The first morning in, head straight to Diocletian’s Palace, partly to get your bearings, partly to feel a sense of local history, but mainly because it’s just so enticing. Start the day with coffee on the Riva promenade alongside, then plunge into the warren of streets, squares and blind alleys that were once a Roman garrison.
With the heat and the crowds, you’ve earned an afternoon at the city beach of Bačvice, a short walk from the historic centre. It’s sandy so the kids will love it, and there are showers to wash off the salty water. There’s a line of bars and cafés running along the far end if you’re approaching from town. Don’t expect amusement arcades or tacky holiday shops – this is old-school seaside fun, and all the better for it.
After a light lunch on the Riva, you’ll be in need of something more substantial after dark. By the fish market, Noštromo is where locals dine on special occasions. The house fish platter should be easily enough for two, and the speciality steak is stuffed with mushrooms, cheese and ham. By all means bring an appetite but not credit cards – this is a cash-only establishment.
Kraj Svete Marije 10, Split, Croatia, +385 91 405 6666
It’s time to explore further afield. A pleasant 15-minute seafront walk west of the centre brings you to the ACI Marina and a number of waterside venues for breakfast or brunch. The Jadran Beach Bar is a decent choice. It’s also within striking distance of your first port of call, the Meštrović Gallery, a bright summer villa designed by the famous 20th-century sculptor whose works fill the tasteful interior and garden.
Šetalište Ivana Meštrovića 46, Split, Croatia, +385 21 340 800
If you’re up for more Meštrović, then further along stands another self-built exhibition venue, referred to in English as Kaštelet. After a quick snack and drink at one of the many nearby beach bars, take time to explore the sculptor’s delicately carved wooden reliefs depicting the life of Christ. Meštrović himself had intended to return after a first post-war visit from America in 1959, but ill health prevented him. Kaštelet is also the name of the beach alongside, usually tranquil and free of crowds.
Šetalište Ivana Meštrovića 39, Split, Croatia, +385 21 340 800
As you’re at this end of town, it might be opportune to explore the twisting streets of Veli Varoš, a poorer but atmospheric quarter that has produced a disproportionate number of opera singers. An appropriate spot to dine would be the Konoba Matejuška, at the edge of the neighbourhood where it meets the city centre. This is classic Dalmatian tavern fare, honest, fresh and healthy. It’s also intimate, two dozen covers at most, so you won’t feel like just another tourist being ignored amid rows and rows of tables.
Trumbićeva obala, Split, Croatia, +385 21 355 152