This so-called palace is rather a labyrinth of buildings (intended for housing a military garrison), streets, passageways and today – the throbbing heart of Split.
The whole complex occupies around 30,000 square meters and along with gaining UNESCO and World Heritage status there are around 3,000 people that call the palace home.
Emperor Diocletian, who voluntarily gave up the throne of the Roman Empire built the palace as his retirement home and on May 1, 305 AD settled here.
Each wall of the complex has a gate named after a metal. The Silver gate is located on the eastern wall, the Iron gate – on the west, the Golden gate to the north (you walked in through here) and the Bronze gate on the south – the sea shore.
Diocletian wanted to enter his palace on a ship without leaving the deck. It’s hard to imagine that the lower tier of the palace was once covered with water, and the ship of the emperor would pass between the columns and stop among the vaulted rooms. The windows in the lower rooms of the palace are located near the ceiling – in case the water would rise. Over time, the sea receded and in front of the Bronze Gate (south) is now the Riva.
After Diocletian’s death in 316, the palace was used as administrative offices and residence of various governors. In 615, it was used as a shelter for refugees from Salona, after their city was destroyed by the Avars.
As you descend the stairs into the cellars (at either the north or south gates) you’ll be greeted by locals selling souvenirs and handicrafts. Take a peek (and ask for the best price!) and then head over to the Basement Halls where you’ll need to buy an entry ticket.
While these cavernous halls are mostly empty apart from the odd exhibition or party, these rooms and corridors are well worth a look and make for a great escape from the streets above, especially when temperatures sore.