- 1 Things to do in Split, Croatia
- 1.1 Diocletian’s Palace
- 1.2 Cathedral and Bell Tower of Saint Domnius
- 1.3 Temple Of Jupiter
- 1.4 Peristyle
- 1.5 Vestibule
- 1.6 Podrum Underground Market
- 1.7 Enter the city through one of its ancient gates
- 1.8 Stroll along the Riva
- 1.9 Visit Trg Republike
- 1.10 People watch in Narodni Trg
- 1.11 Hike Marjan Forest Park
- 1.12 Spend an afternoon on the beach
- 1.13 Visit one of the many museums in Split
- 1.14 Rub the toe of the Grgur Ninski statue
- 1.15 Discover all the filming sites on a Game of Thrones walking tour
- 1.16 Take a historical walking tour of the city
- 1.17 See one of the world’s oldest Sephardic synagogues
- 1.18 Enjoy a performance at the Croatian National Theatre in Split
- 1.19 Window shop along Marmontova Street
- 1.20 Purchase fresh foods at the outdoor markets
- 1.21 Support the local football team, Hajduk Split
- 1.22 Go shopping at one of the city’s malls
- 1.23 Admire the street art as you pass it by
- 1.24 Enjoy the sunset over Split from the sea
- 2 Things to do near Split, Croatia
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Found on the edge of the Adriatic Sea, Split is an excellent place to visit if you want to learn about Croatian history and culture.
I’ve had the immense pleasure of living with a local family just outside the city center for two whole summers, and it’s become one of my favorite places. The weather is perfect–if you love sunshine, then this is the place to be, and it very rarely snows here in the winter.
This ancient Roman town became part of Yugoslavia after World War II and is now the second-largest city in Croatia and the capital of the Central Dalmatia region. There are so many things to do in Split–the city is bursting with historic buildings, incredible culture, delicious food, and entertainment.
Things to do in Split, Croatia
Diocletian’s Palace, located in the heart of modern-day Split, Croatia, is essentially Split Old Town. It’s a significant representation of Ancient Roman architecture on the city’s coastline, displaying the civilization’s immense strength and wealth.
Built near Diocletian’s birthplace, Spalatum, the enormous building was erected in the 4th century by Roman Emperor Diocletian as his home to retire from public duties in 305 A.D. But, he only lived here for less than a decade before being assassinated.
Today, Diocletian’s Palace serves as the focal point of the city’s Old Town. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is still inhabited by museums, restaurants, stores, and residential spaces within its walls. Tourists may also remember the palace from its major appearance in the HBO series Game of Thrones.
The vast complex housed everything–the royal palace, the baths, the crypt, the temples, and even the town square. Several of these sites are still standing within the Palace today and are essential to add to your time in Split.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a creation or landmark chosen for conservation by the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) due to its cultural, historical, scientific or natural significance. It must meet a minimum of one of ten selection criteria to be considered for the World Heritage List, and once chosen, it becomes protected for preservation by various international treaties.
Cathedral and Bell Tower of Saint Domnius
Located right in the center of Diocletian’s Palace, the Cathedral and Bell Tower of Saint Domnius is one of the best-preserved examples of Roman architecture that still exists today. The oldest Catholic church in the world is still operating in its original form.
Quick History: Diocletian is considered one of the last famous Christian persecutors, and Saint Domnius is one of the people that was martyred under his reign. When Christians overtook Split, they destroyed Diocletian’s sarcophagus and transformed his tomb into the church.
The Cathedral’s octagonal shape was initially built as a mausoleum for Diocletian. Now, the Cathedral’s interior is specifically dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The bell tower, which is dedicated to the patron saint of Split, Saint Domnius, was added in 1190 (then reconstructed in 1908.) The choir was then added in the 1600s.
Make sure you take an opportunity to see inside the Catholic cathedral and visit the crypt and the treasury before climbing the bell tower. There are several striking pieces of art and literature inside, including relics of Saint Dominus himself.
Since it’s right in the center of the city, the bell tower has some beautiful views from within Split. There’s no elevator, and the stairs are pretty narrow, so be careful on your climb to the top. You’ll need to purchase separate tickets to visit the bell tower and the Cathedral, but your Cathedral ticket also includes your entry into the Temple of Jupiter.
During the off-season, the Treasury is closed to the public.
Temple Of Jupiter
Originally dedicated to the Ancient Roman king of the gods, the Temple of Jupiter was never entirely completed because when Diocletian moved into the palace, construction on the Temple stopped and never resumed. The temple has beautiful carvings of other Roman gods above its entrance and a headless Ancient Egyptian sphinx guarding the door that was brought to this one of the ancient places in Europe by Diocletian.
The temple was later converted into a Christian Baptistry dedicated to Saint John. Inside, you can find a bronze statue of the saint by Ivan Meštrović (where there was once a statue of Jupiter) and the relics of two Archbishops of Split.
The inside of the Temple of Jupiter/the Baptistery of St. John is pretty small, so it’s easy to add it onto your list of things to do around Split for the day after seeing inside the Cathedral.
Right outside the entrance to the Cathedral of Saint Dominus, you’ll find yourself in the Peristyle. This kind of open inner courtyard was very popular in Roman architecture, which is why you’ll find one in what was once a retired Roman king’s home!
Depending on the time of day you visit the Peristyle, you can catch historical reenactments of different public events, like proclamations (which I saw during the day) and duels (which I saw at night.) The Peristyle is also used as a performance space for concerts, operas, and other performances.
Connected to the Peristyle, the Vestibule is a large, round hall formerly used as the meeting hall and formal entrance into the Palace’s apartments. Only the most important ambassadors were received in this entryway. There are also four naves along its circular walls that once held statutes dedicated to Roman deities.
Today, you can walk through the Vestibule and catch a glimpse of the top of the Bell Tower. Or climb on top of the Vestibule to look down inside. This is also where you can find my favorite, unobstructed view of the Cathedral and Bell Tower of Saint Domnius.
Podrum Underground Market
Beneath Diocletian’s Palace, in the space that was once a prison (and a septic tank so filled with sewage that it actually helped preserve the area,) you’ll now find the Podrum Underground Market.
Wander through the stalls in the main hallway, filled with local artisans and souvenir stands. You can use either the entrance on the Riva or underneath the Peristyle to access the market.
Enter the city through one of its ancient gates
None of the best palaces in Europe are complete without grand entrances. In this case, Diocletian’s Palace has four–the Golden Gate, the Silver Gate, the Bronze Gate, and the Iron Gate. Each faces a different direction and served a distinct purpose for the Romans.
- The Golden Gate – North – the Palace’s main gate, which Emperor Diocletian used to enter the palace
- The Silver Gate – East – a secondary, defensive gate
- The Bronze Gate – South – opened originally onto the Adriatic Sea, which Emperor Diocletian would use to enter the palace by boat
- The Iron Gate – West – the Roman military’s entrance
Stroll along the Riva
If you’re looking for what to do in Split, have you walked along the seafront promenade? Almost every city I’ve visited in Croatia has a Riva or waterfront Promenade, but Split’s is by far my favorite. Along the outer wall of Diocletian’s Palace, you have different coffee shops, restaurants, and ice cream stands. And opposite, you’ll be met with incredible views of the sea.
However, the best time on the Riva is at night! You’ll find that the bars by the water have transformed into nightclubs, and dormant stages during the day are always featuring a band, dance troupe, or other performances. Not to mention the sunset view over the water!
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Visit Trg Republike
If you’ve ever visited Piazza di San Marco in Venice, Italy, you might recognize some similarities. Also known as the Prokurative, Republic Square is found at the western end of the Riva. Taking its inspiration from the famous Italian piazza, buildings enclose the square on three sides. It’s a great space to relax with a coffee or catch an outdoor performance.
People watch in Narodni Trg
Also known as the People’s Square or simply Pjaca, Narodni Trg was the first area outside of the Palace to be populated, around the 13th century. As the city continued expanding, it became the central square. Within the square, you can see several other notable Split landmarks.
Church of Our Lady of the Bell Tower
Built between the 6th and 11th centuries, this structure was originally for guards working in the Iron Gate. Later, the Bell Tower was built above the corridor and is one of the oldest preserved early Romanesque bell towers on Croatia’s coastline.
Designed by Spiro Nakić at the turn of the 20th century, this early Art Nouveau style construction is reminiscent of buildings found in Vienna, Austria–where the architect studied. Pop by Znanje Split bookstore on the first floor, or stay on the upper floors’ Central Square Heritage Hotel (Booking | Hotels) for an inside look at this UNESCO-protected building.
Stara gradska vijećnica
This beautiful building with the three Gothic-style arches served as the city’s Town Hall. It was constructed in the 13th century in the Romanesque-Gothic style but partially renovated to the neo-Gothic style during the mid-19th century. Make sure you stop inside to visit one of their temporary exhibitions.
Hike Marjan Forest Park
Located on the western side of the city, Marjan Hill is the highest point of the city. The view from here is fantastic! You’ll have panoramic views of the whole city, including the town center with its beautiful architecture and the Dalmatian coast.
The walk to the top is really a hike; you’ll first climb the steep stairs in the city’s Varoš neighborhood before actually getting into the park. There are several observation points throughout the park, and a popular beach to relax at, Kasjuni Beach.
Make sure you have good shoes or boots for hiking and enough water to accommodate for the many steps and steep hills here. Also, bring your camera if you want to take pictures at the top.
As you walk through Marjan Park, you might come across one of the twelve tiny Medieval chapels dotting the hillside, where faithful Medieval Split citizens would come for worship. Or, even Prirodoslovni muzej i zoološki vrt, Split’s Natural History Museum and Zoo.
Spend an afternoon on the beach
No warm weather trip to Split is complete without lounging on one of the city beaches! I’ve spent more time resting on Bačvice Beach than any other in Split–and for a good reason. It’s the closest beach to Split’s Old Town and has it all—sandy beaches, pebble beaches, and flat cement. There are lounge chairs to rent, beach bars right next to the water for a coffee or cocktail, and you might even pass by paddleboat rentals while walking along the Croatian coast.
Insider Tip: If you’re visiting Split in the summer, make sure you catch an outdoor movie at Ljetno kino Bačvice, the beach’s open-air movie theater. You can check out their summer movie schedule here.
Other beautiful beaches in Split include Firule Beach right next to Bačvice, Ježinac Beach outside the Varos neighborhood, and Kasjuni Beach and Kupalište Bene, which are inside Marjan Park.
Visit one of the many museums in Split
With so much history, it’s no wonder that the city has almost twenty museums! The Muzej grada Splita (Split City Museum) and Etnografski muzej Split (Split Ethnographic Museum) are my favorite history museums.
Galerija Meštrović (Ivan Meštrović Gallery) is over by Marjan Hill and features art from the late sculptor in his famed home. The Gallery has beautiful sunsets at night and hosts intimate theatre performances as part of the Split Summer Festival–this is a must-see spot in Split!
Quick History: Ivan Meštrović was one of the most famous Croatian artists in modern times. His work as a sculptor, writer, and architect has been displayed around the world, notably at the Ivan Meštrović Gallery in Split, Croatia; the National Museum of Serbia; Church of Sts. Cyril & Methodius and St. Raphael in New York City; and Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, where he was a professor and artist-in-residence until his death in 1962.
I would be remiss in not mentioning two of the more…interesting museums in Split! If you’re a diehard Game of Thrones fan, you can visit Split’s Game of Thrones Museum location. And if you absolutely love frogs, specifically seeing stuffed frogs in distinctly human scenarios, well then, you need to visit Froggyland.
Rub the toe of the Grgur Ninski statue
Looking out over the Golden Gate is a giant statue of a man. Congratulations, you’ve now met Grgur Ninski! Gregory of Nin was a Medieval bishop of Nin who is known for calling on the Catholic Church to conduct mass in the Croatian language in 926. He is regarded as a defender of Croatia’s language, history, and culture.
Created in 1929 by Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović, the bronze statue stands at 28 feet (8.5 meters) tall outside the Golden Gate into Diocletian’s Palace. Originally, the statue was first displayed in the Peristyle, but was moved by Italian fascists during World War II, and again into its present position in 1954.
If you look at the man’s massive feet, you’ll notice that his big toe is more golden than the rest. Rubbing Gregory’s big toe has been bringing people good luck for decades. So make sure you don’t pass on the opportunity to rub his toe for a little good luck yourself!
Discover all the filming sites on a Game of Thrones walking tour
While the HBO series was famously filmed in Dubrovnik, the production used gorgeous locations all over Croatia to bring its world to life. If you’re a major GoT fan, the city might feel familiar to you as you’re exploring the city.
The series filmed all over the city, with the basement in Diocletian’s Palace (where Podrums Underground Market is today) serving as Split’s most iconic location–Meereen’s catacombs for Daenerys’ dragons.
Take a Game of Thrones-themed walking tour to get an in-depth look at filming sites while learning a little bit of the city’s history along the way.
Take a historical walking tour of the city
If Game of Thrones isn’t your thing, no worries, there are several other walking tours of the historic city! As a tour guide, the first thing I do when arriving in a new place is schedule a walking tour. Learning about the history behind significant sites is always something I recommend you do when planning your list of things to do in Split, Croatia.
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See one of the world’s oldest Sephardic synagogues
Did you expect to find one of the oldest synagogues in the world in Split? Found down the narrow Židovski Prolaz–which translates to Jewish Passage–the 16th-century Sephardic synagogue is one of the oldest in continual use worldwide.
Located in a residential building built into the Palace’s western wall, the synagogue was established in the 16th century by combining the second floor of two Medieval homes. It was ransacked by Italian fascists during World War II but has gone through two restorations since. You can also visit the synagogue’s Old Jewish cemetery on the eastern side of Marjan Hill.
Enjoy a performance at the Croatian National Theatre in Split
You can find a bit of all different performance styles at the Croatian National Theatre in Split. Initially built in 1893 as the Split Municipal Theatre, its 1,000 seat theater was the largest in Southeastern Europe at the time of its completion. The country’s national theatres played a crucial role in promoting the Croatian language before Croatia gained independence.
The theatre hosts over 300 performances each year, including dramas, ballets, operas, and concerts. If you’re here in the summer, make sure you attend a production as part of the Splitsko ljeto (Split Summer Festival) hosted by the theatre. Or, if you’re here in the spring, attend the Marulićevi dani (Days of Marulić) week-long festival in April, which celebrates accomplishments in Croatian playwriting from the prior year.
Window shop along Marmontova Street
When Napoleon ran the region, the French general Auguste Marmont was in charge of modernizing Split and other cities in Dalmatia. As thanks for his work, the pedestrian boulevard on the west side of the city was renamed Marmont Street.
You can find art galleries, restaurants and gelato shops, and high-end stores as you stroll along from the Riva up the street. This is also where you’ll find Split’s fish market.
Purchase fresh foods at the outdoor markets
Split has three outdoor markets. The Bazaar and the Pazar Market are right next to each other, starting in front of the Silver Gate and moving east. The Bazaar is a great place to shop for souvenirs, like sun hats, t-shirts, magnets, and lavender products.
The Pazar Market is the city’s fruit market. Local farmers will bring fresh produce into the city every morning to sell straight to you. If you want to shop locally, this is the place to do it! I’ve seen anything from fresh fruits and vegetables to nuts, olive oils, and honey jars here.
The Peškarija Market is the city’s fish market, found on Marmont Street. Since Split is a coastal town, you’ll find stalls with fish here that came almost straight from the sea. If you’re staying in an accommodation that has its own kitchen, make sure you take the opportunity to cook a fresh fish meal one evening!
As with both the food markets in Split, time is of the essence. Both markets close down by the early afternoon, so for the best choices, make sure you get there in the morning.
Support the local football team, Hajduk Split
If you really want to experience one of the local things to do in Split, Croatia, watch a football game while rooting for the local team, Hajduk Split. If you’re lucky, you can catch a Hajduk Split versus Dinamo Zagreb game, the club’s primary rival.
Before the game, take a tour of the team’s home, Poljud Stadium. Originally built to host the 1979 Mediterranean Games, the structure is designed like a seashell. Due to its architectural and urban design, the stadium is designated as a cultural heritage site.
Fun Fact: The EDM music festival, ULTRA Europe, is held in Poljud Stadium every summer.
Go shopping at one of the city’s malls
As with any great city, Split has some great shopping centers. Aside from Marmont Street in the city center, there are two malls just outside the hub.
The Mall of Split and City Center One each have a number of internationally recognized stores and local shops within them, and they both have a CineStar if you want to go to the movies.
You can easily pick up the Promet Split bus line #18 to get to the Mall of Split and City Center One.
Admire the street art as you pass it by
While you (thankfully) won’t see any graffiti marring the Palace’s ancient walls, there is street art to admire all over Split.
This is one of my favorites:
Enjoy the sunset over Split from the sea
Sunsets create some truly breathtaking colors in Split. While you won’t be disappointed with your sunset views of the city from in the city, an experience that definitely can’t be missed is taking a sunset boat trip on the Adriatic Sea to watch the sunset transform the city’s skyline.
This two-hour sunset cruise of Split features live music and an open bar while you sail around the city, seeing Marjan Hill, Diocletian’s Palace, and even the bay of Kaštela as they transform from day into night.
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Things to do near Split, Croatia
Hop on the ferry and spend your day at a nearby town
Since Split sits on the Adriatic coast, you can take a day trip to many nearby islands and towns! One of my favorites is an islands tour to Solta, Hvar, Vis, and the Blue Cave on Bisevo, or there are guided tours to Krka National Park, Plitvice Lakes National Park, or even Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina.
Be courageous in and around Split
Although there are tons of adventurous activities in the nearby town of Omiš, Split has several options too. Try a kayaking, snorkeling, and cliff jumping tour in the morning or a stand-up paddling (SUP) tour at sunset. You can also experience kayaking in Marjan Park, rock climbing, horse riding, ATV quad biking, and hiking nearby Mosor Mountain.
Visit Klis Fortress
Above the city, a Medieval fortress keeps watching over the area. Located in the town of the same name, the Fortress of Klis served as a vital defense against Ottoman invaders throughout Europe’s Ottoman Wars from the late 13th century through the early 20th century.
What was originally built as a small fortification during ancient peacetime, it later became the palace for several kings of the Croatian Kingdom before taking on its final job as the fortress.
The fortress itself is pretty spectacular, but its views of Split below are where it shines. For the most part, Croatia is a country where the oceanfront cities are surrounded by mountains, so to be up in the mountains looking down is outstanding.
Klis Fortress is only a 30-minute drive from the city center of Split, or take the Promet Split bus line #22 from the HNK stop by the Croatian National Theatre of Split to the Klis Megdan bus station.
Head to the hills for a wine tasting at a nearby vineyard
Just above the city, you’ll find some stunning views with even better wines. Nearby vineyards Winery Vučica, Putalj Winery, Winery Perišin, and Winery Bedalov all offer wine tastings. If you don’t want to leave the city centre, you can visit the Hvar Hill’s wine store or Marvlvs Library Jazz Bar, Bokeria kitchen & wine bar, or Zinfandel Food & Wine bar to enjoy a glass of wine.
What are your favorite things to do in Split, Croatia?