The historic core of Split is a UNESCO World Heritage site, a fairly compact and pleasant area to explore.
The walled portion of the historic area is called Diocletian Palace ♥♥♥, which is a bit confusing given that there is no actual palace to visit here. The name refers to the fact that the walls encompassed a Roman Emperor’s palace in the 4th century AD. Nowadays, it’s a grid-like maze of narrow streets that strongly evokes Venice, minus the canals. The palace’s main court, Peristyle ♥♥♥, retains a lot of Roman architectural features, as well as transplants from other schools and cultures. Off Peristyle, the spaces such as round vestibule ♥, where a capella singing can be heard through the day, or basements of the palace ♥, which house artisan shops, are well worth looking at.
The northern Golden Gate ♥♥ and the eastern Silver Gate ♥♥ are the most important points of entry to the palace, in different states of preservation. The huge statue of Gregory of Nin by the Golden Gate is an unmissable landmark; its big toe is a common rub-for-luck attraction.
At noon in season, there is a semi-curious “ceremony” at Peristyle, with actors dressed like Diocletian and his guards coming out on a balcony for the “emperor” to entertain the crowds for a minute or two with some semblance of address. No reason to make it a must in your itinerary.
The cathedral belltower ♥ is among the hardest of its kind to climb, not because of the number of steps (not too many, in fact) but because some of those are really tall and the spaces are tight with little headroom. The payoff in the form of views is pretty good. A limited number of people is allowed to climb at the same time, so newcomers have to wait until other people come out first.
Cathedral of Saint Domnius ♥ is relatively small, occupying former mausoleum. It is very well ornamented for such space, with variety of materials and techniques.
Temple of Jupiter (aka Baptistery of St John) ♥ has an interesting ceiling and a baptism font in its single space.
Beyond the eastern Iron Gate ♥ that connects the palace area with the rest of the historic center, lie a couple of atmospheric wide spaces, Public Square ♥♥ and Fruit Square ♥♥ (the latter is not a marketplace as its colloquial name would suggest; at least we did not see a market here on any of our days in town).
The seaside promenade, Riva ♥♥, is bouncing, especially at night, with restaurants, bars, artisan shops, street performances, and many people just strolling around. Most shops are open until 10pm but some street stalls remain open while there is demand. At the western edge of Riva, the fountain that changes patterns and colors every few seconds (albeit, without music) is a hit with the kids. If you walk along the water edge westward just beyond the fountain, you will come upon in the evenings a group of pensioners who sing in Croatian with a simple guitar accompaniment. Apparently, they do it nightly and not to earn money.
Split, in general, is full of street performers at different corners who are attempting to earn some money. It is quite nice to walk around in the evening, and look and listen. At Peristyle, in the cafe that opens up on the square, a guitarist plays a large repertoire of rock and ballad classics.
The park of Marjan Hill rises above the town to the west. Even if you do not include hiking in your visit, go the first belvedere – it is appropriately called Prva Vidilica Na Marjanu ♥♥ – for great views over Split. The viewpoint is not too hard to get to, either via stairways or the streets of the pretty Palmina ♥ neighborhood.
While in Split, we availed ourselves to an interesting and full of fun facts walking tour ♥ with Gecko Tours. Our guide engaged really well and led us on a trip through all of the major points of interest in the town center.
Although we based ourselves nearly a week in Split, museums were not a real part of our plans. The possible targets for museum-goers include Gallery of Fine Arts, Mestrovič Gallery (the exposition of works of the famous local sculptor, author of the Gregory of Nin piece, which is located some distance outside of city center), and the potentially curious Froggyland (my kids somewhat unexpectedly objected to the idea of seeing a taxidermy exhibition). The synagogue is opened on a very limited schedule, so we could only stop by its gates. For those with a car, Klis Fortress, about 20 minutes out of the city, could also offer something to see and do.
Main city beach of Bačvice ♥ is surprisingly not too bad. It is quite busy but we actually expected worse on Saturday afternoon. Its main advantage is in being just about 15 minutes of walk from the city center, it is wide and it sports shallow sand floor. Many amenities, such as lockers, showers, lounge chairs and umbrellas (for a fee, of course), changing stalls, a bar.
Ovčice is the neighbor to Bačvice moving away from the city center, but it is not sandy: small pebbles on the shore and large rocks on the sea floor, not the most comfortable without water shoes. The beach is also narrow, so it may look pretty busy, but is in fact far from packed. No bar, but all other amenities, including lounge chairs and umbrellas for hire.
Bene beach is located quite some distance from town on the Split peninsula, and it turns out that you cannot drive close enough without a permit; you have to either walk or take a bus.
Kašjuni ♥♥♥, in a different part of peninsula, can be driven to, and it turned out to be our favorite Split beach. It is rocky and narrow (although quite long all around a small bay), and the floor drops off pretty quickly, but there are possible amenities, parking, quieter vibe, and gorgeous water. Lounge chairs can be hired at the seaside club (rather expensive) or further down the beach. The parking area gets somewhat congested at the end of the day (when locals join the tourists after work).
Places to Eat
As any reasonably big tourist town, Split has tons of options for eating out. TripAdvisor is always a good starting place to research your meals, but here are a few of our experiences, all in the summer of 2019, all as a party of 3 adults and 1 child. The monetary outlays listed below are before tips (we generally tipped Kn100 after a meal).
Dujkin Dvor ♥ is a block beyond the western edge of Riva. It was nearly empty when we came at 7:30pm but filled up later in the evening. Our waiter had an excellent dry sense of humor. Pretty good food, especially beef and tuna steaks on a “lava stone” (basically you finish cooking them yourself in the matter of a couple of minutes). Also good fish soup and ribeye. Our damage: Kn800, with a bottle of wine and dessert.
Konoba Korta ♥ occupies a nice space on a side square within the palace core. Tables are surprisingly not too close to each other, so you never feel like sharing the meal with the neighbor table. Nice food: octopus, scallops, and shrimp soup for appetizers, and traditional lamb “Peka” dish for main course received high marks. Our damage: Kn750, with a bottle of wine.
Art-i-čok ♥♥♥, on the western edge of the town center, is just great. The food is a bit conceptual, but fantastic, everything we had was excellent. Appetizers: sea bass carpaccio, gin gazpacho. Main courses: lamb shank, ribeye, and most especially Hama fish. Superb service. Despite small space, there is a fairly reserved vibe. Our damage: Kn940, with a wine bottle and dessert.
Konoba Kod Joze ♥♥ was recommended to us by our AirBnB hosts. It is tucked away from the center of town, but within 5 minutes walk to the Golden Gate. Nice ambience, good service, excellent traditional food, prices slightly cheaper than at more popular places in the center. Cuttlefish risotto, grilled mushrooms, and Dalmatian pašticada got the highest marks. Our damage: Kn575, with a bottle of wine.
DeListes ♥♥♥, on Obrov street near the fish market, is almost a hole-in-the-wall. There are two largish tables inside and two small tables outside. Cooks in the kitchen look like the parents of the single host/waiter. Menu is handwritten on the board outside and also handwritten on a piece of paper handed to the diners (appetizers and drinks are pre-printed on a more conventional card). Wonderful food, from salted sardines for appetizer, to boar stew and octopus stew and stuffed peppers for main dishes. Loved it. At the end of the meal, the host offered us free shots of local grappa as a digestif. Our damage: Kn500, with a bottle of wine. Cash only.
Mano Pizza Pasta ♥, also near the fish market, was a random choice for lunch that turned out pretty good. In addition to pizza and pasta, there are a lot of other choices on the menu. Gazpacho, ravioli, and a traditional pašticada were all well received. Our damage: Kn550, with a bottle of wine.
We normally rent on AirBnB for longer stays, and our apartment in Split ♥♥♥ (link) was among the best we ever rented. Its only downside is that it is on the top (4th) floor of a building without elevator. Only about five minutes from either the Gold or the Silver gates of the Diocletian Palace. There is a supermarket literally around the corner, and restaurants and shops close by. The apartment is nicely appointed and furnished, with 3 large bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms, 2 balconies in the front and back of the building, large fully equipped kitchen/dining room, washing machine, USB ports in all bedrooms. Free parking is available five minutes away – the host will guide you there (street parking is not free midweek).