Split is a party town. Its bar hub is the rambling Roman palace in the city centre, filled with little venues tucked away down otherwise unpromising passageways or spreading out over enclosed courtyards. Most have tiny interiors and a scattering of seats outside. With the 2am closure there, the action then moves to nearby Bačvice beach or the venues around the Poljud Stadium.
Consensus has it that the Academia Ghetto Club has long been the best bar in Split. Certainly for arty decor, bohemian atmosphere and usually for music, it would be hard to beat. These factors tend to attract a reliably savvy, relaxed crowd of Croats and travellers. In terms of location too, this venue wins out, set at the top of the narrow, invariably crowded bar-lined passageway of Dosud. In the daytime, its pretty front courtyard provides enclosed privacy from the constant tourist traffic.
In the heart of Diocletian’s Palace, Aussie-run Charlie’s is where backpacking travellers get loose. Extended happy hours, themed parties and regular rounds of shots help the night along nicely as sunburned gap-year students chug back seemingly endless pints of Ožujsko. A bar in its own right, Charlie’s is also a hostel open to non-residents, so staggering to bed shouldn’t be too problematic.
Once this was plain old Gaga, just another of the many bars around Diocletian’s Palace where most of the action takes place outside. Now this is – ta-da! – Cocktail Bar Gaga, a must-visit venue on any bar crawl of Split’s historic centre. Every summer, ever more partygoers passed by, dropped in and stayed longer, enticed by the strong cocktails at friendly prices. Every year, the cocktails improved, more drinks companies held promotion nights and better DJs started to spin. Everyone still squeezes into the same narrow space and gets along famously.
If you’ve grown out of the fresh-faced bar scene around Diocletian’s Palace, but you’re still up for fun, Hemingway Bar Split hits the right level. Part of a nationwide chain that developed around Opatija and Zagreb, Hemingway brought sophisticated drinking to Croatia. This being Split, and being an expansive terrace venue overlooking the water behind the Poljud Stadium, the mood is more party-oriented than at Hemingway’s slightly staid stablemates in Croatia’s capital. Live acts, themed nights and seaside mingling characterise any weekend night. Earlier on, a lounge-bar atmosphere prevails, in keeping with the setting and quality of cocktails.
Jazz, literature and history combine to create the unique atmosphere at this most unusual of Split bars. Set in the house where Renaissance writer and philosopher Marko Marulić was born, the Marvlvs Library Jazz Bar is run by a collector of his works and avid jazz fan. Unusually for Split, here smoking is prohibited lest it damage the literary rarities, but the MLJB is no ivory tower for dusty academics. From opening time at 5pm, cocktails flow, a cosmopolitan clientele chatter and Ella Fitzgerald’s voice resonates. Occasionally a live act or reciting poet pipes up.
Part gallery, mostly bar, the Po Bota is an intimate venue hidden at the end of a passageway alongside the Milesi Palace on a prominent square in Split’s historic centre. While everyone flocks to busy pubs in the warren of streets behind, a local, chatty clientele congregates here, amid original art and a large tap of Moravian beer poured at ever more frequent intervals as the night wears on. This being the historic centre, 2am closing is the rule, but join the crowd and you might well find another party or gathering elsewhere in town.
Overlooking the city beach of Bačvice, Žbirac is patronised all day long by thirsty holidaymakers of all ages. Locals use it too as the prices are reasonable, the decor tasteful and the staff personable. Excitable noises of seaside frivolity, interspersed with shouts from nearby games of picigin, a local ball game played in the shallows, mingle with the well chosen background music. After dark, the action moves to the dance club further round the beach.