Split, second largest city of Croatia, is brimming with history. Almost in every street, wall and gate gives the Roman influence. Roman Emperor Diocletian choose Split as place for his retirement and the Diocletian’s Palace (a World Heritage site) represents the center of the town ever since. I visited this city with my husband for the first time last year and was amazed at how it mixes history and cosmopolitan influences with ease and grace. You can see why location finders for Game of Thrones fell in love with it and chose to film so many scenes here.
If you’re touring Croatia, you can see Split in a day providing you plan your time well. Here are my top places to visit.
- Climb Cathedral of Saint Domnius
Catholic cathedral was originally Roman mausoleum in the 7th century. The construction of 60 m bell tower started in the 13th century and historians say that it needed as long as 300 years to complete! It’s lots of stairs to climb and they aren’t really designed with health and safety in mind (it’s old ok?) so be careful. The views however were breathtaking, especially towards the harbor side.
- Wander around Diocletian’s Palace
This is one of the most imposing Roman ruins still in existence and considered the main attraction in Split. This massive complex of buildings was created for Roman emperor Diocletian in 305 AD. Nowadays, it represents a center of Split old town of. You can join a guided tour and also visit the remains under the palace. At the time of our visit, there was historical theatre play taking place just in front of the palace. When the night falls, the marble and granite columns, topped by Corinthian capitals, are usually illuminated by colorful garlands, and the interiors of the palace are becoming a beautiful scene, where actors in Roman togas are performing with their solemn voices, echoing under the arches of this ancient palace.
- Relax at Riva promenade
The Riva, Split’s seafront promenade, goes along the old town surrounded cafes, bars, restaurants and souvenir shops. Although the locals did not like the new look Riva gained in 2007 reconstruction, I quite like the place. Ignoring all shops (yes, they are too many), one can have nice walk under the palm trees and enjoy their shadow at one many benches. It’s the perfect place to people watch while having a nice lunch/wine in the sunshine.
- Get fresh snacks at Green market
Croatian fruit grown in the sunshine and warm Mediterranean climate is just amazing. Green market (Pazar in Croatian) in Split is no exception. I bought cherries and they were so tasty that there was no other way that to eat them all in the spot. Apart from fruits and vegetables, one can get there for example cheese, honey, olive oil and grappa. Make sure you visit both the indoor and outdoor stalls, as they tend to vary what they sell area to area. The market opens at 5am for those early birds.
- Hit the beach
The beaches of Split are not the greatest from what you can find in Croatia, but you can get pretty decent swim already 10 minutes walking from Diocletian Palace at sandy Bacvice beach , so why not. Other beach options can be found near Marjan hill (around 3 kilometers from the city), with Bene beach as the nicest. The see entrance is pebble and sand while the beach itself is concrete and has lots of shadow. As with all Croatian beaches remember to wear rock shoes, as it can be sharp underfoot. Also remember there isn’t any sand so you will need to sit on something (I tend to buy a £4 sunbathing pad each year if I’m intending to sunbathe as it makes the experience far more comfortable).
Planning the trip to Croatia
We would always organize the trip ourselves; it’s quite easy as you can fly into split from both Manchester and London. In terms of accommodation I always opt for an apartment via booking.com or air bnb so I can stay in the thick of it. In terms of transfers etc there are plenty of airport bus companies such as shuttletours.net that can help or if you drive, hiring a car is recommended, as the roads are easy to drive on.