If you’re planning a trip to Croatia, chances are you’ll visit Split.
The second-largest city in Croatia after the capital of Zagreb, Split is sandwiched between the Adriatic Sea and the Mosor mountain range.
Along with Dubrovnik, it’s the gateway to Croatia’s Dalmatian coast and the idyllic islands of Hvar, Brac and Korcula.
Some travelers use Split as a base for day trips to the Dalmatian islands. Others include 2 or 3 days in Split in their Croatia itinerary.
So is Split worth visiting? Absolutely!
You’re in for a treat. There are so many exciting things to do in Split, Croatia. Bustling with life and energy, this beautiful city is a mix of the modern and historic.
You can explore its 1,700-year-old Diocletian’s Palace, stroll the vibrant seafront Riva, taste fabulous Croatian wines at buzzing wine bars and immerse yourself in nature at Marjan Forest Park.
We’ve just visited Split for the fourth time. Here we let you in on the top activities in Split, visitor attractions and day tours.
Best things to do in Split, Croatia
Travel tips for visiting Split
Let’s start with a few tips to help you with your Split travel planning.
Best time to visit Split, Croatia:
Summer in Split
Like much of Europe, Split is heaving in the summer months, particularly in July and August, when European children are off school.
If you’re visiting during these months, you’ll find that hotels may be costly and fully booked far in advance. Attractions will be much busier.
Of course, if you’re a fan of hot weather, these months are perfect. Temperatures can reach up to 85 F or higher.
(And if you have school-age children and want to travel as a family, you might only be able to go during school holidays.)
Just make sure that you book your accommodation and any tours well in advance.
Spring and autumn in Split
If you’re looking for a quieter vacation and are able to travel out of peak season, head to Split in the shoulder season months of either May or September.
European school holidays usually end in the first week of September at the latest.
During shoulder season, the weather will still be warm (expect highs of around 73 F in May and 77 F in September). In fact, it was downright hot for us in early June.
But there’ll be fewer crowds. Hotels are likely to be cheaper too.
September is great for sea swimming as well. (In May, you might find that the Mediterranean waters are a little chilly!)
Split in winter
In the winter months, Split is a lot cooler – expect highs of around 50 F and lows of 42 F in January. In December and February, it’s usually marginally warmer.
But this season sees far fewer crowds and the whole region has a much more local vibe.
There are still plenty of things to see in Split in the winter, though.
Because it’s a city, its main sites stay open year-round. You might find that some tours aren’t running or the most touristy beachside restaurants are closed, but local spots stay open.
Plus, during the winter, you’ll enjoy way fewer crowds and cheaper prices.
How to get to Split:
You can reach Split by air, rail or road. Its airport is the second-busiest in the country, after Zagreb, with flights to many European destinations.
If you’re flying from the USA, you might need to transfer somewhere in Europe, such as London. European airports are well-connected to Split.
From the Split Airport (also known as Resnik Airport), you can take a taxi or the #37 bus to get to the city center.
Alternatively, if you’re already exploring Croatia, Split is around a 6-hour train ride from Zagreb or a 4½-hour bus ride from Dubrovnik.
As well, various local ferries travel to Split from Dubrovnik and some of the Croatian islands. Jadrolinja is the largest ferry company (it’s state-owned).
Where to stay in Split:
Being a large city, there are countless hotels in Split to choose from. Here are a few recommendations to make the selection easier:
Judita Palace Heritage Hotel
We adore the Judita Palace Heritage Hotel – we stayed here, and couldn’t have been happier.
Housed in a lovingly restored 16th-century building, this boutique gem is an oasis right in the center of the Old Town.
The 19 guestrooms are extremely comfortable, featuring polished wood floors, elegant furniture, glittering chandeliers and luxurious newly-renovated bathrooms. Bathrobes and slippers are included.
Breakfast – complete with fresh fruit, pastries and egg dishes – is included in the rates.
It’s served in an attractive light-filled room with antique furniture. The breakfast plates are gold-rimmed; even the cutlery is gold.
The staff are welcoming and extremely helpful. And they’re familiar with North American tastes (many Americans stay at the Judita Palace).
Nothing was too much trouble, from meeting us at the ferry (when checking in) to carrying our bags to the taxi area outside the Old Town (when checking out) – and all of this with good grace and humor.
Situated just outside of the Old Town, Hotel Park has all of the features you’d want to feel like you’re on a real vacation, while being just a stone’s throw from Split’s best amenities.
Built in 1920, it was extensively refurbished in 2015. You’ll enjoy both historic grandeur and modern luxury when you stay here.
Take a dip in the outdoor pool, order a fresh cocktail at the bar or simply appreciate your room. All rooms feature comfortable beds, tea- and coffee-making facilities and ensuite bathrooms.
Radisson Blu Resort & Spa
If you fancy somewhere that’s right by the sea, opt for the Radisson Blu Resort & Spa.
This modern resort suits both business and leisure travelers.
It has a bit of a vacation vibe, with beachfront restaurants, a beach club and two gorgeous pools for enjoying Croatia’s summer heat.
It’s not easy walking distance to the Old Town though. But when you want to check out Split’s best activities, Diocletian’s Palace (covered next) is just over 1½ miles away.
Okay, let’s go and discover Split now!
1) Explore Diocletian’s Palace
The astonishing Diocletian’s Palace dates all the way back to 305 AD. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s a must-see in Split.
Unlike most other palaces all over the world, it’s not just one attraction.
In fact, it sprawls across the Old Town, which is built in and around it. It’s home to over 220 buildings, including some of Split’s coolest restaurants, shops and cafés.
The palace was commissioned by the Roman emperor Diocletian, who wanted it to be part-summer villa, part-military camp.
He abdicated his position due to poor health (the only Roman emperor to retire) and used his Split palace as his main residence during his retirement.
To build the palace, Diocletian imported materials, including Italian marble, from all over the region.
He even got his hands on sphinxes from Egypt after squashing a rebellion in the country.
Unfortunately, only one of these sphinxes survives today, and you can see it standing at the Peristyle (main square). Although the sphinx has been in Split for less than 2,000 years, it was actually built over 3,000 years ago and is one of the oldest objects in the city.
Any Split itinerary has to feature some time wandering around Diocletian’s Palace – really the heart of the Old Town.
As you stroll about, poking your head around this alley and that, don’t forget to also look up – you’ll see a gloriously eclectic mix of medieval and Roman architecture.
Also be sure to check out the historic Golden Gate. Elaborately decorated to reflect the grandeur of the emperor, it was the main entrance Diocletian used to enter the complex.
2) Stroll the Riva
The Riva is where it all happens in this Croatian city.
It’s a pedestrian promenade spanning the city’s coastline, and one of the most popular free things to do in Split is to hang out on the Riva.
As you walk along the 820-foot stretch, enjoy vistas of the Adriatic Sea on one side – perhaps watch the sunset as it dips below the ocean’s horizon.
On the other side, peek through window shops and maybe decide on the night’s restaurant as you take in the pulsating atmosphere.
A popular spot in the evenings, the Riva is the ideal place for a stroll at dusk.
But if you’d like to sit for a while and admire your surroundings, there’s an abundance of places to have dinner or to sample Ozujkso, a Croatian beer. Try Adriana for pizza or traditional Dalmatian cuisine at Brasserie on 7.
There are also plenty of small bars or places to grab a snack if you prefer a casual bite.
3) Visit the Ivan Mestrovic Gallery
Ivan Mestrovic is to Croatia what Michelangelo is to Italy.
The most famous 20th-century Croatian sculptor, Ivan Mestrovic was most prominent in the Zagreb art scene. But he also built a mansion in Split as a residence in the 1930s.
He ultimately emigrated to the USA, becoming the first Croatian sculptor to exhibit his work in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
While he only lived in Split for a short time, Mestrovic left his mark on the city, and there’s nowhere better to witness this than at the Ivan Mestrovic Gallery.
The art-and-sculpture museum is housed in his vast neoclassic mansion (an architectural marvel itself) and displays some of his best work.
As you approach, you’ll notice a number of bronze sculptures outside, surrounding the building and overlooking the sea. But step inside to admire some of his most famous pieces of work, including two lovely pieces, the mythology-inspired Psyche and Contemplation (made in an Art Deco style).
In total, Mestrovic created a whopping 192 awe-inspiring sculptures and 583 drawings between 1898 and 1961!
Don’t miss the inspiring film, which details his life, including the wars he lived through and years he spent in exile. We found it quite moving, and it explains how these events influenced his work.
Through Mestrovic’s art, you’ll learn about his policies and philosophy and uncover the fascinating story of what it meant to be a sculptor throughout 80 years of tumultuous European history.
Once you’ve finished exploring the museum, take a short walk to the private chapel across the street, where you can take in immense coastal views and also some impressive wood carvings inside.
No doubt about it. This gallery is one of the highlights of Split.
4) Climb the bell tower
Look up at Split’s skyline. Notice the 187-foot-high bell tower that rises up from the Cathedral of Saint Domnius?
It dates back to the 13th century (but was refurbished in the 20th century).
The piece de resistance is the incredible view from the top. For around 20 kuna (less than $3 USD), you can climb up 200 stairs and take in panoramic views of Diocletian’s Palace, the Adriatic and Split city, sprawling beneath you.
But don’t miss the rest of the cathedral as well. (The bell tower is positively modern compared to it.) It’s the oldest Catholic cathedral in the world.
The cathedral’s main structure is the historic mausoleum built for Diocletian (the emperor who built the palace).
Inside the cathedral, admire ornate carvings depicting scenes from Christ’s life and more.
5) Visit Trogir on a day trip
One of the best day trips from Split, Trogir is a charming town that’s nicknamed “Little Venice.”
But you won’t find any canals or gondolas here. Instead, it’s named after the Italian city thanks to its winding cobblestone streets.
No matter that it has no canals. Visiting Trogir is absolutely delightful.
With a history spanning 2,300 years, Trogir was first settled by the ancient Greeks.
Since then, people from all over Europe and beyond (including Romans, Venetians, Ottomans and Croats) have marched through this town – each leaving noticeable marks on its architecture and culture.
Today, Trogir is a medley of buildings from countless eras, and walking through the village is like taking a stroll across centuries.
One minute, you might be visiting a store located in a quaint Gothic building, and the next, you could be admiring the Romanesque doorway at the Cathedral of St. Lawrence.
While there aren’t necessarily a host of things to do in Trogir, the plethora of ancient buildings, charming cobblestone streets and slower pace of life will capture your heart.
And if you climb the cathedral’s bell tower, you’ll be treated to the most amazing views!
We took the local public bus to Trogir and back. The bus ride is about 40 minutes to one hour, depending on the number of stops.
For lunch, we refueled on delicious home-made shrimp linguine and crusty bread at Restaurant Tragos.
6) Go underground in Diocletian’s Palace basement
Back in the central city of Split, one of the best parts of Diocletian’s Palace is actually underground.
Descend into the basement of Diocletian’s Palace and see historic artifacts like a stone sewer system, learning about the ancient city as you go. Stalls near the entrance also sell local arts and crafts.
It’s a little cold underground, so you might want to wear a sweater.
There’s a small fee to enter; you can buy your underground cellar tickets here.
7) Pop into the Split City Museum
The Split City Museum is housed in the palace – in an impressive Gothic townhouse in the heart of Old Town Split.
It’s the best place to visit to get an overall impression of the city and learn about its history in a short space of time (an hour is sufficient).
Tickets to the Split Museum are inexpensive.
8) Gawk at the beautiful views from Marjan Hill
A 584-foot-high hill, Marjan Hill is a fabulous green oasis close to the Old Town of Split.
With walking trails meandering through the pine forest, it’s a great place to escape the crowds of the Old Town when you need a dose of nature.
But the real reason to go to Marjan Hill is to gawk at the spectacular 360-degree views offered at the top. A wide set of stone stairs makes it easy to walk up.
You don’t even have to go to the top.
The views half-way up are splendid enough. You’ll find a pleasant café bar (Vidilica) here. Enjoy a coffee or beer while soaking up panoramic views of Split’s Old Town and the cruise ships and boats in the harbor.
It’s also pleasant to wander through the tree-shaded Old Jewish Cemetery, founded in 1573.
Along with Diocletian’s Palace (#1), Marjan Hill is one of the top attractions in Split.
9) Go stand-up paddleboarding at night
Once you’ve explored Split’s land-based activities, why not take to the sea?
There are a few watersports opportunities available off the coastline. One of the best is this night-time stand-up paddleboarding tour.
This is Split sightseeing with a difference.
The tour begins at sunset. You’ll paddle out and witness a spectacle of orange and pink hues as the sun dips below the horizon.
After night falls, your paddleboards will start to glow. They’re kitted out with LED lights, so you can spot what’s around (and below!) you.
You also get to see Split from a different perspective as you take in the panorama of the city’s twinkling lights at dusk.
Plus, you’ll learn about the nature of the Adriatic Sea from your local guide. And of course, your guide can also help if you have any difficulties with your paddleboard.
10) Rub the toe of Bishop Gregory of Nin
Remember Ivan Mestrovic, the Croatian sculptor?
He created a famous statue that sits outside of Diocletian’s Palace. And these days, one of the top things to do in Split is to rub the toe!
Definitely one of the quirkier Split attractions, this statue portrays Bishop Gregory of Nin. (Nin is a town about a 2-hour drive from Split, near Zadar.)
In 926 AD, Gregory advocated for the national language to be used in churches, which went against Rome’s wishes. He defied Rome and has since been revered as a protector of Croatian ideas and culture.
You’ll find statues of the bishop all over Croatia. But the statue in Split is one of the biggest.
So why do you rub his toe?
It’s a Croatian custom. Just as Americans might wish on a wishbone, Croatians believe that rubbing Gregory’s big toe will grant them good luck.
When visiting, you’ll know which toe will grant you your wish. It’s the only one that’s not dark bronze.
In fact, it’s now a golden color, thanks to how much it has been rubbed by locals and tourists alike.
11) Explore Klis Fortress
While Klis Fortress isn’t actually in the city’s center, its proximity to the city makes it an ideal sojourn from Split.
Klis is a tiny village about eight miles from Split. It’s dominated by Klis Fortress, a castle with a complex history reaching back over 2,000 years.
The original castle was built by the Illyrians in the 2nd century BC. It was then taken over by the Romans in the 9th century AD.
The fortress you see today, however, was largely built in medieval times. It was an important Croatian stronghold, defending this part of the country from various attacking troops, including the Mongols and Ottomans.
Of course, its prime position on top of a hill means it offers a wonderful uninterrupted view of Split.
If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, Klis Fortress is an attraction you must see in Split – it was where scenes for Meereen City were filmed.
12) See the waterfalls at Krka National Park
Chase waterfalls on this fun day trip from Split.
Spreading out over 55 square miles, Krka National Park encompasses seven waterfalls.
The most popular (and spectacular!) is Skradinski Buk Falls, which plunges 148 feet into a turquoise pool.
They’re a spectacle to look at, but as of 2021, you can no longer swim in these falls. This is to preserve the water quality in the park. (You can, however, swim at other places in the park.)
Another gorgeous Krka waterfall is the multi-tiered Roski Slap (slap means waterfall in Croatian). This is actually a series of twelve waterfalls with a total length of 2,133 feet, so it’s the perfect place for a waterfall walk.
Once you’re all waterfalled out, visit Visovac, a miniature island in the Krka River.
Franciscan Monks settled on the island in 1445, and they constructed a monastery and church. Although you won’t find the original monastery today (it was rebuilt in the 18th century), there’s a small exhibit to explore with some artifacts and a library.
Krka National Park is located about 50 miles, or an hour’s drive, from the Split town center. You can visit it independently by renting a car or by going on a guided tour.
Guided tours often include stops at local businesses and/or visits to other attractions – so they can be great opportunities to discover other aspects of Dalmatian culture.
For example, this full-day Krka and Sibenik tour combines a visit to the waterfalls (including swimming and a Dalmatian lunch) with a visit to Sibenik to see the UNESCO-listed St. James Cathedral.
And this highly-regarded Krka tour features olive oil, wine and cheese tasting, as well as a boat ride to the small town of Skradin.
13) Get nautical at the Croatian Maritime Museum of Split
Because there are so many historical and cultural Split tourist attractions, sometimes it’s easy to forget that the Adriatic Sea is right at your doorstep.
But visit the Croatian Maritime Museum of Split (which opened in 1997) and you’ll get a full overview of Croatian marine history.
Located in the Gripe Fortress, it displays a fairly small but fascinating collection, ranging from Adriatic galley ships to the cruise liners that dock in the modern city today in the summer months.
Once you’re finished, step outside into the fortress courtyard. See the huge bow of a vessel named Bakar from early socialist Yugoslavia days, along with a traditional fishing boat (called a “gajeta”) from the 1850s, one of the oldest surviving vessels in the region.
14) Taste Croatian wines at Zinfandel Wine Bar
Croatia makes some first-rate wines. That’s not surprising, considering the country has the perfect weather for growing wine grapes.
Take Zinfandel (aka Primitivo). It’s the parent grape of Plavac Mali, Croatia’s most popular red wine.
Then there’s Posip, produced in Croatia’s southern Dalmatia region. (Dalmatia is a narrow strip of land along the Adriatic coast, encompassing hundreds of Croatian islands and the city of Split.)
Posip is a fresh white wine with hints of melon, citrus and apple flavors.
Grk is our favorite white Croatian wine. It’s a beautiful high-quality dry wine, primarily made in the village of Lumbarda on the island of Korcula.
Anyway, Split has a handful of inviting wine bars.
One of the best is Zinfandel Wine Bar, a great spot for wine tasting and a bite.
The home-made pastas are excellent. Try the chevre ravioli with burnt fig jam, sage butter and pine nuts.
You can taste more than 60 wines by the glass, and there’s live music every night. A soulful couple belted out songs à la Amy Winehouse and Macy Gray the night we went.
15) Soar on a zipline
You’ll feel like Batman as you soar through the treetops in Kozjak Mountain, about a 30-minute drive from Split.
You don’t need to worry about making your own way there, as this ziplining tour (which is rated 5 stars) picks you up from your Split hotel.
The tour includes a full safety briefing and a chain of canopy rides. You’ll take in the sea, mountains and forests while zooming in the air around this beautiful part of Croatia.
16) Relax at one of Split’s beaches
While Split is a coastal city, it’s not really known for its beaches. (There are better beaches in Dubrovnik and on the islands.)
But when you’re hot and want to cool off with a swim, there are some beaches in Split you might want to check out.
The closest beach to Split Old Town, Bacvice Beach is soft and sandy.
Because the water is shallow by the shore, locals love to play a sport called Picigin there. (It involves throwing a ball to teammates in shallow water, without dropping the ball.) There’s even a Picigin World Cup in Split each year!
Bacvice Beach can be very busy in the summer months, especially in the middle of the day. And some reports say it isn’t the cleanest. (We didn’t go there, so we can’t comment personally.)
This beach is probably a better bet (our hotel suggested it over Bacvice Beach).
It’s further away, though, almost two miles from Split center on the Marjan Peninsula. (Take a taxi or Uber, or the local bus #12, to get there.)
With somewhat of a rural feel, Kasjuni Beach is one of the best places to visit in Split for a swim in the perfectly blue Adriatic Sea.
There are a couple of beach clubs where you can rent beach chairs under an umbrella (and get a drink). But feel free to spread out your towel right on the pebble beach if you don’t want to pay anything.
This beach can also be busy during the peak summer season, but we’re told the crowds are always smaller here than at Bacvice Beach. Go in the morning to stake out the best spot to chill for the day.
Radisson Blu Beach Club:
If you’re looking for somewhere to both enjoy the Croatian coastline and have a few drinks or some beachside food, check out the Mistral Beach Club at the Radisson Blu Resort & Spa.
Serving Mediterranean-style tapas and fruity cocktails, this beach club is the perfect place to spend a day – sipping, noshing and swimming as you go!
17) Go on a Game of Thrones tour
Ask any TV buff what they think of when you say Croatia, and they’ll likely say three words: Game of Thrones.
Many scenes from Series Three, Four and Five were filmed in the Split city center and vicinity.
One of the best Game of Thrones-themed places to see in Split is Diocletian’s Palace. It’s where Daenerys locked up her dragons.
The palace was used for other scenes throughout the series too.
Klis Fortress (see #11 above) is another popular filming location – it was the site for Meereen City.
You can visit these Game of Thrones locations independently. Or if you want to learn lots of trivia about the series and see as many places as possible in a compact period of time, opt for a Game of Thrones tour.
Either way, it’s something you must do in Split if you love the show!
Hands up if you enjoy shopping for souvenirs or gifts when you’re on vacation! Well, you’re in luck in Split.
The main streets of the Old Town are lined with stores selling locally-made artisanal crafts, traditional Croatian wine, lavender products and the like. There are some mouthwatering gelato shops too.
And don’t get us started on the shoe stores!
Being a large city, Split has a few different shopping areas depending on what type of product you fancy.
If you want to buy or window shop for designer brands, head to Marmont Street. If you’re looking for unique souvenirs and craft products, visit the cellars of Diocletian’s Palace (#6), where you’ll find a local gift market.
Alternatively, the Mall of Split is the largest shopping center in Dalmatia, featuring well-known brands like Mango and Timberland.
19) Go on a Croatian food tour
Italian, Greek and Spanish cuisines are famous all over the globe. But what about Croatian cuisine?
It’s also famous for its rich flavors and fresh ingredients. Grilled lamb, fish that was swimming in the sea just hours before it ended up on our plates, squid ink risotto, creative pastas, truffle cheeses, delicious Croatian desserts. We ate very well in Split and Croatia!
A great way to learn all about Croatian food is to go on a guided food tour.
In Split, this gastronomical food tour by “EATinSPLIT” begins at the famous Green Market, where you’ll sample a traditional inland brunch of cheese, pancetta, prosciutto and peka bread (baked under a peka bell lid).
Then you’ll taste seafood, hand-made macaroni pasta and olive oil pies (accompanied by Croatian wines, of course!) at a hidden konoba (traditional tavern-style restaurant) inside Diocletian’s Palace.
Lastly, you’ll visit the oldest pastry shop in the Old Town for some traditional sweets and gelato.
You’ll leave stuffed and happy – and know a lot more about the history and gastronomy of Split!
20) Walk the Veli Varos area
Take a step back in time as you amble through the maze of narrow pedestrian-only streets in Split’s historic Veli Varos area.
Hugging the Old Town to the west, this part of the city dates back to the 17th century when it was first founded by fishermen. The quaint stone houses still echo with history.
It’s a lovely place for a morning stroll (one of the nicest places in Split, actually) but it is most famous for its churches.
Possibly the main attraction in Veli Varos is the Church of St Nicholas. Built in a pre-Romanesque style, the 11th century church has a massive bell tower.
There’s also the parish Church of St. Cross which dates back to 1681 and has a baroque bell tower.
Also, don’t miss the Franciscan Monastery and Church of St. Francis, home to the tombs of notable people from Split, like Croatian writer Marko Marulic.
Don’t worry about getting lost. We did. It’s fairly easy to find your way out back to the seaside or Marjan Hill area.
21) Enjoy a “Blue Lagoon” day trip
Croatia is gloriously warm (er, hot!) in the summer months. So why not dive into its crystal clear waters on a blue lagoon day trip!
Usually, blue lagoons are created by coral reefs and are found in countries much further south like Thailand or Kenya.
But a collection of small islands close to Split is home to a blue lagoon similar to its tropical counterparts, thanks to the shallow waters between each island.
You can visit this blue lagoon on a Split day trip or half-day trip. The best way to see it is by booking an organized tour.
This 5-islands tour aboard a RIB (rigid inflatable boat) is a good option for an all-day trip. It includes snorkeling and swimming in the blue lagoon, as well as visits to the Blue Cave (which glows blue) and the seductive islands of Vis and Hvar.
Some blue lagoon day trips, like this 5½-hour speedboat tour, include a stop at historical Trogir (#5 above). And we already know that visiting Trogir is one of the best things to do around Split, right?
Now you know what to do in Split, Croatia!
Once you step into this gorgeous city, you’ll understand what all the travel guides rave about.
The cobbled streets, ancient buildings and epic seafront views make the city look like it pranced right off a postcard.
It’s brimming with history just waiting for you discover. And the local food scene is one of the best in Croatia.
Whatever your tastes, there’s something for everyone in majestic Split.
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Photo credits: 1, 4, 7, 8, 11 to 13, 16, 18, 21 to 23, 30 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase