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Οver one thousand seven hundred  years ago, the Roman Emperor Diocletian picked a peninsula along the Adriatic coast for his sumptuous retirement complex to be built. And, quite frankly, who wouldn’t? On this wooded parcel of land guarding the entrance to a large and tranquil bay where ships could safely drop anchor, he selected a seaward-facing nook to plan his palatial home, lapped by teal waters and affording generous views towards the islands. Hills undulate behind, rich with vines, olives and pastures for livestock. The nearby coast is laced with pristine little bays, while further to the south rise impenetrable mountains, sliced through by a river that brings fresh drinking water and abundant marine life.

Grown between and beyond the walls of the palace, modern-day Split retains all these natural glories. What’s more, it adds an effervescent energy that spreads across the whole city from the bars, shops and cafes which have sprouted among the ancient remains. It may be a Unesco-listed site, but Diocletian’s Palace continuously moved with the times, layered era by era to become a sort of Matryoskha doll of the city’s history. From its al-fresco cafes and seafront promenades lined with palm trees, its beaches humming with joyful activity to its restaurants serving up unforgettable Dalmatian cuisine accompanied by fine local wines, not to mention satellite islands of glorious beaches and undiscovered interiors, Croatia’s second city has everything that makes the country irresistible, flowing out from one radiant core. 

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The cuisine in this coastal region mainly revolves around fresh-caught fish and seafood, seared on the grill then served simply with a glug of local olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Olive oil, tomatoes and herbs play a central role, with many recipes containing more than a pinch of Italian influence, like the beef cooked with tomato and garlic sauce and the gnocchi pasta dishes, as well as the Croatian version of prosciutto, pršut, air-dried in the autumn winds and best found in villages of the Dalmatian hinterland. Sheep’s cheese, roast lamb, and wild greens sautéed with potatoes are also popular. Along the course of the Cetina river, you will find stews made with fresh river crabs, as well as spiced sausages and, in Sinj itself, mutton rolled in cabbage leaves, called arambašić. The crowning dish of the region though, served at every special occasion, is pašticada stew, for which the meat is marinated in vinegar or wine, then slowly braised with onions and vegetables which are then blended to create a thick sauce. Every family has its very own recipe, handed down through the generations, for this trademark Dalmatian stew.  If you like to finish your meal with a traditional sweet, try rožata (crème caramel) or kroštule, deep-fried dough strips with cinnamon and sugar.

As you would expect from Croatia’s second city, Split boasts a booming restaurant scene peopled with innovative chefs eagerly blending modern with traditional. On a long list of eateries to try, don’t miss Uje (the Dalmatian word for oil), a foodie haven grown from an olive oil distribution company. Tucked close to the north-western edge of Diocletian’s Palace, Uje offers a tapas area with local cheeses and cold cuts, a restaurant with a tantalizing menu of regional specialities, a café-bar and a wine bar with Dalmatian wines.
Speaking of wine, Croatia was recently identified as birthplace of the original Zinfandel, known locally as Crljenak. In an attempt to ‘repatriate’ it, some 400,000 Zinfandel vines have been planted in the region, including 50,000 on the lower slopes of the Dinaric Alps, near the Makarska Riviera. The Putalj winery just outside Split is one where you can taste this “Original Zin”. Meanwhile, the island of Brač is known for its wines made from the Plavac Mali grape, a descendant of Zinfandel. Other varieties including Chardonnay and Merlot have been planted on the island’s southern slopes too. Brač is also the place to taste “smutice”, an unusual combination of red wine and sheep’s milk.
More to check out: 
  • Split’s food markets. Go early to get the best of the bunch at the Green Market, its stalls piled high with fresh local fruit, vegetables and flowers, while the freshest catch of the day is to be found at the Fish Market.
  • Trilj on the Cetina River, a hikers’ stop-off turned foodie destination for its excellent local cheese, pršut and wine, enjoyed in rustic taverns.
  • The Brachia Olive Oil Experience on Brač. The island is known for its olive oil (also for lamb, sheep’s cheese, tangerines and wine), and at this atmospheric shop you can taste and buy local oil varieties, or sit for a meal on its terrace.
  • Šolta’s Dalmatian delicatessen. A great place to stock up on edible souvenirs, the Šoltanski trudi  cooperative sells local specialities at the island’s Grohote market as well as on the Maslinica quay.
Lying conveniently along the coast south of Split, overlooking the beaches of the Makarska Riviera, the Biokovo mountain range offers active holidaymakers the chance to hike or bike, then cool off in the sparkling sea just below. The slopes are traced with trails suitable for hikers (depending on your level) and many for mountain bikers too. If you get all the way up to the peak of Sveti Jure, you are rewarded by stunning views as far as Italy (on a clear day). For a similar experience, albeit in more compact surroundings, the island of Brač has several walking trails around its mountainous peak Vidova Gora, and an array of beaches lining the shores beneath.

For a more dizzying selection of adventure sports, head to the Cetina River, along the 101km course of which you can set your adrenaline pounding with a zipline rush across the vertiginous gorge, try out your canyoning skills on the sculpted cliffs, or take to the waters on a raft, canoe or kayak.  If you are a keen paddler, other options include a city sightseeing tour of Split by kayak (the emperor Diocletian had the lower level of his palace slightly submerged so he could sail straight into his home, Venetian-style, but alas one cannot now paddle right in as the water level has fallen), or sea kayaking trips along the beautiful Makarska Riviera, with snorkelling stops. The seabed here is a treat for snorkellers and divers, with deep rifts and valleys, a sunken ship dating back to the Second World War, and the Cove of Vruja (also Vrulja) pockmarked by underground freshwater springs that bring rich marine life (and after them, spear fishers). Meanwhile, if wind-surfing is your sport of choice, the steady summer winds and long sandy swathes make this area a surfer’s dream. The beaches of Ribnjak and Lokva Rogoznica near Omiš are extreme surfing hotspots, but the most famous of all is the Zlatni Rat on Brač, a slim finger of sand pointing out into rippling, wind-caressed sea on three sides.
More to check out:
  • The Spring Trekking Cup in the Cetina canyon. Held annually, it attracts keen hikers and mountain runners for a challenging series of endurance races.
  • Themed trail walks. Want to combine hiking with wine-drinking and sampling local delicacies? Or perhaps with discovering ancient hill chapels? Choose whatever interests you and find it by following the well-marked hikes through the Cetina River
  • Picigin, Split’s own water sport. Invented and played at the city’s Bačvice beach, this amateur game takes beach volleyball into the sea, with players leaping and diving in flamboyant attempts to keep the ball from touching the water.
  • Hajduk Split. Locked in eternal combat with its rival Dinamo Zagreb, this football club has the longest-established fan club in Europe, so you’ll see the name and its red-white-and-blue symbol everywhere.
The absolute draw here for history-buffs is the Unesco-listed Diocletian’s Palace, from which the rest of Split has grown. But what makes this vast former retirement home of the Roman Emperor so charming is that, far from being a desolate set of ruins lurking behind a fence and ticket booth, it is still the heart and soul of the city. Here, lively bars blast out music from behind 2m thick Roman walls, the mausoleum is now the city’s cathedral, and in the ancient squares youngsters play football. Constructed in the 4th century out of translucent white stone from the nearby island of Brač, the complex contained both palatial living quarters with all the trimmings, and a military garrison. The whole was surrounded by four sturdy walls, each with its own central gate named for a different metal. Eventually, as you wander the passageways studded with shops and cafes, you are likely to fetch up at the Peristyle, an ornate colonnaded courtyard, or at the octagonal mausoleum which is now the cathedral (climb the belfry for great views) or its neighbouring baptistery, formerly the Temple of Jupiter.

A more traditional archaeological site (not the busy centre of a city), and one of the most important in Croatia, lies just northeast of Split, the ruins of ancient Salona. Once capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia, the city is believed to be the birthplace of Diocletian and the reason he wanted his retirement home built close by on the picturesque peninsula.

Just across the bay from Split you’ll find another Unesco-listed site – the charming old town of Trogir. Classed as one of the best preserved Romanesque-Gothic  towns in central Europe, within its walls are residences, palaces, churches, towers, even a castle, as well as the fine St Lawrence Cathedral with its monumental portal by master sculptor Radovan and glorious tower.

“Game of Thrones” fans making a beeline for Dubrovnik should stop off in the Split region: the basement chambers at the Bronze Gate of Diocletian’s Palace are where Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons were stabled, while along the coast Kaštel Gomilica doubles as Braavos and the forbidding 2,000-year-old fortress of Klis, in the hills above Split, features as the city of Meereen.
More to check out:
  • The medieval fort of Viseć overlooking the Cetina canyon, and the nearby Radmanove mlinice. The water mill is no longer operational, but this picturesque spot is still a popular picnic site and as such the final stop on most boat and train trips.
  • The Ivan Meštrović Gallery, a house built by the sculptor himself and housing a selection of his works, from statues to portraits. For more Meštrović, the nearby Kaštelet fortress-turned-museum houses his Life of Christ series. And you can’t miss the enormous Meštrović monument to Gregorius of Nin (a 10th century bishop who won the right to use Croatian in church services). One of the city’s landmarks, this sculpture is said to bring good fortune to those who rub its left big toe.
  • Sinj: home to one of the area’s most important Marian shrines (a place of pilgrimage every August 15), as well as to a renowned jousting tournament traditionally taking place on the first weekend of August.
  • The spectacular monastery-cave-museum of Blaca Hermitage on Brač, high on the cliffs above Bol. Built in the 16th century by Glagolitic monks, it contains some 8,000 books (many in this old Slavic script) plus astronomical instruments.
  • The Dragon’s Cave, decorated with 15th century wall-paintings of wild animals. (Both cave and Hermitage are a fairly steep 1.5-2 hour hike from Bol, or a short walk from a jetty at which boats from Bol can drop you.)
  • Škrip, the oldest village on Brač. Pop into the Native Museum and Olive Oil Museum, wander around the castle remains and admire the view from the ancient ramparts.
  • Morpurgo in Split, Europe’s third oldest bookshop, in business since 1860.
Sculpting its way spectacularly through the karst from the peaks of Mount Dinara, the Cetina River incorporates rugged canyons, waterfalls and dams in its 101km course down to the sea at Omiš. An exhilarating destination for hikers, among the most popular stops are the Gubavica cascades near the village of Zadvarje (two waterfalls, with drops of 49m and 7m, splashing into lovely natural swimming pools). Along the course of the Cetina you may also come across the manmade Lake Peruća. But for really stupendous lakes, head towards Imotski , close to the border with Herzegovina. The stunning Blue Lake fills to a depth of 147m in winter, while often emptying so completely in summer that it doubles as a football pitch. Further from town, the Red Lake seems like a freak of nature. Surrounded by high, barren, russet-coloured cliffs, this circular chasm is one of the deepest lakes in Europe. Legend has it that God made the ground open up beneath the landowner’s miserly wife, submerging the entire estate; the scientific explanation is that underground water caves subsided during earthquakes, creating the crater. 

South of Split is the Biokovo nature park, a high and craggy mountain range that lies along the coastline like the spine of a sleeping dragon. Start at the village of Kotisina, where a bijoux botanical garden introduces some of the indigenous plants that bloom between the rocks on the mountain’s peaks. In this high and barren landscape, chamois and mouflon leap nimbly from cliff to cliff, while above soar birds of prey including golden eagles. The karst rock-face and the winds of time have created unique stone sculptures, cavities, caves and paleontological sites. Close as it is to the coast, many paths afford great sea views, while from the highest peak, Sveti Jure, you can enjoy panoramic vistas westwards across the Adriatic to Italy, and eastwards to the Bosnian mountain ranges.

If all this climbing and sea-gazing makes you long for a dip, you’ll be pleased to hear that those beaches you see just at the foot of Mount Biokovo are among the most celebrated of this region – those of the Makarska Riviera. A 54km stretch of bays from Brela to Gradac, there is something for everyone, from the gently-sloping and family-friendly Punta Rata to tiny secluded coves for naked plunges. But for a truly jaw-dropping selection of beaches, hop on a boat to the island of Brač. You’ll have heard of Zlatni Rat in Bol, one of Croatia’s best-known beaches, a slender golden promontory surrounded on three sides by pearlescent waters. But there is so much more on offer, especially on the southern shores where fine pebbled beaches slant steeply into sapphire seas (the beaches on the northern coast tend to have a gentler incline). Among others, check out Paklina east of Bol, Murvica and Vela Farska west of Bol, on the north coast Ticja luka and Ratac, and Osibova Bay and Lucice on the west coast. Even more Instagram-perfect is the Blue Lagoon, a heavenly apparition between Drvenik Veli island and the Krknjaši islets, accessible only by boat.

More to check out:
  • Marjan park in Split. This forested hill at the end of the Split peninsula is where locals go for walking, cycling or just enjoying the views and fresh air.
  • Ethno-eco villages. Stay in a renovated village house or old farmhouse, and enjoy rural pursuits like horse-riding, trekking, gathering wild herbs or even helping out on the farm, in this new project inspired by successful Italian and Istrian eco-/agro-tourism schemes.
You can’t beat bar-hopping in the old town of Split for sheer atmosphere. Tiny hole-in-the-wall bars peek out from behind thick Roman walls; music pumps down the narrow alleyways, and cheerful drinkers spill out into the courtyards and squares. Some of these atmospheric little watering holes don’t even have a sign, while for others you can enter from one labyrinthine street and exit onto another, discovering yet more alluring bars and happy crowds. But if it all gets a bit claustrophobic for you, the waterfront of Split is also lined with sitting and drinking options, most congregated on the Riva and its continuation, the West Coast. A grand seafront promenade, the Riva is where moments of Split’s modern cultural history are written – it is where local sportsmen parade their medals retuning victorious from international tournaments (tennis star Goran Ivanišević, the KK Split/Jugoplastika basketball players and of course the city’s beloved Hajduk footballers), it is where politicians get up on their soap-boxes promising to change the world, and it is the spirited centrepiece of the carnival and Sudamja festival in May (celebrating the name day of the city’s patron saint Domnius).

The West Coast, meanwhile, a shimmering expanse of white stone from Brač, also has sporting connotations (bronze plaques celebrate the city’s Olympic medal-winners; note that Split residents consider their city “the sportiest in the world”) but lures an upmarket crowd for its moored super-yachts and swanky cafes and restaurants. Along the way, do stop off at the old port of Matejuška. Popular during the 50s and 60s, it is enjoying a revival, particularly among an alternative crowd, who lounge on the breakwaters playing guitar and drinking.

To the east of the old town, meanwhile, is Bačvice beach, busy by day, crazy by night. Backed by cafes, restaurants and clubs, it is a social hub from dusk till dawn till dusk again, with ample people-watching opportunities from its coastal cafes and promenade, before heading into the fray within the booming bars and clubs. For a less touristy but equally – if not more – lively option, just a little further along the coast you will find Jungla on the coastal stretch of Zvončac and Kaštelet, where DJs spin the crowds into a frenzy.
The nightlife scene on nearby Brač is also colourful, with plenty of bars and nightspots near the harbour at Bol or along Put Vele Luke in Supetar.
More to check out:
  • Ultra Europe Festival, Split: One of the world’s largest electronic music festivals, this July event draws more than 100,000 ravers from near and far for the celebrity DJ sets.
  • Split’s Summer Festival: A more sedate cultural event, held each July-August, that lights up the city’s historic landmarks with al-fresco theatrical performances, classical music concerts and operas.
  • Serenity on Šolta. Brač’s baby brother, the island of Šolta contains blissfully unspoiled pockets where it’s just you and nature. On the island’s western shores lies Maslinica, where you’ll find a chic boutique hotel housed in an 18th century castle, a couple of eateries serving fresh fish, a small marina for visiting yachts, and some peaceful swimming spots.
  • Location
  • Climate
  • Where to stay
  • Geting There
  • Getting Around

Split is set on Croatia’s Adriatic coast in the central Dalmatian region. The city spreads from a peninsula between the eastern part of Kaštela Bay and the Split Channel. At the other edge of the bay lies Trogir, another charming (also Unesco-listed) peninsula town, while down the coast is the town of Omiš in stunning scenery where the Cetina River meets the sea.

Further south is the famed Makarska Riviera, some 50km of beaches backed by hotels and resorts. Several islands lie off the coastline of the Split region: the largest and best-known are Hvar [see separate text] and Brač, also Šolta and the Drvenik duo, plus Ciovo just across from Trogir. Split is 155km south of Zadar, approximately 215km north of Dubrovnik, and 410km from the Croatian capital, Zagreb.

The climate of Split is between humid subtropical and Mediterranean, due to its warm/mild but wet weather. The city and its surroundings enjoy more than 2,600 hours of sunshine each year. However, expect plenty of rainfall in winter (November is the wettest month), and don’t be surprised to get rained on any day of the year, except in July, when cloudbursts are rare. During summer, temperatures reach 30 degrees Celsisus, particularly in the hottest month of July, while sea temperatures peak at 24 degrees Celsius.

In winter, January is the coldest month, with an average low of 5 degrees Celsius, but sub-zero temperatures and snow are unusual. Winters can feel colder than the thermometer shows, though, thanks to the cold north wind known as the bura. South of Split, the mountain-backed town of Omiš has slightly less rain than Split and more sunshine (100 more hours, on average, per year).

While Split was once just a brief stopping point between Dubrovnik and the islands, over the last decade it has come into its own as a vibrant city destination, with a surge in new hotel openings, rooms and apartments to rent, to suit all pockets and styles of traveller. But there is also a wide array of options along the coastline, into the hinterland, and on the nearby islets, well worth checking out if you wish to be close to the buzz of Split without necessarily being a part of it.


  • The beautiful Unesco-listed town of Trogir lies just 5km from Split Airport and 15km from the highway; it also boasts good ferry connections and a naturally protected harbour. These, combined with varied accommodation and leisure options, make Trogir a very popular place to stay.
  • A little further down the coast from Split (25km), the historic town of Omišwith its stunning location at the estuary of the Cetina River is perfectly positioned for hikers, canyoners and kayakers to explore the area.
  • Continuing south, the Makarska Riviera lies along the coast backed by the Biokovo mountains, a seemingly endless stretch of beaches, hotels and resorts (many of the package holiday variety). Makarska town is a great base for both mountain trekking and swimming, plus exuberant summer nightlife.
  • Kaštela Bay, between Split and Trogir, offers seven little coastal hamlets all connected by a seafront promenade. Picturesque and well-placed, it is an increasingly popular choice of base for discovering the area.
  • Inland, the hill villages above Makarska and Tučepi are particularly alluring. Do check out the “eco-ethnic village” project, which restores age-old stone-built homes and farmsteads as simple rural retreats for discerning travellers


  • On Brač, the main resorts are Bol on the south (home of the famous Zlatni Rat, the town has the widest range of accommodation options) and more package-y Supetar on the north shores. Postira is gaining popularity, as is Pučišća, both along the coast from Supetar, while on the west coast Milna is popular with sailors.
  • West of Brač is the peaceful isle of Šolta, a place of sleepy fishing villages and pebbly coves. For a really stylish getaway, head for Maslinica on its west coast, where a historic castle hides a boutique hotel.
  • Just across from Trogir, the island of Ciovo is home to two popular resorts, Okrug Gornji and Okrug Donji, full of rental rooms and apartments, eateries and beaches with water-sports activities. For a more peaceful stay, make for Mavarstica on the other side of the island.

The Drvenik islands, Mali (Small) and Veli (Large) are a haven for those in search of a relaxing retreat, just two towns, no big hotels or resorts, serene swimming uninterrupted by jet-skis or banana boats, and private beach-houses to rent down forgotten pathways.

Split has its own airport, 20km from the city, served by carriers from main European cities, particularly seasonal flights by budget airlines. Buses take you from the airport to the city. If you are driving down from Zagreb (more flight options throughout the year), the distance is 410km, with most of the journey along the swift A1 motorway for a journey time of 3.5-4 hours. From Rijeka (415km away) or Dubrovnik (215km) the route to Split is along the Magistrala coastal road, which is very scenic but can get traffic-clogged in high summer. Split is also well served by bus and train, with buses from Zagreb, Rijeka and Dubrovnik, and regular trains from Zagreb plus connections to most central European cities. If you wish to travel by boat, meanwhile, Split is the third busiest port in the Adriatic, with regular services from Ancona, as well as from Dubrovnik and Rijeka, while in summer there are direct ferry lines to other Italian cities, including Pescara. From Split harbour you can take a boat to Brač or Šolta, as well as Hvar, Vis and Korčula.

The island of Brač also has an airport, mostly served by charter flights during summer. It is 15km from Bol; if you are staying in Supetar, take a taxi from the airport.

Split is well-positioned for exploring the area, with bus, train and ferry links to the largest towns and most visited islands, while a good road network connects it with the most popular mainland destinations of the area. You can easily reach the lovely towns of Trogir and Omiš, as well as the Makarska Riviera, by bus from Split’s central bus station. To explore the hilly interior, especially for trekking on Biokovo mountains or along the Cetina River, many travel companies offer minibus service to the start of your exploration.

From Split’s port, you will find regular car-ferries to Supetar on Brač, or catamarans to Bol (journey time is approximately 50 minutes for either option), depending which side of the island you want to start on and whether you wish to bring your car. The towns are connected by bus (up to five a day during summer). You can also get to Brač from Makarska, to Sumartin on the island’s eastern edge. From there you can catch a bus to Supetar, though check schedules to make sure you don’t arrive after the last bus has departed. All the island’s main towns are linked to Supetar by bus, but service between other towns can be infrequent or non-existent, in which case taxis are a good stand-in, or bring your car over on the ferry. The roads are generally decent.