By virtue of its location, on the coast of the Adriatic Sea, Split is one of the most popular beach destinations in Croatia. But while its gorgeous beaches are an undeniable attraction, there are so many other things to see and do in Split beyond the seashore.
Table of Contents
- Split First Impressions
- BEST THINGS TO DO IN SPLIT
- 1. Walk along the Riva
- 2. Explore Split’s Historic Center
- 3. Visit the Palace of Diocletian
- 4. Visit St. Duje’s Cathedral
- 5. Stop in the Peristyle Square
- 6. Discover History in the Old City Walls
- 7. Statue of Grgur Ninski
- 8. Visit Split Archaeological Museum
- 9. Hike Up to Marjan Hill
- 10. Climb Up to the Hermitage Caves
- 11. St. Nicholas Chapel
- 12. Visit the Jewish Cemetery
Split First Impressions
Split a remarkable city with a vibrant life, a rich history and a very welcoming atmosphere. A typical Mediterranean town with an idyllic seaside promenade, swaying palm trees and a colorful harbor. Once you see it, you’ll understand why Split is one of the most popular wedding destinations in Europe.
Aside from the unsophisticated urban neighborhoods built during communism, the city managed to preserve its historical aspect quite well in the historic center.
Split was built on the remains of a 4th-century fortress, which was also Emperor Diocletian’s Palace. The massive walls of the palace are still visible today, surrounding a mesh of Roman ruins, hotels, apartments, shops, and cafés. Life has been happening within these ancient walls for almost 1700 years.
BEST THINGS TO DO IN SPLIT
1. Walk along the Riva
It’s almost impossible to miss the Riva, Split’s energetic and spirited waterfront promenade. There is always action on the Riva: boats fill its lovely harbor, tourists crowd its shaded cafés, stalls with local crafts and souvenirs line up its shores.
Riva is a popular gathering spot both during the day and after dark. It’s the place for meeting, walking, hosting public events and enjoying the sea. It’s no doubt the most popular and most important public place in Split.
2. Explore Split’s Historic Center
For the most part, Split’s attractions are concentrated in the historic center, so every visit usually starts here. Once you pass the palace walls, you find yourself in a maze of narrow streets paved with wide marble slabs.
Wandering through the colorful alleys lined up with boutiques and restaurants I couldn’t help thinking that these were literally the Diocletian’s corridors at one point in time.
The narrow streets are intersected by many attractive squares, like Narodni Trg (People’s Square), Prokurative (Republic Square), or Voćni Trg (Fruit Square)
3. Visit the Palace of Diocletian
Split’s most important landmark is undoubtedly the Palace of Diocletian and its central square. What becomes immediately clear is that Diocletian’s Palace is not a museum, but rather a walled village populated with hotels, shops, cafés and restaurants.
4. Visit St. Duje’s Cathedral
Known locally as the Cathedral of Saint Dujam, this cathedral was once Diocletian’s Mausoleum. At the turn of the 7th century, the mausoleum became a Christian church dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
The and the bell tower next to it is however dedicated to to Saint Duje, but together they form the Cathedral of St. Duje.
5. Stop in the Peristyle Square
The Peristyle was the central square of the Diocletian’s Palace where the Emperor was celebrated as the living son of Jupiter. Diocletian would appear under the columns of the Protyron, while his subjects kissed the hem of his cloak, kneeling down. or even lying their entire body to the ground.
Take a moment observe the beautiful columns and the steps circling the Peristyle and imagine how many steps must have traveled this small square over the centuries. Notice the 3500 old and perfectly preserved sphinx, which was brought here from Egypt. You are standing in the center one of the oldest places on Earth!
6. Discover History in the Old City Walls
Few things are as exciting as stumbling upon a sight that very few people seem to know about. It’s amazing to discover that many of the ordinary buildings within these walls are actually as old and beautiful as the palace itself. Unknowingly and totally by chance, we reserved a room at Split’s oldest hotel – Hotel Slavija.
The hotel is located in the southern area of Diocletian’s Palace, above the part where the spas were. You can still see parts of the ancient walls in several places today.
In more recent history, the building of the hotel can be traced back to the 16th century, when a Renaissance-Baroque palace complex was erected above the 4th century spas of Diocletian.
7. Statue of Grgur Ninski
Located right outside the Golden Gate, the 28-feet tall statue of Grur Ninski is another popular spot in Split. The statue was designed in 1929 by one of Croatia’s most important artists, Ivan Meštrović.
Grgur Ninski was a 10th-century bishop who defied the pope by conducting religious services in the Croatian language, thus helping spread Christianity in this region. People rub Ninski’s big toe for good luck.
8. Visit Split Archaeological Museum
Situated within walking distance from the city center, the Archaeological Museum in Split is a delight for every history buff. The Museum was founded in 1820 and includes archaeological artifacts from the prehistoric, Greek, Roman, early Christian and Medieval ages.
Also worth a visit is the museum’s beautiful garden.
Museum hours are:
Monday to Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Admission fee is $5.00/person.
9. Hike Up to Marjan Hill
Most people who visit Split tend to stick to the old town or the nearby beaches, but it’s worth paying a visit to the forest-park which sits atop Marjan Hill.
Locals are very proud of their beautiful pine-forest area and they nicknamed it the “lungs of Split,” because of its fresh air. From up here you’ll get some of the most spectacular views of the harbor and the old town.
There are lots of hiking trails and some very on the Marjan Hill. During the hot summer months, this is a great escape from the city’s bustling life.
The fastest route to Marjan Hill is a 1.5 hours hike from the Riva waterfront via a stepped stairway. However, climbing up some 300+ steps is very tiring.
We hired a local guide from who drove us to the very top of the hill in his golf cart. There is also a bus that takes you half way to the top of the hill, but you’ll have to walk the rest of the way if you want to get to the very top.
The advantage of having a guide was that he had access to a private road that took us all the way to the top of the hill. He also told us what else to visit up here.
10. Climb Up to the Hermitage Caves
If you manage to get to the very top of Marjan Hill, don’t miss the strange Hermitage Caves built into the cliffs on the southern side of the mountain, just behind St. Jerome Church.
The caves date back to the 15th century and were used by the Christian monks.
This rock is also a popular place for rock climbing and rappelling. We saw two people climbing up the cliff when we were there.
11. St. Nicholas Chapel
As you walk down from the Hermitage Caves, you’ll pass by St. Nicholas Chapel, a tiny church built in 1219 by Elisabeth and Rako, two citizens of Split. They later donated it to the Benedictine monks at St. Stephen Abbey.
St. Nicholas was the protector of the sea, which seems quite appropriate as there is a great view of the sea from the chapel.
12. Visit the Jewish Cemetery
Also on the slopes of the Marjan Hill, you’ll find the oldest Jewish Cemetery in Split. The cemetery is next to popular Café Vidilica, a former funeral home that still has inscribed above the door a Jewish prayer. The cemetery is usually open but if locked ask at Vidilica for the key.
The Jewish Cemetery was established in 1573 and has about 700 graves. Some of the graves go as far back as to the 16th century. The rest of the graves are from the 18th to the 20th century. The last burial took place in 1945 when when the cemetery was closed and declared a monument.
Split is one of Croatia’s most thought after destinations and a great place for family vacations. It’s also a great base for many beautiful day trips from Split. There is a wide range of accommodations in Split to fit every budget and traveling style. You should be planning to spend at least 2-3 days in this picturesque sea-side town.
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