UNESCO Heritage sites in Croatia

One of the top travel destinations in Europe and beyond, Croatia has a rich historical and cultural legacy that has resulted in it earning an impressive number of UNESCO-listed sites. UNESCO World Heritage Sites are deemed to be of cultural or natural importance to the world and include famous places like The Great Wall of China, Athens' Acropolis, and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. While Croatia is under 22,000 square miles in size, less than a quarter of the United Kingdom's territory, it's home to 10 of them. From spectacular natural landscapes to ancient Roman ruins, there's something for everyone here. In fact, you might even want to plan your trip around the UNESCO Heritage Sites in Croatia.
Palace of Diocletian

Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian

The historical core of Split, including Diocletian’s Palace and part of the city enveloped by defensive walls, has been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1979. A must-visit on your Croatia holiday, it features some of the world’s most well-preserved Roman architecture. The palace was constructed over the late 3rd and early 4th centuries as the retirement residence for Roman Emperor Diocletian. Today, many of the historic buildings are home to everything from boutiques and galleries to wine bars, cafes, restaurants, and more. One of the highlights is the Cathedral of Saint Domnius in the heart of the palace. By climbing to the top of the 200-foot-high bell tower you’ll enjoy a magnificent view of the entire city of Split.

View of Dubrovnik Old Town

Old City of Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik‘s Old City is one of the most famous UNESCO sites in Croatia. It served as King’s Landing in the popular series “Game of Thrones,” revealing its beauty to many onscreen, but it was a favourite destination of many long before, attracting glamorous Hollywood stars like Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. Impeccably preserved, the historical centre is encircled by massive medieval walls whilst the Stradun, a limestone-paved pedestrianised street runs through. With a romantic atmosphere and a diverse array of architectural styles from Baroque to Renaissance, it’s a joy to explore. Don’t miss a walk atop the stone walls for a view of the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’ and the sea from above. It’s even more captivating at sunset.

Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice Lakes National Park

The largest national park in Croatia at 115 square miles, Plitvice Lakes is renowned for its lakes in brilliant shades of emerald and turquoise. The park’s 16 lakes are interconnected by nearly countless waterfalls and surrounded by picturesque landscapes with forests and lush greenery that have made it another one of the most well-known UNESCO sites in Croatia. It’s also notable for its biodiversity, home to grey wolves, lynx, brown bears, and the European wild cat, whilst the meadows are rich in flora. There are eight designated walking routes, referred to as programmes” or “tours,” varying in length and distance. Scenic wooded paths and footbridges showcase views of the lakes and the cascades with clouds of colourful butterflies often flittering above.

Episcopal Complex of the Euphrasian Basilica in the Historic Centre of Porec

Episcopal Complex of the Euphrasian Basilica in the Historic Centre of Porec

Seaside Porec, set along the coast of the Istrian Peninsula, is home to the group of religious monuments known as the Episcopal Complex of the Euphrasian Basilica. Located in the historic Old Town, it was originally built in the 4th century and expanded over the 5th and 6th centuries. The most complete surviving complex of its kind, the episcopal palace, basilica, baptistry, and atrium are fine examples of religious architecture. The 6th-century mosaics in the basilica are the crown jewel, depicting Christ, Mary and Child, and the Annunciation among others. Other notable features include the Canon’s House, added in the 13th century, a 16th-century belltower, a 15th-century sacristy, and chapels dating from the 17th and 19th centuries.

Trogir

Historic City of Trogir

Medieval Trogir sits on a small island connected by a bridge to the mainland, less than 30 minutes from Split. Sometimes referred to as an open-air museum, its historic centre is surrounded by walls and has roots dating to the 3rd century BC when Doric Greeks founded a trading port at the site. Showcasing remarkably well-preserved Venetian architecture, it’s a joy to explore with a labyrinth of narrow stone streets, a grand 15th-century fortress/castle, and a wealth of impressive Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque buildings. The imposing Cathedral of St. Lawrence, a Romanesque-Gothic triple-naved basilica, is particularly notable. Located on the main town square, it was built primarily in Romanesque style between 1200 AD and the early 17th century.

Aerial view of Sibenik cathedral

The Cathedral of St. James in Sibenik

Standing by the sea in a small square that was once the heart of ancient Sibenik, the Cathedral of St. James was built between 1431 and 1536. Constructed from marble and limestone from the island of Brac primarily in Renaissance style with Gothic elements, it adjoins the episcopal palace. Widely regarded as the finest building on the Dalmatian coast, its imposing Renaissance dome is an iconic symbol of Sibenik. It also stands out for its unique features like the frieze decorated with 71 sculptured faces of men, women, and children. Game of Thrones fans might recall it as it doubles as the House of Black and White where Arya Stark found refuge in Braavo, the city of the Iron Bank.

Beech Forest Croatia

Ancient & Primeval Beech Forests

The Ancient & Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe are on the UNESCO List of World Heritage, spanning 10 European countries, including Ukraine, Spain, Slovenia, Romania, Italy, Bulgaria, Belgium, Austria, Albania, and Croatia. In Croatia, they can be found in the Paklenica and North Velebit national parks. The trees are recognized for their age, size, and other distinct features, representing exceptionally preserved, undisturbed forest ecosystems. They serve as an important habitat for many species, including some that are endangered, like the lynx, bear, wolf, stag and longhorn beetles, forest orchids, and holly. Explore them by hiking the park trails, such as those that lead to the highest peaks of Velebit Mountain in Paklenica.

Stari Grad Plain

Stari Grad Plain

Located on Hvar Island, one of the most popular islands to visit on a Croatia holiday, the Stari Grad Plain lies east of the town of Stari Grad, the oldest in the country, established by the Greeks in the 4th century BC. The farming techniques used over 2,400 years ago haven’t changed with the olive groves and vineyards remaining nearly completely intact since it was first colonised by the ancient Greeks. A unique example of geometric land division, it consists of rectangular plots divided by stone walls. The original construction also had a rainwater collection system that used cisterns and gutters. It was a sustainable farming method that benefited the entire community and ultimately inspired agricultural practices across Europe.

Stećci Medieval Tombstone Graveyards

Stećci Medieval Tombstone Graveyards

The Stećci Medieval Tombstone Graveyards are mostly found in Bosnia & Hercegovina but they’re also located in the border regions of Montenegro, Serbia, and Croatia. Stećci tombstones date to the 12th century and were commonly used through the 16th century. Made of limestone, they can’t be found anywhere else but in this area, although similar tombstones were found in Ireland and Armenia. They were of significant importance to people during the Middle Ages, with inscriptions, symbols, and ornaments representing the region’s unique cultural heritage. There was also a local superstition that said the fields and crops would be destroyed if someone touched them. Their primary religious affiliation is still unknown, although they seemed to be common among both Orthodox and Catholic religions.

Venetian Works of Defence

Venetian Works of Defence

The last of the UNESCO Sites in Croatia, the Venetian Works of Defence is made up of six components of defence works. Two are found in Croatia, Sibenik’s fortress of St. Nicholas and Zadar‘s defence system, whilst the others are in Italy and Montenegro, spanning over 620 miles between the eastern Adriatic Coast and Italy’s Lombard region. Regarded as quintessential examples of the ‘alla moderna’ fortification system, they demonstrate the influence of Renaissance-era Venice, with exceptional architectural, technological, and historical significance. Built in response to the increase in firearm warfare when cannons came to dominate battlefields, the bastion fort designs originated from the former Republic of Venice but quickly spread throughout Europe, remaining the standard for defence until the 19th century. 

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