Things to Do in Dalmatia - page 3
In the 1950s, the last remaining residents of Malo Grablje left their village behind for better opportunities on the coast. Today, the Hvar village stands abandoned, tucked in a valley surrounded by terraced fields and steep hills. Nature has been reclaiming the village for decades — trees grow through walls, shafts of sunlight pour through holes in the roofs and wildflowers grow freely.
While most of Malo Grablje’s former residents now live on the coast in Milna, one resident, Mr. Berti Tudor, moved back and restored his family home where he now operates a traditional Hvar restaurant.
Founded in the early 11th century on the island of Lokrum 600 meters from the mainland and the city of Dubrovnik, the Benedictine Monastery came to be after monks fled the great fire that destroyed the capital in 1023, vowing to honor Saint Benedict should he protect their lives and the island that offered them shelter. They, later on, started to cultivate exotic plants and sour fruits there and continued to do so until the 19th century. Many locals like to think that the island is haunted; rumor has it that after having been forced out of their beloved monastery upon orders of the French army, the monks put a curse on anyone who would ultimately try to seek and claim it as its own. And indeed, future owners all ominously met severe misfortune and calamities, from tragic shipwrecks to bankruptcies.
The monastery was built and expanded over several centuries, which explains the presence of a variety of architectural styles. Nowadays, however, only ruins remain of the original Romanesque structure, with rubbles of the two original churches along with some frescoes and stone reliefs. The cloisters of a later-built Gothic structure still exist and give a better sense of what it must have been like to live in the monastery back in the Renaissance days. The ruins are open to visitors, and a day trip to Lokrum shouldn’t take more than a few hours as the islet is barely over a mile wide. In fact, there are no hotels on Lokrum and, therefore, it is not possible to stay overnight.
Housed in a wing of the battle-scarred Napoleonic Fort Imperial, this museum—also known as the Homeland War Museum—honors the soldiers and civilians killed in the Croatian War of Independence and siege of Dubrovnik in the early 1990s. Its location atop Mount Srđ affords dramatic views of Dubrovnik and the Adriatic Sea.
Salona is an ancient town just outside of Split, Croatia. Originally set up by the Greeks and later conquered by the Romans, it was once the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia. It was Diocletian's hometown before he retired to his newer palace in Split. The town was mostly destroyed by invaders by Avars and Slavs in the 6th and 7th centuries, and today only the ruins remain. There is a 1st century Roman aqueduct that brought in water from the River Jadro as well as the remains of thermal baths.
Salona also has ruins of early Christian graveyards and basilicas. Several of the city's old gates are still in good condition. Visitors can admire what was once an amphitheater that could seat up to 20,000 people. Unfortunately Venetians raided the amphitheater in the 17th century, taking much of the marble to build a palace. Many relics and artifacts uncovered in Salona are now on display at the Archaeological Museum of Split.
The 16th-century Renaissance playwright Marin Držić is to Croatia what Shakespeare is to Britain and he is revered as the first person to write drama in Croatian; his comic plays are on every school syllabus. He lived a rackety life with little career success but his works were resurrected in the 19th century during the rebirth of Croatian cultural heritage; his plays regained popularity yet again in the 1930s and are still performed each year at summer’s Dubrovnik Festival.
The museum dedicated to Držić is located in the Gothic townhouse in which he was born in 1508. It offers a library of modern texts plus a few set-piece reconstructions using waxwork models of his major characters and period furniture. There’s also an audio-visual presentation of some of his texts; among the displays are temporary modern-art exhibitions and contemporary cartoons.
Dubrovnik Cruise Port is historically a popular stop for cruises touring the Adriatic and remains one of the busiest cruise ports in Europe. Providing easy access to the picturesque medieval city of Dubrovnik—known as a filming location for the Game of Thrones television series—Dubrovnik Cruise Port is a frequent start point for expeditions up and down the Dalmatian Coast, city and wine-tasting tours, and, of course, Game of Thrones–themed excursions.
Constructed in the 15th century by architect Onofrio della Cava, the circular Onofrio’s Fountain in Dubrovnik’s Old Town was designed as the end point of the city's 7-mile (12-kilometer) aqueduct system. Today, it serves as a landmark and resting place in the city center. Nearby is a smaller fountain designed by the same architect.
With its emerald-green lakes, rocky caves, and cascading waterfalls framed by soaring dolomite cliffs, ancient woodlands, and fields of wild orchids, Plitvice Lakes National Park is the natural playground of Croatia. The UNESCO World Heritage site has over 73,000 acres (20,500 hectares) of unspoiled landscapes, boasting 16 lakes and 90 waterfalls linked by a network of hiking and biking trails.
Originally built in the 12th century, Dubrovnik Cathedral was destroyed in the 1667 earthquake that struck the city and rebuilt in the baroque style by Italian architects. The cathedral is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, and its treasury contains gold and other artifacts dating to medieval times.
Begun in 1461 under the direction of Florentine architect Michelozzo, Fort Bokar (Tvrđava Bokar) was built to defend Pile Gate from assaults by land or sea. Along with the Old Town’s other forts, the cylindrical structure has become an iconic symbol of Dubrovnik, which keen-eyed travelers may recognize from HBO’sGame of Thrones.
More Things to Do in Dalmatia
Part of a quintet of civic museums in Dubrovnik, the Ethnographic Museum (also known as the Rupe Museum) celebrates life in a Croatia fast disappearing. In a former life, its present home was a three-story, brick-built 16th-century granary used for storing grain for the residents of the city, but since 1980 the city’s collection of local memorabilia and decorative arts has been beautifully displayed in its spacious galleries. Three of the granary’s grain silos have been opened up and incorporated into the exhibition of tools and household implements on the ground floor.
The museum showcases traditional methods of grape harvesting, wine making, fishing and weaving alongside displays of storage bags made of hide and hand-painted Easter eggs. Highlights of the exhibition on the second floor trace rural life in the Dalmatia region, with displays of colorful peasant costumes, embroidered textiles and hand-made lace shawls.
The freestanding Revelin Fortress was built in 1463 to guard the Ploče Gate against invasion. After surviving the 1667 earthquake unscathed, the fortress became the headquarters of the Republic of Ragusa. Nowadays, its large stone terrace is used as a stage during the Summer Festival, and there are exhibits and a nightclub inside.
Lying just east of Split’s historic UNESCO World Heritage-listed center, Bačvice is the most popular city beach with residents and visitors alike. Made of sand and shingle, it curves in a half moon around a wide bay and is backed with an assortment of buzzing beach bars, clubs and cafés, pastry shops and fast-food outlets. There’s also a top-end restaurant with views over the Adriatic Sea to be found in the Art Deco-style pavilion built in 2004 on the eastern flank of the beach.
A favorite with local families, Bačvice Beach is fully supervised by lifeguards, while sun loungers and blue parasols can be hired for a small fee. It offers play parks, table tennis, inflatable castles and water slides for young children along with mini-golf and paddleboats; other water-sports facilities include wind surfing, jet skiing, parasailing and banana-boat rides. The beach is also home to a peculiarly Croatian game; picigin resembles a game of volleyball played in the sea – there’s no net and the aim of the game is to prevent the ball from hitting the water.
An easy way for visitors to get to Bačvice Beach is to take Split’s hop-on, hop-off tour bus; it is also featured on walking tours of the city. The beach is also a recommended stop off on multi-day trips through Croatia and the Balkan.
Hidden away at the foot of Marjan Hill just west of downtown Split, Bene Beach makes a tranquil alternative to the busy city beaches. It’s a scenic spot, with its rocky shore bordered by pine trees and only accessible on foot, and makes a popular choice for families in the summer months thanks to its patrolled swimming area.
As well as cooling off in the ocean, Bene Beach is a starting point for kayaking tours, while the surrounding Marjan Forest Park offers tennis courts, football pitches and ample opportunities for hiking or cycling. The beach itself is equally well equipped, with a terrace restaurant, changing rooms and showers, plus children’s playgrounds and a water slide.
Whether you’re feeling your way through the Vortex Tunnel, laughing at yourself in the Mirror Room, or solving mind-boggling puzzles, Zadar’s Museum of Illusions will challenge your senses and open your mind. Inspired by Zagreb’s museum of the same name, the museum makes a fun diversion from city sightseeing.
Begun in the 14th century and completed in the 1500s, St. John’s Fortress (Tvrđava sv. Ivana) defended Dubrovnik’s Old Port from seaborne assaults for hundreds of years. Today, the fortified tower is known for its Adriatic views and Ragusan history, and is home to the city’s aquarium and maritime museum.
Romantics will be in their element at Dubrovnik’s Love Stories Museum, an unabashedly sentimental collection of letters, mementos, and keepsakes, each one pivotal to a real-life love story. Classic love stories, on-screen romances, and heartfelt accounts from people all around the globe all appear in the exhibits.
Surely one of Croatia’s most bizarre museums, Froggyland is the life’s work of taxidermist Ferenc Mere—a unique project that includes over 500 stuffed frogs arranged into fun dioramas, where they play sports, go to school, and carry out everyday human tasks. Fun, quirky, and utterly captivating, it has to be seen to be believed.
Built as a retirement residence for the Roman emperor Diocletian in the 4th century AD, this massive fortress-like palace makes up about half of old town Split. Although there have been plenty of changes to Diocletian’s Palace over the ages, the original quadrant design still remains with four different gates—the Brass Gate, Iron Gate, Golden Gate, and Silver Gate—that enclose this walled fortress.
The largest passenger port in Croatia and one of the busiest in the Mediterranean, the Port of Split (Luka Split) connects Croatia’s second-largest city with destinations all over the region, from nearby islands to other countries. The port is located within walking distance to the Old Town, as well as Split’s bus and train stations.
Split’s Ethnographic Museum (Etnografski Muzej) has been showcasing Dalmatia’s rich cultural heritage since the beginning of the 20th century. Located within Diocletian’s Palace, the museum comprises historical exhibits, a 7th-century church and medieval courtyard, and a rooftop terrace with panoramic views of Split Old Town.
Meštrović Gallery (Galerija Mestrovic) is an art museum dedicated to 20th-century Croatian sculptor, Ivan Meštrović. As his former home and atelier, the palace is an appropriate setting for the artist’s most important works, much of it religious, including a pair of walnut Adam and Eve figures and a powerful bronze Cyclops sculpture.
Located 10 minutes’ walk from downtown Split, Croatia’s oldest museum boasts a 150,000-strong collection of ancient, medieval, and early-Christian objects, making it a must-visit for history buffs. Exhibition highlights include the country’s largest collection of gems, pottery excavated from the waters of central Dalmatia, and armour that dates back thousands of years.
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- Things to do in Dubrovnik
- Things to do in Hvar
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- Things to do in Šibenik
- Things to do in Zadar
- Things to do in Central Croatia
- Things to do in Adriatic Coast
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- Things to do in Plitvice Lakes National Park
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