UNESCO monuments of culture and nature in Croatia

Cathedral of St James in Sibenik, Croatia
Cathedral of St James in Šibenik, Croatia

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) is a UN agency founded in 1945. It promotes world peace through the international cooperation of its 193 members in education, arts, sciences, and culture. UNESCO established the World Heritage Sites list, which includes areas and landmarks of special cultural, scientific, historical, or physical significance under their legal protection.

UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites includes 1.199 monuments of cultural and natural world heritage in 168 countries. Croatia is proud of its 10 significant sites, including 8 belonging to cultural and 2 to natural world heritage.

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Cultural World Heritage in Croatia

1. Euphrasian Basilica in Poreč, Croatia

Euphrasian Basilica in Poreč, Croatia
Euphrasian Basilica in Poreč, Croatia

Eufrazijeva bazilika u Poreču (Episcopal Complex of the Euphrasian Basilica in the Historic Centre of Poreč) includes a basilica, atrium, baptistry, and episcopal palace, which represent religious Christian architecture from the 4th century. The Euphrasian Basilica combines both Byzantium and classicism.

Euphrasian Basilica was named after the bishop Eufrazije (Euphrasius), 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.

Video | Photos | Map

2. Venetian Works of Defence in Zadar and Šibenik, Croatia

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. It 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.


3. Cathedral of St James in Šibenik, Croatia

Šibenska katedrala
Šibenska katedrala

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.

The cathedral stands out for its sculptures of 71 heads in 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.

Video | Photos | Map

4. Historic City of Trogir in Trogir, Croatia

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 of 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.

Video | Photos | Map

5. Diocletian’s Palace in Split, Croatia

Waterfront of Diocletian's Palace in Split, Croatia
Waterfront of Diocletian’s Palace in Split, Croatia

Dioklecijanova palača (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 of Diocletian 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.

Video | Photos | Map

6. Stećci Medieval Tombstone Graveyards in Cista Provo and Konavle, Croatia

Stećci – srednjovjekovni nadgrobni spomenici (Stećci Medieval Tombstone Graveyards) include 28 medieval graveyards, including 2 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, 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.


7. Stari Grad Plain on the island of Hvar, Croatia

Starogradsko polje (Stari Grad Plain) is a cultural landscape on the island of Hvar. It is considered significant because it is unchanged from the 4th century BC when it was colonized by Ionian Greeks who used the geometric system of land division. This location is also a natural reserve and 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]

Video | Photos | Map

8. Old City of Dubrovnik in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Old city of Dubrovnik from above
The old city of Dubrovnik from above

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. The old city’s 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.

Photos | Map

Natural World Heritage in Croatia

1. Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians

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 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, they include 1.290 hectares of beech forests in the strict nature reserve Hajdučki i Rožanski kukovi of Northern Velebit Natural Park and 2.032 hectares of woods on locations Suva draga-Klimenta and Oglavinovac-Javornik in Paklenica National Park. These woods prove Croatia is among the richest European countries in terms of biodiversity.

[Read: Strict nature reserves of Croatia: Hajdučki i Rožanski kukovi and Bijele i Samarske stijene]


2. Plitvice Lakes National Park

Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice Lakes National Park

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 a good time to visit Plitvice. You can watch nature in full bloom in spring, mingle around with an umbrella during rainy days, listen to the sound of water, or observe a collage of colorful autumn leaves. It’s even special to see after heavy snow.

[Read: Visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park (Plitvička jezera)]

Video | Photos | Map

The UNESCO’s interactive map of world heritage is available here.

View other Croatian UNESCO monuments

Kultura by Ministarstvo kulture i medija
Croatia by UNESCO
Spomenici pod zaštitom UNESCO-a by Camping.hr

Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.

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