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. Diocletian's Palace, a World Heritage Site, is the main attraction but there are so many things to see and to do, including day trips, world-class nightlife and restaurants that it's impossible to be bored.
It was the Romans who put Split on the map when Emperor Diocletian built his retirement palace here in the 4th 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. In addition to enclosing a welter of Roman ruins and medieval churches, the sprawling 4th century residence is also bursting with trendy shops, stylish bars, and brand-name boutiques.
Just outside the Palace's southern walls is Split's seaside promenade, Riva, a prime people-watching spot. 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. The narrow streets wind up to leafy Marjan hill and its sweeping views over the city.
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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 world-class players such as Alen Boksic, Darijo Srna and Robert Jarni. On the tennis courts, Wimbledon champ Goran Ivanisevic and his former protegé Mario Ancic are much beloved. On the basketball courts, Split boasts of contributing 7 players to the NBA.
When not cheering on their team, locals either chat over coffee in a fashionable cafe or head to the beach. The closest to town is Bacvice, with shallow waters perfect for picigin. For this local game, all you need is a bunch of guys and a peeled tennis ball that must never touch the water!
Roll with the Romans in Diocletian's Palace
Enter through the basement halls on the on the seaside and mount the massive steps to the heart of the Palace, Peristil, where you'll be impressed by Diocletian's mausoleum, now the majestic St Domnius Cathedral. Climb the bell-tower to appreciate the size and scope of the Palace then follow this self-guided walking tour for more Roman and medieval landmarks. More on Diocletian's Palace
Get into Fjaka on Riva
Riva is Split's harbourside promenade and fjaka is the Dalmatian art of doing absolutely nothing. Slide into a seat in one of the many cafes lining Riva and watch the world go by. Allow your mind to wander into daydreams, feel your body relax and your senses sharpen. That's fjaka!
Stroll around Veli Varos
Veli Varos is the humble "peasant quarter" west of Diocletian's Palace. Built around the 17th century, there are a few churches and lots of traditional stone buildings lining narrow streets. It's a good neighbourhood to escape the crowds and perhaps slip into a local bar or cafe. More on Veli Varos.
Take the Air on Marjan Hill
Woodsy Marjan hill rises gently from western Split to a peak that offers sweeping views over Split and its nearby islands. Following the shady paths that snake through the woods takes you to several ancient churches, a Jewish cemetery and a small zoo. Stop for refreshment at Cafe Vidilica, a popular local hangout. More on Marjan Hill.
Hit the Beach
The sea water around Split is clear and sparkling. Beaches spread for several kilometres east and west of town. Throw down a towel or rent a sunbed and enjoy the tranquil views. More on Split beaches.
Bond with Locals at a Football Match
Locals are fanatical about the local team, Hajduk Split. Matches take place from February to May in Split's Poljud stadium. A match against arch-rival Dinamo Zagreb is bound to be lively.
Get Culture at a Local Festival
photo courtesy gecko-tours.com
Whether it's a celebration of film, music, theatre or saints, Split's cultural calendar is busy throughout the year. Don't miss the Split Summer Festival when concerts take place in Diocletian's Palace. More on Split festivals.
Split's nightlife begins with the setting sun which is celebrated with smooth music and smoother cocktails at several beach clubs. The larger dance clubs are out of central Split but there are casual clubs and bars in and around the old town. More on Split nightlife.
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.
[Check out the best day trips from Split]
Whether by plane, boat, bus, train or car, it's getting ever easier to travel to Split. With trains, planes, a motorway to Zagreb plus dozens of ferries and buses, Split is one of Croatia's prime points of entry.
Low-cost carriers are adding Split to their flight plans making air travel to Split remarkably good value with more choices than ever. Split airport is 25km west of town and is connected to most major European capitals and Zagreb with regular flights throughout the summer. Off-season flights are far fewer. See more on flights to Split.
Book Split Ferries Online
Split has a massive ferry port with boats coming and going to the islands--Solta, Brac, Vis, Hvar, Korcula--and down to Dubrovnik. Car ferries work year-round but many passenger ferries are summer only. The only international connection is the year-round car ferry to Ancona, Italy. See more details on Split ferries.
The Split bus station is a busy, busy place with buses going up and down the coast and further afield. If coming from Dubrovnik, taking a bus to Split is an easy four-hour run and from Zagreb some buses make it in five hours. It's a long ten-hour haul from Istria however. See more on buses to Split.
All international trains pass through Zagreb. If you're coming from Zagreb a train to Split can be a comfortable and convenient alternative to a bus if it fits within your schedule but there are only two or three a day. There are no trains to Dubrovnik or anywhere else along the coast however. See more on trains to Split.
A long-awaited motorway connecting Zagreb and Split has shortened driving time between the two cities to a mere four hours. Someday pretty soon (say 2050) that motorway will run as far south as Dubrovnik and maybe even beyond. Travel time will be much shorter but no way will it be as scenic as the winding coastal road. If you're coming from Istria, there's another motorway that will zip you from Rijeka to Split in a little over four hours.
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.
To see it all, rent a car
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.
Where to Stay
An accommodation overview.
Hotels in Split
Private Accommodation in Split
What's available and what's best from guesthouses to hostels.
What to See & Do
Museums and galleries plus
Experience local life at local festivals or at the annual Croatia Boat Show.
Local Bus Map
Plan local bus connections
Eating & Drinking
The best dining in Split
Bars, clubs, discos and pubs
The only guidebook you'll need.
Croatia Traveller's Dalmatia: Split to Dubrovnik
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Ferry from Split to Sibenik and Zadar
This new passenger ferry is a great and scenic way to bypass coastal traffic while enjoying a view of the Dalmatian coast and islands. Get the schedule.
This new four-star hotel is in charming Veli Varos, just steps from the old town. With a swimming pool, hot tub, plushly decorated rooms and balconies with a sea view, guests are cushioned in comfort. Read reviews and book.
Museum of Senses
This unusual museum will enchant kids of all ages. 50 interactive exhibits challenge all five senses--sight, sound, touch, smell and balance--while imparting bits and pieces of local culture and history. See the website for details.
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
Last updated January 7, 2019
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