Fancy a weekend away, lazing in cool curbside cafés, exploring Roman ruins and island-hopping around the Adriatic? Check out Split, Croatia, with our top tips on what to see and do.
1. Walk with the Romans at Diocletian’s Palace
Enter 1,700-year-old Diocletian’s Palace through the Bronze Gate and stroll shoulder to shoulder with the ghosts of legionnaires who once walked through these ancient streets. It may be nearly the oldest place in Split, but this remarkable Roman ruin still bustles with cafés, bars and restaurants forming the modern centre of the city. Some 3,000 Splicani are even fortunate enough to live inside the complex, which originally housed Emperor Diocletian and his garrison, back when this part of the Adriatic coast belonged to Rome.
2. Relax on the Riva
This grand floodlit pedestrian thoroughfare that fronts Diocletian’s Palace and the city harbour is basically one giant catwalk, where the Splicani take their passeggiata, or early evening stroll. Slip on your designer shades, pull up a pew in a pavement café and get set for some serious people watching. St. Riva Café handily has an upper level where you can see without being seen.
3. Savour boat-fresh seafood
Straight out of the Adriatic Sea, the fishermen’s catch on the menu in most restaurants is incredibly fresh. Get in the mood by joining local shoppers checking out the morning fish market on the western fringes of Diocletian’s Palace. Return here at night to dine on simple fried fish at Buffet Zlatna Ribica (Kraj Svete Marije 8) or take things up a notch next door at fine dining establishment, Nostromo. A heaving platter of shellfish starts from 240.00 kn (£28). Wash it down with superb local white wine, Posip.
4. Visit the Cathedral of St Domnius
Delve inside Diocletian’s tomb, now found inside the mediveal Cathedral of St Domnius, which is rather ironic, seeing as the Roman emperor dealt with Christians pretty harshly during his reign. Look out for images of both Diocletian and his wife Priscia here. The views from the belltower of St. Duje, a symbol of the city, are worth the visit and the climb. As the cathedral and tower were built long after the emperor’s death, you’ll be seeing a sight that the emperor himself never got to enjoy.
Opening times: Mon to Sat 8am – 7pm, Sun 12.30pm – 6.30pm.
Price: Adults (cathedral) 35kn, (belfry) 20kn.
5. Play picigin
Split is sport crazy, supporting the local football team, Hajduk Split, with a passion, as well as inventing whole new games and team events for the world to try. One of those special sports is picigin. As far as we can work out there are few actual rules and little exciting gameplay. It’s more a thinly disguised opportunity for the local beach boys to impress the ladies as they writhe around in the water bashing a small ball and going all Top Gun – but 100% worth a try, either as a competitor or just a willing spectator. Discover more local activities and attractions with our country guide to the best of Croatia
6. Marvel at Meštrović’s magic
Ivan Meštrović was arguably Croatia’s finest ever sculptor. Head to the Meštrović Gallery, which is housed in the expansive villa and studio he built for himself. You’ll find here a wide range of his works, including early drawings and designs, through to the distinctive sculptures this twentieth century talent was renowned for.
Opening times: Tues to Sat 9am – 4pm; Sun 10am – 3pm (open daily ’till 7pm from May to Sept).
Location: Setaliste Ivana Mestrovica 46.
Price: Adults 40 kn, Concessions 20 kn.
7. Experience Split’s nightlife
Many visitors leave Split without even realising there is a second, much quieter, level to Diocletian’s Palace, one that comes very much to life as evening hits. Slip up the stairs behind the Roman Peristyle and ditch the guidebook and camera, before joining the cool local crowd at bohemian bar Ghetto. The welcoming atmosphere is a hit with locals and visitors alike, not to mention original and Roman-themed features like the courtyard fountain.
Opening times: Sun to Thurs 4pm – 12am; Fri & Sat 5pm – 1am.
Location: Dosud 10.
8. Dash to Bačvice Bay
As night draws in, the city centre starts to empty as a curb on noise kicks in to protect palace residents. Join the Splicani wandering behind the port to Bačvice Bay. Here a glut of cafés, bars and restaurants are lined up along the sands to tempt you. The delicious thin crust pizzas at Karaka are good enough to keep any visiting Neapolitans happy. Anything with prsut (Croatian dried ham) on it is a winner – sorry vegetarians!
9. Stadtmuseum von Split
Brush up on your Split history at this good-value city museum, showcasing life as it was through Split’s many eras and incarnations. Sat within the Roman city walls, some of the museum buildings themselves are 500 years old or more, and exploring the inner courtyard with its medieval staircase and arched windows is a pleasant surprise after the modest alleyway entrance.
Opening times: Mon to Sun 8:30am – 9pm.
Location: Papalićeva 1.
Price: Adults 20kn, Concessions 10kn.
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10. Ramble on Marjan Hill
Get out of the city with a trip to Marjan, a green-carpeted hill crowning Split’s peninsula. It takes just an hour’s hike from the centre of Split to lose yourself in this protected park, with its quiet forests and break-out viewpoints. Take a picnic and stop on one of the benches, or mount the 314 steps that will take you to the highest point, Telegrin peak. There are plenty of sights to watch out for, including the incredible St Jerome Church, built out of, and into, the rockface.
11. Discover Bene Beach
In need of a rest after all that walking? Marjan Hill Forest Park has its very own beach on the north side of the peninsula. Ok, so it’s not exactly a secret, but it’s definitely a lot easier to find a quiet spot here than the shores closer to town – head east on Bene Beach to scramble among rocks shaded by pine trees, and wash away the dust with a paddle in the incredible jade and turquoise shallows. A true gem.
12. Archäologisches Museum Split
Uncover Croatia’s prehistoric and Classical heritage, as well as fascinating finds from Split and the surrounding area at the city Archaeological Museum. Ancient Dalmatian and Illyrian artefacts abound, including weaponry, earthenware and jewellery from the tribal civilisations like the Avar and the Slavs who swept through Croatia after the Roman Empire collapsed.
Opening times: (June to Sept) Mon to Sat 9am -2pm & 4pm – 8pm. (Oct to May) Mon to Fri as above, Sat 9am – 2pm. Closed Sundays.
Location: Zrinsko – Frankopanska 25.
Price: Adults 20kn, Concessions 10kn.
13. Take a break on Brac
You’ll watch ferries manoeuvring in and out of Split throughout your stay, so make sure you actually get on one! They’ll take you to isles such as Brac (‘bratch’), home of the highest mountain on the Croatian isles and with another geological claim to fame: its gleaming white stone was used to build the White House in Washington DC. It’s not as touristy as Korcula but the main reason people visit Brac is for some much-needed R n’ R, with the gorgeous Zlatni Rat beach at Bol endlessly Ingrammable. Take time to explore the largely unpopulated inland region here as well – abandoned stone houses and rocky hills peppered with olive trees give Brac a timeless, undiscovered feel. Regular ferries go from Split to Supetar on Brac in around 50 minutes, so you can do it in a day, or take advantage of cheap accommodation and stretch out in the sun a bit longer. Fancy an island-hopping holiday? Find your paradise with these little-known but must-visit European isles.
14. Hop to Hvar Town
Hvar Island is another doable Dalmatian trip from Split, with its small-but-chic capital Hvar Town the most obvious place to visit. There’s no denying it’s easy on the eye, with the intense blue of the Adriatic contrasting with immaculate stone piazzas and medieval city walls reminiscent of Dubrovnik. It’s something of a high-flying city break destination these days, so you might need to save up some cocktail money, but as a quick overnighter, Hvar Town offers a taste of seductive Mediterranean glamour, in a manageable size. Ferries and catarmarans go from Split to Hvar Island several times a day even during winter (although some go to Stari Grad, on the north coast), and there are also ‘cross-island’ ferries that link Brac, Vis and other Dalmatian islands.
15. See the waterfalls at Krka National Park
Croatia is known for its beautiful waterfalls and although Plitvice Lakes is probably the most famous place to see them, Krka National Park is equally spectacular, and much easier to visit from Split, with the added bonus of freshwater swimming in some areas! The Krka River runs through the centre of the park, and you’ll find the much-photographed Skradinski Buk falls surrounded by lush vegetation and some interesting local wildlife, including bats and species of reptile. Most people enter at Skradin (although the park has several other entrances), from where you can hike or tour by boat. Check out some of the day tours to see what’s included – the island of Visovac, with its picturesque Franciscan monastery is definitely worth a stop. From Split, get the bus to the town of Sibenik, (1 hour 40 minutes) and then another bus onwards to Skradin.
Opening times: Daily, 8am – 8pm.
Location: The two main entrances are at Skradin and Lozovac, near Sibenik.
Price: Adults, all terrestrial locations (Jan to Mar & Nov to Dec) 30kn, (April to June & Sept to Oct) 110kn (July to Aug) 180kn. Children 7-18yrs (Jan to Mar & Nov to Dec) 20kn (April to June & Sept to Oct) 80kn, (July to Aug) 110kn (cheaper after 4pm in July/Aug). Under 7s free. Extra fees apply for boat excursions.
How to get to Split
You can fly direct to Split from London Gatwick with easyJet in just 2 and a half hours. Connecting flights are available from other UK airports Bristol, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Manchester or you could fly to capital Zagreb or Dubrovnik and get a cheap domestic flight onwards to Split.
Split Airport is 20km from Split, near Trogir; there is a direct bus link to the city.
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Where to stay in Split
Live like an emperor without blowing your budget at Boutique Guest Accommodation Zephyrus, a 4-star apartment hotel with spacious open-plan rooms and kitchenettes included. Alternatively, enjoy an even better value self-catering stay on Brac Island at Waterman Beach Village, close to the ferry terminal (and the beach!) in Supetar (apartments from £32).
Travellers saving their pennies can get beds for as little as £9 at Tchaikovsky Hostel – dorms feature cosy cubby holes with separate reading lights, curtains and power ports.
*Published March 2017. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.
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