With so many destinations in the WHL Group’s ever-expanding network, we have an incredible wealth of local travel information at our fingertips. Through the Inside Word, our local partners – all travel experts – share their top tips on what to do, what to eat, where to party and where to shop in their necks of the woods.
Split is the second-largest city in Croatia and a central location in Dalmatia, a historical region of the east coast of the Adriatic Sea. In fact, the town is set in a natural bay and surrounded by mountains and hills on all sides except the south, where it faces the sea and the islands of Šolta, Brač, Hvar and Vis. Due to its central position, Split, whose name comes from the ancient word aspalathos, the name of the yellow flowers called Spanish broom or weaver’s broom that grow all around the region, is one of the country’s busiest ports and the perfect place to start your discovery of the Croatian islands.
Although there are vestiges of prehistoric civilisations, the year 295 AD is considered the official year of the foundation of Split, as that was when construction of the Diocletian Palace commenced, to be finished 10 years later. The Diocletian Palace, a unique architectural wonder, was the retirement home for one of the last great Roman Emperors, Diocletian, who decided to return in his old age to a site not far from his birthplace. Over the centuries, the extended Palace area evolved into the core of the Old Town of Split and home to many people who built their houses, churches and other monuments inside its walls. People still live inside the Palace, making it a unique living monument whose importance was recognised by UNESCO and added to its World Heritage List.
In addition to the Palace, Split is also known for its special Mediterranean atmosphere and way of life, vivid tiny streets and open squares packed with small shops, galleries and bars, long waterfront promenade that serves as an open living room for all citizens and visitors, colourful greenmarket and fish market, fashionable people, football fans, many beaches, good nightlife and many other things.
No visit to Split is complete without a tour the Diocletian Palace. Walk through the basements to learn about the original look of the building and the way it developed over the centuries. Visit the Mausoleum of Diocletian, which was turned into the Cathedral of St. Domnius and climb the 60-metre high belltower to enjoy the view of the Old-City rooftops and the islands. Learn about local traditions in the Ethnographical Museum and urban history in the Town Museum. Enjoy fine art in the Emanuel Vidović Gallery or just wander through the labyrinth of narrow streets and be surprised by all the layers of history to be found just inside the Palace walls.
Time permitting, spend an afternoon at Marjan Hill, the recreational zone and source of fresh air situated just above the Old Town. Marjan is adjacent to beaches and covered with walking paths, cycling tracks and rock-climbing sites, as well as romantic viewpoints. Finish your Marjan tour in Meštrović Gallery – the former home and atelier of the greatest Croatian sculptor, Ivan Meštrović.
The Split vicinity offers a variety of excursions and activities, such as white-water rafting on the Cetina River, horse riding at Trilj, visits to the historical towns of Salona and Trogir, day trips to Krka National Park with its waterfalls and ethno village, discovery of the island of Šolta with its olive oil tasting and visits to the honey farm and many others.
Split is also the start and the finishing point for seven-day island-hopping cruises around the Adriatic Islands. This is one of the best ways to enjoy the Adriatic Sea and visit some of the most popular islands like Hvar, Brač, Korčula and Mljet.
Engaging local shopping experiences can be found every morning from Monday to Saturday at the greenmarket and fish market. The colourful and vivid greenmarket or Pazar is notable for its fresh fruit and vegetables, flowers and milk products, although there are many other unexpected things. The fish market is a chance to learn about the different Adriatic fish species and then try the very fresh catch of the day. Fashionistas will enjoy the huge choice of shoe shops as well as places to buy sunglasses.
Just a short walk from the Palace is a little fishing port called Matejuška, surrounded by the historical suburban district of Varoš. The area here is full of typical Dalmatian restaurants, called konoba.
Start a healthy local-fare dinner, complete with a delightful house wine, with homemade smoked ham, called pršut, cheese and olives, or some salted anchovies; as a main dish, try a shrimp risotto, a fish stew (brodet) or veal in a wine sauce (pašticada). For dessert, indulge in the Dalmatian-style crème brulée, called rožata.
A five-minute walk from the Old Town is a beach called Bačvice, cherished by the locals as the place where the special game of Picigin was invented. As soon as you step on the beach, you will see people playing it, mostly young men in groups of five or six at the shallow part of the beach. The game is played by throwing a small rubber ball to each player without losing it and making as much effort as possible to get the ball, which means jumping and throwing your body into the sea. There is even a world championship organised every summer for the best teams in Split and from other parts of the world (it’s mostly Croatia, but everybody is invited). The most fanatical players can be seen playing throughout the year and especially on New Year’s Eve and Christmas, even if the weather is snowy or sunny. Don’t be afraid to try and play. Local groups have welcomed visitors who, after some practice, show skill at it.
Nightlife in Split usually starts with a few drinks in the Palace in some of the tiny narrow streets packed with bars, where people stand on the street or sit on the stairs. Afterward, most of the young people continue to Bačvice beach and choose one of the many cocktail bars that play music all night. Near Poljud (the famous football stadium) is another location known for its fancy nightclubs.
Another way to spend the evening to enjoy some of the cultural performances taking place in the Palace every night in summer. Watch a movie in the open-air cinema or a play in the open squares and other locations during the Split Summer Festival.