Tucked along Croatia’s Dalmatian coast is the country’s second largest city, and one that’s developed itself quite the reputation as a holiday hotspot over the years. We’re talking about none other than Split, site to a beautiful harbour, a thriving gastronomic scene and one seriously huge Roman palace. What’s more is, for such a cosmopolitan city, holidays here aren’t nearly as bank-breaking as you might think. Split is one of those spots that’s unassumingly stunning – it’s the Dalmatian coast’s best kept secret.
If you’re itching to learn more, here’s our gateway to discovering Split.
Split then and now
Split was the site of a Greek settlement at its very beginning, but things really got cooking when Roman emperor Diocletian moved into his palace there at the end of the 3rd century. Over the next few centuries, Split fell into the hands of the Venetians, the French, Germany and Yugoslavia until it and Croatia finally declared independence in the early 90s, where it’s since been able to grow into the tourist destination we now know and love.
The city’s old town quarters might be considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but Split itself is impressively modern. Tucked into and between the harbour and caramel-coloured stone buildings are museums and galleries, plus a gastronomic scene that’s fit to rival any in Croatia. When dining here, be prepared for traditional Croatian flavours along the waterfront as well as familiar bites from around the world. On top of this, Split still maintains its port city status, acting as a top jumping off point for nearby islands and cities.
- Diocletian’s Palace – Diocletian’s Palace is unarguably the best and biggest attraction in all of Split, mostly because it makes up a huge portion of this waterfront city. It was built as a fancy retirement home for Diocletian and then used as a fortress following his death. Nowadays it’s a cultural centre loved not only for its architecture but the shops, bars and restaurants it houses within.
- Cathedral of St Domnius – Built in the 7th century, the Cathedral of St Domnius is regarded as the oldest Catholic cathedral in the world that’s still in its original use. You’ll be able to spot it by its tall bell tower, while inside, Romanesque paintings and sculptures await.
- Boat tours – As a popular port city with a bustling harbour, Split sees a number of boat tours leave its shores on the regular. Top excursions include tours out to the Blue Cave, a mysterious cave with water that glows bright blue at certain times of the day, and voyages to Hvar Island. Its cultural hub Hvar Town is laced with Gothic architecture and 13th-century walls, and whose swath of pedestrianised streets are always busy in the summer.
- Marjan – This nature park rests on a hill in Split, covered in dense pine trees and surrounded by the sea and city. Parts of it were used as park space for Diocletian and his friends, though nowadays it’s a top spot for wanders along the hiking trails that lead to caves, beaches and sweeping views.
Here are some top hotels to consider when staying in Split.
Park Hotel Split
The Park Hotel Split is a luxurious, 5* affair that has long been one of the oldest and most famous hotels in the city. It’s frequently chosen by the city elite. The hotel is a 15-minute walk from downtown, and features a pool, spa and wellness centre, a garden and bar, plus its very own restaurant where you can join the chef’s table experience and join him or her on their morning shop for that day’s cuisine.
Radisson Blu Resort Split
Modern Mediterranean decor meets a modern Mediterranean setting at this 4* hotel, which is flanked by a scenic pebble beach. Top amenities on offer here include the long swimming pool framed by sun loungers, and the spa, which offers a sauna, steam room and a wealth of treatments. There are also three restaurants – one of which is on the beach – plus a beachfront bar and pool bar.
Still want to explore more of Croatia? Check out our Croatia travel guide here.