I love Croata! It’s one of my most favorite places in Europe. I visited Dubrovnik and surrounding islands three years ago and loved Dalmatian coast with its beautiful nature, amazing history, warm sunny climate and friendly people so much that I had to go back! Split is perfect for a short European getaway, and even though it’s not as big as Dubrovnik, there is still plenty to see, do and try.
Here are my top 5 experiences not to miss in Split:
1. Feel the romance of its tiny streets and do some ‘people watching’ on the promenade.
The Old City of Split is a myriad of narrow and winding cobble stone streets that look and feel like veins of an ageless body.
Some streets are so hidden and quiet that it’s hard to believe you are in the middle of a major tourist area. Yet it’s hard to get lost as all of them take you back to the Bell Tower or the promenade.
The promenade or waterfront is one of Split’s main attractions, especially in the evening as summer heat subsides. Unlike the Old City, promenade is modern and loud, filled with tourists and numerous cafes of “see and be seen” type.
Walking on the promenade you can also see some impressive yachts, casually parked in Split.
2. Taste traditional Croatian cuisine. As a true foodie, I am always on the lookout for tasty local food. There are plenty of Mediterranean restaurants in Split and if you love seafood, you are in luck! Just make sure to check Tripadvisor or ask locals for suggestions and try to avoid generic cafes and restaurants that cater to an average tourist with, thus, “average” menus and bland dishes. There are several places I found in Split that I highly recommend.
If you plan to eat at Buffet Fife, expect a long wait on busy nights as it has become very popular among the city visitors. But the wait is totally worth it. The food is simple, but fresh, hearty and inexpensive.
My husband ordered goulash with mash, while I opted for grilled fish and veggies. Everything was really, really yummy. Highly recommend!
I found Villa Spiza by chance, looking on Tripadvisor for a good place to eat. It’s a hidden spot so unless you are specifically looking for it, it’s easy to miss it. It’s a low-key hipster tiny (think one small room with minimalistic yet homey vibe) bistro where food is cooked in front of you. As you sit around the kitchen on the bar stools and sip your drink you can watch the owner cook a tasty meal out of the freshest and tastiest local ingredients.
Just look at this seafood risotto…mouthwatering!
Uje Oil Wine Bar
Located on the corner of intersecting alleyways and across from its sister establishment, much popular Mediterranean Uje Oil restaurant, the wine bar is a great place to get some drinks while flipping though the books and magazines it’s filled with.
Playing funky music in the background, barista (aka hostess of the bar) effortlessly fixed us some yummy drinks. I opted for Virgin Mojito, which was really refreshing, while hubby chose Bloody Mary served in a bottle!
Here is a sister restaurant which looked really good and had great reviews but was always so busy we couldn’t get a seat.
Named after La Boqueira market in Barcelona, the Bokeria has a great European vibe. Big and roomey, Bokeria is decorated in Spanish manner with tiles of traditional mosaic and shoulders of Serrano ham hanging around the bar.
Although listed as a Mediterranean restaurant, Bokeria served best Spanish salmorejo I ever tasted outside of Spain!
We also tried pasta topped with Alfredo sauce, ham and truffles, and mini quiche. Pricier than average bars and restaurants in Split, Bokeria offers top quality food and wine that was worth every kuna!
Finally for a good quality breakfast, I would recommend Galerija Food, a lovely spot by the Diocletian Palace that offers healthy breakfast options. They offer fresh juices and smoothies, musli, amazing scrambled eggs and lovely sandwiches and pastries.
Really lovely and cosy atmosphere both inside and outside the restaurant, while staff were very friendly and quick. I heard they also serve delicious quality food for lunches and dinners so it’s definitely worth checking it.
3. Take a dip in the Adriatic Sea. Split’s most known and only sand beach, Bacvice, is only 10 mins walk from the Old City. But be prepared for it to be super crowded especially during hot summer days when average temperatures rise above 30°C degrees. It was over 38°C when I visited at the end of July and cool sea water was a great way to deal with a brutal heatwave. Getting up early may help with reserving a sunchair and umbrella, while locals and tourists on the budget often opt for spreading their towels right on the pavement around the beach.
There are also pebble beaches close by – Trstenik or Znjan – just make sure you have flip flops or sandals to protect your feet. As usual, there are various water sports available and more active visitors can hire jet skies or get on giant waterslides.
4. Get cultured and discover Split’s historical past.
Diocletian Palace is hard to miss as it forms the center of historic Split and is an obvious reminder of once powerful Roman Empire. It is over 1700 years old and was built by the Roman emperor Diocletian as his retirement site.
The Peristyle Square in front of the palace, thanks to its amazing acoustics, hosts various cultural and musical events, such as Split Summer Festival. When I was there, there was a rehearsal of the opera Aida.
Here you will also see a majestic Egyptian sphinx, one of three that have survived through city’s history. Apparently, the palace was originally decorated with a number of sphinxes that were brought all the way from Egypt and dated to the times of Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose III.
Inside the palace, you will also find the Cathedral of St. Domnius with a Bell Tower and a mausoleum (or cathedral treasury which contains the relics of Split’s patron saint St Domnius).
The Bell Tower, a symbol of Split, was erected in 13th century and is 57 meters high. If you are not scared of heights, you can go up the tower to see Split from above.
The palace is also home to the Baptistery of St. John, formerly a Roman Temple of Jupiter.
Next to the palace you will also see a beautiful Republic Square in the neo-Renaissance style. Facing the promenade, the square looks as though it’s opening itself to the sea.
As I mentioned, it was unusually hot July when I was visiting and I sought refuge from smoldering heat in Split’s Ethnographic Museum, which I highly recommend. Being the fashionista I am, it was great to see various Croatian traditional dresses and accessories and how they changed through the years.
What I really liked about Split is that the city council is putting all the efforts to entertain its guests and residents by organizing various cultural shows that are free and take place at major public spots like promenade or the Golden Gate. For example, in three days I spent in Split, there were daily reenactment shows by the Diocletian Palace of Diocletian and his guards (starts at noon each day), evening folk performances on the promenade, weekend rock concert by the Golden Gate and even opera performances at the Peristyle Square.
5. Buy few knick knacks
While wondering around you can check out cool bars and restaurants or do a bit of shopping, be it Croatian-inspired souvenirs, latest fashion accessories, sweets or nature-based beauty products (lavander-based soaps, oils and fragrances are particularly popular).
Finally, as I wrap up my story of Split, here are few more images that, hopefully, will give you the feel for this beautiful and ancient city.