Trogir: the Croatian Jewel
Croatia is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe. Situated on the Adriatic, it boasts 1,268 miles of stunning coastline dotted with more than 1,000 islands, and on one of these islands lies the historic walled city of Trogir, considered to be the best preserved Roman-Gothic town in Central Europe.
Trogir is actually a tiny islet sandwiched between the mainland and the island of Ciovo. It is connected to both by bridges. The old town is a fascinating labyrinth of cobblestoned alleyways and back streets, palaces and churches, with something wonderful to see around every corner. With 2,700 hours of sunshine every year, Trogir is a beacon for holiday makers from around the globe and also a great base from which to visit the rest of the beautiful Dalmatian coast.
In 1997 UNESCO awarded Trogir its highly coveted World Heritage Site status. And it's easy to see why. This jewel of a town is just bursting with history. Since it was first settled by Greeks in the third century B.C., Trogir has been invaded, sacked, rebuilt, and invaded again by everyone from the Romans to Saracen warriors to Venetian traders. The city's troubled past is evidenced by its architecture, with heavy walls encircling the old town to ward off invaders. Even now the only way into the old town is though one of the city gates.
When You Arrive
Thankfully these days things are peaceful and Trogir welcomes its visitors with open arms. Getting there is easy. Split International Airport is only 2.5 miles away and there are plenty of taxis on hand to take you into Trogir. A word of warning: cabs in Croatia can be prohibitively expensive, so if you're on a budget it's best to catch a number 37 bus which stops right outside the airport and will drop you off at the bus station right in the heart of the action. A single ticket costs 12 kuna ($2.50/ £1.50).
Most visitors staying in Trogir generally rent an apartment on the mainland and just walk across the short bridge to the old town to see the sights, the shops and the restaurants etc. If you do hire a car, then leave it on the mainland, especially at the height of summer. This is when Trogir can get insanely crowded, with coachloads of tourists arriving from every direction. The traffic sometimes gets backed-up for hours as cars queue to cross the bridge into the old town. If you want to see Trogir at its best then try to visit in the late spring or early fall. My wife and I went in September. The weather was still glorious and we were able to wander about the old town at our own pace.
If you are feeling brave and decide to take a car, there is only one parking lot on Trogir itself, just over the bridge from the mainland and turn right. This fills up quickly, though, and the only option then is to drive around the island and across the bridge to Ciovo, where a few parking spaces are available. Then it's just a question of walking back across the bridge and into the old town. There's plenty to see.
Right in the heart of the old town lies St. Lawrence Cathedral, with its imposing bell tower soaring high above the rest of the town. Work began on the cathedral in 1213 and it's built in a mainly Romanesque style, although all kinds of influences are clearly visible.
A minute's walk south from the cathedral brings you to the harborside, a beautiful palm-tree lined promenade packed with shops and restaurants that cater for every appetite. Here, you can sit and enjoy all kinds of food, while gawping at the multi-million dollar yachts that regularly tie up on the quayside. Some of these floating palaces come from as far away as the Caribbean and all add to the exciting cosmopolitan atmosphere.
At the western end of the promenade lies Kula Kamerlengo, a 15th century fortress that guards the entrance to the harbor. This is well worth a visit and very reasonably priced at only 10 kn ($2/£1.25). The views from the tower are gorgeous, especially at sunset. Don't miss this!
Ferry Across The Adriatic
In the shadow of Kamerlengo's impressive walls lies the quayside where two of the local ferries dock. Ferries, both big and small, are a way of life in Croatia and with so many islands it's easy to see why. Locals treat them as public transport, hopping on and off like they were using the subway. The two ferries at Kamerlengo are both small and comfortably appointed. They operate to Medena, just a bit further along the mainland, and Okrug Gornji, on the western tip of Ciovo. These are the two main beach areas that serve Trogir which doesn't have much of a beach of its own. Medena, set on the edge of thick woods, is probably prettier; Okrug is bigger and much livelier, especially at night; it's your choice. Both boat journeys afford fabulous views of Trogir as you exit the harbor and cost 10 kn ($2/£1.25). In our experience the bars and restaurants at Medena tend to stay open a little later in the season; an important consideration if you're visiting in fall.
With Split just 18 miles away it would be a crying shame to forgo a day-trip to Croatia's second largest city. Most tourists based in Trogir either make the journey by hire car, bus or taxi, but the coolest way to arrive is by sea. The ferry to Split only operates in the summer months, usually from the end of May to the end of September. To catch the ferry is quite simple: you just walk across the bridge from the old town to the island of Ciovo and turn left. About 50 yards along the waterfront is a landing stage. This is home to the Tri Sestrice (3 Sisters) ferry to Split. There are four sailings a day each way – the times are posted on a board – and the journey takes about an hour. On the way it stops at Slatine, at the eastern end of Ciovo, which is about halfway. The one-way far is 20 kuna ($4/£2.50). It's important to bear in mind that at the height of summer this ferry, which has capacity for 40 passengers, is very popular and can get crowded, so arrive early to be sure of a place.
Trogir By Night
There are plenty of bars and clubs in Trogir and it's a great place to unwind at the end of the day, sat beneath the stars, sipping on a Karlovačko beer. There are frequent festivals and , during the summer, outdoor concerts are held in the grounds of Kula Kamerlengo. Everywhere the people are friendly and welcoming. If you want a low-key introduction to the delights of Croatia then Trogir is unbeatable.