I would go back to Croatia again and again. I went for the first time recently and a week was just not enough. An instant love was sparked in me for the country. If you’re thinking about going there here’s a beginner’s guide (from a beginner) to Split, one of Croatia’s most popular cities.
When to Go:
In my opinion, I think April/May or September/October are the best times to go. I went in early April and enjoyed beautiful 70 degree weather and had no trouble getting a seat at restaurants and had ample space to enjoy the sites. The locals I talked to during my visit said that July and August are unbearably hot and people are packed like sardines in all the major cities and islands.
Where to Stay:
To be honest, I only have one recommendation for a hotel in Split but it’s a good one! My friend told me about Judita Palace and it did not disappoint. As its name implies it used to be a 16th century palace. It’s smack dab in the middle of town in the People’s Square and just a short walk to the Iron Gate entering Diocletian’s Palace. The staff is incredibly friendly, the rooms are beautiful, comfortable, and spacious, and they have a warm and filling breakfast waiting for you each morning.
What to Do:
You can start the day with a walk through Diocletian’s Palace. These amazingly preserved Roman ruins are named after the emperor who lived within the palace gates in the late 200s. I loved roaming within the palace walls and down narrow limestone streets with no specific destination in mind.
Within the palace, enjoy a morning coffee and people-watch on the cushioned steps in front of St. Domnius Cathedral. The cathedral is now one of the oldest Catholic cathedrals in the world but was originally a mausoleum for Emperor Diocletian.
There is a small entrance fee to go inside the cathedral. You can also climb the steps up to the cathedral’s bell tower for a view of the city.
Next to St. Domnius’ Cathedral is the Vestibule, a tall circular column with an opening at the top that served as an entrance to the residential parts of the palace. Today, a quartet of a cappella singers perform throughout the day which you don’t want to miss because the acoustics within the Vestibule are perfect.
Rub Grgur’s toe for good luck
After you finish walking around the Palace, walk out of the Golden Gate and you’ll be met by the statue of Grgur Ninski. Grgur was a bishop in Croatia who was responsible for bringing the national language into religious services helping to not only preserve the language and culture in Croatia but strengthen Christianity in the country. It is believed that rubbing the toe of Grgur’s statue will bring you good luck!
Hike up to Marjan
To move beyond the palace walls and get more of a bird’s eye view of the town center, walk out the Bronze Gate to the Riva promenade and walk to the right towards the Marjan hill. A well-maintained path of all stairs surrounded by trees and peace and quiet takes you to this hilltop to get an impressive view of the city. The hike is not too rugged but there is a cafe up at the top if you need a drink.
Coffee on the Riva promenade
I highly recommend you spend time on the Riva promenade, a pedestrian-only pathway facing the harbor that boasts cafe after cafe. A local I met in Split told me that the Riva promenade is like the city’s living room. It is perfectly acceptable to spend an hour or two at one of the many cafe tables and sip your coffee slowly. In fact, the slower the better because the cultural mindset is all about not rushing through the present and I couldn’t agree more.
Find a good book at Morpurgo
If you love a good book while you travel, walk back into the palace and out the Iron Gate which leads you to the People’s Square and Morpurgo Bookstore. Morpurgo is the oldest bookstore in all of Croatia and has remained unchanged since the late 1800s. They have a small selection of English-language books if you can’t speak the local language like me.
Where to Eat:
The cuisine in Croatia is Italian and seafood-heavy and it is all delicious. I didn’t have a bad meal while I was in Split. I had a great pizza at Pizzeria Galija for lunch and enjoyed an al fresco dinner at No Stress Cafe in the middle of the People’s Square, which by the way is full of more restaurants and cafes for you to choose from. Villa Spiza is a super tiny restaurant on a side street in Diocletian’s palace and if you can get in, the fresh local seafood will be worth the wait!
If I had more time in Split, I would have visited Uje Oil Bar which has an all-day menu in addition to regional olive oil tastings. For all my fellow sweet-tooths, a local I met recommended Choco Cafe as a place that offers some of the best desserts in Split. Finally, a friend told me that Konoba Marjan is an excellent choice for quality seafood for lunch and dinner.
Have you visited Split? Share your recommendations in the comments below!