A Quick Guide to Split, Croatia’s Second City

(This post may contain affiliate links. Find more info in my disclaimer)

Split is Croatia’s biggest coastal city and gateway to the Dalmatian islands. It’s also a top tourist destination in its own right. Here’s what to see and do whilst in Split.

About the author: Elin Davies is a part-time travel writer specialising in active and adventure travel. Head to her blog to check out highlights of a recent European cycle tour.

Why go?

Split is the second largest city in Croatia and sits on its eastern shore. It’s one of the buzziest cities along the Adriatic shore, with a youthful vibe and a vibrant nightlife and restaurant scene. 

Split’s architecture has been shaped by a rich history of occupation – Roman and Venetian through to French and Austro-Hungarian empires have all left their mark on the city. The Old Town – UNESCO World Heritage Site – is one of the most impressively preserved in the Mediterranean. 

The star attraction is Diocletian’s Palace, built for the Roman emperor at the end of the third century AD. It’s unusual in that it forms part of the fabric of the modern city, narrow streets that would once have been stone hallways in the vast palace are now filled with cafes and stalls.

Visitors can use the city as a starting point to explore some of Croatia’s blockbuster attractions such as the island of Hvar and Brač and the waterfalls at Krka National Park.  

Game of Thrones fans will be excited to find many tours of the series’ filming locations. 

The Peristil courtyard of Diocletian's Palace in the golden hour.

How to get there?

Split Resnik Airport (SPU) is 20km from the city. Shuttle buses are likely to be the most convenient way for most visitors to reach the centre, there are cheaper public buses but they stop north of the Old Town and take longer. The drive takes up to 40 minutes depending on traffic and a taxi costs 250-300 kuna.

Best time of year to go/avoid?

For those wishing to have any kind of elbow room Split is best avoided during the summer months of July and August (unless you’re visiting for the nightlife). Luckily Croatia’s warm weather can begin as early as April and continue into November so there are plenty of opportunities to visit in quieter months.

As Split is home doesn’t entirely close down in winter (the weather is mild but can be wet).

What to know before you go?

The centre of Split is pedestrianised so if you hire a car you will need to find parking or accommodation outside the old town.

What’s the best way to get around?

The city is easy to get around on foot. For day trips, hire a car, take taxis, buses or ferries. Buses are easy to book from the main station and ferries to surrounding islands can be booked from the harbour.

Marjan Hill, Split.

What to see if you’ve just got 1 day?

Start your day exploring the Old Town and Diocletian’s Palace – the Iron Gate is a good entry point. The many cafes and restaurants in this area provide excellent choices for breakfast or coffee. Don’t miss the Sphinx in the Peristil, the main colonnaded courtyard of the palace.

Squeeze through Split’s narrowest alley known as Street Let Me Pass.

Leave the Old Town through the Brass Gate of Diocletian’s Palace which is the smallest and closest to the sea.

From here stoll along the tree-lined Riva Waterfront built during the French occupation where you can stop to to indulge in a fresh seafood lunch.

For a relaxing afternoon head to Bačvice, the closest beach to the centre. Watch out for the sharp stones on the sea floor (swim shoes are recommended).

Wind up at the People’s Square (Pjaca) for a dinner, it’s a prime location for people-watching.

What else to see if you’ve got 2-3 days in town?

To explore Split beyond the palace check out:

Those interested in local culture might also want to catch a klapa performance in the palace and watch the locals play picigin at the beach.

There’s also a small Game of Thrones Museum with props and costumes from the series. Tours will either cover sites inside the city only or also cover those outside the city too such as the Roman amphitheatre at Salona and Klis Fortress.

Best beach nearby?

Bačvice and Firule are the closest beaches to the old town but the most beautiful is Kašjuni, a great swimming beach at the foot of Marjan Hill.

Kašjuni Beach.

Best day trips?

Split is awash with amazing day trip options.

The most popular summer past-time is to a boat trip to the local islands and beaches – many will take in more than one island plus the Blue Caves or the Blue Lagoon.

Book a tour or take a local bus to Plitvice or Krka waterfalls. Krka is closer to Split and can be visited in half a day. Plitvice offers more opportunities for walking and is worth taking a full day to explore. Swimming is prohibited at Plitvice whereas visitors to Krka can cool off in the clear pools and waterfalls.

Other cities you can visit on a day trip include Trogir, Sibenik, Omis, and even Zadar and Dubrovnik if you don’t mind a longer drive.

Islands you can reach from Split include Hvar, Brac, Vis, and Solta.

Cetina River is a an adventure activity hotspot with ziplines, rafting, canyoning, and ATV tours.

Off the beaten track?

For something adventurous try one of the rock-climbing tours departing from Split. These trips cater to all levels of climbers and can be a great way to explore jagged coast beyond the city.

Small boat trips can also be a good way to discover quieter parts of the coastline.

Buzzy neighbourhoods to check out?

The liveliest concentration of bars and restaurants can be found tucked along the cobbled streets of the Old Town. In the summer most bars offer outdoor seating creating a vibrant atmosphere.

Pop in to Marvlvs Library Jazz Bar for live music.

Where’s the best view?

Hike up to Marjan Hill for views over Split harbour, or up to bell tower of Saint Domnius Cathedral for city rooftops.

Top hotel?

The classic option is the 5-star Hotel Park Split next to Bačvice Beach dates back to 1921 and has sea-view rooms. 

Or for boutique vibes try the stylish 4-star Heritage Hotel 19 just outside the Old Town.

Don’t leave without trying …

Traditional Croatian dishes like squid ink risotto and fritule – delicious battered doughnut balls.

Read more:

Where to Stay in Croatia: Ultimate Beach Hotel Guide

10 Most Beautiful Beaches in Croatia

10 Most Beautiful Islands in Croatia

Korčula – Croatia’s Wine Island

Dubrovnik – A 3 Day Itinerary

Enjoyed this post? Click to save to Pinterest:

Split at sunset with text overlay 'a quick guide to Split'.

Image credits:

Split at sunset: © rudi1976 / Adobe Stock

Split old town: © niyazz / Adobe Stock

Split with Marjan Hill: © nikkusha / Adobe Stock

Kašjuni Beach: © Sandy / Adobe Stock