Top 5 historic sites Croatia

Top 5 Must-Visit Historic Sites in Croatia along the Coast

If you wonder what is there to see in Croatia, check our top list of the best historic sites to visit along the Croatian coast. We start from the northern part of the Adriatic, the peninsula Istria and we end with its southernmost part, the world-famous city of Dubrovnik.

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Unlike in other Mediterranean countries, including Greece and Italy, in Croatia, you don't need to travel for hours to visit the most attractive monuments and sights.

Most of the important landmarks of Croatia are along its Adriatic Coast, close to bigger cities and tourist destinations. Actually, most of the historical sites in Croatia, that are covered up in this article are in the bigger coastal cities or very nearby them.

Discover the cultural and historical heritage of Croatia in our brief guide on the best historic sites to visit along the Croatian coast!

1. The Arena of Pula

Photo: The Arena of Pula

The Arena of Pula is the most famous and the most important landmark of the northern part of the Adriatic coast in Croatia. For centuries long it stands still on the peninsula of Istria. It is located outside the historic center of Pula and it is on top of the list of the must-see sights when on holidays in this part of Croatia.

This historical monument dates from the 1st century AD. Today it is one of the six largest preserved Roman amphitheaters in the entire world. Moreover, the Arena of Pula is the oldest Roman monument in Croatia.

Photo: The Arena of Pula

The Arena of Pula is an oval-shaped amphitheater. It extends 132 meters in length and 105 meters in width. The height goes up to 32 meters.

In historical times, the purposes of the amphitheater have been constantly changing. First, its purpose was to host gladiator fights. It could accommodate up to 23,000 spectators. Further, there are several underground tunnels. Through them, fighters and animals arrived on stage.

Today, the Arena of Pula is a unique open-air venue where many exhibitions and music concerts are taking place. Some of the prominent musicians who have performed on this exclusive stage are 2 Cellos, Vanessa Mae, Leonard Cohen, Andrea Bocelli, Luciano Pavarotti, and many others.

Photo: The Arena of Pula by night

Underground chambers display interesting exhibitions. They are mainly themed about the production of wine and olive oil, for which the Istrian region is becoming increasingly known and appreciated in the world.

The Arena of Pula is a historical monument that you should not miss visiting during your stay in Istria. In fact, it is so monumental that it is impossible not to notice if you are on vacation in Pula.

If you love making great photographs, you have reason more to visit this striking amphitheater in Pula.

Check the location of the Arena of Pula in Google Maps: Flavijevska ul., 52100, Pula, Croatia

Working Hours:   off the summer season: 09 am-5 pm, in the season 08 am - 9 pm / 10 pm

Admission fee:  Adults 70 HRK (10 EUR),  Children 35HRK ( 5 EUR)

Best time to visit:  any time of the year you are on holiday strip, yet the best time to experience the Arena of Pula is the spring and autumn season

The time to plan for sightseeing: 1 hour

Tips:  Due to the high sun during the day in the summer months, we recommend visiting the Arena of Pula earlier in the morning or in the evening. If you aim to visit some big event or concert, purchase your tickets upfront, sooner the better.

Accommodation near the Arena of Pula:  Check our luxury holiday villas in Pula

2. Saint James Cathedral in Sibenik

Saint James Cathedral in Sibenik

Photo: Saint James Cathedral in Sibenik

The Cathedral of St. James in Sibenik represents one of the most important architectural achievements of a renaissance in Croatia. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.

Sibenik Cathedral of Saint James with dome

Photo: UNESCO protected historic site Cathedral of Saint James in Sibenik

The Cathedral of St. James is an important historic site for Croatia because it is the first building in Europe built only from stone. It was built with special and advanced techniques of carving and stacking stone, without any bonding materials.

Dome on Saint James Cathedral in Sibenik

Photo: The dome on Saint James Cathedral in Sibenik in Croatia

This imposing landmark was built in the 15th and 16th centuries, The construction itself lasted for 104 years. The entire community was contributing to its construction, especially many domestic builders and artisans. The biggest merits go to Georgius Dalmaticus.

The cathedral was built as a three-nave basilica with a 32-meter high dome. Its dome is the most recognized symbol of Sibenik city.

Stone ornaments decorate its interior, as well as the stone facade.  The northern outer wall is decorated with a series of 74 sculptures of human heads carved out of stone. These stone heads represent realistic portraits of unknown men, women, and children.

Stone sculptured heads as ornaments on Sibenik Cathedral

Photo: Stone sculptured heads as ornaments on Sibenik Cathedral

The city of Sibenik is one of the recently discovered holiday destinations in Croatia.

It lies on the Adriatic coast in the heart of Dalmatia. Along with sightseeing of the Cathedral of St. James, here you can enjoy pleasant walks through the historic old town You can visit one of the 4 fortresses of Sibenik or all of them. Moreover, in Sibenik, you can eat in a Michelin-starred restaurant featuring a scenic view of this striking cathedral. 

Sibenik Cathedral

Photo: Saint James Cathedral in the center of Sibenik city

Some of the best activities you can include in your Sibenik itinerary together with the visit to the Cathedral of Saint James are visits to the nearby Krka Waterfalls National Park and the Kornati National Park. For fun activities with children, you can visit the largest water park on the outskirts of Sibenik or enjoy the beautiful beaches.

Stone statue in Sibenik Croatia

Photo: Stone Statue in Sibenik. Croatia

Check the location of St. James Cathedral Sibenik in Google Maps: Trg Republike Hrvatske 1, 22000, Šibenik

Working Hours:   from Easter to 1st June from 8.30 am to 7.30 pm | from 1st June to 1st December from 8.30 am to 8.30 pm | from 1st December to Easter by appointment | Holy mass is served 3 times on Sundays and on other days 2 times daily  

Admission fee:  Adults 20 HRK (3 EUR)

Best time to visit:  Any time you happen to be in or near Sibenik in Croatia.

The time to plan for sightseeing: 1 hour

Tips:  Make sure to wear appropriate clothing for entering the cathedral. If you are sleeveless or in shorts you will be banned from entering in. During the Holy Mass ceremony, sightseeing is not allowed. 

Accommodation near the Sibenik Cathedral:   Check our holiday villas for rent in the Sibenik area

Related articles:   What to do on vacation in SibenikWorth a visit: Krka Waterfalls National Park in CroatiaMagical Places in Croatia: No.2 National Park Kornati

3. Trogir Old Town

Trogir oldtown and waterfront promenade

Photo: Trogir Old Town on the Adriatic Coast in Croatia

Set on a small peninsula between the mainland and the Ciovo island, the old town of Trogir is the picture-perfect Mediterranean settlement. It is on the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites since 1997. as a medieval town built with the layout of a Hellenistic and Roman city. 

Clock tower and city loggia in Trogir

Photo:  Belltower and city loggia in Trogir

Trogir has 2300 years old urban tradition which reflects in its architecture and historical monuments. The old town of Trogir has a lot of historic buildings, churches, palaces and it is surrounded by great walls. 

Main waterfront promenade with palmtree

Photo: The main Trogir promenade with palm trees

If you like sightseeing we recommend you to take a sightseeing tour through the Mediterranean streets of the old town. Be sure to stop by Fortress Kamerlengo, the Saint Lawrence Cathedral, and the city gate and walls. 

Sailing boats and fortress Kamerlengo in Trogir

Photo: Sailing boats and the Kamerlengo Tower in Trogir

Throughout history, but also in modern times, Trogir is a relaxing oasis for many artists, writers, culturists, and world celebrities. Besides,  it is the wanted destination for families with children looking for a carefree summer vacation enjoying the many facilities and activities of this beautiful area on the Croatian coast.

Trogir Waterfront Promenade

Photo:  Waterfront promenade in Trogir on a sunny winter day

Check the location of the main entrance to the Trogir old town in Google Maps: Ul. Blaza Jurjeva Trogiranina 1, 21220, Trogir, Croatia

Working Hours:  All year round, public space

Admission fee:  No admission fee for entering the old town. However, some museums and places charge entrance fees.

Best time to visit:   April to November

The time to plan for sightseeing:  1,5 hour for sightseeing, and an additional 2-3 hour for enjoying the waterfront views while having a drink or icecream in one of the lounge bars or having a meal in one of the restaurants 

Tips:  Take a private guided walking tour on your first visit to Trogir. You will surely benefit from the tour and learn many interesting and useful things for the rest of your stay. Don't be just an observer, be a learner!

Accommodation near Trogir Old Town: Check our holiday villas for rent in the Trogir area

Related articles:    The 5 Best Restaurants in Trogir, The Top 7 things to do on Vacation in Trogir

4. Diocletian's Palace in the City of Split

The aerial view of the Diocletians Palace in Split Croatia

Photo: The aerial view of the Diocletian's Palace in Split Croatia 

Diocletian's Palace is one of the liveliest and most picturesque historical sites in Croatia. It is located in the heart of the city of Split. It was built more than 1700 years ago.  

Diocletian's Palace has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. Moreover. it is the most striking and monumental example of Roman architecture on the Adriatic.

The central square of the Diocletian palace in Split Croatia

Photo: One of the main streets in the Diocletian palace in Split Croatia

The Roman emperor Diocletian was delighted by the beauty of this part of the Adriatic coast. So he decided to build his summer residence and military camp here. At the time when the construction of the site began, the area of today's city of Split was uninhabited. The area was covered with fields and vineyards.

The reconstruction model of Diocletian palace

Photo: The reconstruction model of the Diocletian palace

With the construction of the palace, the development of today's city of Split began. Today, Split is the second-largest city in Croatia and the largest city on the Croatian Adriatic coast.

The view from the air of the Diocletian Palace

Photo: The view from the air of the Diocletian Palace

Diocletian's Palace is a complex of apartments, churches, squares, and narrow streets, all surrounded by large city walls without windows on the ground floor. The palace is rectangular in shape. There are 4 entrances to the palace, one on each side of the world.

On the lower foundations of the buildings inside the palace are numerous museums, restaurants, bars, and shops.

Outdoor dining terrace  in the restaurant Kinoteka in Diocletians Palace

Photo: Outdoor dining terrace  in the restaurant Kinoteka in Diocletian's Palace 

Furthermore, one of the most interesting facts about the palace is that people still live inside it today. It is home to about 3,000 residents. Thus, Diocletian's Palace is the oldest inhabited historical monument in the world.

Narrow passages between the buildings in Diocletians Palace in Split

Photo: Narrow passages between the buildings in Diocletian's Palace in Split

As you stroll through the alleys of the palace, you will likely notice the locals and how serenely they live, even though crowds pass by their houses every day. If you lift your head towards the sky, you will see strings with washed clothes hanging on them.

Columns on Perystel at the etrance to Saint Dominus Cathedral

Photo: The columns on Peristil at the entrance to Saint Dominus Cathedral

The most visited part of Diocletian's Palace is the Peristil and the Cathedral of St. Dominus, the patron saint of the city of Split. Also not to be missed is the impressive bell tower of  St. Dominus which is open to visitors. When you climb the stairs to the top of the bell tower, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the palace, the city of Split, and the islands in front.

The Belltower of Saint Dominus in Diocletians Palace in Split in Croatia

Photo: The Belltower of Saint Dominus in Diocletian's Palace in Split in Croatia 

Furthermore, an interesting part for visitors is the underground wine cellars of Emperor Diocletian.

Wine Cellars Diocletians PalacePhoto: Underground chambers of Diocletian's Palace

When visiting Diocletian's Palace, you will get an impression of the rich and imposing history of this part of Croatia. Moreover, you will also get to know the relaxed and hedonistic Mediterranean way of life.

Seafront Promenade Riva and the southern wall  of  Diocletians Palace

Photo: Seafront Promenade Riva and the southern wall  of  the Diocletian's Palace

Check the location of Diocletian's Palace in Google Maps:  Peristil ul. 1, 21000, Split, Croatia

Working Hours:  0-24 hours all year round from the outside | most of the museums and churches are open every day 8 am - 8 pm 

Admission fee:   No fee for entering the Diocletian's Palace as it is a public space. | Admission fee for St. Dominus Belltower is 2 EUR  (15 HRK) | Admission fee for the cathedral, baptistery, and belltower all together is 6 EIR (45 HRK) | Admission fee for Wine Cellars is around 5 EUR (40 HRK) 

Best time to visit:   March to December

The time to plan for sightseeing:  2-3 hours with an included stop for a drink or meal

Tips:   If you are visiting Diocletian's Palace in the summer season, try to go as early as possible in the morning. After touring the palace, head to the promenade along the waterfront and enjoy a delicious breakfast and a cup of coffee.

Accommodation near Diocletian's Palace in Split:  Browse our luxury villas in the area of the Split city here & Check Youtube Video Large Villas in Split for Family Vacation 

Related articles:  The 5 Best Restaurants in Split City in Croatia, The most popular day trips from Split, Following the steps of Emperor Diocletian meet today’s Split

5. Dubrovnik City Walls and Dubrovnik Old Town

Dubrovnik City in Croatia

Photo: Dubrovnik City on the Adriatic Coast in Croatia

The most popular historic site across Croatia and likey across Europe is Dubrovnik's old town and its protective city walls. It is on UNESCO’s list of world heritage sights since 1979.

City Walls of Dubrovnik on cliffs immersed in the Adriatic Sea

Photo: City Walls of Dubrovnik on cliffs immersed in the Adriatic Sea

Dubrovnik and its city walls are one of the most popular tourist attractions in this part of Croatia. Lately, Dubrovnik is also popular because famous HBO’s epic fantasy series Game of Thrones was filmed here.

Lovrijenac Fortress in Dubrovnik

Photo: Lovrijenac Fortress in Dubrovnik

The main street of the old town is Stradun. It stretches 300 meters in length connecting two main entrances to the old town. Often on summer nights, here you can see world-famous people having their drinks before heading to some of the best restaurants on the Adriatic.

Stradun, the main street of Dubrovnik old town

Photo: Stradun, the main street of Dubrovnik old town

The length of Dubrovnik City Walls is 1.940 meters. There are two entrances, at each end of the Stradun. Those points are also the exits. The walking along the walls is in one direction, clockwise only.

View of Lokrum island from Dubrovnik City walls

Photo: View of Lokrum Island from Dubrovnik City Walls

The views from the city walls are simply breathtaking.  The views of red roofs of the old town, bell towers sea views. etc. will force you to make many stops to catch the perfect photography.

Red roofs in Dubrovnik old town at sunset time

Photo: Red roofs in Dubrovnik old town at sunset time

Check the location of Dubrovnik City Walls in Google Maps: Poljana Paska Milicevica 2000, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Working Hours:  January, February from 10 am to 3 pm | March from 10 am to 3 pm | April, May from 9 am to 6.30 pm | June, July 8 am to 7.30 pm | August to 15th September from 8 am to 7 pm | from 15th September and October from 9 am to 6 pm | November, December from 9 am to 3 pm

Admission Fee:  Adults 200 HRK (27EUR), Children 50 HRK (7EUR), ticket includes entrance to City Walls & Fortress Lovrijenac 

Best time to visit: April to December

The time to plan for sightseeing: 2 hours for Dubrovnik City Walls and 2 hours for the old town

Tips:  There are many steps along the way. Bring some water with you and wear comfortable shoes.

Accommodation near Dubrovnik City Walls:  Check holiday villas in Dubrovnik and Dubrovnik Riviera

Related articles: Sightseeing tips in Dubrovnik, Top 5 things to do in Dubrovnik

When thinking about the best time to visit Croatia and its historic sights, we can say they all are open all year round. But, the weather conditions are perfect in the spring, summer, and autumn seasons.

In the peak of the summer season, from mid-July to mid-August, some of the sites easily get overcrowded. For this reason, we always suggest avoiding rush hours and going sightseeing early in the morning or later in the afternoon.

Also, the best way to truly meet the Croatian culture is to spend time with local people. So, we suggest you when possible to hire an experienced local guide and take the private tour. The best guides will easily tell you the most important historical facts. Moreover, they will share interesting stories from the past and blend them with interesting facts from the everyday life of locals. Thus, you will be able to experience Croatian sights in the most memorable way.

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