I’m not sure what it is about Split that I love so much. Maybe it’s the food? or the historical significance or even the proximity to so many other places where you can make Split the base and go explore. Even though I can’t fully pinpoint to the reason, it is definitely worth spending more than a couple of days in Split. This post covers the top things to do in Split along with lots of great places to eat!
Top Things to Do in Split
The Roman Emperor Diocletian’s enormous retirement palace is one of the biggest attraction in Split. Today, the palace is mostly integrated with the city itself but it’s still really impressive and takes you back to the 4th century A.D. Most of the structure of the palace itself is free to view except the cathedral that used to be Diocletian’s mausoleum and the cellar which more or less holds the structure in place with it’s massive columns.
You can either start at the entrance near the sea (this used to be the back entrance), making your way through the cellar into the Peristyle or you can start at the front entrance and work back to the cellars.
Tip – I have 2 major recommendations here 1. Start exploring first thing in the morning when the crowds are less 2. Get your self a guide, a guide book or at least read up about the history before you go. It’s definitely worth knowing what you are seeing, especially since some parts are now a part of the city itself.
I can’t imagine anyone walking through the city and not seeing the Peristyle at least a few times. The Peristyle used to be the main square of the palace. At the changing of each season, Diocletian would stand here, overlooking the Peristyle, while his subjects would get down on their knees and worship him. Sit on the steps and try to imagine this scene and take it all in for a few minutes.
The red granite columns near the cathedral are from Egypt along with the sphinx, the only sphinx fully intact out of 13.
Cathedral of St. Domnius
This used to be Diocletian’s mausoleum but was later turned into a cathedral after the fall of the Roman empire. There are a few places to visit within this complex. These are the cathedral itself, crypt, Jupiter’s temple (baptistry), treasury and bell tower. There are different combination tickets and what you buy depends on what you want to see. My recommendation is to buy a ticket that has the bell tower included. If you want to skip everything else here and do only the bell tower then you can buy that ticket only separately. Whatever you decide, the bell tower is a must in my opinion.
Bell tower of St. Domnius Cathedral
The 183 steps leading up to the bell tower is well worth the climb, given that it has commanding views of Split. Note that the stairs may not be for people afraid of heights. Just don’t look down if you are scared of height but still want to go up (trust me it’s worth it!).
Marjan Hills are a located in the Marjan peninsular. This area is known for its stunning view points, great hiking trails and beaches. For another great view of Split, climb up the road Senjska Ulica. After a few minutes you will come to a restaurant with outdoor seating. If your goal is to find the best view point, then this is it. The view gets smaller further up you go and it’s also covered by trees. If your goal is to hike, then continue all the way up.
Stroll the Riva Promenade
This sea side drag is busy all day and night. Grab a seat at a café or restaurant along the Riva and enjoy some time people watching.
This produce market is near the back entrance to Diocletian’s palace. I walked through for a few minutes and really enjoyed seeing locals in their everyday lives.
This square goes back all the way to the times of Diocletian and has been the main square in Split from the 14th century onwards. Enjoy the hustle and bustle of this square for a few minutes.
One of the top things to do in Split is to wander around. Especially around Old Town. The narrow roads, little restuarants and shops, stone floors, high arches etc, all add to the beauty and charm of this city.
Side and Day Trips from Split
Split is a great home base to explore several places in Croatia and beyond. Below is a list of places that I recommend visiting from Split. HERE is my detailed and all encompassing post about side and day trips from Split where I talk about the places below in more detail.
- Blue Caves & island hopping
- Krka National Park
- Klis Fortress
- Putalj Winery
- Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Where to Eat & Drink
Split is a great place to taste amazing Dalmatian cooking. There are so many good restuarants in Split ranging from cozy little hideouts to sophisticated and elegant affairs. Most places are open until late but I recommend making reservations to places you really want to try out a couple of days in advance.
Split is a bit of a party city! The nightlife in Split is vibrant and goes on until pretty late. Once the restuarants wind down, the bars wind up!
The list below is not exhaustive by any means. These are the places I enjoyed eating and drinking in Split and can definitely recommend to you!
The meal I had at Zinfandel was 1 out of the 2 most memorable meals I had in Croatia! (the other one was in Hvar). I loved everything about this restaurant, the food, the wines and the atmosphere! Definitely book ahead of time and I promise you won’t be disappointed!
My favorite type of restuarants are the ones where the menu is hand written and changes everyday depending on what can be found in the market that day. Villa Spiza is one of those restuarants. This restaurant mainly serves delicious seafood made to Dalmatian recipes. They don’t take reservations and the place is quite small so my advice would be to go for lunch as soon as they open. Once an item on their menu is sold out, it’s crossed out and will no longer be served that day. Going as soon as they open will ensure 1. You don’t have to wait for a table and 2. You get to choose from the full menu.
Sophisticated Bokeria is popular night and day. Definitely make a reservation ahead of time. It’s nicely decorated both inside and out and the food is really good too.
Pun Kufer Craft Cocktail Bar
This cocktail bar, although tucked away inside a narrow lane, is rated one of the best in Split. You can sit either inside or outside in the courtyard. They have Game of Thrones themed cocktails and the service is great!
The Riva promenade is a great place to grab a drink pre or post dinner and people watch along the boardwalk. I visited Antique Bar a couple of times only because they had a limoncello spritz that was delicious! If you are only grabbing a drink I think any bar along the Riva would work. Eating along the Riva however, will take a bit more research as restuarants along popular places usually tend not to have the best reviews.
The Peristyle is busy all times of the day, but particularly at night time. When the sun goes down and twilight hits, people gather to listen to live music from a band set up outside a famous bar called Luxor. Luxor has put red cushions at the steps of the Peristyle. It’s assumed you will be buying a drink or two if you sit on a cushion. If you are just there for the music, that’s ok too. Just grab a spot without a cushion and enjoy some awesome live music. If you stay long enough, people, young and old start dancing in the square once night falls. It’s crazy to think how much things have changed in 1600 years considering this is where Diocletian’s subjects worshiped him back in the 4th century A.D.
Split has some great choices when it comes to gelato. These are my personal favorites.
Luka Ice Cream & Cakes
They make artisanal ice cream in really unique flavors!
Aroma Gelato Boutique
Another good place for gelato
There was a line outside the door each time I passed here.
General Tips for Split
- Parking in Split is an absolute nightmare! If you are coming in a car and not planning on doing side trips that may need a car, it may be worth giving back the car during your time in Split
- During the day I parked HERE in the outdoor space. It’s free for 3 hours and then 5 kuna. It’s free again after 10 p.m. but I didn’t feel safe leaving the rental car out here at night so I brought it to the manned spot below
- I don’t know if this is always the case or if I got lucky but I picked up the car at around 10:03 p.m one night and didn’t pay a cent for the day time either! I think the gates open after 10 and it’s free regardless of what time you bring the car in during the day
- This is where I parked at night. It was 7 kuna an hour which was expensive but I knew the car was safe as there was someone there 24/7 and the gate arm is shut
- Split is a big city. The new town is big and busy. Try and find accommodation around the old town. That’s where all these top things to do are located. This way you don’t need to figure out local transport
- Split can be crowded during the day. Try to start your day early as possible to beat the crowds and heat during the summer months
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Going to Dubrovnik after Split? Check out my post HERE or below!
I visited Split as a part of a 12 day road trip around the Balkans! Check out this trip HERE or below!
Also check out all my posts on Croatia HERE.
Driving in Croatia and the surrounding Balkan countries? Check out my post HERE or below!
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