My favorite things to do from a month spent in Split, Croatia
Before I told friends that I planned to go to the Balkans for three months, I’d never heard of Split, Croatia. A former work friend told me that she’d skipped Dubrovnik and hand headed to a place called Split. “It’s SOOOOOO beautiful,” she told me, “and it’s not as crowded, even in the summer. I loved it.” The food’s amazing, and there’s so many things to do in Split, she added.
Other friends told me of places to go in Croatia, and a lifetime probably won’t be enough to spend all the time I want to spend in that stunner of a country, but I do not for a minute regret the month I spent in Split. Indeed, I miss it terribly.
Things to do in Split, Croatia
So many things to do in Split!
I miss Split almost every day. Until I can go back and discover even more, here are my favorite things to do in Split. I’ve divided then into the following areas:
- Getting lost & watching the world go by
- Food & drink
- Day trips & excursions
Be sure to share your favorite things to do in Split in the comments below!
Split has it all, minus pretensions
Croatia’s second-largest city has it all. Dazzling historic sites (many of which you can just visit for free), delicious food, streets you can just get lost in, the sparkling Adriatic sea, and all the conveniences of a modern city. Many of the key sites are within a short walking distance from each other, and when your feet need a break, you can just sit and look out at the sea.
What’s more, Split isn’t pretentious. The people of Split are proud (and will most definitely take the piss—if they like you), but it’s a super relaxed place that’s so easy to enjoy. I found my pace slowed to a bit of a saunter, and I lost any vestiges of American hurry wandering through its secrets. At least until I left.
A brief history of Split
Walking in Split is walking through history, not the museum kind, but the lived-in kind. The city of Split itself was founded as Diocletian’s Palace, built by the Roman Emperor Diocletian in the late third century as his retirement palace. The Roman city of Salona, on what is today the outskirts of Split, lay not far away.
After Diocletian, a palace became a refuge
Diocletian died in 305, having only enjoyed his palace for ten year, and the Roman empire didn’t outlast him by long. The Avars and the Slavs invaded the area, and the citizens of Salona fled to Diocletian’s villa in Split, using its walls as protection. You’ll see references to “refugees” from Salona and other parts of the region on plaques throughout the city.
Different day, different ruler
To hear today’s citizens of the city of Split tell it, the history after that is a bit of a ping-pong, with Croatian kings, the Hungarians, Venice, the French, the Austro-Hungarians having their turn (the Venetians leaving the largest cultural mark).
World War II
The twentieth century was unkind to the Balkan region, and Split passed into fascist hands in World War II. There’s a legend that the people of Split saved their statue of Gregory of Nin from being melted for munitions by the Nazis and Italian fascists by cutting him up into pieces and removing him from the Perisil of Diocletian’s palace (he’s now outside the Golden Gate). That story might not be true, but Gregory of Nin was spared melting, and it does illustrate the ingenuity and bit of mischief that characterizes Split. While Gregory was spared, Split suffered a great deal of damage during WWII.
Yugoslavia and its breakup
During the socialist Yugoslavia period, Split grew both in size and importance, becoming an important port and a center of industry. Architecture outside of Grad (City Centre) in Split, Croatia’s second-largest city, bears the hallmarks of midcentury socialist style. Split’s importance as an industrial center faded following Croatia’s independence. Split did not suffer physical damage in the fight for Croatian’s independence 1990s, unlike Dubrovnik, but the psychological scars remain part of the culture.
In this century, the region has become a tourist destination, with much of the population working in the tourist industry. This isn’t without its issues, as jobs in tourism do not pay nearly so well as industrial jobs, and locals will tell you that many of them have been forced out into the outskirts of Split or outside the city altogether.
21 amazing things to do in Split, Croatia
Without further ado, let’s get into the best things to do in Split, Croatia. I loved doing all of these things, but, here and there, I’ve indicated which ones are best reserved if you have time.
Wandering through Split is to wander through history. Lived-in history. Split wasn’t kept as a museum, and life has grown up around it over the centuries. Much of it remains remarkably well preserved, considering this practice, and, if history is your thing, you will absolutely adore Split.
1. Wander Diocletian’s Palace
You literally can’t miss Diocletian’s Palace when you visit Split, because it comprises the Old Town. However, it can be pretty easy to miss what you’re looking at in this UNESCO World Heritage site, because you can visit some of it for free, and others are spread out over a couple of different institutions.
Check out my post on visiting Diocletian’s Palace (it has a really good map), and you won’t miss a thing!
2. Visit the Roman ruins at Salona
Before Diocletian’s palace, Salona was the city. You can see the Roman aqueduct from the highway, but the real treat is to go and tour what’s been excavated of Salona. A forum, the grave sites, and the sites of the earliest Christian sites in the region await you. There’s also a little museum dedicated to the early excavations.
You can easily reach Salona by public bus, but to get more context (there’s next to no signage) of what you’re encountering, I suggest a small-group tour. Unfortunately, it looks like the tour I took through Airbnb Experiences isn’t on offer at the moment, but there are plenty of other tours available.
3. Scamper up Klis Fortress
Speaking of Klis Fortress, which you may recognize as Meereen from Game of Thrones, you can wander around this defensive marvel almost at will. Wear good shoes—part of the defensive trick was a messy stone pavement to make invading armies look down at the ground. The views from the top looking down onto Split are worth it, even if the history of the fortress doesn’t interest you that much.
4. Find the medieval hermitage on Marjan Hill
Skip the stairs on the way up and wend your way around Marjan Hill. You’ll breathe easier, avoid crowds, and find yourself at the Oratory of sv. Cyriaka, a medieval hermitage just behind a picturesque church (Crkva sv. Jere). I would not have minded the hermit life if that was my view.
Continue your walk to the top of the hill and then take the stairs down again. Don’t forget to stop for a drink at the café at the viewpoint!
I loved my scamper up Marjan Hill and wrote a Travelogue about it.
5. Contemplate at the Archaeological Museum in Split
If you’re in Split for a bit, the Archaeological Museum in Split, Croatia’s oldest museum, is definitely worth a visit. Inside, they feature different exhibitions (captions are all in Croatian, but just snap a photo with your phone and use the translation feature). Those are interesting (I saw an exhibition of ancient pottery and artifacts found on the Island of Vis), but the real gold to me lies outside surrounding the courtyard.
There, surrounding a lovely garden you’ll find the lapidarium, containing sculpture and funerary artifacts from ancient Salona and Diocletian’s Palace. They aren’t well organized or catalogued (you will find some markers), but the quiet mood of the place invites you to take your time and ponder your own life and what we leave behind. I found it a very soulful experience.
I wrote about my thoughts after visiting the museum and preparing to leave Split in a Sundry Wonders post.
Get lost in Split and watch the world go by
The city of Split invites you to slow down and to wander, and if you rush through everything, you will miss the soul of the place. While there’s loads to do in Split, take some time to get lost or sit someplace and watch the world go by. Here are some ideas.
6. Get lost in Veli Varoš
I stayed just on the border of this charming neighborhood, and one of my favorite things to do in Split was to wander aimlessly through it on Sunday mornings, with absolutely no agenda.
Veli Varoš is a perfect example of life growing up around history. Wander enough, and you’ll find medieval churches tucked in amongst the houses, strange shrines, locals going about their lives. It’s a magical place, really.
I wrote about getting lost in Veli Varoš in another Sundry Wonders post.
7. Enjoy sunset drinks on the Riva
Celebrate the end of the day with a sunset drink. Come sunset, wander down to the Riva and either get a drink at one of the cafés (tip: turn around and check out the view first, as some are obstructed) or head over to the West Bank with your own drink (this is technically not legal, but, given the amount of open consumption I saw, I don’t think anyone really does anything about it).
I can’t put my finger on it, but there was something about sitting quietly, nursing a drink, and watching people come and go as they strolled along the Riva that filled me with such contentment. It was both the most ordinary thing and the most wonderful.
Of all the things I miss about Split, I think miss Sunset Beer the most.
8. Catch the sunset at Little Sheeps Beach
My unpopular opinion is that Split’s beaches aren’t the best. Perhaps because it was a bit cooler in October, and perhaps just because I didn’t particularly care for the beaches, I didn’t spend much time at them.
However, even if I wasn’t a huge fan of the beaches for swimming, I am a big fan of sunsets over the ocean. While the Riva is a convenient spot, a walk over to the Little Sheeps Beach (or anywhere over by Bačvice Beach) offers a truly spectacular sunset over the sea. Grab a drink at the bar, grab a table and settle in.
If you want do to swim, make sure to bring water shoes.
9. People watch before a Hajduk Split football match
The city of Split takes its football club very seriously. You’ll notice all the 1950 red and blue graffiti all over the city—it’s all about football. (Side note: You may also find ACAB tags, too—it means the same thing as it does in the US, “All Cops Are Bastards,”—but here it protests the cracking on shenanigans of the football fans, not a cry for social justice).
If you can’t get a ticket to a match (they sell out), or even if you aren’t all that interested in football but do love people watching, head over to Imperium Caesar an hour or two before the match and watch fans gather to pregame. Grab a drink at one of the cafés, or, even better, buy a can of beer at the Konzum and sit along the circular bench (make way not just for fans, but also for cats) and take it all in. Bonus points if they are playing Zagreb, Croatia’s capital city and Split’s rival. I had the great fortune to witness this, and it was a hoot.
10. Meander to Sustipan for peace and incredible views
Walk all the way down the Riva along the West Bank and head to Sustipan on a sunny Sunday morning for Adriatic views and a little peace and quiet away from the crowds in this lovely park. Sustipan’s roots go back to a medieval Benedictine monastery overlooking the sea. It was later a cemetery, but that was destroyed in WWII. The park was created after the war, and it’s a great way to get some space when the narrow twists and turns of Split begin to feel close. The views are amazing, and there’s a little church (Crkva sv. Sjepana) on the grounds.
Food & drink in Split
One of the top things to do in Split is eat and drink, and you’ll love Split’s vibrant culinary scene (for even more, check out my post). Here’s the ones you can’t miss.
11. Learn about olive oil and wine . . . and feast in the shadow of Klis Fortress
This tour offered through Airbnb Experiences (not an affiliate link) is one of the best things I’ve ever done. In the shadow of Klis Fortress, enjoy a tour of a fifteenth-century farm and learn about olive oil production and wine making from a direct descendant of the original farmers. After the tour of the terraced farm, enjoy a true farm-to-table feast, complete with olive oil and wine from the farm in the shadow of Klis Fortress.
In addition to the amazing wine and food, I also learned a very valuable skill: how to open a pomegranate! Check out the post and stop staining your kitchen (and then use your newfound skill to make sorbet!)!
12. Get some of the best ice cream anywhere at Luka Ice Cream and Cakes
If you love ice cream, you absolutely have to go to Luka Ice Cream & Cakes. I don’t know what their secret is, but this is some of the best ice cream I have ever had. Luka’s features classic flavors, as well as a rotating list of specialty ice creams. Get yourself a cone and sit in the Imperium Caesar square and watch the world go by.
I loved the chocolate lavendar combination so much, I decided to make Lavender Fudgesicles!
13. Shop at the Green Market on Saturday mornings
Split’s Green Market is open every day except for Sunday, but if you want to get the best produce and the full experience, head over on a Saturday morning. Bring cash (think exact change) and your best Croatian language skills (or a translate app that you consult just before ordering) and join in the fun.
If you can’t make it on a Saturday morning, it’s still worth going. Just know that weekday afternoons are for tourists.
14. Wine and jazz at Marvlvs Library Jazz Bar
Once in a while, a hyped place is the real deal. Marvlvs Library Jazz Bar is one such place. The home of the founder of Croatian literature has been transformed into a tiny little literary jazz bar, and the floor was original to Diocletian’s palace. The menu is a book full of literary quotes in multiple languages, and the vibe is just good. Don’t miss this place.
Unique things to do in Split
Some things just defy categorization, and Split has a couple of them.
15 Don’t miss Froggyland!
Froggyland is one strange little museum, and you just can’t miss it. This feat of taxidermy must be experienced in person, especially because they don’t allow photos. It’s wacky and delightful, and unless you have an aversion to stuffed frogs, this has to make it to your must-do list.
I was so taken with Froggyland that I wrote an entire post about it.
16. Rub the toe of Gregory of Nin
We all need a little luck, and we all want to make sure that we go back to Split. To help both, make sure to rub the toe of Gregory of Nin
This giant statue by famed sculptor Ivan Meštrović is of the bishop who advocated for services in the Croatian language instead of Latin and is considered a hero of Split. Prior to World War II, the statue was in the Peristil. Legend has it that to protect it from being used for weaponry during the fascist occupation, the statue was cut into three pieces and hidden until after the war (this may or may not be true, but the statue was spared). The bishop now resides outside the Golden Gate, marking the entrance to Diocletian’s Palace.
17. Take an evening tour of Split
The Soul of the Old Split tour (Airbnb Experiences, not an affiliate link) offers a unique experience of Split, from its ancient roots through legends of today. Meet your guide after dark, and follow the lamp as you learn of Split’s secrets. It’s history with a very generous pinch of salt, and you will love it.
Excursions & Day Trips from Split
If you have time, explore the region with a day trip or short excursion. These were my favorites.
18. Go island hopping on the Adriatic
Check the weather and book yourself an island-hopping tour. The Adriatic sea is nothing to miss, and Croatia’s islands, especially Vis and Hvar, are a must while visiting Split. The Blue Cave, while touristy, is also genuinely impressive (I visited one in Montenegro, and this one is better). Bring your suit, water shoes, and a jacket and have a beautiful day out on the water.
I had such a wonderful time, that the skipper noticed that I didn’t stop smiling the entire day. It truly is an experience out on the water, especially with the view of the mountains and Split.
Book your tour!
There are a gagillion boat tours available. I enjoyed this one offered through GetYourGuide. When booking your tour, take note of the boat type, as some are more comfortable than others. Take the one I took by clicking below!
19. Take a day trip to Krka Waterfall
Croatia’s true showstopper waterfalls are in Plitvice, and while you can visit it from Split, it’s a haul. Krka Waterfall is also incredibly beautiful, and a much easier day trip from Split. You take a lovely walk on a bridge through the river to the gorgeous waterfalls. The park has a charming Ethno village to see what life was like in yesteryear, but to me, the walk and the Skradinski Buk waterfall were the gold.
Make sure you get to Skradin, too
If you take a tour there, be sure that it includes a boat ride over to Skradin, as it’s a charming little town to visit and have lunch. The tour I did with Booker (booked with GetYourGuide [affiliate link]) included a wine tasting at Sladić winery in the hills above Skradin, and I found it to be a perfect way to end a lovely day.
This is one popular tour
Do note that Krka is an incredibly popular spot and expect crowds. Even in October, this was a busy attraction. Also, swimming is no longer permitted in the waterfall area (there is a beach in Skradin, if you are so inclined).
Sometimes, we aren’t always in the best mood when we travel, and I was a bit cranky the day I went to Krka. I wasn’t by the time I got back. I wrote about it in a Travelogue.
Book your tour!
Take the tour by booking through GetYourGuide.
20. Take a day trip to Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
If you have time, I highly recommend a day trip to Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This UNESCO site, which was rebuilt after the horrors of the 1990s wars, is so close that it would be a shame to miss it. The architecture and culture is unique and worth checking out. And the food . . . oh, that is good.
Remember to wear good shoes! Stari Most (the famous old bridge) is one awkward crossing, and the beautiful stone streets are not the kindest.
This is one of those day trips that sticks with you, and I wrote a Travelogue about it.
Book your tour!
I enjoyed this small-group tour, booked through GetYourGuide, especially because we had a local guide while in Mostar, but there are plenty of others. If you are visiting Split in July or August, this might not be the best tour for you, as Mostar is the hottest place in Europe, and you can’t swim in that river. Our guide shared stories of people getting overcome with the heat on extreme days.
21. Get lost in Trogir
Oh, Trogir is such a pretty little town. I visited on a quiet weekday in late October, and I was able to wander the streets in a quiet daze, getting lost on its cobblestoned streets of its Old Town. I can imagine that this place is hopping in peak times, and your experience in August would be very different from mine in October, but it’s still a feast for the eyes.
Trogir’s mix of architecture, history, and island location is interesting and all (and has earned it UNESCO World Heritage Site status), but really, the thing to do here is get lost. When your feet fail you, get a coffee at Tinel Specialty Coffee Shop (there’s a location in Split, too) and sit in the quiet alleyway.
I found Trogir so intoxicating, and I wrote a Sundry Wonders post about it.
Plan your trip to Split!
Here’s a few things to consider when visiting Split. Looking for more? Get my FREE Wonder & Sundry Guide to Split, Croatia. It has all my recommendations, including listings, and a detailed map. Subscribe today for access!
- Everything in Grad (City Centre) is very close together and in a pedestrian zone, so you don’t need to spend a ton of time getting from place to place.
- Wear decent footwear, especially when wandering around the Old Town. Those beautiful Roman paving stones can prove a bit slick.
- Drivers in this part of the world are very aggressive. Take care in crossing streets, especially if you’ve spent the day wandering around the pedestrian zones.
- Split can get very hot, especially in peak summer months. Make sure to wear sunscreen and stay hydrated, especially when climbing Marjan Hill.
- Split has seen an uptick in muggings, particularly late at night, but overall, crime is very low. Indeed, I have rarely felt so safe as I did in the pedestrian areas in Split.
- Take care with roller suitcases if you are staying right in Diocletian’s Palace area. While I never saw anyone with a roller suitcase stopped, there are official signs warning about them damaging the UNESCO protected streets.
Solo female travel
There’s so much to do in Split that lends itself perfectly to the solo traveler, and you will have a ball. Nearly every single one of these activities I listed above, I did solo. The city, like the rest of Croatia, is incredibly safe. Standard street smarts apply, but you should be fine.
This guide may be helpful you in navigating Split as a person with disabilities. It’s up to date and thorough.