In Croatia, coffee culture is not something to be taken lightly. Vjeran Mlačić, a local licensed tour guide and coffee connoisseur, gives Culture Trip the lowdown on the best cafés and coffee shops in Split.
Even in a country without any Starbucks franchises, coffee is as big a part of the Croatian culture as the Adriatic Sea – the local custom of fjaka means it’s common to sit somewhere for hours with friends or business associates over a cup of coffee. In Split, between visiting the turquoise beaches and eating fresh seafood, going to cafés and coffee shops should also be at the top of your list for an authentic local experience.
Vjeran Mlačić, a licensed tour guide in Split who does everything from Games of Thrones tours to tailor-made customised options, is a huge coffee fan. “It’s a lifestyle,” he says. “I could imagine my life without any drink or food, except for coffee. In Split, we love coffee for what it is, but at the same time, it’s a chance to meet people you like, to have a business meeting, you name it – many things get done while having a cup of coffee.” He adds that “coffee to go” is not typical in Croatia. “A good coffee has to be enjoyed in a very moderate, slow pace,” he says. So, if you’re looking for the best cafés and coffee shops in Split, look no further. Here, Vjeran speaks to Culture Trip about his top recommendations.
Located in Split’s Marjan Forest Park, Teraca Vidilica’s setting alone is worth a visit. “No other location in Split can offer a view like the one you’ll get from the terrace,” says Vjeran. “The whole city area is in front of you, as well as the islands and impressive mountains above the town.” He says it all “looks unreal”. As for sightseeing around the café, Vjeran recommends visiting the beautiful 16th-century Jewish cemetery behind Teraca Vidilica and walking through Marjan Forest Park, of course.
In the middle of Split’s waterfront area, Riva, you’ll find Caffee Bar Fro, an ideal location whether you want to get some sun, breathe in the sea air or people-watch all while sipping on some excellent coffee. “With this café, Split has its ‘living room’ out in the open,” says Vjeran. “It’s a location where people meet, show off their new sunglasses (and other nice pieces of clothing they just got) and sunbathe. And, as you sit and enjoy your cup of coffee, Split life happens in front of your eyes: it feels like watching a movie,” he says. Fun fact: Sigmund Freud once stayed in the house that the café now occupies. “So, we can say that having a cup of coffee at Fro is some kind of therapy,” he says.
Vjeran says that if you’re looking for someplace elegant, Bajamonti – named after a former mayor of Split, Antoni Bajamonti – is perfect. “This building used to be a theatre and, in more recent times, a cinema,” he says. “With views of the sea, its outdoor area is breathtaking, and it’s in one of the most beautiful squares in Dalmatia, Prokurative, inspired by Venice.” In addition to your seaside coffee, the restaurant has a variety of Mediterranean cuisine on the menu; try the octopus salad.
D16 Coffee has two locations in Split: one uptown and the other in the charming setting of Diocletian’s Palace. “Hidden from the busy streets but at the same time in the ‘heart’ of Old Town, you can find this small but fantastic place,” says Vjeran. “It’s all about the coffee flavour here – it really makes art out of coffee-making.” Plus, you can buy some of its freshly roasted coffee beans to take home with you, such as its signature light roast, which makes for a memorable souvenir.
Aside from having good coffee, drinks and food, Marvlvs Library Jazz Bar is also known for being the birthplace of Marko Marulić, a famous poet and philosopher from the 15th and 16th centuries. “Plus, all the historical sights are steps away,” Vjeran says. “But meanwhile, you can enjoy your coffee or drink in a very serene environment and even read a book. It’s very into books – you even get your bill in one, which adds to its charm.”
Lvxor Café and Restaurant sits on one of the most beautiful squares in Split. “Peristyle, an ancient square, is one of those locations that words cannot describe. As you sip your coffee or cocktail, you don’t know which part of the square to look at – the amazing columns and arches, Egyptian sphinx or the Saint Domnius bell tower,” says Vjeran. During the summer, the Roman changing of the guard takes place here every day at noon. “And on summer evenings, Lvxor has live music, so the atmosphere and ambience are something special – memories you’ll cherish for life,” he says.
A 10-minute walk from Old Town, you’ll find Žbirac at Bačvice Beach, “the most famous beach in Split”, says Vjeran. “This is where you go when you need to recharge. You can blend in with the locals, sip your coffee and watch people play the strangest ‘water’ sport in the world, picigin,” he says. It’s played in shallow water where the players can’t let the ball touch the water; once you watch long enough, maybe you can try it out yourself.
According to Vjeran, “Oš Kolač may be small in size, but it leaves a big impression.” He says it makes the most amazing and beautiful cakes that go perfectly with coffee. Even the name itself is inviting: “It means ‘Wanna cake?’” Aside from the delicious sweets, the setting is lovely, with upside-down teacups as lighting. The only challenge you’ll face from visiting Oš Kolač will be deciding which dessert to choose, so you may want to bring a friend along and try a couple.
If you’re looking for a more romantic setting, Dvor is the place. “‘Wow’ is the first word you’ll say when you sit on its terrace,” Vjeran says. “And you’ll have a great meal, too, since this is also a superb restaurant.” Since Dvor specialises in Mediterranean fare, try the Dalmatian black risotto made with squid and squid ink, followed by an espresso and dessert.
“Caffe Bar Teak is another hidden place in the middle of the busiest part of the town, Diocletian’s Palace,” Vjeran says. “It’s very popular among the locals. And though you might need a bit of help to find it, once you do, you’ll become a regular customer.” It offers great coffee, friendly service and a laid-back atmosphere – as relaxed as being at home. Also, the cosy interior increases the homely feeling and will entice you to stay even longer.
According to Vjeran, not only is the Galerija Umjetnina (the Gallery of Fine Arts) worth visiting but so is its café. From the patio, you can see Diocletian’s Palace as well as the Saint Domnius bell tower, which you can visit before or after your coffee break. Also, the Caffe Bar Galerija sometimes hosts live music, providing you with an even more magical atmosphere as you take in the enchanting Old Town setting.