As an American with a Croatian travel blog, I’ve visited Split a handful of times over the last four years of living here, and each time I uncover something new about the city. As the largest city in Dalmatia, there are a ton of things to do in Split, Croatia. It’s also an ideal base for many day trips and island hopping throughout the area.
Although there may be numerous guides to Split out there floating through the internet, I’m bringing you an insider perspective as an expat in Croatia. Here’s everything you need to know about how to have an authentic travel experience in Split.
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*Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, I receive a small percentage of any of the tours mentioned below. This helps me support myself and continue to provide free resources on my blog like this guide.
How to get to Split, Croatia
Split is located on the Southern point of Croatia’s coast, in between Zadar and Dubrovnik. As the second largest Croatian city next to the inland capital of Zagreb, Split has over 178 thousands inhabitants and covers a total of nearly 80 square kilometers. The rustic Old Town is decorated with preserved, historic monuments, while the urban outskirts of Split are rougher around the edges.
Split is extremely accessible by plane, boat, or bus, depending on where you are coming from. Split does have a small airport if you’re coming from an international destination. You can take a scenic ferry across the Adriatic if you’re coming from Italy or the Dubrovnik area. Otherwise, the cheapest and easiest option if you’re already in Croatia is to go by bus.
Where to find accommodation in Split, Croatia
Being as most of the attractions are centered into the Old Town, I would recommend staying close to the city center. Booking is the dominant platform in Croatia, and offers the widest selection of hotels, rental apartments, B&Bs, and Hostels. You can start by booking your accommodation here.
If you want to stay central, I would recommend looking around the Riva Promenade, Diocletian’s Palace, and Old Town. You can see these areas in the map above, and are within close proximity.
If you’d like to stay a bit outside of the city, but still within 15-20 walking, you can stay near the Marjan Hill area and park. It’s filled with a gorgeous forest right on the water, with a breathtaking view of the city! Otherwise you can also stay in the nearby sister town of Trogir near Split.
The best things to do in Split, Croatia
Split’s Old Town is definitely doable within a day. Compared to Dubrovnik, I personally think that besides the Old Town, there’s not much else to do in the Split city center. However, Split is a great base for exploring various other neighboring islands and areas for day trips.
So get up early and put on your comfortable walking shoes!
Explore Diocletian’s Palace
These roman ruins are considered Split’s most well known attraction. Built by the Roman Emperor Diocletian, this former palace dates back to the fourth century. And yes, segments of Game of Thrones were shot here as well.
The best time of day to explore these monuments is in morning, to avoid large crowds and heat, especially in the summer. Check out the underground market, selling many unique and local souvenirs.
Look over the city from the Bell Tower
This has to be my favorite tourist attraction in Split, which somehow many overlook. Here, you have a 360-degree view of the entire Split region. I recommend going early between 8-10 a.m. to avoid crowds. Be prepared for wind.
Walk along the Riva Promenade
Palm trees, coffee shops, and smoothie stands look out over Split’s harbor along the Riva Promenade. Arguably the best place for people watching or simply enjoying the view in solitude.
Wander through the colorful Old Town
Without a map or sense of direction, one can easily discover the top attractions within the Old Town. First, you’ll pass through narrow, colorful streets packed with cafes, clothing boutiques, and souvenir shops. Along the main promenade, you’ll find big names like Zara, Bershka, Guess, with the Croatian National Theatre behind. My favorite area is Republic Square, painted beautiful salmon and turquoise shades.
If you get up early enough, there is also a fish market off of the main promenade in Split’s Old Town. If you have an airbnb, I recommend making a stop here and taking a look at the fresh fish.
Hike to the top of Marjan
A 30-minute walk to the top of Marjan will reward you with perhaps the most scenic view over Split’s city center. You can rest and have a coffee while taking in the view, or if you’re the outdoorsy type, the entire park has beautiful trails. You’ll find many locals frequenting this area, often walking their dogs or running.
Experience the Hajduk Cult(ure)
Last but not least, if you want a slice of authentic Split culture, you need to go to a football (soccer) game. Hajduk is the football team based in Split, which is obvious with the endless amounts of Hajduk swag and graffiti decorated throughout the city. In Split, Hajduk is not just a game; it’s almost a religion. It’s a cultural celebration of shared identity and pride.
The season runs August through May, and is truly one of the best ways to experience authentic Split culture. Be prepared for a rowdy and noisy crowd, though.
Day trips to take in Split
As I mentioned previously, I don’t think you need more than two days to explore the city center of Split. However, the city is a great base for exploring other areas throughout Croatia. Here are the top day trips near Split:
Krka National Park
Krka Waterfalls is one of the most popular national parks in Croatia, and unlike Plitvice, you can also swim in certain areas of Krka! The photo above was taken in the winter time, which was still just as gorgeous even though we couldn’t swim. It is a bit away from Split, however, so if you don’t have a car it would be best to take a day tour.
The Island of Korcula
Korcula is a popular day trip from Split or Dubrovnik, mainly because the island is about halfway in between both. You can easily take the public ferry there yourself or go with a guided privatetour. The island is actually quite big, so you won’t be able to see all of it on foot.
I would recommend taking the ferry over and renting bikes, going for a winery tour, or going kayaking while on the island. This way you’ll actually be able to see all of what the island has to offer, beyond Korcula town.
Other surrounding Dalmatian islands
Photo of the island of Brac by Jeroen Komen via Flickr
I hate to lump all of these equally incredible islands (and caves) into one, but the truth is I’ve actually never been to any of them in my 3 years living in Croatia (I’m working on it).
Hvar is definitely one of the most popular islands not only in Split, but all of Croatia. It is known for it’s Stari Grad (Old Town), Lavender fields, spotless beaches, and frequent luxury travelers such as Jay-Z and Beyonce. Hvar is also known as a party island in Croatia.
Vis and Brac are popular islands that are much less crowded and have some of the best sandy beaches in Croatia. There’s also a few parties here during the summer as well. The Blue Cave is quite a bit north of Split, but there are tours that will take you there and stop at Vis and Brac.
Although this nature haven is closer to the inland capital of Zagreb, the Plitvice Lakes are a doable day trip from Split. The lakes and surrounding national park is significantly larger than Krka. While the latter is closer to Split and has designated swimming areas, if I had to recommend one park over the other, it would be Plitvice Lakes without a doubt. It truly is one of the most remarkable natural wonders I’ve ever seen, and is a must-see in Croatia.
However, if you’re going from Split, you’ll need to take a trip with a designated tour group, especially if you don’t have a car. A lot of the guides are extremely knowledgable about the park, and will help guide you through the best parts of the park. Check out the highly-rated tours below.
Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina
If you’re looking to venture across the Croatian border to visit other areas of the Balkans, Mostar is a must. It is located the Herzegovina region of Bosnia and Herzegovina and only about 2 and a half hours from Split. The riverside town is full of Ottoman architecture, historic mosques, bazaar markets, and some of the best kebabs in the region.
Mostar is a particularly important site for those interested in the Balkan war. You’ll see “never forget 1993” written throughout the town, which is a reminder of when the Mostar was seized and destroyed during the war. Taking a tour of Mostar is one of the best ways to learn this history in detail and experience the region’s rich culture.
Best restaurants in Split:
There are many restaurants in Split that offer simple dishes of the Mediterranean diet, such as grilled fish with vegetables, squid, risotto, salads, and of course pizza, spaghetti and burec (a Balkan type of pastry). Within Split you’ll find many of these restaurants within the Old Town of Split. If you haven’t tried it already, I recommend having sea bass, sea bream, or squids, as these are usually locally caught in the Adriatic.
Smoothie Stands (breakfast)
Taking a walk down the promenade you’ll easily find several stands with fresh squeezes juices, smoothies and shakes. Many places you can create your own fresh blend with a kick of protein or caffeine.
Toto’s Burger Bar (lunch or dinner)
Vegan? Gluten Free? Backpacker on a budget? Toto’s Burger Bar has it all, and for exceptionally cheap prices. I can’t rave enough about this place, and it is one of my favorite restaurants in all of Croatia.
Wok Me Away (lunch or dinner)
I’ll admit that the “gluten free noodles” sign on the front door is what originally drew me in. However, if you’re looking for something to go that will hold you over all day, Wok is perfect.
Bistro NoStress (lunch or dinner)
I always end up coming back here to eat and it never disappoints. It’s perfect if you want to be in the center of the Old Town, where there is often live music.
Bota Sushi (lunch or dinner)
Also check out this chic sushi restaurant in the Old Town as well if you’re looking for something a bit more upscale.
Best Split, Croatia nightlife
Split sometimes has a wild, untamed energy about it, reflected in its nightlife. If you’re looking to have a few drinks and relax, I recommend La Bodega or Bar Gaga. If you want to experience Split’s nightlife to the fullest, I recommend Tropic Club or Vanilla Club. Split is overall safe, but don’t be the typical wasted tourists or you will be a target for theft (happened to some travelers I met), just like in any other European city.
Overall, Split has an energy unmatched to any other Croatian town. From the Roman ruins towering over the Adriatic and ancient Old Town to graffiti decorating the urban outskirts, if only those narrow streets could tell stories.