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Split Croatia Itinerary - how to spend your time


Split old town

The historically fascinating and beautiful city of Split, Croatia is set along the shores of the Adriatic Sea on what is known as the Dalmatian coast. The second largest city in the country, Split is literally built in the ruins of an ancient Roman palace, allowing the visitor to wander, eat and shop in an archaeological site. It is a true open-air museum without feeling like one. It is a vibrant city with music, culture and wonderful food. It has charm, history, beauty and an abundance of fabulous day trips in the surrounding area- everything you need for an unforgettable visit.


How much time do you need in Split?

This is, not unusually, a difficult question to answer. If you have limited time, you can see Split in a day. If you have more time, however, I would spend two days just in Split, and then add some of the many wonderful day trips available nearby. You could easily spend your entire vacation in this area. If you are seeing other areas of Croatia however, two or three days is reasonable. In this post I am going to cover what to see and do in Split itself. While I will briefly mention some day trips, I will go into much more detail discussing my favorite day trips in another post. This post is a two day Split Croatia itinerary. 


Split old town

How to get there


By Air

Split has an international airport (SPU), located 15 miles west of the city center. This is Croatia's third busiest airport and is well-connected with many flights from within Croatia and Europe. Some of the flights, however, are seasonal and only run in the summer months. Many visitors arrive via Zagreb or other major European hubs like Frankfurt, Rome, or London with a connecting flight to Split.


From the airport, you can take a shared or private shuttle van service into Split city centre, which takes around 30 minutes, depending on traffic. You can buy the tickets online or from the driver. They pick you up at the main terminal and drop you off at the city's central bus station. The ride costs about 6 EURO. There are numerous shuttle buses daily from 6 to midnight. They usually depart once the bus is full, so exact times are hard to tell.


Taxis are also available at the airport and are a great option as they are the most convenient taking you to your exact destination. Taxis cost around 30 EURO.  


The cheapest option is the local city bus 37. The cost is around 2 or 3 EURO and you can buy the ticket from the bus driver. Pick up is on the road in front of the airport, not at the terminal where the shuttle bus pick up is. There are multiple stops along the way so the journey takes around an hour. The bus stops and the Sukoisan bus stop, not the main Split bus stop. From there you can take other local buses, a taxi or walk to your final destination.


There is also a water taxi that will drop you off at the main port in the city center. It takes about 20 minutes and cost around 30 EURO. The con of this option is that the pick up is about a ten minute walk from the airport terminal. 


Split gate

By Ferry

One of the most scenic ways to arrive in Split is by ferry from Italy or one of the surrounding Croatian islands. Split's ferry port is right along the Riva promenade near the town centre. 


Ferries connect Split with Ancona on Italy's eastern coast, with the crossing taking around 9 hours. Domestically, ferries operate from Dubrovnik (4 hours), the islands of Hvar, Brac and Vis among others. Vehicle ferries and catamarans are available depending on the route.


By Car

Split is well-connected by modern highways running along Croatia's Adriatic coast and inland regions. From Zagreb, the A1 highway will get you to Split in around 4.5 hours. Driving from Dubrovnik takes 3 hours via the EuroAzija Route 8.  


Renting a car is a great way to explore Split as well as take day trips to nearby destinations like Trogir, Sibenik, Krka National Park and the islands. Just be aware that parking can be challenging and expensive in Split's narrow old town streets.


Split Croatia

By Bus

Frequent bus service connects Split with destinations all across Croatia as well as neighboring countries. Bus travel is generally inexpensive and reliable. The main bus terminal is located just north of the old town. Major routes include Zagreb (5 hours), Dubrovnik (3.5 hours), Plitvice Lakes (3 hours), Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina (2 hours) and more.


By Train

While Croatia's train network is limited, Split is connected along the rail line between Zagreb and Sibenik. There are direct trains from Zagreb, Zadar, Sibenik, and Dubrovnik. However, taking the bus is usually faster and more efficient than the train for arriving in Split itself.


When to go

Peak season is, of course, Summer when it can be quite busy, especially if there are cruise ships docked. It is also the most expensive time to go. Try to go during the shoulder season. Winter can be pleasant as well but there can also be cold winds and storms. Some things might be closed or have limited hours. 


Split building

A little history

Split dates back to ancient Roman times. The city traces its origins to the massive Diocletian Palace complex, built by the Roman emperor Diocletian at the turn of the 4th century AD. This is still the heart of Split. After abdicating in 305 AD, Diocletian chose to construct his lavish retirement palace in his hometown on the Dalmatian coast. About half of the palace was used as his home and the other half was used to house military personnel. The palace included large stone walls and towers to help protect the Emperor. Temples, homes and other buildings surrounded a central courtyard. Throughout the years, the palace remained mostly intact. When the nearby town of Salona, the capital of the area, was ransacked in the 7th century, its residents fled to Split for safety and refuge building homes and businesses within its walls. This allowed Diocletian's Palace to become an integral part of the city rather than ruins on the outskirts. Medieval Christians also built churches within the palace, such as the Cathedral of St. Domnius, which incorporates Diocletian's mausoleum. Over time, Split continued evolving as a coastal city under Byzantine, Croatian, Venetian, and Austro-Hungarian rule until becoming part of modern-day Croatia. The ancient Roman palace at the city's core makes Split one of the best-preserved Roman monumental buildings still standing and used in the world today. In 1979 it was declared a Unesco world heritage site. 


Split square

Split, Croatia itinerary

On your first day in the area, get to know the historic center and main attractions of the city. Enjoy walking the narrow streets made of polished limestone. There are Roman columns, beautiful monuments, charming squares and centuries-old churches everywhere. 


The Peristyle

The Peristyle is the main square of the Palace and is located at the crossroads of the two main streets. It is surrounded by ornate Corinthian columns and was used for gatherings and other ceremonies. The Peristyle originally provided access to the Emperor's personal living quarters. Diocletian's mausoleum (now Cathedral of Saint Dominus) is on one end of the Peristyle. Originally Diocletian built 3 other temples in the Peristyle. The temple of Jupiter is the only one that remains to this day. It was later turned into a Christian baptistery. The peristyle is a wonderful gathering area. Most evenings people sit on the steps and benches surrounding the square and listen to live music. The architecture provides for wonderful acoustics, perfect for music or speeches. It also provides a gorgeous backdrop to enjoy any performance. This is the perfect way spend any evening in Split. 


Peristyle Split

The Cathedral of Saint Domnius

Known as the oldest cathedral in the world that still exists in its original form, the Cathedral of Saint Dominius was built from the remains of Diocletian's mausoleum. It is especially interesting that Diocletian's mausoleum became a Christian church because he was the last Roman emperor to persecute Christians. It is dedicated to Saint Dominius who was a martyr that was beheaded by Diocletian in the early 4th century. The building was converted into a church when the area was taken over by the Ottomans in the 5th and 6th centuries. In the 7th century, with the sacking of Salona, relics from the Salona church, including the relics of Saint Dominius, were brought to Split. Because the church was originally a Roman building, there is an interesting blend of ancient Roman style mixed with later Christian styles. The interior of the church is circular with 4 semi circular and 4 rectangle niches.  The outside, however, is octagonal. Under the impressive dome sits 8 granite pillars that were originally part of the mausoleum. Along the walls are beautiful frescos and mosaics depicting bible stories. This is still a working church and regular masses and religious services are held here.


Cathedral of Saint Dominius Split

The Treasury holds the relics of St, Dominius  as well as paintings, chalices, centuries old books and valuable vestments. What was once the temple of Jupiter is now the baptistery dedicated to John the Baptist. It contains a bronze sculpture of John the Baptist as well as a baptismal font and 2 sarcophagi that held the remains of two bishops. The headless spinx that sits in front of the temple is thought to be one of 12 Diocletian brought from Egypt to decorate his palace. Under the cathedral is a small crypt called the crypt of St. Lucy.  Every year on December 13th there is a mass performed in this small crypt in dedication of St. Lucy. 


The bell tower has become a symbol of Split. At almost 200 feet high it is visible from many parts of the city. Building began in the 13th century but took 3 centuries to finish. Because of this, each level of the tower is different, showing the differing styles over time. It was largely renovated during the early twentieth century. This renovation removed some of the details and sculptures. It is available to climb and one of the best places for wonderful views of Split. The beginning of the climb is pretty narrow, so if you are claustrophobic you may be a little uncomfortable. 


Bell tower split

There is an entrance fee to enter the church. You can visit the church, baptistery, treasury, crypt and bell tower. Prices vary depending on which areas you choose to visit. It is open on Sundays from 12:00 - 6:00. Every other day it is open from 8:00 to 8:00.


The Basement Halls of Diocletian's palace

The cellars, or basement Halls of the palace, are some of the best preserved ancient complexes of their time and are a great place to learn more about the city. They were used both as storage and to elevate the Emperor's chambers. Later, they were used as residences with parts of an old olive oil press still visible. The cellars eventually became garbage pits for the homes above. They have since been cleaned and restored and can be visited by the public. If you are a Game of Thrones fan, you might recognize them as one of the filming locations. You can enter the cellars by stairs in the Peristyle or through Porta Aenea at the promenade. Today the cellars host many events such as art installations, plays and concerts. The central hall is a market full of fun souvenirs. The central hall is the only part of the cellars that are free to enter. If you want to see more of the basement you will have to pay 6 EURO. Times vary depending on the season.


Split cellars

St. Martin's chapel

Built between two walls of the city, St. Martin's chapel is a hidden treasure in Split. It is more the size of a closet than a traditional church. A nun is usually keeping watch over the chapel as it is currently in the care of the Dominican sisters who have a Monastery next door. This area was originally a hallway used as a guardhouse, but in the 6th century it was converted into a chapel. I love this little chapel and feel it is worth visiting because it feels like a secret hiding place. 


St. Martin's chapel, Split

I just want to mention that I don't usually do many walking tours of a city, but I would recommend one in Split. It is small and easy to walk and the expertise of a local guide really helps you learn interesting facts and historical events that you would otherwise miss. 


On your second day in Split, I suggest heading out of Diocletian's palace and visiting the following places. They are all within easy walking distance so you won't have to take any public transport or drive a car. 


Riva Promenade

Running along the seaside edge of Diocletian's Palace is the Riva or promenade. This harbour front walkway lined with palm trees is a local favorite and the perfect place for taking a stroll. Along the Riva you'll find ice cream and gelato stands, cafes with outdoor patios, street performers, and boats offering excursions. The promenade is always lively, but it really comes alive at night when the town comes out to enjoy the water, food and atmosphere of the Riva. 


Split promenade

Bacvice beach 

Just a short walk from Split old town is bačvice beach. This sandy beach, located right in the city, is the best option for a relaxing afternoon. This beach is the birthplace to the game picigin. It is a game played in shallow water where you use your hand as a paddle to smack the ball in the air to another player. You have to make sure it does not fall into the sea and keep it in the air as long as possible (picture tossing a balloon to a group of people except with a small ball in shallow water). There is even a picigin world cup held every year in Split. There are restaurants around this beach and rentals for lounge chairs, umbrellas, jet skis etc. It can be pretty busy in the high season, so come early in the day if you are looking for a quieter experience. This area becomes a little bit of a party place at night as it is a popular hang out spot for the younger crowd.  


Marjan Hill

For panoramic views over Split and the Adriatic, head up to Marjan Hill or Marjan park, which is just west of the historic old town. This small peninsula and urban forest park has walking trails, churches, cafes and beaches tucked away in little coves. It is a great place to get away from the business of the city and enjoy a little relaxation on the trails or at a picturesque picnic spot. One of the best panoramic views is only about a 20-30 minute walk from old town. It can be a little tiring, so rest along the way and enjoy your surroundings.  If you want to see more of the park, a wonderful place is the 15th century church of St. Jere. Beside the church a "hermit house" with one line of windows sandwiched in the rock. Catching the sunset from here is amazing. It will take you about an hour from old town to walk over to St. Jere.


Marjan hill

Pazar Green Market

Located on the eastern side of Diocletian's palace, by the silver gate is the daily Pazar green market. Close to the palace you will find more souvenirs and some cheaper products. Closer to the port is where you will find all the fruits and vegetables, meats and cheeses. Here you will find many locals shopping for their produce. The local farmers produce all the products here, so everything is seasonal. Just beware that in high season the prices can skyrocket. It is usually open from 7:00 till around 2:00. A good tip for saving money is to go later in the day, anytime after noon. The vendors will be more inclined to bargain as they are trying to get rid of all their goods. It will also be much quieter at that time, if you don't like the crowds. Of course, if you want the freshest produce, get there early in the day so you have the most variety to choose from. If you are wondering which vendor to choose, follow the local grandmas. They all have their favorite vendors and they know which ones are the best. 


Split market

With more time in the area consider a road trip or boat trip to some of the fabulous day trips available. Between the surrounding islands, national parks and historic sites, you will have plenty of popular day trips to choose from. Great choices include the beautiful island of Brac with its famous Zlatni Rat beach, the stunning waterfalls and crystal-clear water of Krka National Park, and the historic city of Sibenik.  The gorgeous seaside town of Trogir with its impressive fort, the medieval Klis fortress  and the famous island of Hvar boasting its cute old town, gorgeous views from the fort and fragrant lavender fields are other options for a great day trip. All of these are worth a visit so it will be hard to choose. I will go over all of these in more detail in another post to help you make the best decision. 


Hvar Croatia

Whether you have one day or one week in Split, this incredible city will keep you busy with historic sites, gorgeous views, beautiful beaches, delicious food and charming squares. It is a wonderful place to spend some time and one of the gems of the fabulous country of Croatia. 


Ready to travel to Split? Contact us at eurotravelsbydesign@gmail.com and we will custom design your perfect itinerary. 




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