Split, the gateway to the Dalmatian Islands, is the second largest city in Croatia and the largest on the Dalmatian coast. This ancient city is full of history and culture and is a great starting point for any Croatian adventure.
Split is well known for its waterfront Old Town, impressive beaches and the fortress-like complex at its centre, Diocletian's Palace. The palace was erected by Roman Emperor Dicoletian in the 4th Century and is now both UNESCO protected and listed as a World Heritage site. Within its white stone walls and under its courtyards and galleries are shops, bars, cafes, cathedrals, hotels and several houses.
The city can often be overlooked as a destination to pass through before joining a Sail Croatia Cruise, however we would highly recommend devoting some time to exploring the fascinating city of Split!
History of Split
The city of Split was founded some 2,400 years ago, between the 3rd and 4th centuries as a Greek outpost and colony. Thanks to its position and the power of its consecutive rulers, the city quickly evolved to have significant strategic importance throughout Eastern Europe. So much so that the Roman emperor Diocletian ordered an extravagant palace to be built in 295 AD and spent a portion of his life inside the palace managing the affairs of the Roman Empire. The impressively beautiful palace took over 10 years to construct, only to be lived in by Diocletian himself for 8 years before his death. Following this significant event, the city of Split was ruled by the Venetians, Austrians and even the French, with some periods of autonomy in between. Today, Split is home to some of the best preserved examples of Roman architecture in the world and has been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage city. Split Old Town is a tourist magnet that attracts millions of tourists each and every year and it isn’t hard to see why!
Best Way to Get to Split
The number of low-cost European carriers flying directly in and out of Split has significantly increased over the last few years. It is easy and often quick to travel from most European cities and the flight time varies between 1 and 4 hours depending on where you’re flying from.
If you’re flying internationally, you will need to fly directly into Zagreb International Airport before catching a connecting flight or bus to Split.
Split Airport is the third busiest airport in Croatia (after Zagreb and Dubrovnik) and is located in a town called Kaštel Štafilić, approximately 20 kilometers west of Split.
From the airport, there is a regular shuttle bus to Split harbour that takes approximately 45 minutes and costs £4. The Old Town and Split Port are within a few minutes walking distance of the centrally located bus station.
Things to do in Split
1. Marvel At The Old Town
The winding streets of the Old Town are the perfect place to start your exploration around the city of Split. Get lost in the narrow, cobbled streets and explore the magical passages and alleys that have been packed with people for thousands of years. As you walk through the Old Town of Split you’ll immediately be transported back to yesteryear with polished stone underfoot and impressive architecture at every turn.
The Old Town is full of open-air restaurants, bars and cafes, so once you’ve worked up an appetite grab a seat and enjoy the perfect Mediterranean meal. Fresh, local seafood is particularly tasty in Split and the catch of the day is often on display!
2. Visit Diocletian’s Palace
Diocletian’s Palace is the heart of the city and is home to 220 buildings and over 3,000 people.
A few hours spent aimlessly strolling the palace streets are a few hours well spent! You can access this incredible palace from one of four gates that once guarded the city walls; the Golden Gate, Silver Gate, Iron Gate and Bronze Gate. Entering via the Bronze Gate will transport you from the Riva to the only part of the Palace that remains completely intact, the Basement. These basements are filled with stalls that are packed with hand-crafted goods and produce, perfect to pick up a souvenir or two!
If you’re a Game of Thrones fan you may recognise the basement as where Daenerys kept her dragons when she was in Meereen!
If you’re looking for the best way to explore Diocletian’s Palace, we would recommend joining a Historical Walking Tour. Of course you can explore alone and at your leisure, however there are so many hidden passageways and nooks that one may miss without insider knowledge! Split Walking Guides are certified in telling the history and glory of the Palace, so you’re guaranteed to learn a thing or two!
3. Check out Bačvice Beach
Bačvice Beach is the central beach in the town of Split and the perfect spot to enjoy the sunshine at! Popular as a family beach, it also attracts people to its sandy shores as it’s the perfect spot to play a game of picigin; a unique Dalmatian sport that involves preventing a small ball from hitting the water (think a hacky sack for the hands!). There is definitely something for everyone at this fun Split beach. Lining the waterfront are plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants inviting you to grab a coffee or a refreshing cocktail whilst soaking up the view. Many bars and clubs open along the waterfront late in the evening, turning the relatively calm beach by day into a haven for party people in the evening!
4. Visit Marijan Hill
Overlooking the Old Town of Split you’ll find a massive green park that is just waiting to be explored. Affectionately known as the city’s ‘Green Lungs’ by locals, this park is dotted with fragrant pine trees, noisey cicadas and stunning views over both the Old Town and the Sea. Perfect for walking, jogging or swimming, this park is also home to the Mestrovic Gallery and a small local zoo.
5. People Watch on the Riva
There is something iconic about Split’s Riva that we can’t quite put our finger on. Is it the proximity to the Sea, the palm trees lining the waterfront or the fact that at any one time, this strip of cafe’s, restaurants and bars is packed with people enjoying the ultimate Mediterranean lifestyle? Whatever the promenade's secret, do like the locals do and people watch on the Riva as you sip on a kava (coffee).
6. Catch a Hajduk Game
Hajduk is a Split-based football club that is one of the oldest in all of Croatia. Hajduk is well known for its passionate fans, with some of the most devoted fans in Europe following the Dalmatian football team! As you drive through the various neighborhoods surrounding Split, you’ll find a Hajduk mural painted on almost every corner, and when a game is on, the whole city comes alive with locals wearing memorabilia! Poljud Stadium is Hajduk’s home and where you’ll find all of the action. If you’re keen to see passionate fans, flares, chants and some high quality football, then a Hajduk game must be on your list of things to do in Split!
7. Go Zip-Lining
With the largest canyon in Croatia located just a 35 minute drive from Split, thrill seekers have an abundance of adrenaline pumping activities to choose from when visiting Split! One of our favourite activities is Zip-lining across the incredible Cetina Canyon as you traverse 8 wires that total over 2,000 meters! The longest wire on the course is 750 meters long and will see you reaching speeds of up to 65 kilometers per hour! If you’re after an active adventure, but are not into the idea of flying through a canyon at high speeds, the Cetina Valley also offers a variety of other nature-based active adventures! You can try Canyoning; a walking, hiking, swimming and canyoneering activity, or Rafting; where you’ll tackle the rapids along the pristine Cetina River!
8. Visit the Green Market
Often referred to as the Soul of the City, Split’s Green Market, or Pazar, is located to the east of the Old Town and boasts any local fruit or vegetable your heart may desire! Row upon row of fresh produce is laid out daily for tourists and locals alike to purchase their groceries. Think dried figs, homemade olive oil, grappa, fresh berries, potatoes covered in dirt and the loveliest locals around!
Our top tip: pick up some fresh ingredients for a cheap snack on the Riva promenade!
9. Go to Krka National Park
Croatia is a home to eight stunning national parks, each brimming with their own unique beauty and diversity, however our favourite, and the closest park to Split, is Krka! If you’re a sucker for waterfalls, lush flora and impressive walking trails, then Krka National Park is not to be missed when visiting Split. To get to Krka National Park you’ll need to hire a car or book one of the many bus tours from Split. The drive is a little over 1 hour each way.
Krka National Park encompasses about two-thirds of the total course of Krka River and is made up of porous rocks that made it easy for the river to carve numerous caverns and lakes which attracts tens of thousands of visitors a year. What will be sure to leave you breathless are the gorgeous waterfalls, Roški Slap and Skradinski Buk.
Check out our complete guide to Krka National Park here.
10. Explore the Dalmatian Islands
As the gateway to the Dalmatian Islands, you simply can’t visit Split without exploring the incredible nearby islands! Brac, Solta and Hvar are all within a 2 hour ferry ride of Split and there are dozens of departures daily, allowing you to easily hop on and off, exploring each destination as you go!
If you’re after a hassle-free experience, why not join a 7-day Sail Croatia Cruise, exploring a new destination daily? With your accommodation, most meals and itinerary sorted, all that’s left for you to do is sit back, relax and take it all in!
Old Town Attractions
Visit The Cathedral of St. Domnius
Saint Domnius Cathedral is located in the city center and is the heart of Split. This impressively preserved Romanesque cathedral bears a striking octagonal shape and is, to this day, still enclosed by the original 24 columns. St. Domnius boasts a Roman mausoleum built in 305 AD and a bell tower dating back to the 12th Century. If you’re feeling active, you can climb the impressive bell tower and be rewarded with panoramic views of the Old Town, Adriatic Sea and Marjan Hill.
Discover Split’s History at Peristyle
Peristyle represents the very heart of Split’s long and fascinating history. During Roman times, Peristyle was the centre of Diocletian’s Palace and was an important space where court proceedings and the changing of the guards were held. Surrounded by impressive columns, and the Cathedral of St. Dominus, the town square once led to Diocletian’s private quarters, now known as the basement. Today, you can find Roman reenactments of the changing of the guards here everyday at noon (during the peak season), sip on a glass of wine on the Peristyle steps, listen to live music or contemplate the 1,700 years of history that sit within the palace walls.
Peruse the Split Museum
The Split Museum is a fascinating display of art, history and culture. The gallery displays works from the 14th Century through to contemporary pieces and is well worth dedicating a couple of hours to if you’re in Split for a few days!
Rub the toe of the Gregory of Nin Statue
Just outside one of Split’s four gates, the Golden gate, you’ll find the Gregory of Nin (Grgur Ninski) statue, work of the renowned Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic. Legend has it that rubbing Gregory’s toe bestows luck on the person who does so. It is quite a humorous sight to walk past and see people rubbing this statue's toe if you’re not familiar with the legend behind it!
Where to eat in Split
Located in the centre of Split in an alfresco piazza, Spalatin is a humble restaurant that offers high quality Dalmatian cuisine. Specialising in seafood, pizza and pasta, Spalatin is your one stop restaurant for household favourites at a reasonable price.
Chops Grill Steak and Seafood
Chops Grill Steak and Seafood is a modern steakhouse located in the Old Town of Split that offers prime meats from all over the world, in-house, dry aged and whiskey aged meat. Outside of its impressive steak menu you’ll find fresh, local seafood and contemporary pastas and salads.
Bokeria is a Dalmatian tavern inside the palace walls, serving Mediterranean cuisine with a modern, Dalmatian flair. Well-known in Split for its high quality food and impressive wine list, Bokeria is a dining experience like no other thanks to its unique interior design and elements of the building's history woven through its modern exterior.
Top Party Locations in Split
Between all night dancing, drinking and top-notch tunes, the city of Split parties with you wherever you go. During the summer, Split comes alive in a whole new way - don’t be surprised if your night starts on the Riva and you make your way through many of these hot spots as it progresses!
Look no further for Split’s most popular club. Vanilla Club is notorious for providing the best night out in Split and remains a crowd favourite for locals and travellers. Get ready for limitless entertainment at this open-air venue lit up by performers and unforgettable beats.
For the mellow traveller looking for a great night, Charlie’s Bar is where to begin. It’s easy-going atmosphere is the perfect place to start your night with reasonably priced drinks catering to both locals and travellers. Found in an ally just outside the Palace, it’s one to add to your list
During the summer, Central Club is invigorating. With world class music performed by renowned DJ’s, Central is an oasis for serious party people. The industrial interior is designed to provide the best sound system, so everyone can enjoy the music to the fullest. With 4 bars and various VIP sections, the choice of how to party your night away is yours!
Ultra Music Festival
While technically not a club, we couldn’t miss out mentioning one of the hottest parties in Croatia - Ultra Music Festival! This is the world famous electronic fiesta that is a dream for tens of thousands of partygoers. Ultra lures travellers from all over the world who are ready to let their hair down and listen to the hottest artists over 3 nights. From music moguls David Guetta and deadmau5 to Steve Aoki and Alesso, Ultra kicks off with hypnotic laser shows and dynamic pyrotechnics. If you’re visiting Split in July, this experience is unlike any other.
Where to stay in Split
How often can you say you’ve stayed in a 1,700 year old palace? Well booking your accommodation inside Diocletian’s Palace will guarantee your bragging rights for years to come! Split has a wide range of accommodation options within the palace walls that range from luxury hotels to guesthouses. Just outside the city walls you’ll find more economical accommodation options that are still within walking distance to all of the attractions, including shared dorm rooms, guesthouses and bed and breakfast style rooms. We recommend using an accommodation search engine, such as Airbnb or Booking.com.
Explore Split’s Towns
The town of Omiš sits at the center of Omiš Riviera – a small town nestled on the mouth of river Cetina, and a 35 minute drive from Split. Omiš is easily accessible by the local bus that operates multiple times daily from the Split Bus Station. Just as every other coastal town in Dalmatia, Omiš has a rich history that goes back to Roman times. However, the town was at the height of its popularity and fame (actually, infamy) during the 9th, 10th and the 11th century when it was the home of notorious Almissa pirates.
These pirates, along with their brethren from the Neretvan region, were the scourge of the Adriatic Sea. People of Omiš are still proud of that period and why wouldn’t they be – at one point in history they had brought the mighty Venetian Republic down on its knees!
This beautiful coastal town is dominated by 2 pirate fortresses: Mirabela and Fortica, that offer incredible views across the Adriatic for those who are brave enough to hike them! As well as the impressive history and fortresses located in Omiš, the town is home to a large beautiful beach and a charming Old Town!
If you’re planning on visiting Omiš, check out our complete Omis Guide here.
Makarska is a coastal peninsula town protected by the Biokovo Mountain Range on Croatia’s Adriatic, located 88 kilometers south of Split. The coastal town has garnered popularity throughout recent years for its prime central location as a destination for travellers moving between Split and Dubrovnik. With its beautiful shoreline, impressive mountains and rich history, a trip to Makarska may be the perfect tonic after a few days in the busy city of Split! Makarska boasts stunning pebbled beaches, waterfront markets, adrenaline pumping water sports and renowned nightlife! The fastest way to get to this seaside town is on one of the daily bus departures from Split, taking roughly 1 hour. The road system is efficient and the local busses are comfortable and economical!
Sibenik is a stunning coastal town that is located 88 kilometers north of Split. This waterfront town features stunning architecture and the impressive St James Cathedral; a UNESCO protected structure blending Gothic and Renaissance styles that towers over the town. The city of Sibenik is built in a protected natural harbour, giving you the opportunity to indulge in coffee and cake on the waterfront riva, or explore the abundance of medieval forts, cathedrals and churches located a stone’s throw away from the water. There are multiple bus departures daily from Split to Sibenik, and the journey is just over an hour long.
The seaside town of Trogir is a must-visit destination when you head to Split! Located only a 40 minute drive (25 kilometers) from Split, this picturesque town is like something straight out of a medieval village! This tiny town is packed with stunning architecture, impressive fortifications, and cosmopolitan restaurants. Trogir is the perfect place to soak up an authentic Croatian experience as you spend your afternoon strolling through the fascinating Old Town, swimming or relaxing in this beautiful area. If you’re planning on staying overnight, an evening experiencing a local restaurant or waterside cafe is a must!
Visit Split’s Best Beaches
Bačvice is the central beach in Split that you’ll stumble across if you’re walking south along the coastline from Split Port. It’s shallow shores attract local families and people playing picigin, a unique Dalmatian sport that involves preventing a small ball from hitting the water. Lounge on the beach, take a dip or sip on a coffee or cocktail at many of the waterfront bars and cafes.
Kasjuni Beach is arguably one of the most beautiful beaches in Split, and it isn’t hard to see why! If you continue to follow the coast on the southern side of Marjan Hill, you’ll come across Kasjuni Beach after 15 - 20 minutes on foot. A large, protected bay stretches out on the shores of Marjan Hill and is complete with a beach bar, sun loungers and deck chairs. If you’re in search of the perfect way to spend an afternoon, you can order a cocktail, food and relax with a massage overlooking the Adriatic Sea - now that’s our idea of relaxing! Thanks to a pier jutting out from the beach, you’ll find Kasjuni Beach to be relatively protected from the wind, making it ideal for swimming in its calm, turquoise water.
Located in the adjacent bay to Bačvice, you’ll find Ovčice Beach; a pebble covered beach that is the ideal spot to relax and unwind. Although the beach is covered in pebbles, parts of the sea are covered in sand and sea grass, creating a kaleidoscope of blue shades in the water. Ovčice is deeper than the shallow shores of Bačvice, so isn’t as popular with families and is often a quieter respite then its nearby neighbours. Relax on the pebbles, drink coffee overlooking the sea at the Ovčice restaurant, or dive right off the pier into the deep, refreshing water!
If you head to the southern side of Marjan Hill (facing the Dalmatian Islands) you’ll find a small marina and large swimming pool. Enter the swimming pool complex and you’ll find an entrance to the small beach! Unlike its pebbly and sandy cousins, this beach features a concrete plateau that is perfect for easy diving straight into the sea. This beach is a local favourite, so don’t be surprised to see it busy with people jumping into the sea and having coffee at the restaurant overlooking the water!
The cosmopolitan city of Split is a must-visit destination when heading to the Dalmatian Coastline of Croatia! Filled with well-preserved architecture, centuries of history, specialty food and stunning beaches and parks, it really does have something for everyone! Step back in time and explore the very best that Split has to offer!