Diocletian's Palace Walking Tour
- Diocletian's Palace: The 10-acre property that kickstarted and sustained Split through the ages, built by the first man to ever willingly walk away from absolute power.
- Cellars: Walk through a maze of narrow streets that mixes present-day businesses and galleries, ancient structures, and the 7th century Cathedral of St. Duje.
- Free Time: After your walking tour, explore some more; make sure not to miss the Pazar, the city's main marketplace (and largest in Dalmatia) just outside the Silver Gate.
About this Split tour
Though it's a thriving city, the Split personality is still defined by its first resident. His name was Diocletian, and he was a man of fascinating contradictions. The son of Illyrian slaves who rose up through the imperial bodyguard to become emperor of Rome in 284 (via a split second decision to publicly plunge a sword through the chest of his rival), one of his first decrees was to literally split the imperial government into eastern and western halves. And then, 21 years into his rule, he unexpectedly quit. Who relinquishes absolute power? Hardly anyone. Ever. He was certainly the first Roman ruler to voluntarily resign, transforming from a man of action into one of contemplation.
In other words, he split for seaside Split, where he had built a palace a few miles from his birthplace. Yet the word palace barely does justice to the massive residence/retirement home/mausoleum. It encompassed 435,000 square feet, colossal enough to envelope today's largest sporting complexes (like the humongous Michigan Stadium). Around four main gates and a massive main peristyle courtyard, seven-foot-thick walls peaked at seven stories, with a monumental colonnade that faced the Adriatic. It was as if he intended to foster an image of a remote, godlike figure, residing in splendor while impenetrably cocooned.
And more than 1700 years later, the property remains in amazing shape. Game of Thrones fans know this, because the show utilizes the remarkably intact vaulted basement for Daenarys' throne room and the streets of Meereen. There are imperial living quarters, a great hall, and a vestibule crowned with a dome. Portraits of he and his wife Prisca survive on an internal frieze in his mausoleum. An octagonal building surrounded by Corinthian columns, it became the Cathedral of St. Duje in the 7th century (now the oldest in the world and a heavy irony, since he signed an edict to persecute Christians). Opposite the mausoleum, the temple of Jupiter (who Diocletian claimed he was the son of) eventually became the cathedral baptistery.
And all around the complex, below and above and even at the local market just outside the Silver Gate, architecture exists from almost every era and style since Diocletian's demise. That's because the palace was slowly colonized and gradually turned into a city of thousands; empty spaces sprouted houses that were set as closely as split hairs.
From slavechild to sovereign: the prophecy
When Diocletian was a young soldier in Gaul, a druidess divined that he would become emperor by slaying an aper (Latin for boar). After that, he slaughtered every single swine he saw. Yet nothing happened for years, save for a lot of blood and loads of meat. Then, in 284, both the emperor Carus and his son were murdered. Diocletian just so happened to be the head of their imperial bodyguard. And the supposed killer was Arrius Aper. APER! So Diocletian executed Aper in front of the troops, and they fulfilled the prophecy by naming him as the new emperor.
Please make your way to Diocletian's Palace, Cellars South Entrance, to meet your guide. Please look for our tour representative with the displayed logo sign.
Shopping is available in the Old Town of Split after the tour. Favorite souvenirs include lavender products, red wine, and olive oil. Artists often have their works displayed around the Palace. Be sure to have local currency.
Plan to walk about 2-3 miles, over cobblestone roads & up steps. Cobblestones are slippery when wet. If you have limited mobility, this tour may be too challenging for you to enjoy & maintain the pace of the group. It is not wheelchair accessible.
Scenic, Cultural, Walking Tour, Family Friendly
English, French, German, Italian, Spanish
Tour Participation Requirements
This experience is rated moderate. Full participation may require extended periods of walking over even and uneven surfaces, steep terrain and/or water activity in a slight current. There may be steps, inclines, cobblestone surfaces, and extended periods of standing. Participants with physical limitations should take this into account.
Suitable for all ages.
Full refunds issued for cancellations made 7 full days prior to the date and time of requested services. Cancellations made within the 7-day and 72-hour window will receive a 50% refund of purchase total. Purchases are non-refundable inside of 72 hours.
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