Split is a vibrant port city and a central hub for island hopping along the Dalmatian Coast.
Its sparkling harbour and palm-lined Riva promenade made for a great first impression when I stepped off the ferry from Dubrovnik.
Built by the Roman emperor Diocletian during the 4th century, the peninsula is now the second largest city in Croatia, after its capital Zagreb.
So why visit Split?
It’s big, it’s old and it’s beautiful, with transport links to some of the country’s most popular islands and nature spots.
Here are a bunch of things I loved about Split for you to enjoy on your city break…
1. History Galore
Yes, I’m a sucker for history folks and Split has lots of it. The city centre is a canvas of Roman antiquity splashed with pastel colours.
Diocletian’s Palace dominates the Old Town as one of the most extraordinary Roman structures in existence today. And there is no ticket office! You just stroll right in.
The palace is spectacularly well-preserved with cafes and boutiques scattered throughout its shell.
Explore during early morning before the crowds descend, or at night to catch it illuminated in all its glory.
From Diocletian’s Palace, wander through nearby Peristil Square towards Pjaca where you can enjoy coffee or brunch on the terrace.
The impressive marble tiled plaza is the focal point of Split’s historic centre and is bursting with boutiques and delicious eateries. I loved sipping on coffee here and watching the world go by.
In the mood for some light shopping? Stroll along the popular Marmont Street towards the Riva. Be sure to visit Republic Square along the way where you’ll find breathtaking views of the harbour.
The large open courtyard is surrounded by impressive neo-Renaissance buildings along three sides, known as Prokurative.
St. Domnius Cathedral is another must-see and is one of the best-preserved Roman buildings still standing.
2. National Parks
Croatia’s world renowned Plitvice Lakes and Krka Falls are both accessible from Split where you’ll find lots of direct buses and organised tours.
Enjoy a half day at Krka Falls where you can hike, picnic and swim in the natural pools surrounding the famous Skradinski Buk.
Or travel further north to Plitvice Lakes where the fairytale landscape hits you from the moment you enter the park.
Although swimming is not permitted at Plitvice Lakes, the park is more extensive and there is far more to see.
Marvel at the sights as you hike down the cliffs’ edge opposite the falls and continue along well-paved trails which meander through the turquoise waterways.
For the ultimate experience at Plitvice Lakes, stay overnight at one of the park’s beautiful log cabins, allowing for at least one full day to explore.
Tip: Planning your stay at Plitvice Lakes National Park? Book in advance to avoid disappointment and expensive rates. The struggle is real.
3. Music and Culture
There are heaps of cultural events in Split set against the stunning backdrop of the Old Town.
Festivals include the Mediterranean Film Festival in June, Ultra Europe electronic music festival in mid July and Chamber Music Festival in September.
With an international reputation, Split Summer Festival offers performances throughout the classical spectrum including ballet, opera drama and concerts from Jazz to street theatre.
Outside of festival season, there is an abundance of live music throughout Split’s Old Town where I was lucky enough to catch an impromptu live concert at Diocletian’s Palace.
So be sure to swing by the main courtyard in the evening if you want to get in on the action.
4. Lavender Markets, Shops and Boutiques
Under the arches of Diocletian’s Palace, Croatian market traders flock to sell flowers, fresh produce and trinkets.
The city centre is built around Dubrovnik’s Roman ruins, which are speckled with flowers and vines.
You won’t be disappointed by the delicious berries and home made pastries on offer as well as pretty lavender pouches.
5. Beaches and Island Hopping
As Croatia’s main passenger port, Split is well connected to many of the best islands along the Dalmatian Coast.
You will be spoilt for choice when deciding on which islands to squeeze into your travel itinerary thanks to the city’s extensive ferry network.
Home to one of Croatia’s most spectacular beaches, Brac is one of the closest islands to Split taking just 50 minutes by ferry.
Fashionable Hvar is another favourite among island hoppers and is known for its luxurious resorts and chic party scene. The ferry service takes just one hour and 40 minutes and runs all year round.
There are also several pleasant beaches in Split. Bacvice beach is one of Croatia’s rare sandy beaches. Less than ten minutes’ walk from the harbour, it becomes pretty crowded during the day and is a hub for nightlife.
More tranquil settings include Jezinac beach and Kastelet, away from the city centre. While Ovcice and Znjan beach are both popular among families with children.
So here you have my five reasons to visit Split.
Have you recently visited and what were your best bits?