When trying to decide where we would stay for a couple of weeks after the tourism conference in Turkey, we immediately thought of Croatia. After some research, we decided on Split, which is the second largest city in the country – it’s not too big, but not too small.
Split is an excellent base for going on day trips. It’s also a good hub for transportation around the region. Of course, you can stop here for a few days, and carry on, but we recommend sticking around for two or more weeks to really get a feel for the place.
Plus, there are a lot of things to do here that you would miss out on if you just passed through!
(Don’t miss our video at the end to really get a feel for the city).
What To See and Do
Marjan Hill: A bonus of Split is that you have nature right in the heart of the city. Just steps from the old town, you’ll find Marjan Hill. At 178 meters, it’s not the tallest mountain in the country by any means, but it’s still a great escape from the city.
To the right of the St. Francis Church near Republic Square, you’ll see a sign for the hill. Walk through the back lanes, before arriving at the stone steps. Hike up those stairs and you’ll reach a beautiful vantage point. From there, you can choose to sit and sip on coffee at the cafe, or continue up to the top of the mountain, via the forest route, or the seaside trail.
We walked up here two times during our stay, and would have done it more often if the weather had cooperated.
The Emporer Diocletian’s Palace: This is an obvious must-see in Split, and one that you literally won’t be able to miss. Located right next to the palace is the towering, 60 meter high Cathedral of Saint Domnius. This can be spotted pretty much anywhere in the city.
Wander the Promenade: Thankfully, whoever designed the city of Split had the idea to create a promenade running along the Adriatic Sea.
Starting at the “Riva” which is the walkway located in front of the main pedestrian street, you can continue winding your way past the marina, through a park, along a cliffside…and then you’ll arrive at a beach. This walk is around two kilometers long and is very scenic.
Visit the Islands: Did you know that Croatia is actually comprised of over 1000 islands?! Many of them are just offshore from Split, making this a perfect day-trip from the city. Check out the nearby islands of Hvar, Korcula and Vis…to name a few.
You can travel by ferry-boat, go on a sailing tour, or visit the islands via seaplane! In the year 2014, seaplane service came to Croatia. You can fly with European Coastal Airlines from downtown Split to the neighbouring islands, or to the fairytale city of Dubrovnik. Plus, you can actually cross the Adriatic Sea to Italy!
Check out our video:
Go on a day-trip: There are so many things to do around the city, I won’t even be able to list them all. We suggest popping into the tourist office and enquiring about the tours on offer. Make sure to visit the UNESCO site of Trogir, the Krka waterfalls, and the Plitvice Lakes…among other things.
Travel to Another Country: Split is in the perfect location to travel. Of course, you’re in the city to see the actual city, but why not add another stamp to your passport?! We suggest renting a car in Split and travelling to Montenegro one day, and Bosnia & Herzegovina the next.
If you take the highway, you can get to Kotor, Montenegro in about 4.5 hours from Split (that would be a very long day trip though). A shorter trip would be from Split to Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina. This journey is only around 2 – 2.5 hours long. Don’t forget your passport!
Where to Eat
The Dalmatian style food in Split is very good, plus, there are many Italian influenced meals.
Villa Spiza – This was our favourite restaurant (and one of the only ones open during the off-season). Run by two women, they serve up delicious, home cooked meals right in front of your eyes. In this small restaurant, there is space for around 15 people to eat.
Kantun Paulina – This is the perfect grab-and-go lunch spot. Cévapi and hamburgers are served here. Cévapi are little homemade sausages, and at this restaurant, they stuff them into a soft bun. You then have the option of adding cheese, lettuce, onions and the local favourite – ajvar sauce. The cost is 18 kuna ($2.60) without cheese, 22 kuna ($3.20) with cheese.
These are huge, and I (Dariece) could never finish a whole one! Click here for reviews and a map.
Mazzgoon – This is a more upscale restaurant compared to the homey feel of Villa Spiza, and the fast food at Kantun Paulina. Mazzgoon is a unique spot, with really interesting decor and delicious food.
The homemade burger is dripping with BBQ sauce, cheese and bacon and comes with a side of baked potatoes. The cost is 65 kuna ($9.50). Other meals on offer are ribs, fresh seafood, salads and soups. Everything here is delicious. Click here for reviews and a map.
Bajamonti Cafe – This cafe is located in Republic Square and has seating outside and inside. The great thing about this spot is that it’s non-smoking inside, while many cafes and restaurants in Croatia normally are not. The wi-fi here is really good as well, and it’s free if you order something. Lattes are 12.50 kuna ($1.80).
Pizzeria Galija – This restaurant is located just across from Kantun Paulina. Wood fired pizzas are their specialty, but they also have seafood and pastas on offer. Pastas go for around 65 kuna ($9.40). We only ate a couple of pastas here, which were tasty. Click here for reviews and a map.
Where to Sleep
There are numerous options when choosing where to stay in Split. You can choose a hotel or a hostel, but if you’re going to stay for a week or more, we suggest getting an apartment instead. They are of great value in this part of the world, and renting apartments is the norm rather than the exception.
We stayed for two weeks at Apartment Seagull, which was around $28 / night. Laundry, kitchen and wi-fi was included in the price. It was around a 10 – 15 minute walk to the old town, and there are grocery stores nearby. We loved our stay there!
Click here to learn more about Apartment Seagull.
Advice, Information and Tid-Bits
Locals in Split live by the term “pomalo”, which basically means to take it easy. There’s no rush, sit and stay a while! According to locals, pomalo isn’t just a saying, it’s a way of life.
The people of Split are very weird when it comes to the wind. The jugo (Scirocco) wind is warm and moist blowing from the sea. It makes the people here grumpy, sleepy and weird! While the other wind, bura which blows from the northeast, is said to clean the air as well as the people’s minds. You’ll often hear the locals talking about the effects of the wind on their mental state.
Coffee time is all the time! The people here drink coffee after getting out of bed, before a meal, after eating, when they are relaxed, while they are working, or when they are with friends. They drink so many cups of coffee, we don’t know how they do it!
Make sure to pick up a Split Card from the tourism office when you arrive. If you are staying for more than three days, the card is free. You’ll get discounts on entrance fees, on rental cars and even on restaurants. Plus, some sites will be free to enter with the card.
If you sit at one of the cafes and order a drink, you can stay basically all day if you want. You don’t need to feel like you should order another drink, or food. The locals do this all the time. Also, if the cafe you’re at doesn’t serve food, you can bring in your own.
Keep you eye out for dolphins in the harbour! We spotted three one day while wandering along the promenade.
If you choose to rent a car, make sure to bargain hard with the company. If you are travelling to nearby countries, you will need to get a Green Card (which is basically insurance for crossing borders). Try to get the company to include it in your rental cost. Initially, we were quoted $22 / day for a 12 day rental. We ended up getting it for $15 / day after bargaining.
Currency: Croatian Kuna. $1 USD = $6.90 Kuna (as of February, 2016)
Language: Croatian (which is similar to the languages spoken in neighbouring Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina)
In The European Union? Yes.
In the Schengen Area? No.
Check out our quick video of our time in Split to get a feel for the city!
Have you ever been to Split? What would you add to our guide? If you haven’t been before, we hope that this guide helps you out!
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