Exploring an ancient emperor’s palace, cycling around Marjan Hill, and taking in a glorious sunset from the seaside promenade…these are some of the best things to do in Split, Croatia.
Brimming with ancient architecture, narrow cobblestone lanes and one of the most stunning stretches of the Adriatic coast, Croatia’s second largest city is a rewarding place to visit at any time of the year.
For me, Split is by far the most beautiful city in Croatia. It has just the right combination of attractions: you can spend your mornings visiting ancient monuments, then retire on a fine beach in the afternoon. On top of that, the city makes the perfect base for exploring other parts of Croatia, including the islands.
In this article, I’ve compiled the very best things to do in Split. No matter whether you are heading there for a weekend or a two-week holiday, below you will find some great ideas for what to do in Split so that you can plan the perfect trip.
01 | Explore Diocletian’s Palace
It’s impossible to visit Split without entering the legendary Diocletian’s Palace. Covering an area of 40 000 m2, the massive historical complex makes up half of the Split Old Town.
The palace was built as retirement home for Roman emperor Diocletian. The construction of the palace was completed in 305 AD, after no less than ten years. Upon completion, the palace was used partly as Diocletian’s house and partly as a military facility.
If you can only do one thing when you visit Split, Diocletian’s Palace is a clear choice. It’s breathtaking and very well preserved; in fact, it’s the world’s most complete remains of a Roman palace, which has earned it UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
There is no entrance fee to enter the palace. You will only need to pay when visiting certain buildings inside. I would honestly recommend that you do so on a guided tour. I once visited the palace along some years ago, then again with a guide during my last visit. Having a guide made a huge difference; it was so much more interesting, as there is a story behind nearly every room. Therefore, taking a guided tour through the palace is definitely among the top things to do in Split, Croatia.
What to see within Diocletian’s Palace
- Peristyle– the center of the Palace – an open-air square surrounded by original columns, a sphynx, and palaces – it is the main Splitian landmark.
- Saint Domnius Cathedral (St. Duje Cathedral)– one of the oldest Catholic Cathedrals in the world; mass is held there every day. Opening hours: 6:30 am – 12 pm / 5:30 pm – 7 pm. Next to the entrance to the cathedral is a black sphinx dating to 15 BC which was brought over from Luxor in Egypt. The cellar of the cathedral features a treasury of religious artifacts
- Vestibule– up the steps on the southern side of the peristyle, the vestibule used to be the entrance to the emperor’s apartment. Today the dome hosts local choirs singing traditional music and selling their CDs.
- Basement Halls – The underground of the palace is quite a mysterious place to visit. It consists of many rooms that were unused for a long time as they were in fact underwater.
- Silver Gate– (on the Eastern side of the palace) a beautiful limestone gate, one of the most remarkable ones in the palace.
- Golden Gate– the main entrance of the palace located on the north side.
02 | Climb the Bell Tower of St. Domnius Cathedral
Situated in heart of the historic Diocletian’s Palace complex, you will find the adorable Cathedral of Saint Domnius. It was constructed in the 7th century AD and served as Emperor Diocletian’s mausoleum. The cathedral is regarded as the oldest Catholic cathedral in the world that remains in use in the original structure without significant renovations.
You should definitely take the opportunity to climb up this unique cathedral’s Romanesque bell tower. The initial stone steps are narrow and steep, opening up into a wider sixstory metal scaffolding that winds its way inside the tower, leaving you breathless (don’t do this if you are afraid of heights!) Challenging yourself and getting up there is definitely one of the most adventurous things to do in Split.
At the top, you’ll be rewarded with great views of the harbour and the entire town. This is the place where the prettiest Split Instagram pictures are taken! Entrance to the Cathedral costs 20 Kunas (€2.80)
03 | Walk the Riva promenade
Split is the Croatia’s main ferry port and its promenade is the perfect place to soak up the beauty of Croatia’s idyllic coastline and adore some of the luxurious yachts coming to Split from all over the world.
Flanked by towering palms, the Riva promenade runs the entire length of the Old Town, surrounded by Split’s most prominent hotels and restaurants. This incredible walkway is one of my favourite places in the whole city. Rather quiet during the day, the promenade gets livelier in the evening. It’s also one of the best spots for watching the sunset.
04 | Cycle around Marjan Hill
Combining greenery with Split’s best beaches, Marjan is the largest natural recreational area in Split. It has a special importance among the locals, as they love to pass the time meandering among the medieval churches and forest paths found there.
Towering above the city (the summit is 178 meters tall), Marjan Hill is a great place to enjoy spectacular views of Split (the best view can be enjoyed right on the edge of the park; further in, it is blocked by trees unfortunately).
The parks starts about 15 minutes’ walk from the harbor. All you have to do is to follow the steps up at the end of the promenade. Marjan hill covers a large area, so cycling is the best option for exploring the area. You might want to consider joining this 3-hour bike tour with a local guide.
Opting for a solo exploration, I rented a bike near the harbor and spent an entire day in Marjan, sightseeing and doing a few swimming stops along the way. The scenery is spectacular as the coastline is rocky and dramatic. Marjan is a small wilderness paradise right next to the city.
05 | Head to the beach
Spending some time tanning and swimming at the beach is a must when you visit Split. From April to October, outside temperatures and the Adriatic Sea are warm enough for a refreshing dip. The cool thing about Split is that no matter where you are, the beach is never too far away; you can walk, cycle or use public transportation to reach them.
The most popular beach in Split is Bačvice, situated just ten minute’s walk from the bus station. Nicknamed “Split’s Copacabana”, the half-moon sandy beach can accommodate more than 10 000 bathers. It may not be Split’s most beautiful beach, but it’s easily accessible and you can enjoy some decent sunbathing there. At night, the area is popular for nightlife.
Although Bačvice is cool for a short dip, there are other beaches to try if you have more time. Past Bačvice, you can walk to Ovcice and Firule beaches. Here the water is a bit deeper and they are less crowded.
The most beautiful beach in Split is located a bit further away from the town centre towards Marjan hill. Kasjuni Beach is said to be the most popular among locals, and I enjoyed some great swimming there. If you are moving around by bicycle, it is super easy to reach. Spending an afternoon in the sun and ending your day with a cocktail from the local beach bar (Joe’s Beach Lounge & Bar) is definitely one of the most enjoyable things to do in Split.
06| See ‘Game of Thrones’ shooting locations in real life
Several Croatian cities served as shooting locations for HBO’s most successful series, and Split is definitely one of the most prominent ones. You can explore on your own or join a guided tour to learn more about the venues. At the end of the day, you can also buy souvenirs at the dedicated Game of Thrones souvenir shop (address: Bosanska Street 10, Split).
So what are the locations that every Game of Thrones fan should visit in Split?
Dark and atmospheric, the narrow alleyways of Diocletian’s palace were the streets of post-siege Meereen. The palace’s basement was where Daenerys Targaryen kept her dragons in her palace. With lot of added animation, the basement was used to stage Daenerys’ throne room, too. One of the most famous scenes filmed in in Diocletian’s Palace is in Season 4 Episode 4, ‘Oathkeeper’, when the slaves discuss whether they should fight for Daenerys and rise against their masters.
Overlooking the city of Split, the medieval Kliss Fortress sits on a steep hill, at an altitude of 360 metres. This location is featured in Seasons 4 and 6. In season 4, the fortress is the city of Meereen and it appears first when Daenarys and her army conquer the city. In season 6, Episode 1, you can notice the fortress when Tyrion and Varys make the long walk through the streets of Meereen dressed as peasants.
This tiny, historic city situated on the Adriatic coast can be visited as a pleasant day trip from Split and has been featured in Game of Thrones, too. Trogir was the filming location for the trading harbour of Qarth, and the St. Dominic’s Monastery housed many of the scenes shot in town, for example, in Season 2, Episode 6 ‘The Old Gods and the New’, when the Warlocks of Qarth stole Daenerys’ dragons and she finds her guards dead.
07 | Take a day trip to Trogir
Home to several impressive churches, palaces, and narrow cobblestone streets set within medieval walls, Trogir represents one of the highlights of the Adriatic coast. Within just a short ride from Split (27 kilometers), Trogir makes for an easy and delightful day trip.
The history of Trogir goes back to the 3rd century BC, when it was a settlement of the Roman Empire as it was expanding through Dalmatia at that time. Over time, it was ruled by Hungarians, Croats, and became part of the Venetian and later Austrian empires.
The historical centre of Trogir is located on a small island and is entirely pedestrian. You should definitely visit the 13th century Cathedral of St Lawrence (Katedrala sv. Lovrijenac), which features a bell tower that can be climbed to see fantastic views from the top. The southern tip of the Old Town has remains of city walls constructed in the 13th and 14th century. The Old Town is so lovely that it’s no wonder Trogir is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Trogir can be reached from the Split airport on bus #37. Often, travelers visit Trogir as a last stop before heading to the airport. If you’re looking to spend a few nights outside of Split, Trogir can be a great base, too.
08 | Buy fresh food at the local market
Despite many supermarkets opening in recent years, traditional outdoor markets are still quite popular in Croatia. Lively and packed with fresh produce, the Split Vegetable Market is my favorite place in town to buy veggies and fruits.
The stalls of the vegetable market (called Pazar Market) run along Hrvojeva Street from the east wall of Diocletian’s Palace all the way to the palace’s Silver Gate. Find it on GoogleMaps here. The market operates all day and it’s open-air.
What should you buy at the market? I love the taste of tomatoes in Croatia – they taste so much better than anywhere else. Bottles of local olive oil are another great thing to buy and bring home as a present.
If you like cooking, you might be interested in staying in an Airbnb with a kitchen. Cooking on your own is fun and can save you a lot of money, as most of the restaurants on the promenade are pretty expensive.
09 | Go island hopping
Split serves as an excellent jumping off point for exploring nearby islands that are scattered along the Dalmatian Coast. Three amazing islands situated in the vicinity of Split are Brač, Hvar, and Vis.
Hvar is perhaps the easiest island to visit on a day trip from Split. There you can hike up to the castle to enjoy the beautiful views of the Old Town and the harbour. Then you can take a stroll in the Old Town, with its lovely cobblestone streets and tiny stalls. If you fall in love with Hvar, you can always stay overnight. The ferry trip takes 1 hour and 40 minutes, so you should plan your day well. You can find the timetable for the Split – Hvar Ferry here.
If you are looking to escape from the crowds and have at least two days, then a trip to Vis Island is a perfect choice. Vis is harder to reach as it is the furthest inhabited island from the mainland), and its inaccessibility makes it both an exciting and exclusive place to be. It is made up of 90.26 square kilometers of stunning beaches, bays and two cities where life goes as slowly as it has for ages. You can read my post on Things to do in Vis here.
10 | Go Sea Kayaking
What to do Split when you’re in a sporty mood? If you are looking for an adventurous activity that combines fitness with sightseeing, join one of the sea kayaking tours that run along the coast towards Marjan Hill. Usually, you can choose between taking a tour during sunrise or sunset. It’s the perfect opportunity to appreciate the Mediterranean architecture along the coast, dominated by 1700-year-old Diocletian’s Palace.
For example, this tour with a local guide takes three hours, and includes paddling for nine kilometers. Especially if you are traveling with a friend, this is a cool experience to enjoy. Plus, you don’t need any pervious experience; they will explain everything you need to know. Tours are offered daily from April to September.
Another way to get active is to hop on a paddle board. During this recommended paddleboard tour, you will enjoy relaxing paddling past gorgeous the scenery. The best part is that the boards are equipped with LED lighting. What a cool thing to do on a hot summer night!
Where to stay in Split
The best places to stay in Split are around Diocletian’s Palace and the Old Town centre. Being central will allow you to easily walk to all the main attractions. I’ve listed some options for every budget below.
Budget: Hostel Split – an affordable hostel with a friendly atmosphere and a perfect location just 500 meters from the Adriatic Sea. I stayed in a private room and I loved it!
Mid-range: Hotel Bellevue – located in the heart of Split, this cosy hotel offers everything you need for a relaxing stay.
Luxury: Marvie Hotel & Health – New and spotlessly clean hotel situated near Bacvice beach. It features a spa center, rooftop outdoor pool, and restaurant.
I hope this article will make it easier for you to plan your trip. If you have any questions about things to do in Split, please ask in the comment section below!
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