Split seems to have everything going for it. A bustling port city, with thousands of years of history, a thriving community of locals, and access to some of Croatia’s best islands, it’s no wonder it has become such a magnet for travellers.
In the summer months, the streets are full with tourists, most of whom are just passing through before catching a ferry or going island hopping. And while a crowded city might not sound as appealing as a deserted stretch of island, Split still deserves some of your time and attention. Here’s how to spend a day soaking up the best things Split has to offer.
7am: Explore Diocletian’s Palace. Yes, that’s pretty damn early to be waking up, but I promise you that having the winding streets to yourself will be more than worth it. This sprawling complex, built in the 4th century, is one of the best-preserved examples of Roman architecture left standing. Often referred to just as “the old town”, it’s a maze of streets and incredible old buildings that are now home to shops, cafes, and restaurants. Inside the walls, you can see a 3500-year-old Egyptian sphinx, a bell tower from 300AD, and (apparently) the narrowest street in the world. It’s free to get in and just wander around. I did this self-guided walking tour to make sure I didn’t miss anything.
8am: Coffee time. Good coffee in the Balkans can be hard to come by, so D16 is like finding water in the desert. They serve up real espresso coffee, as well as a mean cold brew. Plus, they have almond milk, which is a rarity for a Central European cafe.
9am: Pick up some snacks and make a picnic. Stop by a bakery (they’re literally everywhere) and try not to order every single thing on offer. Burek are these amazing savoury pastries, with fillings like meat, cheese, spinach, or potato. The croissants are usually pretty good, and you can’t go wrong with a basic sandwich. Bobi’s (a chain of bakeries) have these amazing wraps made with what tastes like a big slice of pizza instead of bread. They’re pricey (30 kuna or $7aud), so if you’re on a budget, bakeries on the back streets have ham and cheese sandwiches for (10kuna or $2.50).
Hit up the fruit market as well and grab some cherries or strawberries.
10am: Grab your walking shoes, it’s time to see Split from above. Marjan Hill overlooks the city and has epic views of the tiled roofs and sparkling blue harbour. It’s to the right of the city (if you’re looking out at the water), basically just walk that way and follow the paths straight up, it’s very well signposted. You can easily walk up and then come back down, but there are also many long paths through the park that make great walking tracks. It’s good to do it first thing in the morning before it gets too hot.
And it’s not just amazing views up there. On the side of the hill you can see hermitage caves and church facades built into the rock. Head toward St Jerome’s church and you can’t miss them.
12pm: Cool off with a dip in the refreshing (aka very cold) ocean. Split has a number of beaches near the city centre, but they’re usually packed and honestly, not that great. Around the side of Marjan Hill, you’ll find more secluded, rocky beaches that are the perfect place to chill out after your hike. Kasjuni is a good option, but can get busy as there’s a trendy beach bar there. From there if you just walk back toward Split along the road that winds by the coastline, you’ll see little streets leading down to different beaches.
A word of warning: these are not the sandy beaches you might be used to! They’re made up of sharp rocks that’ll ruin your feet. I bought a pair of butt-ugly reef shoes from the Split market and it was the best investment I’ve ever made.
Pull out your bakery goodies and market fruit and have a cute lil beach picnic!
4pm: Wander around the market and the waterfront riva. Now it’s probably cooled down a little, you can comfortably wander around and soak up the atmosphere. The market has a lot of overpriced touristy knick-knacks, but once you wander back a little bit from the waterfront, you can find locals doing their clothes and food shopping. There’s one stretch where you’ll find meat and cheese shops, where Split residents pick up their groceries. The waterfront stretch to the right of the port is filled with pricey restaurants and cafes, but has nice benches and green areas to chill.
There are ice cream shops literally EVERYWHERE around here, but I suggest you stop in at Spalato Gelateria. They have this hazelnut vegan ice cream which is one of the creamiest, most amazing dairy-free ice creams I’ve ever tried.
8pm: If there’s one thing Split knows how to do, it’s a beautiful sunset. Rather than missing the light show while you’re in a restaurant, pick up some takeaway food and dine alfresco while watching the sun go down. There’s a cement stretch to the left of Bačvice beach which is about 15 minutes walk from the old town. Takeaway shops and supermarkets abound, but I heard really good things about Vege Fast Food, where you can get salads and burgers and sandwiches. Otherwise Ba!če has simple but delish cevapi kebab-type things.
9pm: Now it’s time for a drink. There are a ton of bars along the riva and dotted around the old town. You can go to the main square in Diocletian’s Palace and enjoy a drink or two at Lvxor while listening to live music. Don’t sit inside, find a spot out on the steps that line the square. It’s pretty special having a glass of wine while surrounded by buildings built 1700 years ago. If you’re up for another nightcap, Marvlv’s Jazz Bar has a cool vibe most nights.
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