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World Travel Guide > Guides > Europe > Croatia > Split

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Split History

Inhabited for at least 1,700 years, Split’s earliest inhabitants were Neolithic tribesmen, although architectural development began with the Greeks who established a colony on the site of the city. But it wasn’t until the Roman Emperor Diocletian took a shine to the area that the city began to really take shape.

Diocletian, who ruled between AD284-305, decided it was the perfect spot to retire to and built a vast palace, which was inhabited by as many as 10,000 people. Later in the 7th century, as Diocletian's Palace began to become overcrowded, Split began to grow up around it.

Although founded by an emperor and surrounded by the Ottomans, the town remained an independent entity with little outside influence until the 15th century. Between the 15th and end of the 18th century, Dalmatia (and Split) fell under the control of the Venetians. Under their auspices, the city developed into a major port and a hub for trade routes leading into Ottoman-controlled lands.

After the fall of the Venetians in 1797, Split fell briefly under Napoleonic rule before being handed to the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. It remained under the Hapsburgs until WWI brought about the dissolution of Austria-Hungary and a change of ruler for Split.

Dalmatia, along with Split, became a part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, which in 1929 changed its name to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Split became a key administrative and cultural centre under the new regime, a state of affairs that continued after WWII. This time, however, the new rulers were the Communists and although the city enjoyed an economic boom courtesy of shipbuilding, personal choice and freedom of speech became virtually non-existent.

In 1991, following the Yugoslavian War, Croatia declared its independence and Split became part of the independent Republic of Croatia. In the years since, Split’s magnificent historical buildings have helped the city get back on its feet and have turned it into a thriving tourist destination. Now the third largest cruise port in the Mediterranean, its future looks assured.

Did you know?
• Diocletian’s Palace took more than 10 years to build with much of the work done by slaves.
• The Cathedral of Saint Domnius is the world’s oldest Catholic cathedral that remains in use in its original structure.
• The granite sphinxes in Diocletian’s Palace were originally from Egypt. They used to belong to Pharaoh Thutmose III.

Featured Hotels

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Hotel Slavija

The owners claim that the Slavija is the oldest hotel in Split and it may well be. A recent makeover has really improved things and the location is second to none right in the heart of the palace surrounded by bars and restaurants. There are 25 rooms with singles, doubles and triples available.

Hotel Adriana

Hotel Adriana is ideal for those looking to really be in the heart of the action. With a perfect location on the Riva waterfront, guests can wake to the smell of the sea. Extras include the decent on-site restaurant and the café-bar out on the Riva, one of the most popular on this pedestrianised boulevard.

Hotel Peristil

Within the palace walls, behind the cathedral, this characterful boutique hotel has 12 quite basic but comfortable rooms. Pick room 204 or 304 if you want to caress exposed stones of the 1,700-year-old Roman palace at no extra cost. Another one of the hotel's finest features is Tifani Restaurant on the ground floor.

Le Méridien Lav

This 365-room ultra-luxurious resort boasts top-notch bars, restaurants and leisure facilities that more than offset the 15-minute taxi ride south of Split. It also boasts 17 sea view suites and a beautiful on-site marina which looks great, even if you don't own a boat.

Palace Judita Heritage Hotel

Housed in a stunning ancient building, which draws influences from the Romanesque, gothic and renaissance periods, this is an upmarket central option with spectacular views over the city from its balconies. Renowned service, beautiful rooms and meticulous attention to detail keep Palace Judita popular.

Villa Varoš

One of the few accommodation options in the warren of old streets that make up the historic Varoš district on the edge of Split's city centre, Villa Varoš is also one of the cheapest hotels in the city. It boasts singles, doubles and a couple of apartments that come with their own kitchens.