Diocletian's Palace, Split, Croatia, WitR shutterstock
© WitR, Shutterstock

Spreading out from the peristyle, the streets of the old town of Split were once palatial corridors and the houses huge reception rooms for the former Roman emperor in retirement.

Croatia’s second biggest city is a brash and captivatingly energetic hub, with a population of over 200,000 – but the old centre is surprisingly compact and easily manageable on foot. The main draw is Diocletian’s Roman palace, just along the Riva from the port where you’re likely to arrive – still stunning after more than 1,700 years of builders’ alterations. Diocletian no doubt had a monster ego (being emperor has that effect), but even he can’t have imagined his home would be so well worth visiting in the 3rd millennium.

In its heyday the palace must have been extraordinary. At over 30,000m², it included everything from vast reception chambers to temples, arcaded corridors, baths, huge storerooms, extensive private apartments and an entire barracks. No expense was spared in its construction, with materials shipped in from Egypt and Greece, though it was built in a terrible rush, as it had to be ready for the emperor’s retirement.

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