Nestled along Croatia’s Dalmatian coast, Split feels like a city that has slipped through the cracks of time. The ancient city center is a sight to behold, with an entire district swallowed by a sprawling Roman palace, still standing strong after 1700 years! Over the centuries, this architectural marvel has been preserved and repurposed into newer buildings, like St. Duje’s Cathedral, whose heart is a 4th-century mausoleum. You might even recognize some locations around Split from your favorite TV shows, and it’s sometimes hard to remember that stunning local attractions like Klis Fortress and the picturesque town of Trogir aren’t just Hollywood sets! So, buckle up and let’s explore the best things to do in Split with a pinch of humor:
Things to do in Split, Croatia
1. Diocletian’s Palace
The Big Cheese This palace is the big kahuna of Split’s historical core. There’s nothing quite like it in Europe—a wonderfully preserved 4th-century complex that’s part retirement villa, part military camp, and 100% jaw-dropping. It’s no surprise that Game of Thrones was filmed here; just don’t expect to run into any dragons (we hope).
2. Historic Split
Walk It Off Put on your comfy shoes and take a stroll through Split’s old city. From Pjaca Square to Fruit Square, you’ll be walking through history, marveling at the beautiful Renaissance architecture and charming streets. Don’t forget to people-watch on Marmont Street, where locals go about their daily lives, surrounded by shops, cafes, and restaurants.
3. St. Duje’s Cathedral
Repurpose Like a Boss Split’s architecture has a knack for reinventing itself, and the cathedral is no exception. Once Diocletian’s mausoleum, it’s now the oldest cathedral building in the world. Marvel at the mix of Roman elements and Catholic hallmarks, and be sure to check out the Romanesque wooden doors that have stood the test of time since 1200.
4. Krka National Park
Waterfall Wonderland Take an hour’s trip to Krka National Park and bask in the beauty of the Krka River and its waterfalls. With 17 waterfalls in one spot alone, it’s like nature’s version of a theme park—just remember to bring a waterproof camera!
5. Peristil Square
Coffee, Drama, and Egyptian Sphinxes Grab an afternoon coffee in this ancient Roman court and soak in the majestic architecture. With two 3,500-year-old Egyptian sphinxes keeping watch, you might even catch an opera or theatre performance in the summer. It’s like dinner and a show, minus the dinner (but there’s always dessert!).
Hill Yes! Need some fresh air and exercise? Head west to Marjan, a 170-meter-high hill covered in cypress and Mediterranean pine trees. Discover hidden landmarks, an ancient Jewish cemetery, and two churches—one dating back to the 1200s and the other to the 1400s. It’s like a scavenger hunt, but with more uphill climbing!
Bell Tower with a View Climb Split’s iconic bell tower for an unforgettable view of the city and the Adriatic Sea. It’s a bit of a workout, but the panoramic reward at the top is worth every step. Don’t forget to admire the Romanesque arched windows as you ascend!
8. Statue of Grgur Ninski
Big Toe, Big Luck Meet the hefty bronze statue of Grgur Ninski, a 10th-century bishop and Croatian icon, sculpted by the renowned Ivan Meštrović. Rub Ninski’s shiny big toe for good luck, and see what happens! Who knows, maybe you’ll win the lottery or find the perfect gelato flavor.
9. Klis Fortress
Game of Thrones Vibes Perched on a bluff above the terraced hills of Klis, this fortress is a sight you won’t forget. With a history spanning over two and a half millennia, you can practically feel the power struggle in the air. Just don’t start yelling “King in the North!”
Time-Traveling to the Middle Ages Get lost in the well-preserved ensemble of Romanesque and Gothic architecture of Trogir, another UNESCO site. This fortified island city will transport you back to medieval times, with historic churches and enchanting streets that haven’t changed since the 1200s.
11. Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments
Where History Lives Ever wondered where Split’s historical artifacts ended up? Look no further! With over 20,000 pieces (though only a quarter are displayed), you’ll find everything from medieval weaponry to stone inscriptions detailing Croatian history.
12. Ivan Meštrović Gallery
Art Buff’s Paradise Discover the world of Croatia’s famous artist, Ivan Meštrović, at his eponymous gallery. Explore nearly 200 sculptures, sketches, furniture, and architectural plans, all housed in a 1930s building designed by the artist himself. The outdoor sculpture garden is a delightful bonus!
A Roman Blast from the Past Just a bus ride away from Split’s center, explore the ancient Roman city of Salona, once the empire’s most important city in the Balkans. Wander through the archaeological park and imagine the grandeur of the amphitheater that once held 18,000 spectators.
14. Charter a Boat
Ahoy, Captain! Set sail along Croatia’s stunning coast, where countless remote coves and breathtaking offshore landforms await. With numerous charter agencies competing for business, you’re sure to find an affordable yacht or motorboat for your maritime adventure.
15. A Day by the Adriatic
Sun, Sand, and Sea Don’t forget that Split is also a fantastic seaside destination! From the natural beaches at the foot of Marjan to the sandy shores of Bacvice, you’ll find plenty of spots to relax, soak up the sun, and take a refreshing dip in the crystal-clear waters of the Adriatic Sea.
Did you know? Facts about Split, Croatia
Split, a city on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast, is a destination steeped in history and rich with cultural and natural attractions. Here are 10 lesser-known facts about Split:
- Split was originally founded as the Greek colony of Aspálathos in the 3rd or 2nd century BC.
- In 305 AD, the Roman Emperor Diocletian chose Split as the location for his retirement palace, which now dominates the city’s historic core.
- Split’s St. Duje’s Cathedral was originally Diocletian’s mausoleum, and its central portion dates back to 350 AD, making it the oldest cathedral building in the world.
- Peristil Square, the original Roman court, features two 3,500-year-old Egyptian sphinxes brought to the city by Diocletian.
- Marjan, a steep hill forested with cypress and Mediterranean pine trees, provides a natural escape and a panoramic view of Split.
- Klis Fortress, located 10 kilometers northeast of Split, served as the seat of the Croatian Kings and has been the site of various Game of Thrones scenes.
- Krka National Park, an hour from Split, is home to the sublime Stradinski Buk, a large natural pool fed by travertine waterfalls.
- Salona, the ancient capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia, is an easy bus ride from Split and offers an enlightening archaeological experience.
- Trogir, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the best-preserved ensemble of Romanesque and Gothic architecture in Europe.
- The Split coast is a natural wonder, with islands serving as a barrier to keep the waters calm and transparent, making it an ideal location for chartering a boat and exploring the coastline.
FAQ about Split, Croatia
What is Split known for?
Split is known for its ancient architecture, Diocletian’s Palace, and its picturesque location on the Adriatic Sea. It’s a popular tourist destination with rich history, beautiful beaches, and vibrant culture.
What is the historical significance of Diocletian's Palace?
Diocletian’s Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a well-preserved example of a Roman palace. It was built in the 4th century for the Roman Emperor Diocletian and later incorporated into the city’s architecture. It represents a unique blend of Roman and medieval architectural styles.
When was Split founded?
Split was founded as the Greek colony of Aspálathos in the 3rd or 2nd century BC. In 305 AD, it became the site of Diocletian’s Palace.
How did Split become a part of modern-day Croatia?
Split was included in the post-World War II Socialist Yugoslavia as part of its republic of Croatia. In 1991, Croatia seceded from Yugoslavia amid the Croatian War of Independence, and Split became a part of the newly-formed nation.
What are some must-visit attractions in Split?
Must-visit attractions in Split include Diocletian’s Palace, St. Duje’s Cathedral, Peristil Square, Marjan Hill, Klis Fortress, and the nearby Krka National Park.
What is the origin of the name "Split"?
The name Split is derived from the Greek name Aspálathos or Spálathos, which may come from the spiny broom plant (Calicotome spinosa). The name evolved over time through various Latin and Dalmatian variations before settling on the modern Croatian name Split.
What is the population of Split?
As of the last available data in 2021, the population of Split is approximately 178,000 people. However, this number may have changed since then.
How can I explore the islands near Split?
One of the best ways to explore the islands near Split is by chartering a boat, either a yacht or motorboat, with or without a skipper. This allows you to visit remote coves and enjoy the stunning coastal landscape at your own pace.