Split is one of my favourite Croatian cities, and personally I think it has more to offer than the tourist mecca of Dubrovnik, Croatia further south along the Adriatic coast!
In the past, Split was popular as a base from which to explore the nearby Dalmatian islands, and most tourists didn’t bother staying in or exploring the historical Croatian city. One of the things I loved about Split when I first visited back in 2002 was that it wasn’t very touristy. To me, it felt more Croatian than any other city I had visited, and I'm not the only one who thinks this way as you can read in this article.
But don’t be fooled - there are lots of things to do in Split, and it’s definitely worth spending a few days in the vibrant and cultural city. Be immersed in the history, culture and laid-back vibe of Dalmatia’s largest city. Split is where history meets beach culture.
Things To Do in Split Croatia
Below is my list of the top things to do in Split. (If you're travelling with children, you'll want to read this post.)
Visit Stari Grad (Old Town)
A great way to start your stay in Split is by walking around and exploring the cobbled streets of Stari Grad (Old Town). You could spend hours exploring the town and discovering hidden alleyways, narrow streets and impressive architecture.
Did you know that Split is the home of Diocletian’s Palace, which is one of seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Croatia?
You’ll find the Roman emperor’s palace within Stari Grad. It resembles a fortress more so than a palace, and it was built early in the 4th century. Nowadays, Diocletian’s Palace is the centre of everyday life in Split - there are restaurants, cafes and other retail outlets here, and locals and tourists wander its streets.
The cellars beneath Diocletian’s Palace have stalls that sell everything from tacky souvenirs to beautiful pieces of art and craft. Regardless of whether you like shopping or not, the cellars are a cool place to hang out in on a hot day!
At night, head to the open-air pavilion known as the Peristyle, at the centre of Stari Grad. Here you will find buskers and entertainers, and you can sit around the pavilion enjoying a glass of vino.
For great views over Split, climb the top of the bell tower of Split’s Cathedral.
Stari Grad has four town gates that you can enter from: Golden, Silver, Bronze and Iron gates. I recommend heading to the Golden gate to see the famous statue of Gregory of Nin (Grgur Ninski), which was sculpted by world renowned Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic (who was good friends with the famous French sculptor Auguste Rodin - famous for The Thinker!).
Although you might feel weird doing this, it’s said you’ll have good luck if you rub the statue’s golden toe!
Visit Vocni Trg (Fruit Square), which used to be a fruit market but today boasts shops, cafes and is where you will find the Venetian Octagonal Tower. Back in the 15th century, the Venetian Empire ruled Split, and built a castle here. All that remains of the castle is the tower.
In Vocni Trg, you’ll also find Milesi Palace, which is a baroque-style palace built in the 17th century by the Milesi Family.
In front of Milesi Palace stands the statue of Marko Marulic, regarded as Croatia’s national poet. This statue was also created by Ivan Mestrovic.
Further reading: Five reasons your next holiday should be in Croatia
Visit Marjan Hill
Close to the city center is Marjan Hill, which is 178 metres high and is a favourite recreational spot for local residents. This is a great place for outdoor activities such as walking, jogging, mountain bike riding and even rock climbing for those who love adventure!
Once you’ve exhausted yourself, chill out and enjoy the views of the city and the Adriatic Sea at the nearby café bar Vidilica, found on the summit of the hill.
For those who enjoy exploring Churches, there are at least nine small churches and chapels found around Marjan Hill, including the Church of St Nicolas the Traveler, built in the 13th century.
Visit Split Galleries
I’ve already mentioned that Split features a number of sculptures by Ivan Mestrovic, but you can visit the Ivan Mestrovic Gallery in Split, which is located in a building that was once Mestrovic’s holiday home. The gallery features over 100 pieces of his artwork that he donated to the state.
Even if you’re not an art lover, the house itself is worth having a look at.
For those wanting to buy original arts, crafts and souvenirs, then head to Studio Naranca, which is an art shop near the Golden Gate at the north of Stari Grad. The shop is a family-run business, and it is three storeys high! Here you will find paintings, handmade jewellery, t-shirts and other art and craft items.
Explore the beaches of Split
Split is a coastal city, so on a hot day, there’s nothing more fun than visiting its beaches.
Bacvice is the most famous Split beach, and in the summer months it is packed with residents and tourists. It’s also the only sandy beach in Split. There are other popular beaches further south of Bacvice.
If crowds aren’t your thing then the secluded beaches at the bottom of Marjan Hill, such as Kasjuni and Bene beach, might be a better choice. Kasjuni features a newly renovated lounge bar, and you can rent sun beds and umbrellas.
Walk along the Split Riva
The waterfront promenade in Split is known as Riva. Take an evening stroll along Riva, stopping for an ice cream (or two) or a drink at a bar. There are lots of restaurants and souvenir shops along here too, and if you love people watching, this is the place to be.
Enjoy some fresh seafood
If you’re staying in a self-catered apartment, then visit and buy fresh seafood from the fish market (Ribarnica), just off the main street Marmontova Ulica that leads to the Riva promenade. Get there super early as it gets very crowded.
Take an island day trip from Split
One of the closest islands to Split is Brac, and is an excellent island to visit on a day trip. Ferries depart Split to Supetar every hour during the summertime. There are plenty of beaches and towns to explore on the island, including one of the most famous beaches in Croatia - Zlatni Rat, in the town of Bol.
While Split may not be as famous as Dubrovnik, it’s becoming more popular with travellers, who have discovered the historical charm of the city, as well as being the perfect destination from which to explore nearby beaches and islands.
Why not make a visit to Split part of your self-drive holiday in Croatia? This 12 day Croatia itinerary by car includes stays in Split and numerous other gorgeous towns.
Getting to Split
Split is located on Croatia’s Adriatic Coast, 230 kilometres north west of Dubrovnik and 410 kilometres south of the capital, Zagreb.
From Dubrovnik, Split can be reached by either car or public bus (approximately 3 hours travel time) or by the ferry service which operates via Mljet, Korcula, Hvar and Brac. The ferry journey takes around 4 hours 20 minutes.
The fastest way to reach Split from Zagreb is by air. Daily flights are operated by Croatian Air and take around 50 minutes. Other options include driving (approximately 4 hours), and Flixbus. (Click here for Flixbus schedules and fares.)
Where to stay in Split
There’s a wide range of accommodation styles available in Split to suit every budget. For those that like to stay in style, Radisson Blu Resort Split and Piazza Heritage Hotel both receive excellent online reviews.
You can read more posts about Croatia by clicking here.
About the author: Natalie is a first generation Australian born to Croatian parents. She and her husband and their three children are based in Melbourne, Australia and love to travel whenever the opportunity arises.
You can read more of Natalie’s travel articles on her blog Mamma Loves Travel.
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