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5 Magnificent Historical Fortresses to Visit in Croatia

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For tourists who love a bit of history, Croatia has plenty to offer in this department. With so much history connected to them, the nation’s fortresses are definitely impressive.

Here is a selection of 5 fortresses on the Dalmatian coast, built to keep enemies out, we have picked which are worth checking out.

1. Klis Fortress

Klis Fortress (photo credit: Ballota under CC)

Klis is a mountain located northeast of Split and separates the mountains Mosor and Kozjak. When the Ottoman wars were raging through Europe the ancient Illyrian stronghold was expanded into Klis Fortress. This two thousand years old medieval fortress served as a defense spot in Dalmatia.

It was also the seat for many Croatian kings and dukes, from the 9th century Duke Mislav, under the reign of Duke Trpimir to the first Croatian king, Tomislav. It was later ruled by the famous Šubić family. The fortress is best known because of the 16th century defense against the Turkish invasion that lasted for more than 20 years. It has long been undefeatable.

Klis (image: Ivan T under CC)

This was the time the famous military faction of Uskok had first been formed. Eventually, the fortress was occupied by the Ottomans and later the Republic of Venice as well as the Austrians. At one point in history, Klis was under the control of the Templar knights.

Because of the great historical value, today the fortress is a museum. The beautiful fortress follows the natural structure of the hill and is of great value as an example of defensive architecture. Its spectacular position, overlooking the surrounding area, the town of Split and the sea, was used as a part of Meereen in the filming of the HBO series Game of Thrones.

2. St. Nicholas Fortress

St. Nicholas Fortress in Šibenik,(photo credit: planetware.com)

St. Nicholas Fortress is today one of the most famous sights in Šibenik.

The fortress got its name from the Benedictine Monastery of St. Nicholas, which was on the island, but due to construction of the fortress had to be demolished.

At the request of domestic Croat population of Šibenik, the Venetian captain Alojzije de Canal decided to build a fort on an island of Ljuljevac on 30 April 1525. Fortress was designed and built by the famous Venetian architect and builder Hyeronimus di San Michaela. The imposing fortress prevented Turkish boats from reaching the port in the 16th century.

St. Nicholas Fortress (photo credit: Visit Šibenik)

The fortress is one of the most valuable and best preserved examples of defense architecture in Dalmatia. The fortress is made of brick because this material was considered to be most resistant to cannonballs, while the foundations are made of stone.

3. Barone Fortress

Barone (image: Zoran_Stanko_Photography)

Barone Fortress (Tvrđava Šubićevac) was built in 1646 on Vidakuša, the 80 meter-high hill above the city of Šibenik on the Dalmatian coast.

The Barone Fortress was a unique defence system which protected the city from invaders for centuries.

The city of Šibenik was protected from enemy attack by its city walls and the St. Michael’s Fortress until another fortress – Barone was constructed on the hill to give better defence to the city in the mid 1600s.

The fortress took just 58 days to construct and was ready in time for an attack from the Ottomans that same year. Barone was shaped as an irregular star and resisted the enemy cannons with bastions reinforced with soil sediments.

4. Ston

Ston (image: Ljubo Gamulin / Društvo prijatelja dubrovačke starine)

Known as the “European Wall of China”, the Walls of Ston in southern Croatia are the longest preserved fortification system in the world after the Great Wall of China.

The series of defensive stone walls, originally more than 7 kilometres long, were built in the 14th and 15th century by Dubrovnik and Ston citizens to protect the city of Ston, which was part of the Republic of Ragusa. Over 400 years were taken to built the impressive complex.

The wall today links Ston to Mali Ston, and is in the shape of an irregular pentangle. It was completed with its 40 towers (20 of which have survived) and 5 fortresses. Within, three streets were laid from north to south and three others from east to west.

The town was entered by two city gates and the centres of the system are the fortress Veliki kaštio in Ston, Koruna in Mali Ston and the fortress on Podzvizd hill (224 m). Noted artists who worked on the walls project were Michelozzo, Bernardino Gatti of Parma and Giorgio da Sebenico (Juraj Dalmatinac).

Walls of Ston (photo credit: Ljubo Gamulin / Društvo prijatelja dubrovačke starine)

The city plan of Dubrovnik was used as a model for Ston, but since Ston was built on prepared terrain, that model was more closely followed than Dubrovnik itself. In terms of infrastructure like water mains and sewers built in 1581, Ston was extraordinarily unique in Europe.

5. Španjola

View from Spanjola (photo credit: croatia.hr)

Spanjola, or Spanish Fortress, is located on a hill above the town of Hvar on the island of the same name in southern Dalmatia.

The earliest known settlement on the site of today’s Hvar town was Illyrian. On the site of the present Spanish Fortress stood a hillfort, the importance of which can be seen in the pottery from the site, indicating long-distance trade from the eighth century B.C. onwards.

Spanish fortress was however completed in the mid-16th century, in time to defend an attack by the Turks in 1571. The fortress included a tower, four circular bastions, armory, gunpowder store, a large and small water cistern, a prison, and a chapel dedicated to St John the Baptist.

Fortica (image: Marbax2 under CC)

The fortress, know by locals as Fortica, has been repaired and restored many times over the last few centuries and today is a popular tourist haunt and one of the most popular spots to take photos from on the island.

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