A Guide to Split Croatia (with day trips)
We first came to Split in 2015. After 3 visits, we decided we’d like to live here and in early 2017 applied for temporary residency. We ended up living in Split for 14 months. Besides one of the most incredible natural setting anywhere (of the places we’ve visited only Cape Town compares), its old town is a UNESCO site that dates back to the Romans. Even after all our time spent here we still always look around in amazement at the history around us.
In this guide you’ll find: 1) What to see and do in Split, 2) Organized Tours from Split, 3) Easy day trips from Split, 4) Accommodation in Split, 5) Restaurant recommendations, 6) a few general tips on travel in Split.
I’ll be constantly updating this guide based on recommendations and feedback. Please feel free to contribute anything that you may think is helpful to potential visitors to Split.
What to See and Do in Split
Visit Diocletian’s Palace (the walled part of the Old Town)
– See the Cathedral of Saint Domnius and its bell tower (recommended: go up the belltower)
– The Peristyle, ie Central Square, in front of the Cathedral and bell tower. There’s a famous Egyptian Sphinx
– The dome Vestibule where capella singers perform because of the acoustics
– The Temple of Jupiter.
– The 4 gates of the town: The Golden Gate to the north (you’ll see the famous statue of Grgur Ninski), the Iron Gate on the West (our favorite of the Gates), the Silver Gate on the East, the Bronze Gate in which you enter the underground of the palace (leads from the Riva right to the Central Square of the palace). You can take a tour of the cellars if you wish.
– The City Museum which is located in the middle of the Palace
The Palace is actually quite small, you can walk from one side to the other in about 3 minutes. Take the time to wander around its small streets. Recommended: take a walking tour – there’s lots of very interesting history. Also popular is a tour of Game of Thrones locations around Split.
See the Old Town outside the Palace Walls
There are some pretty squares, impressive churches as well as some markets. Some highlights: Narodni Trg (beautiful square just outside the Iron Gate), Voćni Trg (another beautiful square entering the old town from the Riva), Trg Republike (square built around the red Venetian building at the end of the Riva), walk up Marmontova street up to the National Theatre, seeing the fish market along the way (in the morning). Visit the large vegetable market outside the Silver Gate (best in the morning).
The stretch in front of the palace lined with restaurants and bars. A great place to sit with a coffee or beer and watch the beautiful people as well as the views on the harbor. Note: we don’t recommend you eat here, can be pricey and the food disappointing. Best coffee: Café bar Fro, it’s the pretty Venetian style building on the passage to Voćni Trg (the beautiful Square I mentioned above). We also like the Olive Tree and Bobis (which also sells pastries).
The greatest views of Split are at the 1st lookout, an easy 10 minute walk from the Riva.
Walk up Sperun ulica (at the end of the Riva, where the church is) to get there. Marjan Hill is a large park and is a beautiful place to walk when it’s not too hot. There’s a 2nd lookout (where the flag is) which is another 15 minutes from the 1st lookout. There you can see 360 degree views of Split, Kastela (where the airport is), and towards Trogir. You get great views of the sea.
If you continue further into the park there are some impressive old churches built into the cliffs. I recommend taking this tour, they’ll show you everything there is to see on Marjan.
At the very end of the park is Bene beach which is actually the nicest and quietest beach in Split. You can take a bus (bus #12) there from the square at the end of the Riva (where the St. Francis church is located).
Walk the Seaside Promenade
You can walk the promenade all the way from the ferry terminal, past the Riva, and up past the marina where all the small boats are. Some great views of the harbor and city along the way and you’ll also see lots of bars and restaurants especially approaching the Marina. The thing you can always count on in Split are great views.
If you continue past the marina, you get to what looks like a fort at the end of the harbor. This is Sustipan Park. Nice green spot with a small church. Great views over the city.
Visit the Ivan Meštrović Gallery
Ivan Meštrović was one of the most famous sculptors in the world (the Grgur Ninski statue outside the Golden Gate is his) and you’ll see many of his works in this beautiful museum.
The closest beaches to the old town are Bacvice and Ovcice beaches. A little further, Znjan beach is also pretty. All get quite busy in the summer, with Bacvice being the busiest (mostly tourists) while many locals go to Znjan.
But the most enjoyable beaches in our opinion are in Marjan park where you’ll see many quiet beaches everywhere. Our favorite beach is Bene beach at the tip of Marjan Park. There you have shade, a nice bay (with sand), and views of the planes flying overhead. You can take a bike there (about 15-20 minutes from the old town ) or bus number 12 from in front of the St. Francis church (at the end of the Riva).
Note: most Croatian beaches are pebbly, not sandy.
What to do on a rainy day…
We had a great time going with friends to Split Time Escape Room. You’re given an hour to figure out a whole bunch of clues in the “Order of Da Vinci”- themed escape room. Lots of fun (we managed to do it in 58 minutes…)
Split’s airport (code SPU) is about 30 minutes from Split (45 minutes if you take the airport bus).
Below: We use CheapOair to find the cheapest and most flexible flights
Top organized Tours from Split
People coming to Split usually like to use the city as a base to do tours to the islands. One of the most popular tours is to the island of Hvar and to the Blue Cave (just off the island of Vis). Another is a catamaran cruise to the islands of Hvar, Solta and the Pakleni Islands.
Also popular are tours to see the famous waterfalls of Krka and Plitvice. Krka is the most accessible from Split and getting there on a tour is quite inexpensive (see here). Further away, Plitvice (one of the most famous national parks in Europe) can be seen with this full-day tour.
Easy Day Trips from Split
I’ve tried to stick to places within 1 ½ hours of Split. Most of these can be visited on your own using public transport.
Trogir – Small UNESCO town about 40 minutes from Split. Take the bus at the bus station.
Omis – A favorite of ours and only 30 minutes away by city bus 60. A couple of very impressive fortresses (one – the Starigrad fortress – requires a 45 minute hike up the mountain but the views are incredible). Omis is known as the Adventure Capital of Croatia and there are a lot of outdoor activities including the longest zipline in Croatia.
Klis fortress – fortress made famous by the Game of Thrones. You can get there by city bus 22. Here’s why you should visit Klis fortress.
Mosor mountain – for some great hiking with views over Split. 30 minutes by city bus 28. Don’t do in the summer, it’s too hot.
Makarska – pretty town with nice beaches situated under Mount Biokovo, the largest mountain on the Dalmatian Coast (which you can drive up if you have a car. Incredible views!). Here’s why you Have to visit Makarska.
Hvar – very ‘happening’ island that has a nice old town and a fortress at the top. Very scenic. In the summer catamarans will take you there in an hour. Here’s a post we wrote on visiting Hvar on a day trip.
Sibenik – hilly town with 4 fortresses and one of Croatia’s most impressive Cathedrals. You can take the bus there from the bus station, it takes about an hour and a half. A post we wrote on why you should visit Sibenik.
Krka – famous waterfalls similar to Plitvice Lakes, but much closer. You can see it with this tour.
Accommodation in Split
Split is one of those places where the price of accommodation will triple from from June to August. I always recommend that people come in the shoulder seasons (ie. Sept & Oct, March to May). Weather is nice and the heat not as unbearable as in the summer months.
Some hotel recommendations:
Medium to High End: Our favorite parts of town are the center, Varos (near the center at the base of Marjan), or in Bacvice (in summer).
In the Palace: Heritage Hotel Antique Split,Jupiter Luxury Hotel, Hotel Vestibul Palace & Villa.
At Bacvice: Hotel Park Split
Split Restaurant Recommendations
I’ll be honest – we are generally disappointed with the quality of restaurants in Split. We find that the majority cater to tourists and as a consequence the food can be both disappointing and overpriced. It shouldn’t be like this – Croatians make great food (you’ll see this if ever invited to a Croatian friend’s house). Unfortunately it doesn’t always translate to great restaurant food. Watch out for anything non-Croatian, it can often end up a disaster. Safe are pizza restaurants (they do pizza very well in Split and that’s usually what locals eat when going out) and fast food restaurants (cevapi sausages are a favorite of mine).
Here are some favorites.
Dvor. Mediterranean cuisine 2 minutes from our apartment in Bacvice. Upscale, good food, good wine list, nice views over the bay.
Bokeria Kitchen & Wine Bar for a fine dining experience in the Old Town.
Villa Spiza has excellent, good value cuisine.
Konoba Fetivi. Good, honest Mediterranean food just up Sperun (next to the old town). Used to be our favorite when we lived in that area.
Konoba Matejuska. Same owners as the above and just across the street. Basically just the same as Koboba Fetivi.
Konoba Marjan. Right next to the above, also very good (although the atmosphere not as warm). But very good fish dishes.
Pizzeria Bili As. On the stretch of restaurants by Bacvice beach. Very good pizza (you’ll find lots of good pizza in Split), but this place is special because of the very friendly service.
To Je Tako – Mexican food right next to the Jupiter Temple in the palace. They actually do it right (very fresh) and it’s a nice change from fish and pizza.
Whatever you do, avoid Buffet Fife.
There are a bunch of other restaurants that have been recommended to us but that we haven’t visited yet. Feel free to comment below if you think something belongs above. We always like trying different places and we’ll add them above if we like them.
When to come. Most people come to Split in the summer. I actually think this is the worst time to come: it’s too hot, too expensive, too crowded…In fact Lissette and I would probably have hated Split had we first seen it during summer. I think Split can and should be visited any other time – the weather is always nice enough for sightseeing and you can actually do some hiking when it’s just a bit cooler (you don’t want to be hiking in summer!). Summer is good for going to the beaches and partying (the reason many come to Split). But Split is warm enough that you can bathe in the shoulder months as well…
Who should come to Split. A lot of young people come to Split for the reasons mentioned above (beaches and partying). I think Split is very much underrated as a cultural destination and I can’t understand why it doesn’t receive many visitors outside summer season. We’d like to see older tourists interested in history and culture. In fact, it seems that only the Koreans have realized that Split is a great year-round destination.
Split has everything to cater to different interests.
Want to rent a car? Read this post.
A few money-saving tips:
– Don’t take the normal taxis. Uber is the best choice. Otherwise use Go Green Taxis (021 772 772).
– Don’t tip as you would in most of Europe or North America. Croatians often don’t tip at all. I recommend leaving spare change, especially if just sitting down for a beer or coffee. We’ll usually give 10% though if going to a sit down restaurant (our Croatian friends always tell us we’re giving too much though…).
– Don’t eat your meals on the Riva. Locals love to go there for a coffee or beer but you won’t see them eating there because it’s a) expensive, b) food generally not very good.
Related: Bbqboy’s Guide to Croatia
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