Smitten With Split

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After coming off the high that went along with walking the walls of Dubrovnik on a perfect (if hot) summer day, I wasn't sure what to expect of Split, Croatia.

I'd heard conflicting reports of this second-largest city in Croatia — some people loved the city for its history and location on the Adriatic; others hated it for being too crowded and touristy. Some said it was beautiful; others called it dirty. It was one of those cities I knew I'd have to see for myself before I could really judge it.

And you know what? I loved Split.

Split, Croatia

Split, Croatia

Split marked the end of my 9-day Busabout trip through the Balkans. On the last evening of our tour, a big group of us went out for an amazing seafood dinner on the waterfront, then took a stroll through the Friday-night crowds to eat some fresh crepes and watch a Beatles cover band perform on the esplanade. Then we wound our way through Split's narrow cobbled streets to share some farewell drinks with the rest of our large group at an outdoor pub.

Split had character. It had atmosphere. And, most of all, it was the place that marked the beginning of the “solo” part of my trip.

Split, Croatia
Farewell dinner.

Up until Split — with the exception of 2 days in Budapest and 2 in Istanbul — I had spent most of my time in Europe with tour groups. First there was the trip I did with Intrepid Travel through Eastern Europe. And then there was the Busabout trip through the Balkans. And, while I enjoyed both tours for different reasons, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't ready to be on my own for a while by the end of them.

So, on my second day in Split — the only full day I had there to myself — I made a point to explore as much of the city as I could. On my own, and on my own terms. The freedom was just what I needed.

Split, Croatia

Split, Croatia

I was able to see all the highlights of Split while I explored.

Top things to see in Split, Croatia

Dioceltian's Palace

In the year 305 AD, Roman Emperor Diocletian built a grand retirement palace for himself here in Split. The sprawling, limestone-and-marble palace still stands today in the center of Split, now preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Split, Croatia

Split, Croatia

But the unique thing about the “palace” is that it's not just a bunch of protected ruins. Instead, it's still being used. Within the palace walls, you can find restaurants, guest houses, hostels, bars, shops, and more to enjoy.

Split, Croatia

Beneath street level, you can catch Croatian cultural shows, shop for handmade jewelry, and even explore the basement of the ancient palace — the part the has been best-preserved over the centuries.

Split, Croatia

Split, Croatia
The palace basement.

Saint Duje Bell Tower

Within the walls of Diocletian's Palace sits the Cathedral of Saint Domnius (or Saint Dujam/Duje), a Catholic cathedral in the center of Split. For a small fee, you can climb up to the top of the bell tower for some fantastic views out over Split. Just be warned that the tower is fairly open — don't attempt this if you are really afraid of heights!

Split, Croatia

Split, Croatia
The bell tower
Split, Croatia
Climbing the tower.
Split, Croatia
The view from the top is definitely worth it!

The Esplanade

Yes, it's a bit stinky. And yes, it can be a bit crowded. But, nevertheless, I still enjoyed hanging out along Split's waterfront. During the day, it was the perfect place for some people-watching. And, at night, it was a great place to go for live music and fresh crepes.

Split, Croatia

Split, Croatia

Marjan Hill Overlook

Look at any tourist map of Split, and you'll see Marjan Hill marked. This hill — a high point on the western side of the city — offers perhaps the best view out over Split and its harbor. Just be warned: getting to the overlook requires climbing lots and lots of stairs! Totally worth it, though.

Split, Croatia
The view is amazing!

Split, Croatia

The fancy hotel I treated myself to

Lastly, my stay in Split was made extra special by the fancy room I treated myself to at Hotel Luxe, a boutique hotel located 10-minutes from the city center. This funky hotel wasn't exactly budget-friendly, but it was exactly what I needed after spending a month in hostels and shared guesthouse rooms. Sometimes backpackers need pampering, too!

(Click here for my full review of Hotel Luxe.)

Hotel Luxe

In the end, Split was just what I needed. It was big enough to offer plenty to do, yet small enough to not feel overwhelming. It was touristy, yes, but not in a way that I minded. In short, it was the perfect start to the slightly-more-independent part of my European adventure.

Split, Croatia

Have you been to Split? If not, is it a place you'd want to visit in Croatia?

*Note: I ended up in Split at the conclusion of a discounted 9-day Classic Balkan Trek tour with Busabout. All opinions, however, are my own.

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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27 Comments on “Smitten With Split

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  1. I have been to Croatia three times now from Australia as I absolutely live the place. Everyone does the famous locations of Dubrovnik, Split and the Plitvice Lakes which I must say is one of the most beautiful places in the world….everyone should see this. But Croatia has so much to see you really need a month to experience it. The islands are a must.. places like Hvar, Korcula, Pucisca and Bol on island Brac are stunning. My hidden treasure is Island of Vis where you must visit Stiniva cove. My other hidden treasures you must google are Rastoke, Varazdin, Losinj, Sibenik and Krka falls, Rovinj and the beautiful island of Murter and the Kornati archipelago. Check these out you won’t be dissapointed

    Split is a lovely city! First picture of Prokurative is beautiful, and later Matjeuška is stunning. Did you visit Bačvice? Typical beach of Split citizens.

    I am coming every year back to Split because it is so magical!

    Thanks for sharing!

    I am planning a trip to Croatia and Bosnia for next year so it was great to read about your time in Split. It is one of the places I plan to visit as well as take some day trips from there.

      I quite enjoyed it, and hope you will too!

    Wicked transparent bathroom!
    It’s like a show-off showroom! Hilarious… and the curtains are outside?

    We love Split too. It’s definitely ranked high on our list of the best places to visit in Croatia. Like you said Split had character. And although it gets really crowded during summer, it’s still far less crowded than Dubrovnik. And what we like the most about Split – yummy food! It has a great choice of local eateries. Love your photos, especially the one climbing up bell tower. Thanks for sharing!

      It’s definitely a city I will go back to someday! It really surprised me.

    First Dubrovnik, and now Split. You really have sold me on Croatia. 🙂 What was the climb in the tower like — was it one of those scary open spiral staircases? It does look like you could see all the way down while you were ascending. (And I ask this because, yes, I’m acrophobic). 🙂

      Croatia is a very easy country to sell, I think. 😉

      And it wasn’t an open spiral staircase. The first part was a narrow stone staircase, and then it was a steel one as you got higher up. Not too scary, but the sides of the tower are all open!

    Fun to see your photos from Split! We visited in May just briefly, but I really enjoyed the city, too. Ted and I stayed in Drasnice, a little city farther down the coast, thanks to an invitation from Meg and Tony of Landing Standing – they found a sweet set of apartments for rent for $20+/- night with the world’s fastest wifi and gorgeous beaches and a pub right out the front door. I think it’d be fun to return to Croatia, spend a little more time in Split, and then head inland to see what’s different away from the coastline.

      Ooo, your stay in Croatia sounds great! I also plan to go back sometime (hopefully soon!) to see more of it. I especially want to check out the islands!

    So jealous! I have always wanted to go to Croatia and your photos look beautiful – looks like you had perfect weather

      It was a bit too hot for my liking, honestly, but it was good weather for photos! And I suppose you can’t usually tell temperature from a photo anyway…

      I’m surprised that, in all your travels, you haven’t been to Croatia yet! You definitely should get yourself there!

    I also loved it because it was my first taste of the non-touristy Europe. There’s no famous landmarks there, which made it that much more beautiful.

      That’s very true, Caroline! I mean, I suppose the palace is a pretty big landmark, but it’s definitely not one most people know about before they get there. Glad to hear you loved Split, too!

    Awwwwwwwww next time you have to go vidit islands near Split…the sea is so so beautiful like in heaven

      I definitely plan to hit up the islands next time!!

    Croatia is high on my list of places to go. I really try not to travel to Europe in the summer because of the crowds. Do you think it would be a good place to go in the Spring?

      I think it would be a great place to go in the spring – or fall. Fall might be ideal, as it will still be warm, but you’d avoid the big summer crowds! I skipped through most of Croatia this summer because I knew it would be hot and crowded. But I will definitely be back – perhaps in September next time!

    Split is my favorite city in Croatia!! I am happy you also liked it 🙂

      Awesome to hear! It’s definitely a cool city, though I need to visit more before I can decide if it’s my favorite in Croatia!

    I enjoyed my stay in Split when I was there a number of years ago. I was there in the middle of summer and spent my evenings drinking almost-cold beer on the waterfront. Your accommodations look a lot nicer than mine, though. I stayed in a room that someone had rented out of their home.

      Glad to hear you enjoyed Split, too!

      The first night I actually stayed in a hostel that was inside the palace walls. It was nice enough, but the hotel was definitely better! 😉

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