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Stunning national parks, historic cathedrals and Roman palaces are among the essential attractions to be found in Croatia, from Zagreb to Dubrovnik. Displaying striking natural or man-made beauty, some were created in relatively recent times, adding to Croatia’s current status as one of Europe’s prime tourist destinations.
A retirement home for a Roman emperor and a garrison for his troops, Diocletian’s Palace is a warren of exquisite stonework and historic treasure centrepiecing Croatia’s second city, Split. This is not a palace where you pay admission and admire. It’s a living entity open to all – albeit 2,000 years old.
In the centre of Pula, the Amphitheatre is a Roman colosseum with a near intact circle of stadium walls dating from the time of Claudius. Hosting gladiatorial battles 2,000 years ago, the Pula Arena today stages an annual film Festival, live concerts and a music festival.
Croatia’s biggest and most popular national park is Plitvice, a verdant complex of 16 cascading lakes, waters of ever-changing colours, and lush woods. Visiting Plitvice also allows you to admire the 100-plus plant species identified here and maybe glimpse a rare lynx, brown bear or wild cat.
Plitvice Lakes, Croatia, +385 53 751 015
Commissioned in the 6th century by the Bishop Euphrasius, whose likeness appears amid the superb iconography, the Euphrasian Basilica in Poreč is a sumptuous example of Byzantine art and architecture. It stands on the site of a former Roman villa, whose floor mosaic is displayed in the Basilica garden.
Euphrasian Basilica, Eufrazijeva, Poreč, Croatia, +385 52 451 784
Brijuni near Pula is a national park of rare attractions found on the island of Veliki Brijuni. Best visited on an excursion, it reveals dinosaur footprints, Roman ruins and botanical gardens from Habsburg times. Former leader Tito’s menagerie is also open to the public.
When Diocletian’s Palace was being built in nearby Split, Salona was a thriving community of 60,000 under Roman rule. What is left today after Salona was sacked by hostile tribes are the base of the amphitheatre, trunks of columns and gravestone carvings scattered around an extensive archaeological park.
The great sculptor Ivan Meštrović designed this sea-facing building outside Split to be a family villa, studio and exhibition space. Today it houses the Meštrović Gallery, with two floors of his sculptures, drawings, paintings and architectural plans, and even furniture that Meštrović designed. Outside is a small sculpture park.
Šetalište Ivana Meštrovića 46, Split, Croatia, +385 21 340 800