48 hours in Split, Croatia
Split is Croatia’s second largest city. The old centre is ancient, atmospheric and astonishingly beautiful. It’s our favourite city on the Med and we visit as often as we can. It used to be seen merely as a gateway to the islands, but for us, it's as must visit as Dubrovnil
Morning - Begin with the best: The Diocletian’s Palace. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Think of it less as a Roman palace (although it is one), and more of a large, walled section of a city. It’s essentially a 4th century BC fortified town and imperial residence measuring 215m from north to south and 180m east to west. Today, Diocletian’s Palace is a maze of narrow, Roman marble streets which are lined with coffee shops, boutiques, bars and restaurants. Its packed with must see sights. Don’t miss:
The Peristyle – a columned courtyard that hosts musical concerts nightly. Don’t sit on the steps with the cushions if you’re not a customer of Luxor Bar or they will move you on. Tip: sit on the high steps at the back for free and then explore the Vestibule, a spectacular Roman, open dome, behind the stairs).
St Domnius Cathedral – although you do have to pay to enter and climb the landmark bell tower
The Palace Cellars are remarkable and now known as Daenery’s dragons’ hangout in GOT. Tip: if you don’t want to pay to go in, you can get a good impression in the barrel arched, shop filled tunnels between the Peristyle and the Riva;
Jupiter’s Temple make sure you seek out the 3500 year old granite sphinx outside the temple. Tip: it’s also next to the narrowest road in the city.
The Northern section of passageways, courtyards and backstreets is less touristy and busy. There’s small allotments, clothes lines and kids playing. Tip: the cafes, bars and restaurants are cheaper in this section of the city.
Most of all we suggest you wander and lose yourself in the Palace, every section is stunning…and remember to keep looking up, Split is full of arches, columns and surprises.
Tip: Explore in the evening or early morning to avoid the day tripping crowds.
Spend the afternoon at Bacvice Beach:
Bačvice is certainly not the prettiest beach in the area – for that get a ferry to Brac or Hvar – but it has an unmissable vibe and buzz. Just a 15 minute walk from the city centre, it’s got clear water, free showers and is sandy (a relative rarity in Croatia). Bacvice is always busy with locals many of who play “picigin” – a celebrated game in Split which involves keeping a small rubber ball airborne for as long as possible. But it’s not all about picigin, the eastern side has a promenade lined with bars, clubs and cafes and even a deckchair section – for those who want to swim in the deeper water. Between June and September, Bacvice is busy 24/7 and home to some of the best clubs in Split.
Tip: you can snorkel at the rocks edging the bay.
If you visit in Summer, you will probably want to spend half the day at the beach again. For the other half day, explore the Old Town.
If the Diocletian’s Palace didn’t exist, Split would still be an astonishingly beautiful, ancient port. The Old City lines the port and surrounds the Palace.
The Old City centres on Narodni Trg or the People’s Square. This pretty cafe lined square is always busy and home to the City Guard building dating from 1562. Tip: the cafes aren’t Split’s cheapest here, so seek out the side street ones.
Equally pretty is Fruit Square home to the impressive Mletacka Kula, or Venetian Tower. Tip: grab a smoothie from the Kokolo fruit truck.
Split’s Riva, or harbour front, is a long, bustling promenade lined with cafes. As it’s not the cheapest place to eat, grab a pizza slice from a side street and picnic watching the sundown. Tip: our favourite take-away is Daddy Cool for falafel packed pitta pouches and homemade lemonades.
Check out the Green Market, a local farmer’s market in the shadow of the Palace walls. It’s great for picnic foods and also sells beach essentials. Stock up on rubber beach shoes (a must have for the local beaches), they were the cheapest we found in Croatia.
Our best advice on Split is to go, relax and get lost in the ancient streets. Don't miss out on this amazing city.