The Best Things to See and Do in Split, Croatia

Rubbing the toe of the Grgur Ninski statue in Split is said to bring good luck | © NeilThompson/Flickr
Rubbing the toe of the Grgur Ninski statue in Split is said to bring good luck | © NeilThompson/Flickr
Photo of Peterjon Cresswell
25 June 2017
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There always seems to be something happening in Split, either along the Riva, amid the alleyways of Diocletian’s Palace or down on Bacvice beach. This is a Mediterranean culture where people spend most of their time outdoors, and discovering what’s around the next corner is most of the fun. Read on for Culture Trip’s round-up of the best things to see and do in Split.

Discover more of the Adriatic coastline on this 8-day TRIPS by Culture Trip tour of Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, from sea kayaking around Split to exploring the island of Korcula by bike.

Admire Mestrović

Villa
A bronze statue of a cross-legged, naked woman sits in the grounds of the Meštrović Gallery | © David Clay/Flickr
There’s no better place to appreciate the work of Croatia’s greatest sculptor, Ivan Mestrović, than the villa he built himself overlooking the Adriatic east of Split’s historic centre. Over two floors and a garden he also commissioned, the Mestrović Gallery displays hundreds of sculptures, plans and drawings created in the first half of the 20th century.

Chill on Bacvice

Split’s city beach, just across the railway tracks from the bus station, is packed with Splicani and tourists all summer long. A half-moon of sand with shallow water for quite a way out, Bacvice lends itself to endless games of picigin, a ball game played with four or five people at the edge of the water. The Zbirac bar provides sun bathers with a welcome cold beer.

Discover the Ethnographic Museum

Cathedral, Museum
Home to a worthy, if staid, collection of rustic furniture and folksy garments, Split’s Ethnographic Museum would seem a suitable destination for historians, but a rather less essential diversion for casual tourists, if it weren’t for the view it provides. Climb the Roman-era staircase and you are granted an unassailable panorama of the tiled rooftops of Split and the Adriatic stretching out behind them. Plus, by doing so, you avoid the crowds scaling the tower of Split Cathedral next door. Away from the relatively niche appeal of Dalmatian ethnography, this is like having your own private view.

Dunk and dine at the Uje Oil Bar

Bar, Bistro, Croatian, $$$
The gastronomic transformation of Split has been remarkable. Traditional, affordable Dalmatian taverns are disappearing and in their place, a new wave of contemporary, cosmopolitan bistros has swept through the town. The Uje Oil Bar is more than just a bistro – it’s the wine-and-dining outlet of a local firm of olive-oil retailers. Here, with fine Dalmatian wine, first-class olive oil, fresh bread for dunking and seasonal produce – all in historic Roman surroundings – the Mediterranean experience is complete. The desserts are superb, too.

Explore Diocletian’s Palace

Building
Exploring this Roman garrison is pretty much the first thing everyone does when they arrive in Split. This is not a historic monument where you queue up, pay admission, stand back and admire. Diocletian’s Palace is the living, breathing heart of Split, dotted with scores of shops, cafes and restaurants, tucked down curious passageways and hiding in corners of enclosed courtyards. Its central square, the Peristil, merits reverent investigation – it features an original 3,500-year-old sphinx from Luxor atop one of its columns.

Gaze out from Teraca Vidilica

Bar, Restaurant, Croatian
Panoramic view of the red rooftops of Split, with mountains in the background, from Teraca Vidilica | © Alex/Flickr
The view of Split and the surrounding sea are best enjoyed atop Marjan, the hill that towers over the twisting streets of Veli Varos. Up there the perfect vantage point is Teraca Vidilica, a bar/restaurant whose terrace sits just before a precipitous drop delineated by a low stone wall. From an outdoor table – the waiter having brought you a glass of affordable house wine or bottle of domestic beer – you can watch the sun slowly set over the horizon, allowing for just enough light as you negotiate the steep pathway back down the hill.

Hang at the Academia Ghetto Club

Music Venue
Split would be infinitely poorer without the Academia Ghetto Club. A long-term favourite hangout in the city’s historic centre, this imaginatively muralled marvel has hosted exhibitions, spun many a fine tune and provided copious drinks for its predominately bohemian clientele for a decade or more. While a younger, perhaps less discerning crowd parties on cheap cocktails in the jam-packed passageways of Diocletian’s Palace, here a sense of space and decorum prevails. Partly it’s the courtyard garden, partly it’s the fact that the AGC attracts grown-ups who still want to have fun without falling over doing it.

Scale the cathedral bell tower

Cathedral
View of pedestrians down below from the lofty Cathedral bell tower in central Split.
© brownpau/Flickr
In the heart of Diocletian’s Palace, the Cathedral of Saint Domnius may appeal to those interested in ecclesiastical architecture, but it’s the separate bell tower that brings in the crowds. A curious mix of styles, it rises over the city’s historic centre for six storeys and the dizzying climb up is rewarded with fabulous views for miles around.

Splash out at Adriatic Graso

Restaurant, Croatian, $$$
For that one big holiday blow-out, Adriatic Graso ticks most boxes. Stupendous sea view? Tick. Quality fresh fish, done how you’d like? Tick. Lamb, veal or beef if you’re all fished out? Tick. Delicious choices of sides, salads and desserts? Tick. Even a metre-long pizza for family sharing? Again, tick. Service is first-class, ditto the wine. For those using the occasion to pop the question, the Graso takes credit cards.

Stroll the Riva

Shop
View of pavement cafes lining the Riva promenade on the Split seafront.
If Diocletian’s Palace is the heart of Split then the seafront promenade of the Riva is its face. Created in Napoleon’s time, the Riva has been Split’s shop window for more than 200 years. The Riva is where Splicani stroll, pose, meet, greet, chat, interact, sit, watch and, most of all, take coffee. Its row of LED lights and palms is now the backdrop to the age-old tradition of the early-evening passeggiata.

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