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Split is busy and big (it's Croatia's second largest city) but it remains one of the Adriatic's most vibrant port cities stunningly located between mountains and sea. As the economic and cultural center of the Dalmatian coast Split is bustling with islanders who flock into the city to work even as ferries whisk tourists out to the islands.
It was the Romans who put Split on the map with the building of Diocletian's Palace, the sprawling 4th century residence that now encloses a welter of Roman ruins within its walls. It's fascinating to wander the cobblestoned streets within the palace where fashionable boutiques and trendy clubs alternate with crumbling pillars and medieval churches. Stroll the harbourside promenade or people-watch from one of its cafes. Climb up woodsy Marjan hill for great views over the city or plunge into the sparkling waters from one of Split's beaches. There are so many sights to see and so many day trips from Split; the nightlife and restaurants offer such quality and variety it's impossible to be bored.
Few were the empires that did not put their mark on Split. First came the Greeks although little remains of their tiny settlement. The Romans were much more proactive, expanding the settlement until Emperor Diocletian built his retirement palace here in the third century. Diocletian's Palace is more like a walled town and it has endured as the center of Split's cultural and political life even as the Byzantines, Croatian kings, Venetians, Austrians and Italians planted their flag on the great city. See more on Split history.
Relaxed and informal, Split residents are less interested in high culture than they are in sports and the outdoors. The local football team, HNK Hajduk Split, inspires almost fanatical devotion throughout Dalmatia and has produced a number of world-class players. Try to see a match against their arch-rival Dinamo Zagreb in the Poljud stadium to comprehend the essence of Split. Tennis is another popular sport; former Wimbledon champin Goran Ivanisevic and top player Mario Ancic both hail from Split. Locals love to play picigin in the waters of Bacvice beach. All you need is a bunch of guys and a peeled tennis ball!
Diocletian's Palace and the medieval quarter to the west contain most of Split's museums and galleries. Diocletian's Palace is not only a historical discovery but it also contains Split's most interesting shops, bars, restaurants and cafes. Enter through the basement halls on the on the seaside and mount the massive steps to the heart of the Palace where you'll be impressed by the towering cathedral and an assortment of Roman monuments. To the west and north of the Palace walls lies medieval Split and the Veli Varos nighbourhood which developed from the 14th to the 17th centuries. See more on Split's museums and galleries.
This video makes a good orientation to Split as it shows you the entire seafront of Split. With my narration, you'll easily see where Split's major sights are in relation to the ferry port, bus station, train station and airport bus.
Take a stroll on Split's seaside promenade and have a leisurely coffee in one of the cafes. Rent a bike at the foot of Marjan hill and bike around the coast, exploring the beaches. Explore the Bacvice neighbourhood to the east of the Old Town where there are beaches and nightlife. Wrap up the day at a bar, or dance the night away in one of Split's throbbing, super-fashionable discos. See more on Split nightlife.
To see it all, rent a car
Besides the sightseeing in Split, the town makes an excellent base for exploring the wonders of Split-Dalmatia county not to mention the many islands that lie just offshore. From Split, you can easily visit Solta and Brac by ferry all year round. In the summer, it's possible to make a day trip to Hvar via catamaran. Other day trips from Split include Solin, Omis, Trogir, Brela Beach, Baska Voda and Makarska, each less than an hour away by car. See more on tours & excursions from Split.
Raw and boisterous, yet with heaps of Mediterranean style, Split is not the place to settle in and chill. Ferries, trains and buses are constantly chugging in and out of the ferry-train-bus stations which combine to form a giant transport hub just east of Diocletian's Palace. Stay near the town centre. The dreary neighbourhoods that stretch north of town aren't dangerous but they sure aren't pretty. In deciding where to stay, decide whether your interests are beachy, cultural or clubhopping and then select from one of the neighbourhoods below.
Museums and galleries plus
Bars, clubs, discos and pubs
Take Split with you! The only guidebook you'll need.
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The Split tourist office (tel 021-342 606) distributes a variety of useful brochures and a city map. Offices are:
on Riva at Obala Hrvatskog narodnog preporoda 9
in Slatine at Duboke garme bb
in Stobrec at Sv. Lovre 4
Review: Attractive and reasonably up-to-date app with some useful maps, attraction information and phone numbers. Shopping and restaurant listings are paltry however.
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