UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) is a UN agency that promotes world peace through the international cooperation of its members in education, arts, sciences, and culture. UNESCO was founded in 1945 and it has 193 member states.
UNESCO established the World Heritage Sites list to include areas and landmarks of special cultural, scientific, historical, or physical significance under their legal protection. The list includes 897 monuments of cultural world heritage and 218 monuments of natural world heritage in 167 countries.
It also covers intangible cultural heritage including artistic performances, social customs and tradition, festivals, knowledge, and traditional crafts.
Croatia can be proud of its 10 significant sites included on UNESCO’s world heritage list. Eight sites are cultural world heritage and two are natural world heritage.
In this article, the monuments are listed from north to south. The UNESCO’s interactive map of world heritage is available here.
Jump to a Croatian site:
- Euphrasian Basilica (Poreč)
- Venetian Works of Defence (Zadar, Šibenik)
- Cathedral of St James (Šibenik)
- Historic City of Trogir
- Diocletian Palace (Split)
- Stećci Medieval Tombstone Graveyards (Cista Provo, Konavle)
- Stari Grad Plain (island Hvar)
- Old City of Dubrovnik
- Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians
- Plitvice Lakes National Park
The facts are these…
Cultural world heritage
Eufrazijeva bazilika u Poreču (Episcopal Complex of the Euphrasian Basilica in the Historic Centre of Poreč) includes a basilica, atrium, baptistry, and episcopal palace that represent religious Christian architecture from the 4th century. The Euphrasian Basilica combines both Byzantium and classicism.
Euphrasian Basilica was named after the bishop Euphrasius (Eufrazije) who remodeled the cathedral and decorated it with mosaics in the 6th century. The figurative mosaics painted on the apse are among the most significant examples of their kind in Europe. The cathedral was added to UNESCO’s list in 1997.
This complex consists of 6 components from the 16th and 17th centuries located in Croatia, Italy, and Montenegro. In Croatia, Venecijanski obrambeni sustav (Venetian Works of Defence) includes the works of defense in Zadar and šibenska tvrđava sv. Nikole (St Nicholas Fortress) in Šibenik. The Venetian works of defence also includes the fortified cities of Bergamo and Peschiera del Garda, the fortress-city of Palmanova in Italy, and the City of Kotor in Montenegro.
The complex shows modern military architecture through organization, design, and implementation whose purpose was to defend trade routes and ports in the Adriatic and eastern Mediterranean. It is valuable due to its typological diversity, visual integrity, and preservation. It was added to UNESCO’s list in 2017.
View a photo gallery here.
Šibenska katedrala (Cathedral of St James in Šibenik) was built between 1431 and 1535. It is valuable as a monument of art of North Italy, Dalmatia, and Toscana. The cathedral was built in Gothic, Gothic-Renaissance, and Renaissance styles without the use of binding materials.
Cathedral stands out for its sculptures of 71 heads at the outer part of the sanctuary. It is believed they were built by the Croatian contemporary sculptor Juraj Dalmatinac. The cathedral’s dome is a symbol of Šibenik. Šibenska katedrala was added to the UNESCO list in 2000.
Romanički grad Trogir (Historic city of Trogir) and its Romanesque churches are rich with Baroque and Renaissance monuments. The most outstanding cultural monument is the Trogirska katedrala Svetog Lovre (Trogir cathedral) known for its western portal built by the Croatian sculptor master Radovan. It is the most significant example of Romanesque-Gothic art in Croatia.
The city of Trogir is a good example of the orthogonal street plan at that time. Hellenistic rulers decorated the city with remarkable public and residential buildings and fortifications, still appreciated today. Trogir was added to UNESCO’s list in 1997.
Dioklecijanova palača in Split (Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian) is one of the most remarkable monuments of late antique architecture. It was built by the Roman emperor Diocletian in 300. The palace is an important monument of early Christian, Byzantine, and early medieval art. It includes Romanesque churches from the 12th and 13th centuries, medieval fortifications, and Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque palaces.
The palace is a combination of a luxury villa (summer house) and a Roman military camp, divided into four parts by two main streets. The southern part was intended for Emperor Diocletian and the northern for the royal guard. It was added to UNESCO’s list in 1979.
Stećci – srednjovjekovni nadgrobni spomenici (Stećci Medieval Tombstone Graveyards) include 28 medieval graveyards including 2 located in Croatia, 20 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 3 in Montenegro, and 3 in Serbia. In Croatia, they include the necropolis in Cista Provo and Konavle. These monuments were added to the list in 2016.
Stećci are medieval monolithic stone monuments. They were built in the second half of the 12th century and were carved and decorated in the 14th and 15th centuries.
View a photo gallery here.
Starogradsko polje (Stari Grad Plain) is a cultural landscape located on the island of Hvar. It is considered significant because it is unchanged from the 4th century BC. Back then, it was colonized by Ionian Greeks who used the geometric system of land division. This location is also a natural reserve. It was added to UNESCO’s list in 2008.
Authentic farming is preserved on the fertile field of Starogradsko polje dating back to the Hellenistic period. Grapes and olives are the most common crops. The field is surrounded by dry-stone walls called “suhozidi”, built using a special technique included on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists. [Read: Croatia’s tradition of dry-stone walls]
Stari grad Dubrovnik (Old City of Dubrovnik) became an important Mediterranean naval force in the 13th century. The city is full of gothic, renaissance, and baroque churches, monasteries, palaces, and fountains. It was rocked by a strong earthquake in 1667, but most of the monuments remained preserved. It was added to the list in 1979.
Today, Dubrovnik’s Old City is one of the most attractive tourist destinations in the world. It is best known for its city walls called “Dubrovačke gradske zidine” where you can walk the perimeter with 360 degree views. Its attractive main street called “Stradun” is only 300 meters long, but it is full of monuments and serves as the main place for most city gatherings.
Natural world heritage
Iskonske i drevne bukove šume Karpata i drugih regija Europe (Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe) were added to the UNESCO’s list as a group monument of nature. These sites include beech rainforests and native beech forests located in Croatia, Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Italy, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, and Ukraine.
In Croatia, this territory includes 1289,11 hectares of beech forests in the strict nature reserve “Hajdučki i Rožanski kukovi” of the Northern Velebit Natural Park and 2031.87 hectares of woods on locations “Suva draga-Klimenta” and “Oglavinovac-Javornik” in the Paklenica National Park. These woods are proof that Croatia is among the richest European countries in terms of biodiversity.
View a photo gallery here.
Nacionalni park Plitvička jezera (Plitvice Lakes National Park) is the biggest Croatian national park located in the dense forests of Lika. The park consists of 16 lakes formed by the tufa sediments and a diversion of the riverbed. Plitvice’s forests are home to bears, wolves, birds, and many other rare animal and plant species.
The park was added to UNESCO’s list in 1979. It is always the right time to visit Plitvice. You can watch nature in full bloom in spring, mingle around with an umbrella during rainy days and listen to the sound of water, or observe a collage of colorful autumn leaves. It’s even special to see after a heavy snow.
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Please note: All information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal advice in any form. For legal advice, you must consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. We can recommend one if you contact us.