7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Croatia and Why You Should Visit Each One
Croatia is among the top tourist destinations in Europe – it’s a country rich in history, culture, and has some of the most beautiful islands in the world. Apart from over a thousand islands, inlets and isles on its Adriatic coastline, Croatia also boasts 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites that are not to be missed.
This list of Croatian UNESCO World Heritage Sites that are protected, preserved, and identified as national heritage make great places to visit in fall (Autumn) when the summer crowds have dissipated.
1. Old City of Dubrovnik
2. Plitvice Lakes National Park in Plitvicka, Jezera
3. Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian
4. Historical City of Trogir
5. Episcopal Complex of the Euphrasian Basilica in the Historic Centre of Poreč
6. Hvar’s Stari Grad Plain
7. The Cathedral of St. James in Šibenik
1. The Old City of Dubrovnik
Considered to be the “Pearl of the Adriatic,” the old city of Dubrovnik became highly developed when it became a centre for maritime trade in the 15th and 16th centuries. Among the most popular tourist destinations in the Mediterranean and established as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, Dubrovnik boasts a number of Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance architectural monuments such as churches, palaces, and monasteries. It is among the best-preserved medieval cities in the world and the old town showcases the beauty of Croatian heritage.
Why visit Dubrovnik?
Its vast number of Gothic and Renaissance structures such as the Sponza Plaza and the Rector’s Palace are worth the visit, as well as its impressive 2km of city walls along the coast. Plus you can head out of the old town, and discover parts of Dubrovnik that not everyone sees. Here is a great 3-day Dubrovnik itinerary suggestion to get you started.
2. The Plitvice Lakes National Park
The only natural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Croatia is Plitvitce Lakes. The lakes, waterfalls, and formations in this national park were formed over thousands of years on its vast land of limestone and chalk. Enrolled as a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1979, Plitvice Lakes National Park is a beautiful area of coves, lakes, and waterfalls that boast spectacular flora and fauna.
No swimming or water sports are allowed to keep Plitvice absolutely clean. The park is also home to rare species of birds, bears, and wolves.
Why visit Plitvice Lakes National Park?
The 16 blue-green lakes that are separated by natural dams are absolutely breathtaking, with the colours changing along with the seasons – it’s nature at its finest. This guide to visiting Plitvice lakes will help you enjoy this World Heritage Site.
3. The Historical Complex of Split
Established as a cultural heritage in 1979, the Historical Complex of Split is a massive 38,500 square meter area of Roman archaeological monuments. Built by then Roman Emperor Diocletian as his retirement palace in 300AD, its most distinct structure is Diocletian’s Palace. This now open-air museum that gets oooooh-and-aaahhs from every visitor that enters its doors. The Palace was built with stone from the island of Brač and is depicted on the backside of the Croatia 500 kuna banknote that was released in 1993.
Why visit the Historical Complex of Split?
Walking inside the vast complex is like a trip back in time – marvel in the well-preserved Roman structures that will take you back 2,000 years. Plus you can wander the halls and take in a Game of Thrones tour, and see the palace as it was in the HBO TV show.
4. The Historical City of Trogir
Home to one of the best structures of medieval architecture in Europe, it boasts the best-preserved Roman-Gothic complex in Central Europe. Enrolled as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 due to its unparalleled beauty and cultural value, the Historical City of Trogir boasts a large number of palaces and churches.
Why visit Trogir?
It is home to a large number of gorgeous Baroque buildings, Venetian-era Renaissance structures, and Romanesque churches such as the Church of St. Lovro – among the most important architectural buildings in Croatia.
5. The Episcopal Complex of the Euphrasian Basilica
The most complete complex of its kind in the world, the Episcopal Complex was built in 313 and is among the best examples of Byzantine architecture and art in the world. Featuring a church, memorial chapel, atrium, baptistry and episcopal palace it’s most outstanding feature has to be the beautifully tiled mosaic illustrations that glow like gold in the candlelight.
Why visit the Episcopal Complex?
The Episcopal Complex of the Euphrasian Basilica is believed to be one of the founding places of Christianity – now that’s cool. Read more information on the outstanding site of the Episcopal Complex.
6. The Cathedral of St. James
Listed as a UNESCO Heritage Site in 2000, this Catholic church lies in the often overlooked town of Šibenik in central Dalmatia. The Cathedral is a magnificent example of a blend of architectural heritage from northern Italy, Tuscany, and Dalmatia. The most significant of architectural Renaissance monuments in Croatia, the Cathedral of St. James stands majestically over its many visitors.
Why visit the Cathedral of St. James?
The 71 highly individualised exterior frieze of men, women, and children, with different facial expressions have never been identified and adds a mysterious air to this magnificent structure.
7. Hvar’s Stari Grad Plain
Joining the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2008, Hvar’s Stari Grad Plain has one of the best examples of ancient Greek agricultural systems in Croatia. Perhaps in the whole of Central Europe. The grapes and olives being grown on Stari Grad are still used today and remains in its initial form since the 4th century.
Why visit Stari Grad Plain?
While the tourist hotspots are located in central Hvar, the Plain has often been overlooked but provides the perfect backdrop and educational destination for anyone who wants to discover an ancient agricultural system from thousands of years ago.