Domnius, and the space underneath they dedicated to Saint Lucy.

Dark and narrow, the crypt exudes a touch of secrets and mysteries. You enter it with stairs underneath the cathedral, and the hallway leads you to the main room with the well. Today this room has a statue of Saint Lucy, and every year on her day, 13th December, the people of Split come here to pray. Following the custom, they rub their eyes with the water from the well to keep their sight. Although the crypt is closed during the year, in the summer season it is regularly open, and the entrance ticket can usually be bought at the selling place next to the cathedral.

Temple of Jupiter in Split and its sphinx

Duration: approx. 20 min

A secluded alley directly opposite the St. Domnius cathedral will lead you in front of Jupiter’s temple. Diocletian believed that the supreme Roman deity, Jupiter, is his divine father. As a result, he built Jupiter a temple just across the mausoleum. Originally the temple had a porch with six pillars, but unfortunately, it is lost.

There are many other noteworthy details in and around the temple. At the very entrance, there is a sphinx brought from Egypt by order of Emperor Diocletian. Since 1928 it guards the temple’s porch, and it represents one of the two best-preserved sphinxes you can see walking through the palace. These sculptures of mythological creatures are probably the oldest objects in Split, being at least about 3000 years old. No one knows exactly how many sphinxes there were in the Palace during the time of the Emperor. From the remains found we know that there must have been at least 12 or 13. Unfortunately, over time most of them were damaged or destroyed.

The St. John Baptistery and Ivan Mestovic

During late antiquity and the Middle Ages, in the process of baptizing the palace, Jupiter’s Temple was turned into a St. John baptistery. In the 13th century, the baptistery received a baptismal font with a marble slab showing the depiction of the Croatian king – the earliest depiction of a European king shown in medieval stone sculpture. The most visible and perhaps most impressive inside the baptistery is the statue of St. John the Baptist made by Croatian most prominent sculptor Ivan Meštrović. For those who want to explore more, below the baptistery is the crypt of St. Thomas. All relevant information about the entrance you can get in front of the temple, during the ticket purchase.

We hope that these suggestions will help you explore Diocletian’s Palace in detail. Palace itself is a true gem of Roman architecture, preserved in excellent condition, and once you get into it you’ll see that it is a true time machine that left no one indifferent. Let us be your guides through this Mediterannean adventure.

Get inspired

Get the latest news about authentic experiences in Croatia and Slovenia.

American Express
Copyright ©2018 - 2024. Orvas d.o.o. All right reserved. Website by NeoLab.