A Travel Guide to the Many Faces of Split, Croatia: From Diocletian’s Palace to Krka National Park
Palaces, bell towers, beaches, fortresses and waterfalls – Split has it all. Wondering what to do in Split? Read on!
Like Dubrovnik, Split oozes culture and history from every pore (or street corner) and feels like it could be Dubrovnik’s hip and happening cousin. If Dubrovnik were a luscious full-bodied red wine, Split would be a mojito topped with a splash of prosecco. Make sense?
The streets of Split, especially in the heart of Diocletian’s Palace and along the waterfront, are buzzing with activity all day and all night. When we visited in June, Croatia played against Portugal in the European Championship and bars were full to the brim with soccer fans from Croatia and around the world. The energy spilled out onto the streets and was almost contagious. I couldn’t care less about a sport that often ends in nil-nil after 90 minutes, but I was almost (and I mean only almost) tempted to join in on the rowdy festivities. Wondering what to do in Split? Read on!
How to get to Split in Croatia
We traveled to Split from Dubrovnik by ferry (schedules available here) in 5 hours and booked directly with the ferry operator. If you are planning on traveling by ferry around Croatia during the peak summer months I would highly recommend that you book your seat in advance as it gets busy. Also make sure you arrive at the port at least 45 minutes to an hour in advance so you can nab a good seat! There are also many other ferry routes to Split if you are traveling there from other cities in Croatia, or if you are traveling internationally it’s also possible to fly directly to Split International Airport.
We had 3 days in Split and although we had bought a return ticket for the ferry back to Dubrovnik, we opted to forfeit the ticket and rent a car to drive back along the Dalmatian coast instead. Best. Decision. Ever! The ferry ride took longer than scheduled (and offered minimal views), and the drive back only took us about 6 hours with a fun little pit stop in a wonderful little town named Brela. Views like this made the long drive worth it!
Note: Some places in Split accept Euro but most places only accept the Croatian Kuna, so either withdraw some when you arrive or exchange some money in town. 1 USD = approx 6.7 Kuna.
Where to stay in Split
As we only had 3 nights in Split, we wanted to stay in the heart of the city and booked ourselves into Studios MK within the UNESCO-protected Diocletian’s Palace. I cannot recommend this place enough. The room was newly renovated and cozy, and our host went above and beyond to provide us with recommendations for places to visit in the area. Click here to book your stay at Studios MK!
Booking tip: Only have a few days in Split? Make sure you stay within the city center so that you can explore Diocletian’s Palace and easily reach the pier and beaches. Click here to check rates and availability for other hotels in Split’s city center!
If you’re wondering how many days to spend in Split, Croatia, I would recommend staying for somewhere between 3-6 nights: 3 days in Split is sufficient to explore the city and its surrounding attractions, but 4-6 days would be perfect if you’re planning to use the city as a base for day trips or beach hopping.
The best things to do in Split
For its relatively compact size, the city packs a punch when it comes to things to do in Split. If you are staying within Split it is easy to get around on foot, though you might want to rent a car if you’re planning a day trip to Krka as it offers more flexibility.
1. Explore Diocletian’s Palace
Split is an extremely walk-able city and your best bet is to get lost down the narrow passageways and tucked away gardens. The Diocletian’s Palace is the most famous of all the Split attractions, forming a labyrinth through the heart of the city. The UNESCO-listed heritage site showcases ruins from a time gone by as you weave your way through the streets.
The Palace was built by Roman emperor Diocletian at the turn of the 4th century AD and was built from white stone and marble, much of which was imported from Italy and Greece. Don’t be surprised if you spot a sculpture of a sphinx here and there! Read more about Diocletian’s Palace here.
2. Climb the Bell Tower
I have a love/hate relationship with bell towers because of my fear of heights, but the view is almost always 100% worth it. The Bell Tower is one of the top attractions in Split – it costs 20 Kuna to climb the tower, and while I’ve climbed towers taller than this in Verona and Florence, the rickety metal sheet steps once you approach the top left me feeling exposed and shaky. Once we got to the top, the bells started ringing and I damn near had a panic attack.
Nevertheless, the bell tower is a relatively cheap and easy way to look across the old town of Split and the Adriatic.
3. Visit Klis Fortress
If you’re wondering what to see in Split, don’t forget about this historic site just 12 kilometres away from the city: the Klis Fortress is thought to date back to the 3rd century BC, and has now become increasingly popular thanks to Game of Thrones.
The fortress played an important role in the military defense of Croatia and sits atop a towering mountain with panoramic views across Split. The fortress is open every day and shuts at around 7 PM; now is the time to visit if you’re visiting Split!
The number of visitors to Klis has since soared, although when we visited in the late afternoon there were only 3 or 4 other people there. Visiting the Klis Fortress is one of the best things to do near Split. The fortress can be reached by bus in 15-20 minutes from the old town, or alternatively you can drive here easily with plenty of parking available. Entrance is 60 Kuna for adults and 20 Kuna for children.
4. Hit the beaches
There are some great beaches in Split, many of which are easily reached by foot or bicycle. Beach culture is strong in the area and so be prepared for busy shores, even on weekdays. We visited Firule beach and opted to swim on the rocky side of the shore where the water was crystal clear!
5. Chase waterfalls at Krka National Park
I saved the best for last! Strictly not within the city, but Krka National Park is the perfect day trip destination from Split. We had initially wanted to visit Plitvice National Park, but turns out that it was way too far away from Split and Dubrovnik. So we “settled” on visiting Krka, but quickly realized that we weren’t settling at all: Krka is absolutely mind-blowingly beautiful.
How to get to Krka National Park: There are a number of organized group tours that can take you there, but we opted to rent a car for the day (approx 40 Euros from Avax Car Rental) so that we could drive an hour to get there ourselves: that way, we had the flexibility to work around our own schedule and not someone else’s. It is incredibly easy to drive to Krka from Split, especially if you have access to Google Maps (or save the offline map directions). Just look for the “Lozovac” entrance which is where individual visitors can park their cars.
Once you arrive, tickets can be purchased at 200 Kuna per adult during the peak summer months (prices vary throughout the year). You hop on a bus that takes you down a windy path to the main hiking trail, and from there you just follow the path to the Skradinski Buk. You can also go on separate boat excursions to the Roski slap and Visovac Island. Most of the hiking trail is, surprisingly, in the shade and very flat, so it’s not an exhausting trek at all! Expect the entire walk (with lots of photo snapping stops) to take about 90 minutes.
Once you’ve walked past the dozens of waterfalls and still rivers that are scattered across Krka National Park, you’ll reach the Skradinski buk, the largest waterfall and also the only one that is open to the public for swimming.
Before we hopped into the freezing cold water, we had a mini self-packed picnic of cheese, salami, baguette bread, peaches and cherries that we picked up from the farmer’s market in downtown Split. Krka is not to be missed if you’re visiting Split – trust me on this!
Where to eat and drink in Split
Zinfandel: I have to thank my friend Grace from The Tea Nomad for this recommendation! The people at Zinfandel are experts on wine and food pairings, and cooked up some of the most delicious food we had in Croatia. The restaurant has limited seating, so reservations are highly recommended.
Paradigma: If you love rooftop dining then this is the place for you. Incredible food, outstanding wine, out-of-this-world service. Definitely book a table in advance as this place is popular.
4Coffee: After a few days of mediocre-slash-terrible coffee, I was in dire need of a good flat white. The coffee at 4Coffee is incredibly tasty and is a hidden gem located right outside Diocletian’s Palace.
You might also enjoy these guides:
- Heading to the historic city of Dubrovnik? Read on for my destination guide to Dubrovnik and its Old Town
- Here are some essential travel tips to bear in mind for your next trip
Hvar and Brac are also popular day trip destinations from Split but unfortunately we ran out of time! Have you been? What are some of the other must-see places in Split? Comment and tell me all about it below!
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Been a number of times to Croatia now as fell in love with the place after my first visit . It has everything 1200 islands, the clearest Ocean and rivers I have ever seen. Waterfalls everywhere, lush forest, moonscape rocky terrain, Mountains and rolling hills gull of vineyards. An amazing place full of hidden treasures. One of the best that too many miss is The town of Sibenik twenty minutes from the Krka waterfalls. It has two UNESCO sites and is a ripper. The other is the town of Betina on the island of Murter and the Kornati archipelago. Also Google these gems Motovun, Opatilja , Losinj iskand, Rastoke the town built on waterfalls and Pucisca town on the island of Brac. Just too much beauty in Croatia. Oh and I forgot Primosten , Cavtat and Rogiznica. Google image them all….you will thank me
Thanks for the tips, Dan! We stopped by at Sibenik and Brela and both were stunning. Hoping to explore more of the islands next time around.
Flo great post as always!! i will be adding everything for my list to do and possibly where you stayed too for the mainland (i want to visit a couple of islands after). Krka national park is so on my hit list too it looks beautiful.
I am going to ask you more at a later date about renting cars as we want one for Croatia as we are doing a road trip 🙂
You’re going to LOVE driving through Croatia! Make sure you stop at a little town called Brela between Split and Dubrovnik – so stunning!
Can we talk about how amazing your travel guides are just for a second? It’s so organized and beautiful! I need to learn a thing or two from you! 🙂 Also, Croatia seems BEAUTIFUL! I love that you showcase places I would never have even thought of visiting! As always, thanks for sharing on #FlyAwayFriday – can’t wait to see your post tomorrow! xo
Thank you so much Kana!!! I really want my content to be useful to anyone traveling to these places 🙂 Can’t wait for the next #FlyAwayFriday!
Croatia is just so beautiful!!! We did the drive along the coast to (from Dubrovnik to Split) and the coastal drive is just gorgeous. I hope to get back to Croatia soon, probably one of my favorite places I’ve been too! Thank you for sharing on #FlyAwayFriday! Can’t wait to see what you share next!
So perfect – we did the drive from Split to Dubrovnik haha! It’s seriously amazing and I know exactly how you feel – it doesn’t feel like we spend enough time there!
I love everything about this: the location, the photos, your writing style – and especially explaining the two different cities through cocktails. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks so much for taking the time to read through, Ava! Hope this is helpful for planning a trip to Split!
I’ve never considered Split in Croatia, always thought of Dubrovnik or Hvar, but reading this is more than just a transport hub. Loved your drink analogy for the comparison with Dubrovnik, brilliantly written. As always you give a great insight into the place and your photos are fab. National park wow. #flyawayfriday
Absolutely more than a transport hub! We were pleasantly surprised by the city and honestly loved our little apartment in the heart of Diocletian’s Palace. Thanks for taking the time to read through!
Ughhh your posts always make me want to quit my 9-to-5 and just travel the word. Beautiful photos as always and what a great guide!
Thank you so much Jas! That means a lot 🙂 Hope you’re having a fab weekend!
Been dying to visit this country. I love great views and I always see a lot of it in Croatia. Your photo from the bell tower is fantastic! Well worth overcoming that fear of heights! 🙂
This is such a helpful guide filled with recommendations and tips. I’ll pin for later. 🙂
Thanks for taking the time to read through, Melai! Let me know if you make it to Split one day!
Makes me think about going to Croatia again. It’s on my bucket list but not done yet. Thanks for practical tips and beautiful photos.
Definitely move it higher up on the list Anita! 🙂
Flo, this is really amazing – I think I will be packing my bags to Croatia next year. And just let me say how great your pictures are! As usual :-*
Thank you so much lovely! How long is the flight from Germany to Split/Zadar/Dubrovnik? You should totally do it!
Split was my favourite place in Croatia! I loved it so much more than Dubrovnik. I found this amazing little library bar where I chilled out in the heat of the day and made friends with the owner who showed me the really good local places to eat. Such an awesome place!
Do you remember the name of the place? Would love to visit the next time we go!
Wow this looks beautiful and them waterfalls look amazing! I love places like this but Croatia has never been high on my list, you have really made me want to go though!
It was never high on my list either, Laura! Honestly we picked Croatia because it was easy to get to from Rome and we had a spare week before my friend’s wedding in the UK – BEST. DECISION. EVER!
Bookmarking this for when I finally get to visit Croatia! Great post 🙂
Thanks Bridget! Hope it’s helpful for planning your trip!
Croatia is high on my list of countries to visit when I get to Europe later this year, and as a pretty keen enthusiast of all things outdoors, that park will definitely be visited! Thanks for sharing the details on it! 🙂
Caitlin you’ll love it! Make sure you visit Dubrovnik as well – I have a post on a few things not to miss when you’re there so feel free to check it out! Hope it helps with your trip planning 🙂
I miss Croatia soooo much. Spent 2 weeks in Split there last year and really want to go back.
Marissa, I hadn’t expected to love it as much as I did! What an incredibly beautiful country with such rich culture and architecture. Can’t wait to go back! Hope you make it there for round 2 soon!
I have been seriously considering Croatia as my next destination! Your pictures are making me want to confirm that choice. It is such a beautiful place! Very informative blog!
Thanks for reading, Erica! Croatia is amazing and I cannot wait to go back to explore more of the country! We’d love to visit Plitvice and the islands next time 🙂
Still no chances of going Croatia yet, so I shall savour via your post first! Krka National Park looks very tantalizing (sorry I can’t help but visualize them as backdrops for my Instagram shots haha!)
Krka is SUPER photogenic! You’ll have a blast Instagramming from there 😉