What to do in Split

By Cristian G. Guasch •  Updated: 08/14/22 •  6 min read

Most travelers landing in Croatia for the first time are desperate to get to know beautiful Dubrovnik, the most touristic city in the country. Not everyone gets to discover the virtues of Split, located 200 kilometers from Dubrovnik, on the fantastic Dalmatian coast.

With its 230,000 inhabitants, Split has a well-kept secret: the Diocletian’s Palace, one of the best preserved Roman monuments in the world, which is intertwined with a labyrinthine old town, full of stores, bars and restaurants.

In addition, this town is the best port of passage to visit the idyllic Croatian islands (such as Hvar, Solta and Brac), just a ferry ride away. Some of the attractions to see in Split are: the Cathedral of St. Domnius, the Temple of Jupiter, the Fortress of Kliz and the incredible beach of Bacvice.

Historical center

Getting lost in the historic center of Split is a program in itself. Its narrow cobbled streets invite you to walk for hours, visiting courtyards and mysterious passages that lead to beautiful squares. But the most surprising thing is that the old town is part of the Diocletian’s Palace, since in the times of the Roman Empire this palace delimited the very contours of the city.

Diocletian’s Palace

The Diocletian’s Palace is of an unspeakable beauty and is one of the essential places to see in Split. It was built between the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, by order of Emperor Diocletian, and is one of the most incredible sites on the Croatian Adriatic coast. This palace is the soul of Split, as most of the city’s monuments are scattered around it.

The palace was built as a luxury villa of Diocletian, Roman emperor between 282 and 305, who chose this place to spend his old age. However, this summer house was also a Roman military camp, separated into four parts by two large streets: in the south lived the emperor, while the north was the abode of his imperial guard, composed of soldiers and servants.

The enclosure occupies a rectangular area of 160 x 190 meters, crowned by towers on the north, west and east facade, in addition to four gigantic gates: the Golden Gate, which could only be crossed by the Emperor; the Silver Gate, the Iron Gate and the Aenea Gate. In the huge open rectangle of the palace there are bars, restaurants and stores, and the liveliest part of Split’s urban life takes place here.

Temple of Jupiter

Many architects consider the Temple of Jupiter to be the most fantastic monument in Europe and for that reason alone it should be on your list of historical places to see in Split. It was built between 295 and 305, and was part of the Diocletian Palace. It is located on a podium, with a portico of six columns. Just before the entrance to the temple, converted into a baptistery during the 6th century, you can admire one of the twelve sphinxes that Diocletian had brought from Egypt. The building has beautiful sculptures and inside are the sarcophagi of the Split bishops of the tenth and eleventh century.

Cathedral of St. Domnius

Another of the historical places to see in Split is the Cathedral of St. Domnius, or Split Cathedral, was originally the ancient mausoleum of Emperor Diocletian, to which was added a large bell tower of 57 meters, which gives the best views over the old city and the turquoise Adriatic Sea.

This mausoleum became a cathedral during the 12th century. Inside the enclosure, the main altar, the baroque choir and the benches, made of wood, stand out. One of the most striking parts of the temple is a walnut door, carved by a local artist in 1214, with fine reliefs depicting the Resurrection of Christ.

Kliz Fortress

The Kliz Fortress is one of the largest and most important in the history of Croatia. With medieval origins, located on a village called Kliz, it has been a fundamental piece in the fight against the offensive of the Ottoman Empire on the Dalmatian Coast during the XVI century. Today, it houses a museum exhibiting ancient armor and weapons. Fans of the award-winning series Game of Thrones will remember this place because many scenes were filmed in the Kliz Fortress, making it one of the recommended places to see in Split.

Bacvice beach

Bacvice is the most popular beach in Split and one of the symbols of the city. It is the closest to the historic center and the locals choose it daily to play picigin, a traditional ball game that consists in preventing the ball from falling into the sea. Every evening, the Bacvice shore is a must for fun, with unforgettable beach parties.

Four other beautiful beaches to see in Split are worth mentioning. The first one is Kasjuni, in the west of the city, with an epic bar on the shore that at night turns into a discotheque; Kastelet beach, one of the most crowded by the local public; Jnzan beach, ideal to go with children; and Bene beach, reached by bus number 12, which also serves to visit those of Kastelet and Kasjuni.

Statue of Grgur Ninski

One of the monuments to see in Split is the statue of Grgur Ninski. He was a very important bishop in the history of Croatia during the 10th century. His statue was originally located in the Peristyle of Diocletian’s Palace, but during World War II it was removed from that place; years later, it was moved to the gardens of the Golden Gate of the palace.

Those seeking a life full of happiness and fortune should follow a very simple ritual for Croatians: touch the statue’s big toe. To learn more about the history of Ivan Meštrović, creator of the monument to Ngur Ninsky, is to visit the Meštrović Gallery, one of the must-see museums in Split, where works of art by the great Croatian master are exhibited.

Visit to the islands

Taking a ferry from the Port of Split, the most important in Croatia (it receives 4 million tourists every year), you reach paradisiacal islands. It is difficult to choose one more beautiful than another, but the most recommended are the island of Brac (50 minutes by ferry) and the island of Solta, with incredible coves of transparent water.

Finally, it is worth mentioning one of the stars of the Dalmatian Coast: the island of Hvar, one of the largest and most visited in the Adriatic, two hours by ferry from Split. It has a beautiful old town, which highlights the Cathedral of St. Stephen, a dreamy promenade and the icing on the cake: the Spagnola Fortress, which is accessed by climbing a staircase that runs in the bowels of the town. When you reach the top, the views of the city and the Pakleni Islands will be unparalleled.

Cristian G. Guasch

I have traveled the world visiting 18 countries, including Japan, most of Europe and North America. I love to learn about the culture and history, taste the different dishes and enjoy the beauty of this planet. I also work completely remotely, and this helps me discover new places all year around.