Split-the most beautiful place in the world! As one of our popular city guides says at the beginning of every tour: with us locals, this is non-negotiable!
Split is not only blessed with good looks, but also with the central location close to all the main Croatian islands: Brač, Hvar, Vis, Šolta, Korčula to name a few; and amazing sites such as the Blue lagoon, Blue cave, Krka Waterfalls, Cetina River, and other popular places that make everyone’s ‘must-do’ lists.
This enviable position is the reason why the city itself often gets overlooked by the tourists. Too many beautiful distractions in such close vicinity! Make sure it doesn’t happen to you, because Split has so much to offer regardless of your interests: history, food, nature, leisure, sports, or nightlife.
Most of all, you need to mix with locals and observe our laid-back lifestyle to get the vibe of Split. Once you do – you’ll want to live here!
Every local knows that Diocletian, one of the most successful Roman emperors, was a smart man for picking this spot for his retirement summer residence: the best climate, stunning islands, rich soil for growing beautiful grapes (and cabbage -apparently the emperor was a fan), healing Sulphur springs, beautiful women…and the list goes on.
Today, the walls and rooms of his 1700 years old palace are the Split Old Town itself.
Shops, restaurants, cafes, and apartments are built in the ancient walls. So next time you have a coffee in Split, or shop for souvenirs- remember that you are actually in Diocletian’s living room! I’ve lived here most of my life, but I am always fascinated by this.
Impressive history aside, Split has much to offer: stunning city beaches, museums and galleries, local restaurants, charming cafes, beach bars, and clubs, souvenir shops filled with lavender from Hvar, Marjan Hill recreation park, and small specialized shops selling locally made chocolate, liquors, cheese, wine, cakes…
The cream on top is the local people: easy-going people who like to sip coffee on the Riva promenade and comment on everyone who passes by in their unique humoristic way. Beautiful women walk pass, carefully dressed, and (take notice of this) always wearing top fashion sunglasses (it’s a Split thing).
Does anyone in Split work? – people often ask. We do! So how are your cafes always full of local people looking like they’re on holiday? We don’t know.
I guess we make time for our coffees on the Promenade…it’s carved in our genes.
We love our beaches too, and we go for a swim every day in the evenings. Regardles of the busy lifestyle, and longer work hours – we meet at the beaches in the evenings for a swim, chat and a bit of relaxation.
The beaches in Split
This horseshoe-shaped bay is our most popular city beach and one of the rare sandy beaches here. It’s a 15-minute walk from the center. The beach is always packed with people and children – both local and visitors, as the waters are shallow and restaurants and cafes are at hand’s reach.
Don’t be surprised if you see a group of men throwing themselves in the shallow waters making funny moves. They are playing PICIGIN!
The aim is to keep the small ball in the air by hitting it with your palm, and falling in the water in any way. This game is played every single day of the year in Split, even if it’s snowing! Monty Python’s Michael Palin loved this game so much; he said that, after seeing locals play the game, he understood why ex – Yugoslavia was the first non-English speaking country ever to buy Monty Python.
When we get asked by tourists which is the nicest beach in Split – most of the time the answer will be – Kašjuni beach. The beach is located on the southern side of Marjan Hill, only about 2.5 km from the city center. The scenery is beautifully mottled with shades of green, blue, and white. It’s ideal for young people as there is a beach bar with sunchairs, cocktails, and music. We suggest – rent a bike and ride from Riva to Kašjuni and around the Marjan Hill.
Food in Split
If you want to have a traditional meal and feel this unique Split vibe I’ve been talking about – you need to go to a KONOBA – the traditional tavern. There are some old-style taverns in the city where you will feel like you came to someone’s house for a meal: the owner will welcome you, you will taste meals prepared from old recipes with lots of love and pride. If you’re lucky – there even might be an a-capella song coming from one of the tables: traditional Dalmatian song, suited ideally for the sea, sun, and relaxed mood. The best time to ‘catch’ the locals in taverns is MARENDA – something like brunch.
Photo: ‘Oštarija u Viđakovi’ – like visiting someone’s home/ Photo credit: Dalmatia.hr
Some taverns have been modernized – a bit of old and a bit of new mixed to give a perfect balance. Don’t tell this to our old tavern owner – but I think this is great! The mix creates a unique atmosphere that is becoming our ‘new traditional’.
We are all foodies at Riva Travel! We try to go to all the new places to try food, sweets… If we are busy during summer season, we organize business meetings over a meal, over a cake…so we can try it all.
The places I recommend below are purely from our own experiences, and we have no association with these places. We recommend it to you -because we like it!
I can’t mention them all, but here are some of the best places to eat in Split:
If you want a traditional meal and a typical Dalmatian atmosphere, go to Konoba Varoš – it has over a hundred years of experience preparing Dalmatian meals, and many locals eat there. Oštarija u Viđakovi is another traditional tavern that will impress you with tasty food and a ‘Dalmatian living room’ feel and is only a short walk from the Bačvice beach.
If you are a black squid risotto fan or want to become one, Trattoria Tinel is my favorite place for this gem – yum! You’ll find it only 5 minutes up the road from the Riva promenade, and when you get there, try to find a spot to sit outside: the summer garden with a well and lovely plants is charming.
If you like eating fish, octopus, scampi, calamari, and other delicious seafood – visit Konoba Fetivi to please all your taste buds.
Bakra is one of those traditional places that has been modernized but in a good way. The food is delicious, and I love the citrus plants and décor inside.
For modern food lovers, our absolute favorite at the moment is the Corto Maltese restaurant! They celebrate great food, but also great mood! The menu is so clever and funny, and the staff too. The food is, of course, delicious!
For a quick bite and a pub atmosphere, go to the Fabrique pub. Best potato chips in town!
If pizza is your thing – visit Bokamora and make sure you try their dessert fig pizza.
If you want to dress up and are not worried about paying a bit more, Zrno soli restaurant has fantastic views of the Split marina. Food is innovative and tasty. If you care more about the food than the view – then go to the best seafood place in town: Nostromo restaurant located right on the fish market. For meat lovers, restaurant Dvor has excellent meat (and fish ) meals prepared on a charcoal grill.
Bokeria Kitchen & Wine bar is the place everyone is talking about : ultramodern, great food, and amazing spot between the old stone walls.
The Uje Oil Bar is a tapas-style restaurant with group tastings of our world best olive oil accompanied by prosciutto and cheese and local wine, of course. Great for nibbles and a few drinks in town.
I could go on and on …but I would make this into a food blog then! If you want to chat more about food in Split -visit us at Riva Travel when you’re here!
My favorite cake in Split is ‘Balotica’ from O’š kolač bakery. That’s just my personal favorite at the moment, but all the cakes there are masterpieces. The cakes from this pastry shop create a festival of flavors in your mouth. You can feel the lemon zest, the walnuts, the strawberries in such a lovely, delicate way mixed with other ingredients – every time I go there, it feels special!
Best ice cream: Luka ice cream shop. That’s what everyone says. I still prefer our good old Ledo ice cream sold at many bars and cafes around town. My suggestion: try both and judge for yourself!
Pumparela gelateria near Peristyle square is also a must for a proper creamy gelato – decorated with a cute round shaped waffle (food is also about good looks, isn’t it).
Crepes have always been very popular in Croatia, so no wonder that little crepe cafes have been popping up lately. My favourite is Bajamina. The have a big choice of tasty sweet and savoury crepes – but I’ll always go for Monte (nutella and cold vanilla pudding with crunchy hazelnuts).
You will notice that there is a bakery on every corner in Split! We’re pastry lovers!
Bobis is our traditional bakery, and to us locals, the cakes and pastries from Bobis bring back memories from childhood. You can buy all sorts of pastries there, but also sandwiches and cakes. Must try: jam donut. In Split ,two jam donuts from Bobis is, believe it or not, our usual breakfast! We like to have a sweet start of the day.
Tradicija Kirigin is our oldest bakery, and there is no way you’ll be able to walk past and not buy anything when that sweet smell of lovely cakes gets to you (must try: vanilla danish pastry).
People lining up to get the sweets from Tradicija, our oldest pastry shop
Photo credit: Dalmatinski portal
If you like healthy or gluten-free options, Kruščić bakery is the place for you!
I know I’ve skipped some great places, but I do have a Split food blog in mind in the future (I have to do more fieldwork). If you do get to one of these places, let us know what you think! Moving on to other sweet temptations : shopping in Split!
Shopping in Split
The shopping centers
There are 3 main shopping centers in Split: Joker is our smallest shopping center, but also closest to the city. You can easily walk there from the Riva promenade.
Two larger centers are Mall of Split and City Centre One (both about 6 km from the center-15 minutes by bus number 18 or by car). Mall of Split has the biggest choice of shops, but City Center also offers a wide variety – and is home to the Museum of Senses, which is great fun for kids and grownups.
If you want to go to the world-class cinemas, then Mall of Split is the place. If you want to take your kids to see a cartoon, make sure you pick a movie not synchronized to the Croatian language. Cartoons in the original language are available – but you need to specify this when buying tickets. All other movies are in the original language with Croatian subtitles.
Those who prefer walking the streets with colorful boutiques, cafes, ice cream shops, rather than shopping centers (like me) – Marmontova street is the place for you.
You can walk up to Marmontova street from the Riva Promenade, and you will find Zara, Bershka, Guess, Massimo Dutti, O’Neill and beautiful Croatian designer shops there, plus lovely bakeries, cake & ice-cream shops and cafes. You will walk past the vibrant fish market on your way, and when you get to the top of the street, Croatian National Theatre will be right in front of you.
Museums & Galleries
Split museums and galleries are the city’s testimonial of its long and rich history . Some are modern and great fun for kids and adults, so let’s talk about one of those first!
The museum of senses Split
The Museum of Senses in Split is a place where your senses can experience an adventure! It offers 30 attractions: illusions, laser technology, mirror maze, nails bed…You can discover mysteries about your body, brain, and Split itself! Great place to visit if you happen to be in Split on a rainy day!
Galerija Meštrović was intended to be the summer residence, working studio and exhibition space of the famous Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović. It was designed by Ivan Meštrović himself, surrounded by a beautiful Mediterranean garden with bronze sculptures and a sea view – beautiful and unique landscape architecture! Today, you can admire his masterpieces carved in marble, wood and bronze in this beautiful gallery.
Archaeological Museum Split
For those who are interested in history – this is the oldest museum in Croatia and it includes archaeological artifacts from the prehistoric, Greek, Roman, early Christian and Medieval ages.
Split City Museum
The Papalić family settled in Split in the early 14th century and built a little palace to be their family home. Today this palace is home to Split City Museum, where you can observe, along with the artwork on display, maps, photographs, and manuscripts that build the historical picture of Split.
Split Gallery of Fine Arts
Opened in 1931., the Split Gallery of Fine Arts holds over 5,200 works dating from the 14th century to the new art production. The exhibits include collections from different periods: the Venetian Republic, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Yugoslavia, to the Republic of Croatia. Besides the permanent collection, you can visit temporary exhibitions of Croatian and international art.
Game of Thrones Museum
Game of Thrones Museum in Split is a must for the fans of the series. You can take a look at the authentic props, costumes, real size figures, weapons, city dioramas, set and more…The atmosphere is great, the music is on and, of course, you can sit in the throne and take a picture. GOT souvenir shop is across the road.
Sports & Recreation
Marjan Hill in Split, or ‘lungs of the city’ as we call it, is a forest park only 15 minutes walk from the center. The locals spend their weekends there cycling, running, walking, climbing to the top of the hill to admire the fantastic view of the Croatian Islands and the Split city itself.
Marjan Hill is the home of some of the most beautiful Split beaches and is ideal for kayaking, swimming, rock climbing, and recreation of any kind.
My advice is: go to the first lookout and take the iconic photo with Split behind you; the view is breathtaking. Enjoy the walk through its dense pine forest, and visit the small churches and chapels hidden between hill’s stones.
Some of our most popular city tours are held on and around Marjan Hill: Secret Marjan walking tour, Split sea kayaking, Rock climbing and even Deep water solo!
Split is a city of sports. The stadium build in 1979 is positioned right by the sea. Made in the shape of an open seashell – the stadium blends perfectly with the Mediterranean scenery of Split. If you are a football fan : we suggest a tour of the stadium! If you don’t get to see it, you can look at the virtual tour HERE.
Photo credit: hajduk.hr
Other interesting facts about Split
- Rome has Fontana di Trevi, Verona has the statue of Juliet…and Split has the Gregor of Nin! Rub his big toe and make a wish! It’s located right in the center so don’t miss the opportunity to wish upon a …toe!
Gregor of Nin statue : rub his big toe and make a wish!
- The yellow shrubs you will spot on the Riva Promenade and everywhere in Split played a big role in Split’s history – the city was named after those beautiful yellow flowers!
- St. Dominus cathedral in Split is the oldest Catholic Cathedral in the world
- Emperor Diocletian was fond of Egyptian art and statues, and the sphinxes you see in Split were brought here from Egypt to decorate his palace.
- Today’s Riva Promenade did not exist in the time of Diocletian. The water was actually coming to the southern walls of the palace, so the boats could approach the palace walls.
- If the southern wind is blowing, the famous Jugo, please don’t mind us locals being a little ‘out of it’. We believe it gives our heads a bit of a brain fog, so we get grumpy and clumsy. Just say ‘Južina je!’ (it’s Jugo!), and it will cheer us up a bit! As soon as the wind passes, we are back to our normal happy selves, promisse!
I could not fit everything about our beautiful city in this blog, but we would like to meet you if you’re here. Come to Riva Travel for a bit of chat with us and find out what else you can do in Split to make your holiday the best it can be. And I am off to have a nice coffe and pastry on the Riva Promenade.
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