Best things to do in Split
Find out more about those top places in Split
Overshadowed by its southern neighbor Dubrovnik, Split is Croatia’s true hidden gem. Hemmed in between the imposing peaks of the Dinaric Alps and the dazzling waters of the Adriatic Sea, Croatia’s second city is one of the Mediterranean’s most beguiling cities with its effortless blend of the Slavic, Italian and Turkish cultures. Split’s main attraction is undoubtedly the Roman Emperor Diocletian’s Palace, whose grand banqueting halls, throne rooms and marble corridors now form the streets and market squares of the city’s bustling center. The eastern suburbs also hide the ruins of Salona, once one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire. However, the sum of Split is more than just its Roman heritage. Its seafront promenade is one of Europe’s most chic while the Ottoman hilltop fortress of KIis provides panoramic views of the Dalmatian Coast and was a key filming location for the blockbuster series Game of Thrones.
You cannot visit Split and not see Diocletian’s Palace as it is literally everywhere: the streets that form the atmospheric old town, the walls that line the romantic seafront promenade and the huge chunks of marble that have been incorporated into buildings all come from what was once one of the Roman Empire’s grandest buildings. To get to grips with the vast 4th century AD complex, local tour guides will take you to its star attractions, including its four monumental gates, the eerie cellars and the iconic peristyle.
For history enthusiasts, a tour of the vast ruined city of Salona is a highlight of any trip to Split. By the 3rd century AD Salona had developed into one of the Roman Empire’s most sophisticated cities with its amphitheater, forum, temple complexes and lavish villas but little more than 300 years later it was sacked by the invading Avars and Slavs. Since then, the formerly grandiose city has been an enigmatic collection of ruins with a palpable sense of history.
Rising to fame in the first half of the 20th century, Ivan Meštrovic is undoubtedly Croatia’s most famous artist. The most complete collection of his powerful sculptures can be found in Split’s Meštrovic Gallery, which is housed in his former seaside villa. Tours of the spectacular gallery, which boasts breathtaking views of the nearby Adriatic islands, include entry to the nearby medieval Kaštilac, which houses his iconic Life of Christ wood reliefs.
The Cathedral of Saint Domnius is one of the best-preserved Roman buildings in existence. Located in what was once the core of Diocletian’s Palace, the cathedral is built around the former Roman emperor’s grandiose mausoleum. For those not afraid of heights, make sure to take a trip to the top of the bell tower for spectacular views of the old town.
Guarding the entrance to Split is the imposing Klis Fortress. Dominating the landscape for miles around, the fortress, which at various times was controlled by the Romans, the medieval Croatian Kingdom, the Ottoman Turks and the Venetians, is one of Croatia’s most historic locations. Today, the fortress is probably best known as the filming location for the blockbuster TV series Game of Thrones.
Just a short ferry across the bay, Trogir is one of Croatia’s best-preserved Venetian towns. Set on a tiny island linked to the mainland via medieval bridges, the town is a real hidden gem with a clutch of historic attractions, including the marble-clad Saint Lawrence Cathedral and the imposing Kamerlengo Castle. For the best experience, take a guided tour of the town to make sure you do not miss any of its standout attractions.
Just south of Split lies the charming medieval town of Omiš. Once a stronghold of pirates, the town is today best known for its labyrinthine cobbled streets, fantastic seafood and breathtaking gorge. For an unforgettable experience, take a boat tour up the sheer gorge, which is formed by the Cetina River, to see some of Croatia’s most jaw-dropping scenery.
Rising to the west of Split’s old town, the forest-clad Marjan Hill is where locals go to escape the summer heat. With plenty of shaded spots, the hill is perfect for hiking or exploring its numerous historical attractions, including an atmospheric Jewish cemetery consecrated in the 16th century and chapels once inhabited by Christian hermits.