Croatian Maritime Museum – Split

Croatian Maritime Museum or Pomorski muzej is a place not so often visited by the most of the tourists coming to Split. Majority stick to the Palace, Riva, museums in the historic part, Marjan hill, beach…

But up on the hill of Gripe, only 10 minutes from the Peristil, Croatian Maritime Museum keeps it’s treasures.

"Bakar" - the last anchorage

Gripe fortress itself is worth visiting: one of the finest remains of the late 17th century fortifications left in Dalmatia. It was built as a response to constant raids by the Ottoman Turks who started threatening the Diocletian’s Palace. Split suffered the first attack in 1645. and, seeing the development in artillery, the citizens of Split asked Venice (who ruled the region at the time) to build the fortress on Gripe hill. That place was perfect for attacking and destroying Split and they had to act fast.

So, the fortress was started in 1657. but under constant attacks by the Turks. On June 21st the Turks launched a massive attack that outnumbered people of Split managed to repel only after the Venetian soldiers, volunteers of Trogir, Makarska and Hvar joined in. The next day the Turks tried again and captured the fortress but they were chased out the same day.

The Turkish rule slowly faded from our regions in the early 18th century, but the Gripe fortress kept it’s military role till 1990s when it was given to the civil rule of Split.

Pithos found in Kaštela

The museum holds artifacts from all periods and one of the most impressive is certainly the huge Roman pithos found in the shallow water in Kaštela just few years back.

The history of the museum dates back to 1926 when it was founded and, in former Yugoslavia, was the National museum spreading on 4 floors and with unlimited budget. Now, it is located on the first floor and it is divided in two parts: military and civil maritime history of Croatia.

Civil and merchant sailing has a loooong tradition dating back to the Greeks and later to the Illyrians but most of the exhibits are from the past 200 – 300 years.

The remains from the past

The models of ships, preserved tools and equipment make this museum a fabulous place for everyone interested in maritime history or sea in general!

The museum is also very active organizing at least one exhibition per year and just recently they closed the one on figureheads on the ships in the Adriatic through the centuries. The next one, prepared to open in January 2010. will cover the shipbuilding tradition in Split. That will be particular interesting since, as we are approaching the EU, the EU officials want our shipbuilding closed or converted to something else…

Figure heads

One of the most interesting exhibits was a collection of fish cans of all the different factories that once worked our coast and islands. There are maybe 3 left now…

The cans

But the true treasures are in the military section. Both treasures of our national history and the world heritage objects. The Gripe museum keeps the worlds oldest torpedo collection as well as the first torpedo ever made!
The first working prototype of the modern self-propelled torpedo was created by a commission placed by Ivan Lupis (Croatian) an Austrian naval officer from Rijeka/Fiume, and Robert Whitehead, an English engineer who was the manager of a Fiume factory. In 1864, Luppis presented Whitehead with the plans of the salvacoste (coastsaver), a floating weapon driven by ropes from the land, and made a contract with him in order to perfect the invention. Whitehead later created a “real” torpedo in the World’s first torpedo factory in Rijeka in 1870.

The story later takes numerous turns but the original torpedo and many models from that firts factory are now in Split!

World's oldest torpedo!

Among other very interesting artifacts, special place holds the fascinating collection of model ships of the Partisan fleet from 1941 – 1945 when our grandfathers turned their fishing vessels to patrol boats to fight much more powerful German fleet.

The boats of the partisan fleet

Maritime museum in Split is a great place! Only three staff members and 10 kn entrance fee make this a place well worth seeing: since all the artifacts can be touched, one of the staff members must accompany you and you get a GREAT private tour!

Hrvatski pomorski muzej Split ,
21000 Split, Glagoljaša 18,
Tvrđava Gripe,
21000 Split

Telefon: +385 21 347 346, +385 21 347 788
It is open daily from 8 – 14 but you have to ring the bell. It also works in the afternoons but only on Thursdays and it is closed on Sunday.

Also, once done with the collection kept in the building, take a walk outside the building to see the collection of guns dating back to WW2 and see the collection of old boats in the courtyard. One of them, Streljko, was a patrol boat of former Yugoslav navy (PČ – 22 patrol boat 22) and it was built in 1937. It is preserved almost completely as it was in the last days of the war. My wife’s grandfather was a kalafat (ship builder) from Komiza on Vis Island and he worked on maintenance works on Streljko so this is part of our family heritage now.


The boat was heavily damaged by fire few years back but it was somewhat restored and now surrounded by fence so it cannot be reached.

The other boat was cut in pieces since it was too big and only the prow is preserved and can be seen, and visited, in the museum as well. It is Bakar, one of the most famous ships of early days of socialist Yugoslavia. It was armed with guns and it was part of the action in 1943 when the partisans attacked Omiš. It was also the first Yugoslav ship to sail to Italy, Bari harbor, and it served as a connection ship bringing the supplies from the liberated south of Italy to the free islands of the Dalmatian coast.

Croatian Maritime Museum is a great place! Filled with very interesting exhibits telling the story of our turbulent past and Dalmatia through the centuries.

So, all you in love with the sea and the life on the sea, this is the place for you!

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  1. Janos B. says:

    Hi Alan!

    Just wanted to say how much I enjoy exploring the hidden treasures of Croatia through your blog posts! Do keep them coming!

    And now, the World’s first torpedo story is a nice addition to the collection of Croatia’s records that I try to compile.

  2. Thank you!

    I am trying to show people that there is much more to Croatia than the simple sightseeing of major sights!

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