Beaches, Museums and Roman Ruins: What to Do in Split, Croatia
Croatia’s second-largest city is Split; a beautiful and historic location that is one of Europe’s most popular holiday destinations, particularly with backpackers, island-hoppers and fans of Game of Thrones! Positioned right on the coast of the country, Spilt looks out over the turquoise Adriatic Sea and enjoys a Mediterranean climate that brings tourists to the city all year round to enjoy the pleasant weather.
With a host of historic sites to explore, endless opportunities to hike, swim or cycle, and over 1000 islands only a boat ride away, it can be hard to choose where to start when deciding what to do in Split. We’ve rounded up some of the best Split attractions you can’t miss on your holiday to this brilliant Croatian city, whether you’re looking for history, culture, adventure or relaxation.
If You’re Looking for History…
Explore Diocletian’s Palace
Diocletian’s Palace is usually top of the list when it comes down to what to see in Split, and is certainly a location that lives up to the hype.
Situated right in the centre of Split’s Old Town, it’s an ancient Roman palace that was built in 305 AD and covers an impressive 40,000 square metres. The palace is incredibly well-preserved and most areas don’t require an entry fee to explore, so it’s a must-see for any history or architecture lover visiting Split.
Visit St Domnius Cathedral
The Cathedral of St. Domnius is the oldest Catholic cathedral in the world, located inside the complex of Diocletian’s Palace. It now serves as the ancient emperor’s mausoleum, and whilst being a relatively small structure it is still very impressive, full of intricate and beautiful details.
Climb the Cathedral Bell Tower
St Domnius’ Cathedral has a huge Romanesque bell tower that offers the best panoramic views of anywhere in Split, standing at 59 metres high. There are over 200 narrow steps you will need to climb to reach the top, but everyone who makes the trip agrees that the view when you arrive makes the journey worthwhile. To enjoy the experience without the usual crowds, try and get to the bell tower as it opens at 8 am for a much quieter experience.
Wander the Old Town
Wandering around the Old Town is one of the best things to do in Split if you’re a traveller who wants to get a better idea of the area’s history and enjoy the streets that surround the huge Roman palace that makes up the heart of the city. People’s Square is the lively hub of the Old Town, edged by cafes and restaurants, and you can spend many happy mornings walking the cobblestones and enjoying the local atmosphere.
Enjoy a Guided Walking Tour
One of the best ways to get a proper feel for a new place is by exploring it on foot, and there are many different guided walking tours of Split that you can take part in to not only get your bearings as you walk the streets, but also learn more about the history of the Croatian city. Some specialised tours are also on offer for tourists, including a Game of Thrones-themed walking tour that will take to you the locations where the popular TV show was filmed in Split.
If You’re Looking For Culture…
Visit One of Split’s Museums
A lot of Split feels like a large, open-air museum itself with the amount of history on offer, but if you’re still looking to discover more then the city also has a brilliant selection of museums to suit a range of interests.
The Town Museum, Ethnographic Museum and Archaeological Museum are full of interesting facts and stories about Spilt’s past, whilst the Split Live Museum is a more recent addition to the city’s cultural scene that features live performances by actors depicting ancient Roman life. The Museum of the Senses offers a more interactive series of exhibitions each dedicated to touch, taste, smell, sound and sight, and is a particularly good place to visit if you’re travelling with children.
Visit the Mestrovic Sculpture Gallery
If you’re an art fan then one of the top things to do in Split is to visit the Ivan Mestrovic Gallery, home to a large collection of works by the internationally-renowned, 20th-century Croatian sculptor. The gallery is in Mestrovic’s old holiday home and is a fascinating building in itself, donated to the state along with over 100 pieces of sculpture.
Haggle at a Local Market
There are numerous outdoor markets to be found around Split, and wandering around one in a morning is a great way to soak up some of the city’s authentic atmosphere and immerse yourself in local life. The green market, also known as Pazar, is an iconic spot that deserves at least one visit during your time in Split, where you will find fruit and veg, cheeses, sweets and even clothes and shoes. Throw yourself into it and try and haggle for something – then you’ll truly feel like a local!
Try Authentic Croatian Food
Another great way to enjoy local culture is to sample some authentic Croatian cuisine, either in a restaurant or purchased from a street vendor. The real local delicacy is seafood because of the city’s proximity to the ocean, and many restaurants will offer dishes prepared with ingredients caught only a few hours ago. Black risotto is a classic option, or try a Brodetto fisherman’s stew.
If You’re Looking to Relax…
Hit the Beach
Split is located right next to the Adriatic sea, famous for its warm temperatures between April and October and perfect for a day spent swimming and sunbathing on the coast. The most famous beach in Split is Bacvice, but this is also often the most crowded, so it’s worth doing a bit of research or asking around for lesser-known spots beside the sea if you’re looking for a bit more peace and quiet.
Walk Along the Riva Promenade
One of the must-go places in Split is the waterfront, also known as the Riva, lined with palm trees and the perfect place for scenic views of the harbour and horizon. The promenade stretches the entire length of the city’s Old Town and is a popular spot for a relaxing sightseeing stroll, or you can pick a table at one of the beachfront cafes or restaurants and just spend a couple of hours people-watching.
Stay in a Beachside Villa
Many visitors to Split are backpackers staying in hostels, but if you’re after a more relaxing experience of the city then there is a great variety of luxurious villas in Split and across the whole coastline, that offer a perfect base for your Croatian holiday. Whether you’re after a villa with a private pool or a balcony with a sea view, there are plenty of accommodation options to make your holiday to Split unforgettable.
Enjoy Wine Tasting
Croatian wine might not be well known across the rest of the world, but there are many specialist wineries across the country that produce a wonderful selection of different flavours and vintages. If you’re looking for the full guided wine-tasting experience then you can visit the Putalj Winery which is just a short journey outside of the city, or enjoy a glass or two at somewhere like Monica’s Wine Bar or the Zinfandel Wine Bar in the centre of Split.
If You’re Looking for Adventure…
Try Stand Up Paddleboarding
A holiday activity that has recently taken many beach locations by storm is stand up paddleboarding, and the beachfront at Split is a brilliant place to give it a try. There are a variety of lessons and instructors who can teach you the basics of balance and paddling, and once you have got the hang of it you can consider a trip further afield. Paddleboarding around some of the nearby islands is a brilliant way to spend a day, and you can enjoy great views of Spilt and Croatia’s coastline from the water.
Go Sea Kayaking
Another great thing to do in Split for those who are after a more physical challenge is to try sea kayaking, and take part in one of the tours that are run by a few local agencies in the city. Sea kayaking tours combine exploration of the water in a kayak with several planned stops either to swim, snorkel or even cliff-jump and are partially popular in the evening as the sun is setting.
Zip-Line Over the Cetina Canyon
If you’re seeking thrills during your time in Split, the Cetina Canyon near to Split offers an incredible zip-lining experience for those who want unbeatable birds-eye views of the area. You travel to the top of the canyon and then, with trained instructors helping you along, take numerous different zip-lines to reach the bottom of the mountain. It’s not an experience for the faint-hearted, but it’s one you’ll never forget.
Climb Marjan Hill
Marjan Hill is close to the Old Town in Split and is a popular area with locals and tourists alike for its hiking and cycling trails, churches, rock climbing spots and viewpoints that offer brilliant opportunities for photos of the city and the ocean. The whole area is a small slice of green paradise in the middle of the city, and is perfect for many recreational activities as well as just a good spot to admire the view.
Play a Game of Picigin
Picigin is a ball game that is popular across the Dalmatian region of Croatia, but you are particularly likely to find it being played in Split. The game takes place in shallow water, and the aim is to avoid getting a small ball in the water as you throw it between different players, using only your palms. If you’re visiting Split you’re bound to see at least one game of picigin, and joining a game is a great way to meet new people as well as having a lot of fun.
If You’re Looking to go Further…
Visit Trogir for the Day
Trogir is an island that is pretty close to Split, connected to the mainland by bridges and a perfect destination for a day trip if you fancy getting out of the city and seeing more of the Dalmatian coast. With a fascinating historical centre, impressive churches and palaces and picturesque small streets, it’s an ideal place to spend an afternoon exploring.
Take a Trip to Hvar
Hvar is another Croatian island that only takes about an hour to get to by boat, and is lovely for either a day trip or an overnight stay from Split. The island is often considered one of the most beautiful places in the world, with stunning scenery that includes lavender fields, picturesque beaches and acres of vineyards. There are numerous historical sites to explore on the island as well, including a fortress, a cathedral and an ancient theatre. Whilst Hvar does have a bit of a reputation as a party town for younger travellers, there is so much more to the location just waiting to be discovered.
There are over 1000 Croatian islands scattered along the country’s coast, and hopping between them throughout a holiday is a really popular way to spend a week or two and see a huge variety of island scenery. Split is a great base to start and finish an island-hopping expedition, and the city’s large harbour means that you can reach several different islands as your first stop on your trip. You can read our guide to some of the best islands in Croatia here.
Whether you’re just passing through for a couple of days or planning on a longer holiday, Split is one of the best cities in Croatia for a fun-filled holiday that truly has something for everyone. From the picturesque coastline to the ancient streets, it’s a beautiful place that certainly lives up to its popular reputation, and there’s an endless list of brilliant things to do that will guarantee your holiday is unforgettable.
Is Split Safe?
Overall crime levels across Croatia are relatively low, and you are unlikely to encounter any situations that are unsafe during your time in Split. Exercise usual precautions whilst travelling to avoid any mishaps; keep your belongings on you or in sight at all times, trust your instincts, and avoid walking around on your own at night or in quieter areas.
Can you drink tap water in Croatia?
The tap water across Croatia is generally safe to drink, and you should be fine filling up bottles from taps during your time there.
Is Split expensive for food and drink?
If you eat out every night in restaurants, particularly those in busy areas of the city, then your holiday to Split could get quite expensive. However, buying food from supermarkets and cooking it yourself is pretty cheap, and restaurants that are in quieter parts of the city and which are run by locals tend to be much more reasonably priced.