- Every guide book will tell you that Split is a city built around the palace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, one of the best preserved and most impressive monuments of the Roman era in Europe. You will also read that the historic city core has been on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 1979. However, Split is not a city-museum; it’s a lively place thriving among the historical layers of its monuments. That’s why getting to know Split in one day might just prove to be a handful.
Rule number one – start with the most important sights, in other words, Diocletian Palace and the city core, including the most important city’s promenade Riva. The second “step”, if you have the time for it, should include Marjan and, depending on the time, one of the city’s beaches, maybe Bačvice, famous for “picigin”, a unique game founded on that very spot. What is really important, even during this kind of a quick tour, is that the most important part of urban life takes place right there, so your sightseeing tour will not be just a hectic rush from one monument to the next, but also an opportunity to join the locals in their everyday life.
Although, the old part of the city, within the Palace and around it, will resemble a maze, it is really very easy to navigate. As an introduction to your tour we recommend one of the two Information Centres of the Tourist Board of Split on Riva and Peristyle, where you can grab some brochures, city plans and other information you might need. Very informative City Light (http://www.split.hr/citylights/index.html) panels also might be helpful as you can find them right next to the most important sights.
Start your walk from the scale model of the historic core on Riva, and the panel showing the reconstructed Diocletian Palace. Stroll along the Riva towards the west, along the numerous cafes and shops, enjoying the view of the south facade of the Palace and the city harbor. The path will then lead you to the city squares like the Fruit or People’s Square, and onwards towards the north wall of the Palace, also the best preserved one at that.
Don’t miss testing your luck and making your wishes come true by touching the big toe of the grandiose statue of the Gregory of Nin, the work of the great Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović. The grand Golden gate, used only by the Emperor Diocletian and his family, will then come before you, the gate that, in the Roman era, led to Salona, the biggest city on the eastern shore of the Adriatic at the time.
Enter the Palace, like an Emperor, and visit its ancient medieval streets and squares, pass through the narrowest street of the city “Let me pass” right next to the old Jupiter’s temple, and lose your way in the maze of the former imperial living quarters, only make sure that your lost path leads you through the Vestibule right onto the central imperial square – Peristyle.
Here, we’re talking about one of the most important examples of Late Roman architecture, displaying a 3500 year old Egyptian sphinx, with a bell tower rising right above the Cathedral of St. Dujam, patron of city. The church found its place in the former imperial mausoleum, making it one of the oldest christian buildings in the world.
During the summer, every day at noon, you can be a part of the changing of the Diocletian guards, with the appearance and a salutation by the Emperor himself to the locals and the guests alike. After that, continue towards the Riva, but this time go through the Diocletian palace substructures – a former storage facility for everyday needs of the palace inhabitants, today one of the greatest tourist attractions of Split, a location where numerous scenes of the popular TV series Game of Thrones were filmed.
A place that certainly should not be missed is the city’s main marketplace also called “Pazar”, an explosion of colours, odours and flavours of Dalmatia and the Mediterranean. The market will then lead you, through the Silver gate, right back into the Diocletian Palace and onto the main Roman street – Decumanus, following this street you will reach the west, Iron Gate. Now look up and endeavour to guess the time on the old city clock, one of the very few counting 24 digits.
The People’s Square or Pjaca, as the local’s call it, will open up before you, representing the central venue of the city’s social life, ever since the medieval times. You will find the Old Gothic Town hall standing in its centre. Stroll along from the Pjaca to the 120 year old fish market and then through the ever vigorous Marmont Street out on to the Prokurative, the gloriously wonderful square resembling the Venetian’s St Mark’s Square.
If you still have some time left, you can explore further towards the old fishing port Matejuška, the former cemetery in the Sustipan Park or take a walk through the streets of Varoš to the Belvedere at Marjan hill and enjoy in the spectacular view of the city, right next to the old Jewish cemetery. Let your tour end with the Sports Walk of Fame on the west side of the Riva among all the winners of Olympic medals from Split. Of course, you can also simply sit in one of the cafe’s and give in to the favourite local pass time – sipping coffee and observing the vibrancy of life around you.
- If you’re in Split for three days, you will have more time to discover all the charms of the Diocletian city beyond the usual race tour of monuments and other attractions.
Naturally, all that we have described in the one day program represents the “mandatory program”, giving you a foundation for your introduction to such an important destination historically and culturally.
Also, you will now, by all means, have more time at your disposal for all that, not only to have a better insight of what is in the guides, but also to enjoy in the Split way of life, the Mediterranean kind of relaxation being a true medicine for stress. Sit on the Riva or on one of the city’s squares just like the locals do, in a long ritual of sipping your coffee during an endless chatter as a part of the city’s spirit. Become a part of it.
Be sure not to miss walking through the neighbourhoods where the spirit of the old Split still lives, especially Veli Varoš and Radunica, or Matejuška, the fishing port that still keeps the spirit of the unfortunate lovers Roko and Cicibela alive. This is the Split from the period when it was a small town of some 30 thousand inhabitants, when everyone knew each other and when this city was in love with itself and its heritage.
You should definitely reserve a day for a walk on the Marjan hill, and not only to the Belvedere, but further on along the forest paths ideal for all kinds of recreation – hiking, running, climbing, biking, and also swimming during the summer, kayaking,…
This green hill, on the west side of the Split peninsula became, long since, the most important city symbol, almost resembling a natural patron of the city spreading at its feet. Marjan has, since the time immemorial, also remained the spiritual refuge for the local citizens, with its ancient small churches, of which some, on the south promenade, are – literally carved into the hill’s rocks.
Each part of Marjan will provide you with its own serenity from the city turbulence, and will allow you to enjoy the view of Split and its sea and land surroundings, stretching all the way to the remote islands. Marjan is also home to the most visited gallery of Split the Ivan Meštrović Gallery and its Kaštilac, with a priceless collection of the works of this most famous Croatian sculptor.
While returning from Marjan towards the city centre, you should visit the Split museums, starting with the Museum of the Croatian archaeological monuments and the Archaeological museum, both preserving the treasures of the ancient times. Also worth visiting are the City Museum of Split, the Ethnographic museum, the Art Gallery with one of the largest collections of Croatian and international art in the country, the Croatian Maritime Museum within the Gripe fortress, the House of Fame of Split’s Sport holding the memory of numerous sportsmen and women who have made Split the Croatian Sport metropolis.
Since just recently it is also possible to tour the Poljud stadium, the home to the most popular Croatian football club Hajduk, founded in 1911, proud of its trophies and the oldest supporters club in Europe, Torcida.
Remember to visit the numerous churches, as extraordinary monuments of sacral architecture, from the already mentioned Cathedral of St Domnius, the St Anthony’s monastery on Poljud, the medieval Holy Trinity, a 16th century synagogue, the miniature Saint Martin in the north wall of the Diocletian Palace, Saint Frances next to the Riva…
A three day stay will offer you the opportunity to enjoy the growing number of restaurants with specialties that have depicted Split as one of the most important Croatian gastro-destination.Take also into account the numerous events, from club concerts and parties, music, film and theatre festivals and performances in the Croatian National Theatre, with the program always available on the Tourist Board website:
www.visitsplit.com – events
- Few cities can in their closest surroundings offer such variety of entertainment and excursions as Split.
A week long stay offers countless opportunities to broaden your knowledge of Split, to become at least a small portion of its spirit, but also to get acquainted with the city’s surroundings full of jewels of natural and cultural heritage.
First the basics: all that was recommended for the one day and the three day stay also applies to the seven day stay, with a somewhat more relaxed approach. Surrender to the life on the streets and squares, and plan your stay also according to the events at hand, such as the Ultra Europe summer festival, the Split Summer Theatre Festival, the Mediterranean Film Festival or enjoying the Advent in the mild Split climate. The summer is, naturally, reserved for enjoying the beaches of Split, as despite the size of the city they are among the cleanest on the Adriatic.
Possibilities for one day excursions are countless. Trogir, another gem from the UNESCO’s list of Cultural Heritage, is only half an hour from Split, and by ferry, on the island of Hvar, the third protected site in the Split and Dalmatia County, the Ancient Stari Grad Plain is also easily reached. Šibenik is not too far with its St Jacob’s Cathedral, another site under the protection of UNESCO. Somewhat longer journey awaits you to the most beautiful national park, Plitvička jezera.
There is still so much more: Zadar was for centuries the capital city of Dalmatia, there is also the National Park Krka, followed by Knin, Drniš, Sinj and Imotski, cities hiden in the Dalmatian hinterland with not yet fully discovered assets like gastronomy and natural and cultural attractions, like the 300 year old knight game Alka in Sinj. Or the coastal towns of Makarska and Omiš, city Solin with excavations of the ancient Salona and the remains from the medieval times of the Croatian Kingdom. There is also Klis with its fortress introduced to millions of viewers of the TV series Game of Thrones.
And where to start when the islands are concerned? Island Hvar, with its priceless heritage, gastronomy and wine jewels and the wild nightlife. Or Brač with the most beautiful Adriatic beach, Zlatni Rat, the ancient quarries from which the stone was taken for the building of the Diocletian Palace. Or Vis, the town of wine and the most enchanting coves you can imagine, especially Modra Špilja on the isle Biševo.
Do you like adrenaline sports? No problem, you can spend a day rafting on Cetina river, or hiking on Mosor and Biokovo, mountain biking along the vast spaces of the Dalmatian hinterland, kayaking, windsurfing, kiting…