Split travel guide
The pretty city of Split has a rich history. Since ancient times it has, in various guises, served as the economic and administrative centre of the beautiful Croatian Adriatic coastal region, today called Dalmatia. The city sits mainly on a peninsula on the eastern part of the island of Ciovo, although it has nowadays spread onto the mainland and encompasses the mouth of the River Cetina. From the 5th to the 2nd century BC Greek colonists settled the mainland and adjacent islands. Later came the Romans, in particular the Emperor Diocletian, who, being of Dalmatian origin, elected to build a huge palace at a spot then called Salona, in the year 303. A town grew up around the palace and eventually, by the Middle Ages, the city of Split had begun to develop.
Diocletian's Palace still stands in the very heart of the old part of Split, which charms visitors with its cobbled streets and classical architecture. The greater Split area is characterised by its lush vegetation and green areas, particularly Marjan Hill on the west of the peninsula with its ancient indigenous forest. The city makes an ideal base from which to explore the islands, beauty spots, and historic villages in central Dalmatia.
Split is also world renowned among seafarers for the quality, and quantity, of its marinas. There are about 44 of them in the city area altogether, drawing yachts and catamarans from all over Europe and making it a great cruising destination in the Adriatic.
Roman Emperor Diocletian, having abdicated his throne in AD 305,
decided to spend the last years of his life in Dalmatia and built a
palace for that purpose on the bay of Aspalathos, on the south side
of a peninsula extending into the Adriatic Sea. The spot he chose
is now the very heart of the city of Split, and the palace still
stands as the city's main tourist attraction. The building and the
entire historic Split inner city area around it have been declared
a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Within the palace walls are a network
of narrow cobblestone alleyways that house a mixture of residential
apartments; modern shops, cafes and restaurants; ancient Roman
relics; and a magnificent cathedral.
The palace is interesting in that it was designed to combine a luxurious palace with the defences of a military camp, having towers and fortifications on its landward sides with three monumental gates. Originally situated on the water, the palace is now fronted by the city's popular waterfront promenade and faces onto the harbour. The buildings are made from local white limestone, quarried on the nearby island of Brac.
Founded in 1820, the Archaeological Museum in Split is the oldest museum in Croatia. Its displays include many archaeological artefacts from prehistoric times, the Greek colonial period, and from the Roman, early Christian and Medieval ages. Most of the relics found in excavations of the Roman city of Salona are displayed here, and there is an interesting collection of submarine archaeology. There is also a collection of antique coins and a large library. Outside the museum there is a lovely garden with a covered walkway and a number of statues on display, which makes for a good opportunity to wander a bit and take some photographs. Those who have smartphones can make use of the free wifi audio guide, which is very informative and adds a great deal to the experience. Although this museum is not enormous, it is very interesting and a great place to get familiar with Croatian history.
Address: Zrinsko-Frankopanska 25
Brac's main claim to fame is the strip of beach near the resort
of Bol that stretches out like a finger into the sea, which is
featured on almost all Croatian tourist brochures. Brac is the
largest of the central Dalmatian group of islands and its major
agricultural products are wine, olive oil and fruit. The island is
also known for its white stone, which is exported; Brac's famous
white stone was even used to build Washington DC's White House.
Bol and Supetar are the two main resorts on Brac, with attractive old towns and a laid-back charm. Bol is the windsurfing capital of Croatia, and Brac is a great destination for a number of watersports. The rest of the island boasts numerous villages and dramatic coastal scenery. Like much of Croatia, the beaches on Brac Island are mainly rocky, boasting stunningly clear blue water and calm seas. If you are desperate to find a sandy beach head down to Lovrecina, which has its own beach bar and restaurant and is a lovely spot to spend the day.
Brac is generally less crowded than Split and other popular areas on Croatia's mainland, but it can get very busy during the peak summer months.
Split is an ancient and attractive city with centuries of history bolstering its modern appeal. As with many Croatian cities, the richest concentration of tourist attractions in Split can be found in the oldest area of the city, around the famous Diocletian's Palace. This magnificent ancient palace was built by the Roman Emperor Diocletian in 303 AD and it is a privilege to explore. There are numerous walking tours on offer for the palace complex and the surrounding old area of the city, which can be very informative and entertaining. Usually included in these tours will be the impressive Cathedral of St Domnius and a climb up its rather scary bell tower, which earns you spectacular views of the area. Also, be sure to look up as you walk by the West Gate so that you don't miss the remarkable clock which has been keeping time in the city for more than a century.
There are numerous other things to see and do in Split, with highlights including the Archaeological Museum, the oldest museum in Croatia. This museum collects and displays artefacts from all eras of Split's long history and is a joy for history buffs. On a more contemporary note, travellers will enjoy a stroll along Riva Harbour which has a pretty promenade lined with bars and is a great place to meet locals who favour the spot for evening walks and recreation.
Split is also a convenient base for excursions to myriad beautiful islands and villages and visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to daytrips. The nearby islands of Brac and Hvar offer stunning beaches and charming little towns, and the coastal villages of Makarska and Sibenik are enduring Croatian favourites. The magical walled town of Trogir, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is situated on a tiny island between Ciovo and the mainland, and tops the list of many a Croatian travel itinerary.
Off the coast of Split, just 15 nautical miles (24km) from Baska
Voda and accessible by ferry, is the island of Hvar, which abounds
with Romanesque and Renaissance buildings and a true Mediterranean
atmosphere. Hvar has been populated since prehistoric times;
archaeologists have found evidence of life on the island dating
back to 3500 BC. The island is noted for its fertile soil and was
the site of the world's first parcelling out of arable land by the
ancient Greeks, who farmed here. It is now mainly a wine-growing
area. The island's main towns are Vrboska and Jelsa, famed for
their Dalmatian wines. Hvar is dotted with picturesque villages,
many of which remain fairly untouched by time and tourism.
Must-see attractions in Hvar include the incredible Hvar Fortress which can't be missed by history buffs and anybody who appreciates a great view. It is a bit of a climb to get to the old fortress but from the site you can see the whole town and harbour, and there is a lovely cafe for refreshments. Lovers of beautiful beaches can't visit Hvar without making the short trek to Dubovica Beach, which is often delightfully free of crowds.
The beautiful old walled town of Trogir is a UNESCO World
Heritage Site enclosing a maze of cobblestone streets; Romanesque,
Renaissance and Baroque architecture; and one of the finest
cathedrals in Croatia. The old town is situated on a tiny island
between the mainland and the island of Ciovo and is connected to
land by bridges. The narrow streets hide countless restaurants and
cafes, shops and shuttered residences, and outside the city walls
there is a waterfront promenade lined with yachts and dominated by
a medieval fortress that was once connected to the city walls.
Trogir boasts 2,300 years of continuous urban settlement so it is not surprising that it has numerous attractions to offer visitors. It has a high concentration of palaces and churches and is lauded to be the best-preserved Romanesque-Gothic complex not only in the Adriatic, but in all of Central Europe. In the unlikely event that you exhaust Trogir's charms, you can use it as a convenient base for other activities: a popular excursion from Trogir is a boat trip to the nearby islands, Drvenik Mali and Drvenik Veli, whose beaches and secluded coves provide an idyllic getaway.
Sibenik is an historic town, located in central Dalmatia. One of
the most notable things about the town's history is the amount of
nations that have claimed it as part of their territory: Between
the 11th and 12th centuries Sibenik was claimed by Venice,
Byzantium, Hungary and the Kingdom of Bosnia (the Republic of
Venice only surrendered the territory in 1797); after World War One
Italy briefly claimed Sibenik, and during World War Two it was
occupied by the Germans and the Italians. As one might imagine, the
town is the product of diverse influences and it has a rich
Sibenik is home to the crowning glory of the Dalmatian Coast, the Cathedral of St Jacob, which was the masterpiece of sculptor Juraj Dalmatinac. It is reputedly the largest church in the world to be built entirely from stone and is unusual for its 71 stone heads on the exterior walls, a beautiful baptistery, the domed roof complex, and various works of art in the interior of the building. The city also makes a good base from which to visit the nearby Krka National Park.
About 30 miles (47km) south of Split is the popular resort town
of Makarska, with its cobblestoned streets and natural harbour
nestled in the shadow of Mount Biokovo and fringed with the two
green peninsulas of Osejava and St Peter. This beautiful spot
offers secluded beaches washed by an azure sea, and it lies at the
heart of the Makarska Riviera, which is characterised by pine
forests and a string of white pebble beaches.
Makarska was an important trading port during its colourful history, which spans occupation by the Venetians, Turks, French and Austrians, all of whom left a taste of their culture and tradition behind. The town boasts a world-renowned collection of sea shells, a Franciscan monastery dating from the 16th century, a Venetian fountain, and several churches and Baroque palaces, although its main attraction is its scenic setting.
The main tourist area of Makarska is lined with fashionable boutiques, cafes and bars, all a stone's throw away from the numerous yachts and catamarans docked in the harbour. There are a few beautiful churches and cathedrals dating back to the 13th century, and monuments dedicated to Friar Andrija Kaèiæ Miošiæ and Napoleon Bonaparte are popular photo spots.
Location: The airport is situated 16 miles (25km) west of Split.
Time: Local time is GMT +1 (GMT +2 from last Saturday in March to end of October).
Contacts: Tel: +385 (0)21 203 555.
Getting to the city: Croatia Airlines operates a bus between the airport and the main bus station, on the waterfront, in Split. Taxis are also available.
Car rental: Car rental companies include Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, National and others.
Airport Taxis: There are taxis available outside the terminal during operating hours.
Facilities: Airport facilities include a restaurant and café, duty-free shopping, banking and currency exchange services and a post office.
Parking: Parking is available at the airport with discounts available for long-term parking.
Departure tax: None.
A popular tourist destination, Split provides travellers with a number of effective ways to get around town.
The primary form of public transportation in Split is the city's bus network, which is fairly extensive and covers all areas of the city of interest to travellers. Buses usually run from about 5am until around midnight, and have their destinations clearly laid out in route maps at most stops. Visitors will find most of their travel needs attended to by the bus stop near the ferry harbour, as it is a meeting point of the most popular lines.
Travellers in Split should find it easy to move seamlessly from one form of transport to the next, as the ferry, bus, and train stations are all in close proximity to each other.
However, many travellers in Split may find it easiest and most enjoyable to simply get around on foot. The layout of the city is very accommodating to pedestrians, with key attractions and shopping centres within walking distance and a scenic promenade along the water between the port and marina.
Visitors in Split also have the option of renting a car. This can be especially useful for those wanting to explore the surrounding area, as it provides considerable freedom and the Croatian roads are famously good. Although renting a car is ideal for exploring the wider region, prospective drivers should note that there is not much parking in the city centre, with none whatsoever in Split's old town.
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