When we were planning our trip to Croatia we debated whether or not the city of Split seemed worth our time. We scoured YouTube, consulted good ole Rick Steves, and multiple blogs. We were still unsure. One thing we were sure of was that on a trip to coastal Croatia you pretty much have to be in Split for some part of the time, even if you’re just taking the bus from the airport to the port. Many fly into the airport and rent a car and use it to drive South to Dubrovnik and perhaps Mostar and others simply use it as a launch pad for spending time in the Islands. Others, like us, enter via the port after time visiting the Islands.
Side Story: My instagram is telling a small tale right now of how we (my husband Scott and I) visited Croatia “backwards”. The typical itineraries suggest that you start in Zagreb or Split and move onward and end in Dubrovnik. We opted to start our trip in Dubrovnik and work our way North along the coast for two reasons. (1) We are overly ambitious rebels when planning our travels and came up with this whirlwind itinerary that had us flying into Paris on a R/T ticket, flying onward to Dubrovnik, and working our way back to Paris in 17 days via ferry, car, and train. (2) Weather. It seems counter intuitive to work your way North later in the year. We visited in late September / early October and we figured we’d rather have our warmest and sunniest days while being near Croatian beaches, also figuring that Slovenia & Austria would be cooler temperatures regardless.
That said, we entered Split via the ferry port after visiting the Dubrovnik, Korcula, and Hvar. Upon docking in Split I could feel a different energy in the air. We checked into an extremely affordable Air Bnb with a view that should have been paired with a 5 star hotel. If you are visiting Croatia we recommend staying at a local’s home through AirBnb for the best prices and locations available.
If you have to decide between visiting Split or Dubrovnik – note that Dubrovnik is more touristy, and majorly Game of Thrones driven. It is a city filled with equally touristy food, and the old town does not seem like a place that many locals actually live. It does have extremely grand views and castle walls shooting up from the ocean that are unparalleled anywhere on Earth. Split is more like a large modern city (its vastness is obvious if you are at the front of the ferry while pulling into port), with a extremely ancient and historic old town that is inhabited by locals and visited by tourists alike. The war left much of Croatia with a younger population which is evident in the modern shops, restaurants, and style of accommodations you’ll find. That said, we are happy we visited both cities, it really just depends on what you’re looking for! Split is a city you could return to again and again.
Top 10 Things To See & Do In Split Croatia:
- Peristil – the most noteworthy experience in all of Split is visiting the grand courtyard of Diocletian’s Palace with ancient columns, and medieval buildings. This is the plaza you see in all photos and videos of this city. It is even more grand and awe inspiring in person. One can not capture it’s beauty without a super wide angle lense. We highly, highly recommend visiting Split Croatia in the shoulder season (September/October) as the crowds will be gone and you will nearly have the place to yourself. Although seemingly touristy, we really enjoyed sitting on the deep purple cushions at the Luxor Cafe and Restaurant and enjoying a reasonably priced drink considering the location.
- Saint Dominus Bell Tower & Cathedral – When you buy your ticket to the bell tower you will gain entrance to the cathedral, crypts, and also to the Temple of Jupiter. The Bell Tower was build in the 12th Century, while the Cathedral at the base of it was built in the 7th Century and is considered one of the oldest Catholic Cathedrals in the world in it’s original building. Climbing the bell tower is not for the faint of heart, especially since it has been fully gutted and is lined with scaffolding that surprisingly holds a TON of humans. The view, is well worth the climb.
- Temple of Jupiter & Sphinx – Just to the West of the Vestibule you will find an ancient temple, noteworthy because it’s one of the only Roman era buildings that is not in complete ruin and still has it’s original roof! There is also an even more ancient stone Sphynx out front that was hauled there from Egypt potentially in 3rd century B.C.
- Diocletian’s Cellars – found toward the South entrance to Diocletians Palace, and in the basement. Game of Thrones fans will be interested in seeing where Danery’s kept her unruly dragons in Meereen.
- The Riva Prominade – If you have the time & energy, I would argue for walking Riga Prominade after doing the hike I’ve mapped in point 6. If you just have a couple of minutes the island-y vibe, people watching, and relaxed atmosphere from the strip just outside Diocletian’s Palace is second to none.
- Hike Park Sumatra Marjan – the large hill to the West of town. Hike down the other side and around the South side of the park to enjoy some great beaches.
- Kasjuni Beach with Joe’s Beach Lounge & Bar & Obojena Beach
- Climb Marjan – Mapped out and link to Mountain Project has some decent looking 5.6 -5.11- sport routes, the 5.11- is 4 stars! The routes are all along one cliff line with a near by church and cliff dwellings.
- Shopping / Eating – Croatia is a country with a young median age of inhabitants – and it shows in Split. You can find many modern shops and restaurants. We loved the selection of food including vegan cafe’s and breakfast spots, sushi bars, and other selections of modern Asian and American food restaurants, we had one of the best cheeseburgers ever in Split.
- Ferry Trip to Hvar Island – 1:05 minute ferry ride to one of the coolest towns and Islands around. See my last blog post for information on Hvar Island.
*Maps: most itinerary based blog posts will include a map to the area. As I am planning a trip I stare at GoogleMaps satellite view and I am always the most perplexed by which areas we should be visiting while traveling. It’s a lot of work to put the “Top Things To Do” posts together with where these “Top Things” are actually located, and where they’re located relative to one another!