Ancient Cities to Visit in Croatia
Croatia’s coast is adorned with ancient towns and UNESCO-protected gems, mixing vibrant history
with Mediterranean charm to make for an unequaled seaside holiday.
From the Greeks to the
Romans, Croatia’s antiquity beams through flawless architecture, often designed thanks to local
white limestone transformed into palaces, churches, and defensive walls.
With an age-old story to be told that has survived through centuries of calm and conflict, Croatia’s
ancient cities allow you to live vicariously through their past, amplifying your sailing holiday to the
history beyond the sea.
Here are 6 Ancient cities you need to visit when sailing in Croatia on a Dalmatian sailing route.
First mentioned in 1066, Sibenik was founded by Croats over 1,000 years ago, making it the oldest
native Croatian town on the Adriatic Coast. Thanks to its strategic position, Sibenik was under
Venetian rule in 1412, attacked by the Ottomans in 1647, and went on to survive the 16th-century
plague, the Habsburg Monarchy, and a few Italian occupations. Its turbulent history, however, gave
birth to many of its cultural monuments, and today, it is the only Croatian city with two UNESCO
World Heritage sites – the 15th-century Renaissance pearl St. James Cathedral and the Venetian
fortification St. Nicholas Fortress, built between the 16th and 17th centuries as a defense against the
Ottoman Turks. Visitors also shouldn’t miss St. Michael’s Fortress, today an unbeatable location for
concerts and cultural events, or the medieval Mediterranean Garden of the St. Lawrence
This well-preserved ‘museum city’ is praised for its Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque
influences, all of which contributed to its inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage list back in 1997.
Founded in the 3rd-century BC by Greeks, Trogir became a Roman municipality in the 1st century BC,
was ruled by Croatians in the 9th century, and was a free city in 1107 after Croatia was annexed to
Hungary. Controlled by Venetians, Austrians, and French until 1918, Trogir’s ancient attractions are a
testament to its tale. From its Romanesque-Gothic core to its 13th-century Cathedral, 15th-century
Venetian Kamerlengo Castle, and decorations of Kairos, the Greek god of opportune moments,
Trogir is a mosaic of antiquity that thrives off its historical heritage.
Founded as the Greek settlement of Aspalathos, Split is best known for its most famous citizen –
Emperor Diocletian. A native of the Roman headquarters of Salona, Diocletian began building his
grand retirement home just six kilometers away from Salona, in what we know today as the center
of Split. The 10-year project started at the turn of the 4th century AD, modeled after Roman forts,
and was ultimately used as Diocletian’s residence and military garrison. This monumental structure
has remained intact through the Croatian dynasty, Venetian rule, Ottoman threats, a short stint of
Napoleon, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Italian forces. It is no wonder why Diocletian’s Palace
and Split’s historic core earned UNESCO World Heritage status in 1979. Today, the palace remains
act as a center for local life and booming tourism.
The oldest settlement on the island of Hvar is a quaint fishing town named Stari Grad (Old Town).
With over 2,400 years of history, Stari Grad’s roots date back to 385 BC, when it was called Pharos,
after it was first colonized by Ionian Greeks from Paros. The Greeks are also responsible for Stari
Grad’s UNESCO World Heritage, the Stari Grad Plain, a geometrical land organization system divided
by dry stone walls, or ‘chora.’ From Greek Pharos to Roman Faria, Stari Grad was under Byzantine
rule, the remains of which can be seen today in the foundation of St. John’s Church. Stari Grad is also
famous for Petar Hektorovic, a Renaissance nobleman and poet whose mid-15th century holiday
home transformed into a fort (Tvrdalj) during the Turkish invasions, which you can still visit today. A
Mediterranean hotspot for trade and craft over the years, Stari Grad today is a sanctuary for history
buffs and sailors, the old-world sister to the trendy Hvar town.
With island roots dating back to the Stone Age and evidence of human dwellings on the island even
older, Korcula town is an island immersed in antiquity. Legend says that Korcula town was founded
in the 12th century BC thanks to Trojan hero Antenor, but the first known inhabitants were Illyrians.
The town was first mentioned in the 10th century by a Byzantine emperor and historian, though it
was the Venetians that genuinely left their trace. Responsible for the town’s defensive walls used to
protect it from the Turks and pirates, it is also said that Venetian merchant and explorer, Marko
Polo, was born in Korcula in 1254. The Venetian Republic ultimately fell to Napoleon before the
Austrians, French, and British Navy. Today, Korcula is famous for the 15th-century Gothic,
Romanesque, and Baroque St. Mark’s Cathedral, the Town Museum with Greek and Roman
shipwreck ceramics, and (maybe) Marko Polo’s home!
The Adriatic Pearl, once known as Ragusa, has origins dating back to the 7th century. From Byzantine
to Venetian rule in the years that followed, Dubrovnik finally became a free state from the 14th and
19th centuries, and a Mediterranean Sea power seen as a threat to many. Dubrovnik’s picturesque
walled old town, famous for flocks of tourists today, was developed already from the 13th century –
and the image plastered across today’s travel magazine covers is consistent with its appearance all
those centuries ago. Even after a devastating earthquake in 1667 and the Napoleonic Wars not long
after, Dubrovnik’s Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque old town, glittered with churches, palaces,
monasteries, and fountains, remained preserved. However, the darkest day in Dubrovnik history
happened just 30 years ago, when its famous walls were shelled by Serb forces during the Homeland
War. Nonetheless, Dubrovnik has managed to prevail and today is a tourism mecca with a history
that steeps through every stone on its wall. It was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in
As you can see, Croatia has a rich history; all of this (and more), awaits you when you book a yacht
charter and sail in Croatia.
and let’s start
planning your perfect sailing holiday.