Things to Do in Dalmatia - page 2
Located inside the gates of Diocletian’s Palace, the Cathedral of St. Domnius ((Katedrala Svetog Duje) is a massive octagonal cathedral built in Roman times as the Mausoleum of Diocletian. The structure was converted to a church in the 7th century and mass is still held here today, making it one of the oldest Catholic cathedrals in the world still in use in its original structure.
Zadar’s Church of St. Donatus is a sight to behold, its towering circular walls rising out of a plaza scattered with Roman ruins. Commissioned by Donatus of Zadar (the church’s namesake come the 13th century), the Pre-Romanesque building dates back to the 9th century, and now stands as a classic representation of Byzantine Dalmatia architecture.
With a captivating and grand exterior, the interior might seem relatively austere. But there’s more here than just a humble church: given that it is built atop the Roman forum, you can still pick out ancient remnants from those times, including two preserved columns, and even a sacrificial altar. Moreover, St. Donatus is especially loved for its impressive tower-top views — that stretch across the city to the sea and islands beyond — and as a concert hall, for which it is used given its phenomenal acoustics.
Bisected by the wide turquoise ribbon of the Cetina River, the steep cliffs of Cetina Canyon form a striking landscape just a short drive outside of Split, Croatia’s 2nd-largest city. In a country lush with stunning nature, Cetina Canyon is one of the easiest to reach and offers many opportunities for hiking and adventure sports.
Zlatni Rat Beach (Golden Horn or Golden Cape) is one of Croatia’s most beautiful and unique beaches. Located on the southern end of Brac Island, this narrow sliver of land juts out into the azure sea. Pebble beaches on both sides of this V-shaped promontory are perfect for swimming and snorkeling, and afternoon westerly winds make it a premiere windsurfing spot.
One of the foremost landmarks of Dubrovnik’s atmospheric Old Town, the Dubrovnik Bell Tower stands at the eastern end of Stradun, the main thoroughfare, and looms over Luza Square. The 31-m (102-ft) stone tower is topped with a stumpy dome and flanked by some of Dubrovnik’s most spectacular architecture, including the lovely Sponza Palace, St. Blaise Church and Orlando’s Column. Constructed in 1444, the tower was badly damaged in the earthquake of 1667 and began to lean alarmingly; by the 18th century it had fallen into disrepair and it was not until the late 1920s that repair work began and the tower acquired its present shape and clock, the face of which resembles an octopus and also portrays the phases of the moon. Consequently, very little of the original tower has survived to the present day except the two-tonne bronze bell, which was cast by master metalworker Ivan Krstitelj Rabljanin from nearby Rab Island. The bell is bracketed by two bronze figures – now tinged green with age – known locally as the*‘zelenci’* or the ‘green ones’ and who strike the bell on the hour every hour – their much-restored originals are now on display in the Rector’s Palace along with the original clock mechanism.
The heart of Split, the 2nd-largest city in Croatia, and its main gathering place is Prokurative, also known as Republic Square. With architecture inspired heavily by St. Mark’s Square in Venice and easy access to the nearby Riva Promenade, the square is a popular place for concerts, performances, and people-watching.
Almost on the border with Croatia, the UNESCO-listed Vjetrenica cave system is the deepest in Bosnia and Herzegovina, disappearing 3.7 miles (six km) below the Dinaric Alps into a magical world of subterranean rivers, limestone galleries and glittering lakes. Spectacular tumbling stalagmites and stalactites loom in the semi-darkness of the meandering tunnels and its ever-running waters flow into the Trebisnjica River on the southern edge of the Popovo Polje valley.
Skeletons of bears and leopards have been found in the Vjetrenica caves along with primitive drawings dating back 10,000 years, which can clearly be seen etched into the walls. Many hundreds of rare animal species have been discovered here, including the olm, a salamander-cum-fish with legs, lungs and gills that is peculiar to the region. Visited by thousands before the tragic civil war of the 1990s tore former Yugoslavia apart, infrastructure for tourism at Vjetrenica has recently been upgraded and the caves are once more open to explore. Temperatures underground are at a constant and cool 11°C, so dress warmly as guided tours last around 60 minutes. As the underground pathways are slippery, take sturdy footwear; jackets and hard hats are provided.
Standing on Luza Square among some of Dubrovnik’s most impressive architecture, including St Blaise Church and the lovely Sponza Palace with its appealing mixture of Gothic and Renaissance architecture, Orlando's Column (Orlandov Stup) was erected in 1418 at what remains the political and social heart of the city. Here public meetings and executions were held on the small stone platform guarded by wrought-iron railings that tops the column. The stone carvings adorning the four sides of the column were created by master craftsman Antun Dubrovcanin and represent the heroic knight Orlando, who was the nephew of Frankish Emperor Charlemagne; according to legend he was credited with saving Dubrovnik from Saracen pirates in the eighth century and here he is depicted surrounded by figures of minstrels and balladeers. As well as the length of Orlando’s arm becoming a common measurement in the city, the column has come to represent the freedom of Dubrovnik and the white flag of the Republic always flies above it on public occasions, including the opening of the annual Dubrovnik Summer Festival in July.
Built into the limestone bluffs outside of Split, the imposing Klis Fortress(Tvrdava Klis) was once an important defensive stronghold between the Mediterranean and the Balkans. It housed the seat of many Croatian kings, though nowadays it’s better known as the film location for the fictional city of Meereen in the seriesGame of Thrones.
Dedicated to the Ancient Roman king of gods, the Temple of Jupiter was constructed in the 3rd century as part of Diocletian's Palace and is considered to be one of the most well-preserved Roman temples in the world. Diocletian believed he was the reincarnation of Jupiter, who was highly worshipped until the Roman Empire was taken over by Christian rule.
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Built into the eastern flank of Dubrovnik’s fortified walls adjacent to Fort Revelin, the 14th-century Dominican Monastery is designed in a combination of Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance architecture that is seen in several of the city’s palaces and churches.
The monastery’s church was rebuilt several times over the centuries and was used as an army depot during Napoleon’s occupation of Dubrovnik in the late 18th century; today its single nave features a massive painted Gothic cross by Paolo Veneziano, dating from around 1384,St Dominic by 19th century painter Vlaho Bukovac — widely regarded as Croatia’s finest artist — and sparkling contemporary stained glass in the apse.
The elaborate 15th-century Gothic cloister of the monastery surrounds a shady garden that was used as stabling for French army horses and their troughs can still be seen between the cloister’s pillars. The well in the garden provided water for Dubrovnik’s residents when the city was under siege in 1991. An important collection of religious art hangs in the museum, including Titian’s sublime Mary Magdalene; other paintings of note are Nikola Božidarević’s altarpieces and triptych plus Lovro Dobričević’s bloodthirsty St Peter the Martyr, which portrays the saint with a hatchet in his head. The monastery can be visited when touring Dubrovnik’s defence walls and is included on several museum tours of the city.
Travelers who are looking for the perfect way to spend an afternoon soaking up the beauty of Croatia’s idyllic coastline will find exactly what they’re after on the Riva Promenade or Riva Split Waterfront. This incredible stretch of walkway runs the entire length of the old town and offers up incredible views of the surrounding harbor, European-style apartments and remote island’s are some of the city’s most picturesque.
Visitors will find some of Split’s best restaurants, cafes and nightlife along the promenade, which is also near to the city’s largest port. The famed walkway is flanked by towering palms and lined with glazed white tiles that lend some serious European-flare to this coastal destination.
As a revered local monument and protected heritage site, Poljud Stadium (Stadion Poljud) is on the itinerary for most sightseeing tours of Split and is just north of the city’s historic UNESCO World Heritage-listed center. It was built in 1979 for the Mediterranean Games and was opened by then-President of former Yugoslavia, Marshall Tito. Designed as a multi-purpose facility by Croatian architect Boris Magaš, the stadium’s main function today is as the beloved home of Hajduk Split football team, which plays in the European Champions League and is followed by avid fans across the region.
The stadium is a seafront landmark that appears at its most beautiful when illuminated by hundreds of floodlights by night. Constructed with two stands forming an arched, shell-like layered concrete exterior, Poljud has a seating capacity of 35,000 and among other events, hosts athletics matches and music festivals, including August’s annual Ultra Europe dance-music extravaganza.
Situated in the center of Korcula’s old town, and hemmed in by a web of streets, is St. Marks Cathedral also known as the Korcula Cathedral. The Gothic-Renaissance style church was completed in the 15th century at the hands of local artisans and with the help of Italian masters. The result is a façade featuring a handful of curious characters — such as a squatting Adam and Eve, and a wide-eyed elephant — and an interior filled with a collection of impressive artwork, including two paintings by Tintoretto.
Given the tight city quarters, it can be hard to grasp the cathedral’s grandness from just beyond its front doors, or even from within. With that in mind, get a better perspective — a 360-degree one, in fact — by heading up to St Mark’s cupola-topped bell tower. There, you can take in unparalleled views of the town below, coast beyond, and even islands dotting the crystal blue sea in the distance.
Zadar is one of the oldest cities of Croatia’s Dalmatian coastline and has its roots way back in Roman times, when the first fortified walls were constructed around the little peninsula where the old town still lurks prettily. By the 16th century, Zadar was the prize possession of the Venetian Republic and its walls were further extended and modified with a series of decorative and imposing entry gates.
The main entrance to the old town is the ornate City Gate (also called the Land Gate), which was finished in 1543 and is close to Foša harbor on the southern side of the old town. Adorned with six columns supporting a pediment, the gate is classically triumphalist in style with three arched gateways – the middle one designed for
wheeled traffic and the two side gates for pedestrians. It is topped with the coats of arms of both Zadar and the Venetian Republic, with a winged lion in between as the symbol of St Mark (the patron saint of the Republic).
The other five gates into the city are the St Rocco and Sea gates – both built by the Venetians; the medieval St Demetrius Gate, which was walled up and subsequently reopened in 1873; the Chain Gate (built under Austrian rule in 1877); and finally the Bridge Gate, built when Zadar was under Italian rule in the 1930s.
Dotted with pine trees and Mediterranean shrubs, Marjan is a hilly peninsula jutting out into the Adriatic Sea. A beautiful nature reserve in Croatia, some of Split's best beaches are here, along with important museums, such as Mestrovic Gallery and Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments.
Built by nobles in the late 15th century, this verdant arboretum is one of Dubrovnik’s top tourist attractions. In addition to plants sourced from the four corners of the globe, the garden also has a 50-foot-long (15 meter) aqueduct used for irrigation purposes, a baroque Neptune fountain, and a pavilion overlooking the Adriatic.
Fruit’s Square (Trg Brace Radic) is named after the busy fruit market once held in the square; considered one of the most beautiful squares in Split, Fruit’s Square today is home to a number of historic landmarks, bars, restaurants and shops. On one side of the square is a Venetiancastello, or castle.Visitors should look for an arched passageway in the structure that features two etched Christian crosses—legend says that anyone who points their fingers at the points of the cross and makes a love-related wish while closing their eyes will see that wish come true.
On the other side is the 17th-century Milesi Palace, one of the most impressive examples of Baroque architecture in the Dalmatian region. Known for its arch-shaped windows on the ground level, the palace today hosts lectures and cultural events. In front of the palace is a statue of Marko Marulic, a 15th-century poet who is considered the father of Croatian literature.
Fruit's Square can be visited as part of a city walking tour of Split including stops at the Roman Emperor Diocletian's Palace and the local markets, as well as a walk along the Riva promenade.
Mljet Island is Croatia’s most lush, forested island in the Adriatic Sea. The western cape contains Mljet National Park, where pine forests and spectacular saltwater lakes offer incredible natural scenery. On the nearby tiny island of St. Mary, not far from the southern shore of Veliko Jezero, there is a Benedictine monastery and St. Mary’s church.
Built in the early 16th century as the Republic of Ragusa customs house, Dubrovnik’s Sponza Palace (Palaca Sponza) was one of the few buildings not leveled by the devastating 1667 earthquake. It’s architecturally stunning, with a Renaissance portico, late-Gothic windows, inner courtyards, and an alcove containing a statue of St. Blaise, the city’s patron saint.
Dubrovnik’s 15-century, Gothic-Renaissance–style Rector's Palace (Knezev Dvor) contains the rector’s office and private chambers as well as public halls, courtrooms, and a former dungeon. Interestingly, the rector’s term was for only one month, during which time he was confined to the palace and allowed to leave only on official republic business.
Named after the patron saint and protector of Dubrovnik, the Church of St. Blaise (Crkva Sv. Vlaha) is one of the most beautiful—and locally beloved—buildings in Old Town. Venetian architect Marino Gropelli built the present-day baroque-style church in 1715, after the original was significantly damaged in the massive earthquake of 1667.
The Franciscan Church and Monastery is one of the few buildings in Dubrovnik that survived the devastating earthquake of 1667. Bordered by late-Romanesque arcades, the monastery’s inner courtyard provides a quiet reprieve from Dubrovnik’s bustling Old Town. The monastery houses a small religious museum as well as one of Europe’s oldest working pharmacies.
Ivan Meštrović’s iconic Gregory of Nin (Grgur Ninski) statue is one of Split’s most popular attractions. Originally erected in 1929, the 27-foot (8.5-meter) sculpture commemorates the medieval bishop and advocate of Croatia’s national language. Today, his bronze toe has been rubbed clean by countless visitors seeking good luck.
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- Things to do in Dubrovnik
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- Things to do in Šibenik
- Things to do in Zadar
- Things to do in Central Croatia
- Things to do in Adriatic Coast
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