Split used to be the gateway to the islands, but now is one of Europe’s hottest spots. How to get there, where to stay, eat, drink and party.

Capital of Dalmatia, City of Emperor Diocletian – welcome to Split

It was formerly known as the Gateway to the Islands and a mere transit destination for the majority of tourists. Today, Split is now one of the hottest destinations on the Adriatic.

Its attractiveness to foreigners dates back several centuries, however, and UNESCO World Heritage Site Diocletian’s Palace has reinvented itself from the Roman Emperor’s retirement home to one of the coolest places to eat, drink and explore culture in Croatia.

Within its magical walls, there is a mosque, a synagogue, and a basement which is known all over the world thanks to its hosting of HBO’s Game of Thrones. But it is in the alleys and squares that the palace comes alive. There are always new bars, cafes or restaurants and a lot to discover. It is a very exciting time in the city’s history.

But there is much, much more to the city than just the Palace. Walk along the stylish Riva, having enjoyed your two-hour people-watching coffee first, and continue along the new West Coast Riva and ACI marina, followed by a trip to Marjan Hill, the green lungs of the Dalmatian capital.

There are museums and art galleries aplenty, including the famous Mestrovic Gallery, beaches to explore, increasingly attractive shopping, and some truly magnificent day trips. Those same islands are out there, but with an increased tourism offer, and the growing prowess of Inland Dalmatia – a fast emerging cultural and adventure playground – is worthy of exploring.

And if you’re still not convinced, this is exactly why Split will win your heart.

How to get to Split

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Split Airport was one of the most connected airports in Croatia, welcoming a record 3.3 million passengers in 2019! A brand new terminal opened the same year to handle the increasing number of passengers coming to the Dalmatian capital, though it may be a few years before Split Airport is back to pre-pandemic figures (Split Airport welcomed only 674,000 in 2020).

However, announcements are good for 2021. The airport’s head of passenger reception and dispatch service, Mate Melvan, is hoping to realize direct flights to 100 destinations in 25 different countries this season. Stay up to date with the latest flight news here – and if you’re looking to come by plane and get into town from the airport? Here is what you need to know.

While flights remain a popular point of entry to the city, so too are the train and the bus. Direct services are essentially limited to the daily service to and from Zagreb, while buses in Croatia are much more widespread.

Total Croatia has prepared special guides (for all modes of transport) to and from the city: from Dubrovnik; from Zagreb; from Zadar; and from Hvar.

If you are driving, here are some useful things to know, while a ferry and catamaran overview from Italy has plenty of options. Buying ferry and catamaran tickets is quite straightforward once you know how – here is how.

5 things not to miss in Split

The first thing not to miss is something you really cannot miss – UNESCO World Heritage Site, Diocletian’s Palace. The heart of the old town and tourist life, the palace is the number one attraction and symbol of the city.

Ivan Mestrovic was one of the great sculptors of the world, and his legend lives on in the gallery of the same name. Enjoy that and the wonderful grounds, and try and catch a concert or two taking place there during your stay.

Picigin. Did you know that the Dalmatian capital has its very own sporting world championship? Picigin is a rather unusual water sport played in the shallow bay of Bacvice, where grown men in Speedos fling themselves through the air to keep a tiny ball from getting wet. You are not a Splicanin until you have played. Double points if you do so on the traditional New Year’s Day game.

Croatian wine is fantastic. There are more than 130 indigenous varieties, including the original Zinfandel, which hails from the other side of Split Airport. Wine tours have some on a long way in recent years, especially since the opening of the first wine bar in the city. Lots more have copied Paradox Wine and Cheese bar since 2012, but none are better – make that your first port of call on your wine journey. And to brush up on the wines of the region, you’ll want to read this.

Where would the world be without Game of Thrones? Kings Landing may be the number one destination for fans of the HBO hit series, down in Dubrovnik, but Split is a close second. Game of Thrones tours are among the most popular activities in the city these days. In addition to the location in Diocletian’s Palace, there are several others that can be included in an expanded tour – Klis Fortress, Zrnovnica, and Kastela.

Here are our top places in Split we think you shouldn’t miss.

Split beaches

Not only is Split the most beautiful city with stunning people and a ton of things to see and do, but Split is also blessed with some fantastic beaches, several of which are within walking distance of the centre.

Did you know that’s Split’s most popular city beach, Bačvice, first opened to the public in 1919? And that it is the home to picigin? Or that Split recently experienced a ‘beach club boom‘?

While we’ll let you decide where you want to spend your day in the sun (though we’re sure knowing the amenities would help), here are our top 5 beaches in the city.

Where to stay in Split

Like many things in recent years, the accommodation scene has totally changed in Split in the last 15 years. It was back in 2004 when the first official hostel opened. Today there are more than 100.

There is a desperate need for more hotels, especially in the luxury sector, which is being slowly met, and many hotels are in the planning.

The private accommodation sector continues to provide the backbone of tourist accommodation. The tourism boom has encouraged more people to take out loans and convert existing homes into tourist accommodation. As a result, places such as Diocletian’s Palace are being slowly transformed from a living city into a tourist ghetto. The change has obvious pros and cons.

My advice is to book early wherever possible, especially in the week around the Ultra Europe Festival in July. Prices go crazy at this time.

Not sure which neighbourhood is right for you? Take a tour of the options with TCN.

Getting around Split

The old town and riva is pedestrianised, and therefore getting around on foot is the best option. Distances are not far, and it helps that the ferry, bus, and train terminals are all close by and next to each other (for now, at least, as there are plans to move).

Taxis are expensive (and you should ALWAYS make sure their meter is on should you use them), but taxi apps are king in Split, offering significantly cheaper options with the click of your mobile phone. Uber, Bolt, and Cammeo are just some of the taxi apps you can download. We promise they will make your life much easier.

And if you’d prefer to drive? Here is the 2019 TCN city parking guide to give you the best possible help.

There is a very well-developed bus network in Split. It can be quite a challenge to navigate as a foreigner, but locals know each route by heart. So don’t be afraid to ask. Here is a little help – an intro guide from TCN on using the bus in Split, as well as some of the most popular routes.

Things to do in Split

Where to start?

This is a city of culture – learn more about its museums and its art galleries. Walking tours of the palace, tours of the Hajduk stadium (hey, this is the team which beat Manchester United 6-0!), walking tours of the rock churches on Marjan. This is a city of culture!

And a city of food, and of wine. Cooking classes, wine tours, learning how to buy and prepare fish from the famous Split fish market.

Island hopping – there are SO many options, from the public ferry to the helicopter tour. Which budget is yours?

And for an adventure playground, is there a city quite like it in Europe? Sailing, kayaking, cycling, hiking, climbing and so much more – the only adrenaline address you need is AndAdventure.

Here are some of our favourite things to do in the city.

Day trips from Split

There are SO many options for day trips from the city. Island hopping is a very popular choice, and with regular ferries to Solta and Brac which take just an hour, a day trip to the islands on a budget is more than feasible.

Most, however, opt to go just that little bit further. Hvar, Vis and the Blue Cave on Bisevo remain the most popular options, and every tour agency will have a planned excursion.

There are many nearby options on the mainland as well. The UNESCO town of Trogir is just the other side of the airport, while the magnificent Krka National Park is an hour away by bus. Many make it a national park double by taking in Plitvice Lakes as well.

Closer to home, Klis Fortress is better known as Meereen to Game of Thrones fans (here is how you get there by bus from Split), and Inland Dalmatia is a fascinating cultural and adventure playground, just 30 minutes by car from the coast. Many locals have little idea what is ‘behind the mountain’. Here are 25 things they are missing – and you are, too.

Other popular day trips are to Dubrovnik, Mostar, and Medjugorje (don’t forget your passport for all three) – long but rewarding days, and they all add to the diversity of the tourist offer of Split.

If you need some inspiration for your next getaway from Split, look no further.

5 things you never knew about Split

It has the oldest cathedral in the world.

It has a rare painting of the Prophet Mohamed.

The last legal Roman Emperor was killed here, more than 150 years after another Roman Emperor built his retirement home in the city, which later became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It has the most Olympic medal winners of any city in the world per capita.

It is the only city in the world that produces chocolate in the shape of a vinyl record which actually plays music!

For these and more fabulous facts about this amazing city, here are 25 things to know about the Dalmatian capital.

Split nightlife

The nightlife in the city has improved a lot in recent years. The tourism boom has led to a marked increase in diversity, with more niche tastes being catered to. New nightclubs opened, and the winebar scene has exploded from nothing.

The Ultra Europe Festival, of course, has put Split firmly on the map in the music festival scene and is just one of several major music events which take place each year. At the time of writing this, we aren’t sure what will return this year, but Ultra Europe, for example, has tentative plans to be held this July.

Split’s bar scene has something for everyone – from late-night clubs to craft cocktail bars and the quintessential Croatian dive bar you won’t be able to escape.

Here’s a look at some of the best nightlife in the city.

Festivals in Split

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival scene took off, giving the city a very vibrant cultural feel. The most famous event is Ultra Europe, but Days of Diocletian, the Feast of Sv. Duje, Advent in Split, and the long Split Cultural Summer all more than play their part.

Better yet, Split hosts some of the best film festivals in the country. Take the Mediterranean Film Festival, for example, which is held in the outdoor cinema of Bacvice Beach and has become one of the most important cultural events in the city. Learn more about the various festivals in the Dalmatian capital.

Meet the neighbourhoods

With such a gorgeous city, where is the best neighbourhood to base yourself for your stay? A few years ago, leading local tour guide, Ivica Profaca, wrote a very detailed overview of the neighbourhoods of the city for TCN.

Starting with an overview of the neighbourhoods for your needs, Ivica then took us on the following weekly tour: Diocletian’s Palace; then the quiet labyrinth on Marjan; then Meje, the district with a view; after that a visit to the land of Hajduk; then the beach heaven of Bacvice and Firule; then off the beaten path; and finally, a journey back in time to the Socialist era.

Meet Marjan – green lungs of Split

A short walk from the centre brings you to Marjan Hill, which is known locally as the ‘green lungs’ of Split. Idyllic nature close to the centre of a major European city. And not just that, but a wealth of heritage as well.

Take a tour of Marjan Forest with TCN. Feeling fit? Take the challenge of the Marjan vertical run. It is a great adventure destination in general, with biking and rock climbing of particular interest. Marjan even has its own dedicated day each year, with a programme which looks something like this.

For me, however, is the churches, and the incredible rock churches in particular, which make Marjan such a fascinating place to visit.

For more information

You can visit the local tourist board website for the latest official information.

Total Split was TCN’s second portal after Total Hvar, and it has been live since 2012. Catch the latest from the city through Total eyes.

For 25 things to know about this incredible city, click here.