Split is the second largest city in Croatia, known for its expansive and historic old town palace. It’s an important port to the Adriatic Sea and the cultural heart of the Dalmatia region. With its Riva waterfront promenade lined with top-quality bistros and a superb bar scene, Split is no longer just a point of departure to neighbouring islands.
There’s no need to overlook this city in favour of Dubrovnik or Zagreb. Why not visit as much of Croatia as you can? This travel guide will show you why Split is a fantastic and fun destination in its own right. Keep on reading for the top 15 things to do in Split, Croatia.
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Walk through Diocletian’s Palace
Half of Split’s old town is made up by Diocletian’s Palace. It’s a must-see in Split, Croatia, and kind of difficult to avoid! This well-preserved complex from the fourth century is nothing short of impressive. Covering an area of 30,000 square metres and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s understandably one of the most imposing Roman ruins.
As the name suggests, it was built for the Roman Emperor Diocletian. The western, northern and eastern sides are fortified and flanked by watchtowers. The interiors, however, resemble an extravagant villa, constructed with high-quality marble and limestone. Book a tour of the palace or wander around at your own pace. Whichever way you decide to see it, it’s sure to be memorable.
Admire the work of Meštrović
Croatian sculptor, architect and writer Ivan Meštrović was one of the most renowned and prominent artists of the 20th century. His modern Art Nouveau sculptures are found throughout the country, and his international legacy remains strong.
The Ivan Meštrović Gallery in Split is dedicated to his life’s work, preserving and displaying his most significant pieces. The permanent collection showcases sculptures, furniture, drawings and various designs, including original plaster models and finished works. The gallery was created upon the land he had purchased for himself to build his own summer home. 10 years before his death, Meštrović donated the property and many of his works to the state to create the gallery.
Swim at the beach
There are numerous beautiful beaches in the area, all worthy of a visit. An early morning dip in the sea is one of the best things to do in Split, Croatia during the summertime.
The most popular with both locals and tourists is Bačvice Beach. The calm, shallow waters and sandy shoreline make it easy to spend the entire day there swimming and sunbathing. It’s the busiest beach, but easily accessible and right by shops and cafes.
The most impressive, crystal-clear waters are definitely at Žnjan Beach. However, the area is set to undergo a redesign, so check in advance if any renovations will hinder your relaxing day by the sea. If all else fails, you can’t go wrong at Kasjuni Beach, only a 15-minute walk from the Split city centre.
Peruse the markets
Wondering what to do in Split, Croatia to experience the local culture? A visit to any market can’t be beat. The Split Green Market, known as Pazar Split, is along the eastern side of the old city walls, near the Church of Saint Dominic. The word green suggests lots of delicious fresh produce, and you definitely won’t be disappointed with the fruit and veggie selection. Yet, you can also pick up homemade cheese, affordable clothes, and souvenirs.
If you’re staying anywhere that has cooking facilities available, head here for all of your grocery shopping needs. The market is vibrant, bustling, and a way of life for the residents. More than a place to buy apples and oranges, Pazar Split is brimming with personality of its own. Come and check out the atmosphere for yourself, even if you have no intention of opening your wallet.
Bar crawl for an evening
You may not expect it, but Split has a great nightlife scene. Throughout the corridors of the palace are a ton of atmospheric bars. Then, of course, you’ve got the beachside restaurants which have great drinks menus as well.
ST Riva is both seaside and by the southern stretch of Diocletian’s Palace. During the day, it’s a laid back spot for a coffee or a burger. Overlooking the waterfront and providing a ton of value for money, it’s understandably a popular spot to be, yet it’s not too hard to find a table. It’s open until two in the morning on Fridays and Saturdays, and one a.m. most other nights.
Academia Ghetto Club is a bohemian joint for anyone seeking alternative things to do in Split. It’s easily the most unique bar in the city, as you’ll immediately pick up on looking at the eclectic decor. It’s located down a small narrow street in the old town called Dosud ulica, and reaching it feels like you’ve uncovered your own secret gem.
The bar with the best-terraced view goes to Vidilica. It’s a little away from the old town in the neighbourhood of Varoš, but worth the trip for the incredible panorama of Split and nearby islands. The beer prices are very reasonable, so sample a Croatian Ožujsko or two while you’re there.
Climb the cathedral
The Cathedral of Saint Domnius, known colloquially as Sveti Duje, is an outstanding Catholic cathedral in the old town. It is most known for its Romanesque, 60-metre-high bell tower, which you’ll get glimpses of throughout the city. One of the top things to do in Split, Croatia is to climb to the top of the tower and be rewarded with stunning views of the palace and beyond. This activity costs under a few euros, and is definitely worth the small price.
Also notable are the original wooden doors which have survived since 1220. Sveti Duje is considered the oldest Catholic cathedral in the world, so don’t miss seeing this historic site.
Learn about ancient Roman life
Visit Salona, located in present-day Solin, to see how the Romans lived. As the provincial capital during the seventh century, the city had a population of 60,000 people before it was destroyed and abandoned. Several structures remain, including the old city gates, the amphitheatre, and public baths. The ruins are less than 10 kilometres north of Split if you want to check them out for yourself.
Otherwise, you can get an insight into Roman life at the Archaeological Museum, walking distance from the Split city centre. Running since 1820, the museum is the oldest in Croatia. It houses stone epitaphs from Salona and the central Dalmatia region, as well as Greek and Roman ceramic and glass artifacts.
Enjoy a beautiful sunset
There’s nothing quite like an Adriatic sunset! Any spot along the city’s main beachside street will provide you with a breathtaking view. Grab an outdoor table and sip your drink of choice at any of the terraced cafes while waiting for the sun to go down.
You can also soak up the last of the day’s rays at the beach. Golden hour is sure to stop you in your tracks and make you appreciate the moment and the beauty of where you are.
See the city’s modern side
The fourth-century architecture may trick you into thinking that Split has nothing modern to offer, but that simply isn’t true! The well-curated Split Gallery of Fine Arts has a contemporary art exhibition with works from the 1950s until now. Ferdinand Kulmer, Ivan Kožarić, Đuro Seder and Branko Ružić are a few of the artists featured, and some of the younger artists are represented too. Of course, you’ll also find more modern art from Meštrović as well.
The airy galleries are well laid out inside a marvellous building from the 1930s. After admiring the artwork, you can wander through the inner courtyard or stop by the cafe for a cup of coffee.
A stone’s throw away is Gallery Kula, an art museum showcasing more contemporary works. You’ll be able to see international artists here, and since the gallery is less known to tourists, it’ll be less busy as well.
Hike up Marjan Hill
Need a break from the historic sightseeing? One of the best places to visit in Split for a little bit of a breather is Marjan Hill. A short walk from the old town ruins will bring you to a natural oasis with luscious green trees and scenic viewpoints over the city and the Adriatic Sea.
If you don’t want to head all the way into Marjan Park, there’s a small lookout point at the entrance with a magnificent viewing platform. You’ll be able to witness the cathedral’s bell tower, those iconic red-orange rooftops, and the beautiful Riva waterfront. Talk about a rewarding hike!
If you decide to head further, you’ll reach a tiny stone church only 300 metres in. Keep following the trail until you reach Karepić Kula, a charming tower of rock cave dwellings from the 1500s. This lesser-known attraction could be easily missed if you’re not paying attention, so put away your phone and stay in the moment.
Eat the local seafood
In a beachside town, what better food is there than seafood? Traditional cuisine along the Dalmatian coast includes a lot of fish, and seafood is a staple in every Croatian kitchen.
Everyone will claim they know the best restaurant in town, but you should be able to determine that for yourself! A few spots that won’t disappoint include Chops Grill, Restaurant Bajamonti, Brasserie on 7, Zlatna Ribica, and Restaurant Nostromo.
Choose from grilled Adriatic fish, seafood risotto, mussels with white wine sauce, or octopus brujet. A fish stew known as greagada is one of the most typical Dalmatian dishes and is especially popular on Hvar Island.
Attend the opera
Although Split during the winter is more peaceful and less crowded, it’s rather cold and rainy with unpredictable temperatures. If you find yourself visiting Split during this time, you’ll need to prepare some indoor activities away from the elements. One of the best things to do in Split, Croatia in December, for example, is to enjoy a night at the opera.
The Croatian National Theatre in Split is a remarkable venue with regular opera, drama and ballet performances. The theatre itself played a significant role in promoting the Croatian language, long before the country became independent.
Check out an English language schedule on the theatre’s website to see what’s on and purchase tickets in advance. A night out like this is also the perfect excuse to bring your nicest clothes with you and get dolled up.
Head to Hvar Island
Hvar, Brač and Vis make up the main three islands near Split. The most popular island to visit for a day trip is Hvar Island, which draws over 20,000 daily visitors during the high season. The island is so much more than a summer resort spot, and crystal blue waters are only the beginning.
Explore the hilltop Spanish fortress and the 18th-century Renaissance-style cathedral. Visit the incredible Tvrdalj Castle, the fortified home of Croatian poet Petar Hektorović, which features a gorgeous central fish pool. Bike through the Stari Grad Plain, an ancient agricultural landscape designed by Greek colonists. Then, of course, you can get back to swimming at incredible beaches like Zaraće and Dubovica.
Take a day trip to Krka
Krka National Park is one of Croatia’s most incredible natural landscapes, named after the 72-kilometre-long Krka River. There are seven stunning waterfalls in the park, making it a perfect spot for a refreshing (and scenic!) swim. Less than 90 kilometres from Split in Lozovac, it’s an unmissable day trip to embark on.
The park is also known for its diverse and rich flora and fauna. There are over 850 different species of plants and over 220 species of birds. The area surrounding the waterfalls has the second highest density of lavender in all of Europe, so look out for bees!
Go on a Game of Thrones tour
Any Game of Thrones fanatic will already know that Split is used as a filming location for the popular TV show. Want to get an insider’s view? Book a three and a half hour guided walking tour exclusive to Viator and receive just that. This behind-the-scenes tour not only takes you to the locations featured in the show, but teaches you about the history behind them. You’ll be shown all the filming spots at Diocletian’s Palace, then visit the Fortress of Klis, 20 minutes away by car. Your guide can even provide you with real life stories and insider gossip.
Recommend tours in Split
- Split to Zagreb Group Transfer with Plitvice Lakes Tour
- Plitvice Lakes National Park Tour from Split or Trogir
- Five Island Speedboat Tour Featuring the Blue Cave and Hvar
- Dubrovnik Discovery Day Trip from Split or Trogir
- Viator Exclusive: ‘Game of Thrones’ Tour in Split
- Krka Waterfalls and Sibenik Tour from Split or Trogir
- Small-Group Dalmatian Food and Wine Tasting Tour in Split
- Bol and Golden Horn, Hvar , Pakleni islands and Milna wine tasting
- Mostar and Medjugorje Discovery Day Trip from Split or Trogir
- City of Split Walking Tour
- Viator Exclusive Combo: ‘Game of Thrones’ in Dubrovnik and Split