Croatia is a country rich in history and culture, with many ancient cities that have witnessed the rise and fall of civilizations. From the Illyrians and Greeks to the Romans and Byzantines, from the Venetians and Ottomans to the Austro-Hungarians and Yugoslavs, Croatia's ancient cities have been shaped by diverse influences and have preserved their heritage through centuries of turmoil and change.
In this blog post, we will explore some of the most fascinating ancient cities in Croatia, their history, culture, and attractions. Whether you are a history buff, a culture lover, or a curious traveler, you will find something to inspire you in these timeless destinations.
Dubrovnik is one of the most famous and popular ancient cities in Croatia, and for good reason. Dubrovnik was founded by the Romans in the 7th century AD as a maritime republic that rivaled Venice. Dubrovnik was known as Ragusa until the 19th century, and was a center of trade, art, literature, and diplomacy. Dubrovnik was also one of the first states to abolish slavery in 1416.
Dubrovnik's old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, surrounded by massive stone walls that date back to the 12th century. Inside the walls, you can admire the Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture of churches, palaces, monasteries, and fountains. Some of the highlights include the Rector's Palace, the Sponza Palace, the Cathedral of the Assumption, and the Franciscan Monastery. You can also walk along the walls for stunning views of the city and the Adriatic Sea.
Dubrovnik is also famous for being a filming location for the hit TV show Game of Thrones. You can visit some of the sites that were used as King's Landing, such as Fort Lovrijenac, Pile Gate, St. Dominic Street, and Lokrum Island.
Split is another ancient city that dates back to Roman times. Split was founded by Emperor Diocletian in the 4th century AD as his retirement palace. The palace was later transformed into a city by the inhabitants who sought refuge inside its walls from invaders.
Today, Split's old town is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and you can explore the remains of Diocletian's Palace, which include temples, mausoleums, gates, towers, and courtyards. You can also visit the Cathedral of St. Domnius, which was built inside Diocletian's mausoleum, and climb its bell tower for panoramic views. Other attractions include the Peristle Square, the Golden Gate, the Silver Gate, and the underground cellars.
Split is also a lively and modern city with a vibrant culture and nightlife. You can enjoy the local cuisine at one of the many restaurants and cafes along the Riva promenade or in the narrow streets of Varoš. You can also catch a ferry to one of the nearby islands such as Brač, Hvar, or Vis.
Zadar is another ancient city that has a long and turbulent history. Zadar was founded by the Liburnians in the 9th century BC as Zara or Iadera. Zadar was later conquered by the Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, Ottomans, Austrians, French, Italians, and Yugoslavs, before becoming part of Croatia in 1991.
Zadar's old town is located on a peninsula that juts out into the sea. You can see traces of its past in its architecture and monuments. Some of the highlights include the Roman Forum, the Church of St. Donatus, the Cathedral of St. Anastasia, the Land Gate, and the Sea Gate.
Zadar is also known for its modern attractions such as the Sea Organ, a musical instrument that plays sounds generated by waves, and the Sun Salutation, a solar-powered installation that creates a colorful light show at night.
Pula is another ancient city that was founded by the Illyrians in the 10th century BC as Pola or Polensium.
Pula was later ruled by the Romans, the Byzantines, the Franks, the Venetians, the Austrians, the Italians, and the Yugoslavs, before becoming part of Croatia in 1991.
Pula's most famous attraction is the Arena, a Roman amphitheater that dates back to the 1st century AD and is one of the best-preserved in the world.
The Arena can seat up to 20,000 spectators and is still used for concerts and festivals. You can also visit the Temple of Augustus, the Arch of the Sergii, the Twin Gates, and the Forum.
Pula is also a popular seaside resort with beautiful beaches and a mild climate. You can enjoy the sun and the sea at Verudela, Stoja, or Medulin. You can also explore the nearby Brijuni Islands, a national park and a former presidential residence.
Croatia's ancient cities are more than just historical relics. They are living and breathing places that offer a unique blend of past and present, culture and nature, tradition and innovation. Whether you want to learn about the history, admire the architecture, enjoy the cuisine, or relax by the sea, you will find something to suit your taste in these amazing destinations.
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