Beautiful Split is one of the most popular places to visit in Croatia! The country’s second-largest city, it’s not only a gateway to the insanely picturesque Dalmatian coast, but a true gem of the Adriatic in its own right!
Visitors are treated to fantastic cuisine, architectural history, and vibrant culture. So, whether you’re planning a holiday to Split, or simply visiting on a day trip (as I did), here are my 10 best things to do in Split Croatia:
1) Explore Diocletian’s Palace –
Any list of the best things to do in Split Croatia should unarguably start with Diocletian’s Palace; the heart of the historic city. Dating back to 305 AD, the UNESCO World Heritage site was built by the Roman Emperor Diocletian to be his own personal (and very opulent) retirement home.
He spared no expense, importing marble from Italy and even 12 sphinxes from Egypt. Sadly only one of these 3,500-year-old Egyptian sphinxes can still be found in the palace today, but the overall grandeur remains.
For example, the Peristyle (the most recognisable part of the palace) is splendid. Once an important inner courtyard, today it’s a bustling square, with polished marble stones and ancient columns. Thus, it’s impossible not to look up and around in awe!
2) Get Lost In The Historic Old Town –
Another thing that makes Diocletian’s Palace so extraordinary, is that over the centuries, Split was actually built in and around it. Therefore, rather than simply being a museum, the palace is intertwined with Split’s Old Town, making it ‘alive’ and uniquely charming.
In this way, exploring the old town is like stepping back in time. The palace’s original arches, columns, and walls can easily be glimpsed amongst the shops and restaurants. In fact, simply wandering through the narrow and winding streets was my personal favourite activity out of all these things to do in Split!
For example, Pjaca Square is just one Split must see in the old town. Leaning against the western wall of Diocletian’s Palace, the sophisticated plaza is marked by the Gothic Town Hall, and overlooked by many splendid cafés. Again, make sure you gaze upwards to see the old clock tower, as I almost missed it during my own coffee/ice cream break.
3) Visit The Cathedral Of Saint Domnius –
Next up on my list of the best things to do in Split Croatia; visiting the oldest Catholic cathedral in the world. Dating all the way back to the year 3 AD, Split’s Basilica was originally built as a mausoleum for Diocletian but was later converted into a cathedral in the 7th century and dedicated to Saint Domnius.
Despite this change of use, the original structure was untouched, making Saint Domnius Cathedral one of the best-preserved Roman buildings in existence. The fact that it has remained unchanged throughout the centuries, makes visiting quite special! I loved stopping to take in the Cathedral’s unique octagonal shape and touching the ancient 24 red granite columns that encircle the mausoleum.
4) Climb The Saint Domnius Bell Tower –
A later addition to the Cathedral of Saint Domnius was its iconic Romanesque Bell Tower. This itself happens to be another of the top places to visit in Split.
Built in the 13th century, you’ll catch a glimpse of the majestic 26m high tower wherever you are in the city. Marking the skyline, the intricate bell tower makes for a fantastic viewpoint. It offers panoramic views of Split, and even out across the Adriatic Sea.
To reach the top of the bell tower you do need to climb over 200 steps. But, I’d say the views make the climb more than worthwhile!
TOP TIP: You can buy combined tickets to visit both Saint Domnius Cathedral and its Bell Tower from the tourism office located in Peristyle Square. Tickets cost around 10 Euros (a little more if you decide to tour the Baptistery and Treasury as well).
5) Walk Through The Golden Gate –
When exploring Split Old Town, you’re likely to stumble upon the Golden Gate. Another relic from Diocletian’s Palace, this entrance was built to be solely used by the emperor. Thus, as one could expect, it’s remarkably grand and elaborately decorated. Walking through the historic gate definitely still has a regal feel, and as such, is a must-do when Split sightseeing.
6) Find Good Luck At The Statue Of Grgur Ninski –
Located just outside the Golden Gate is Split’s most famous statue. It portrays Bishop Gregory of Nin (Grgur Ninski), a Croatian icon from the 10th century. He became revered locally after defying Rome and conducting religious services in the Croatian language. Consequently, helping to establish the country’s national identity.
Interestingly though, most people choose to visit the statue simply because rubbing its big toe is said to bring good luck… Unarguably, the most unique of Split Croatia things to do, I couldn’t resist joining in with the tradition, which has made the toe smooth and shiny over the years!
7) Stroll The Riva Promenade –
Moving away from the Old Town, there are even more things to see in Split! Starting with the Riva, a pedestrian promenade that follows the coastline. Lined by palm trees and colourful buildings, and with fantastic views of the Adriatic Sea, it’s a popular place for a stroll.
There’s also an abundance of bars and restaurants along the route, which creates a bustling atmosphere in the evening. I’d highly recommend stopping at one of these bars for a cocktail, especially around sunset, as they’re positioned perfectly to enjoy those stunning orange hues.
8) Take A Break In Republic Square –
At the western end of the Riva, sits another of the most popular places to visit in Split; Republic Square (also known as Prokurative). It’s surrounded by vibrant pink neo-Renaissance buildings that feature numerous exquisite arches. I found that these help frame beautiful views of the Adriatic…
More than this though, the square often plays host to public concerts and other events, which again can be enjoyed from one of the many buzzing bars and restaurants that back onto the square.
9) Enjoy The Views From Marjan Hill –
If you’ve not learned by now, Split is a city littered with fantastic architecture and exceptional vistas. Yet, the most impressive views can be enjoyed from Marjan Hill. Covering a peninsula just west of the Old Town, the area is often referred to as the “lungs of Split” due to its lush pine forest and large green spaces. In this way, Marjan Hill Park is the perfect place to take a break from Split sightseeing.
You could easily spend an entire day at Marjan Hill, exploring all its different trails and finding unique vantage points. But, if you’re tight on time, I found that the best views are easily accessible by road. Just opposite the old Jewish cemetery, you’ll even find Vidilica Terrace Café. Here you can sit and soak up panoramic views of all the Split attractions in the Old Town.
TOP TIP: If you don’t feel up to walking, it’s easy to get a Taxi from Split Old Town to the Marjan Café viewpoint mentioned above. Likewise, many day tours of Split will take you there to admire the views.
10) Take A Day Trip –
As briefly mentioned at the start of this list of the best things to do in Split Croatia, the city is nestled along the Dalmatian coast. Therefore, if you’re staying in Split, it’s in the perfect location to visit hot spots like Dubrovnik and idyllic islands such as Hvar on magical day trips.
In summary, Split is a truly wonderful city to explore! Since the Old Town is small and compact, it’s also relatively easy to tick off all the best places to visit in Split – leaving plenty of time to sit back and soak in the charming atmosphere (even if you’re only visiting for 1 day).