Two Days in Split, Croatia
Alright ya’ll, where are all our tropical, beach loving, sun worshipping travelers? Have we got the spot for you today… C R O A T I A ! It absolutely must be put on your list for Europe, whether its the coast or the capital, Croatia has so much to offer. It was such a nice, relaxing treat for us on our 2017 European tour, mostly because for once, we actually got some sunshine! We really wanted to make it to Dubrovnik but ultimately decided it just didn’t fit into our itinerary, plus we figured it would be more busy than some of the other places due to its fame from Game of Thrones. Even still, we knew we had to make it S O M E W H E R E in Croatia. We ended up in Split because of its proximity to the other places we wanted to see in some of Eastern Europe as well as the fact that it came highly recommended from some friends who had been and it was a fantastic choice! It was beautiful and relaxing and just on a slower pace of life that forced us to take a breather for a day or two. Think California coastal vibes… water, beaches, and sunshine, what more could you ask for?
Split is one of the easiest places to travel to and from, by pretty much all modes of transportation. Not only is the airport small and easy to navigate but it is also pretty inexpensive to fly in and out of and Croatia Air is a really nice airline. Split is easily accessible by car, bus, and train and even by cruise ship, which dock right at the train station. Make sure if you’re coming by plane that you ask about the bus system and take the right one that drops you right into the Old Town. We took the wrong bus that stopped at every local bus stop instead of making a straight shot into the Old Town so we got delayed a bit with timing. The train system is decent, not as nice as some of the rest of Europe’s public transportation, but it was a whole lot better than our Serbian train experience! There are many good, cheap options for overnight trains to get north or south from Split.
where to stay
There is a lot of hostels within the city walls and plenty in the actual town of Split. We picked a hostel that was located just outside of walls but was close to everything we wanted to do in Old Town. We opted for a private room at Apelino Hostel since it was basically the same price of two dorm beds and we had our own space for a night, complete with a kitchen and disco ball! It was also close to the train station which was super convenient and had a great staff that gave us some really good recommendations for food and things to see.
things to do
Although it’s a fairly small tourist town center, Split has a lot to see and do and they are all very easily accessible by foot. The town of Split is also a great hub to see different areas of Southern Croatia and the neighboring countries or just a nice relaxing place to spend a few days lazying around. These are a few things we did and a couple we missed but wished we had time to see!
Diocletian’s Palace is often referred to as the heartbeat of Split and it’s definitely the most recognized site of the city. Diocletian was a Roman Emperor who retired to his expansive palace around the 4th century AD. It was initially built as a military fortress but it is so much more than that, since of course it is a World Unesco Heritage Site and the world’s most complete remains of a Roman Palace! It actually feels like you are walking around indoors, even though there aren’t any ceilings, but the white-stone floor gives the illusion of walking around on indoor tile. You can take a little tour to learn the history of the palace but we skipped this and had a great time just exploring around the hallways and rooms that we could find on our own. One of our favorite things that we did within Diocletian’s Palace was sit out on the steps of the famous cafe, the Luxor, located in the ceremonial heart of the palace. You can grab yourself a cushioned seat on the steps if you want to order form the actual restaurant or you can sit around the opposite side of the cafe just to hang out and people watch. Either seat you pick, you want to find yourself here during the evening when you can listen to the live music that is played nightly!
The Old Town of Split isn’t just confined to the walls of Diocletian’s Palace, it is actually a fairly decently sized part of the town. There are so many cute and cosy cafes, bars, and boutique shops, as well as big name shopping and up scale restaurants for a more high class experience. It’s a great area to get lost around the old, crumbling walls and find your own favorite corners of the city.
The Riva Promenade
The Riva makes up the pedestrian promenade along the southern wall of Diocletian’s palace. It is full of cafes and shopping, and a great place to enjoy coffee in the morning or drinks in the evenings overlooking the marina.
Marjan Hill Lookout
This was something highly recommended to us by our hostel to get a retreat away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Marjan Hill is the peninsula of Split that is loved by locals and tourists alike to hike through the trees and enjoy the picture perfect views of the Dalmatian coast. The start of the hike is located right outside of the Old Town, up a steep set of stairs in the Varos neighborhood and continues along the whole border of the peninsula. It will take a bit to get all the way up and around the whole hill but the top views look absolutely amazing, especially to watch a sunset. There are also beaches around the whole peninsula to swim in case you want to make the trek around the entirety of the land. We started late in the day and didn’t have the time to finish the hike before sundown, so instead we took in some of the views from the terrace of Teraca Vidilica. We grabbed a beer and snapped some pictures of the pretty orange roofs and contrasting blue water before heading back down to the Old Town. It was quiet the picturesque, peaceful stop!
You have probably heard by now that Croatia has got some killer beaches and what better way to visit them than an island hopping tour. There are loads of tour companies that will take you to some of the best islands of the Adriatic Sea located close to Split, from day trips to week long tours. Some of the most visited are the islands of Brac, Hvar, Vis and Solta, each with their own unique history and beautiful landscape to soak in the sunshine. Unfortunately given our short amount of time in Split we didn’t get to make it to any of the islands, but we would have chosen Hvar since that one came the most recommended. It can be fairly inexpensive to do day trips, even during peak season you’re only looking at $20ish per person and it goes up from there for longer excursions.
We didn’t get to spend much time on the beaches of Croatia, but we did find the locals beach located a bit out of Old Town. It was a nice, quiet place to grab a nap and enjoy a brew watching the locals hang out and swim around. There’s a restaurant on the beach and a store nearby to bring your own snacks and picnic on the beach. It was a fun way to get out of the “tourist” side of the town and was recommended to us since it has some of the best sand of the beaches of Split.
Overnight to Bosnia + Herzegovina
Given its position so far south in Croatia, there are lots of beautiful places in neighboring countries to visit. The one we chose to visit was one of our favorite detours of our European tour, an overnight stop over to Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. We’ll be blogging about our overnight on the next blog post, but we just wanted to tell you that this is an option to do from Split. It’s better to do this by your own car because the public bus transportation was long and it had a very wonky schedule, but the bordering country is worth seeing. We definitely want to go back to visit more of this underrated destination!
We found ourselves here when we had a stopover from our overnight train traveling from Split to Slovenia. We were only in the capital for about an hour and tried to venture out a bit to find coffee but since it was so early in the morning, about 6:30 am, there weren’t any options. We only had a chance to walk around a bit and didn’t get to see much at all, but we would definitely head back to explore more. It was so quaint, charming, and clean! There is a lot to see and do in Zagreb, especially if you aren’t a beach lover and don’t want to spend time on the Dalmatian coast.
where to eat + drink
There are some really fun, hip places to eat and drink within the city walls of Old Town, especially cute street cars and local cuisine cafes. We recommend getting lost around the “hallways” and finding some of your own cool local places but here are a couple of ones to start you off with.
◊ Mama Burger Bar – This little burger shack was a great find within the Old Town for a late night dinner when we got into Split. They have some really gourmet burgers and craft beers for a pretty cheap price. Plus, the weather was really nice outside when we were here in May so we sat out on the patio and people watched while we ate. Definitely a cool place to try, especially for a late night, last minute place when everything else is closed!
◊ That’s All Wok’s Bar – This was our cheapest meal in all of Split! We found this little gem while we were walking the pier area, the Riva, during lunch time and found the prices to be definitely within a travelers budget. It is more of a quick food kinda joint, but freshly made while you wait and fully customizable noodle bowls so even the pickiest eater will be satisfied! The staff was really friendly and helpful and gave great recommendations for what to try.
◊ Sanctuary Bar – The name says it all! Within the walls of Old Town tucked in a courtyard, we found this cute little sanctuary.. get it? 🙂 This was one of the cheapest places we found to drink within the city walls that had really yummy craft beers! They have a nice sized cocktail list, really nice and friendly bar staff, and great patio seating, but make sure you sit in the right seats because there are two other bar patios right next to Sanctuary and they will get you to order from them instead! This is a great stop for any time of day, but especially after dinner to cap off walking around town all day in the warm evenings!
◊ Fabrique Bar – We found this hip bar after we came back down from Marjan Hill, kind of by the base of the steps right outside of the Old Town walls. Although it’s not the cheapest place to grab a brew, they had some really unique Croatian beers that we really liked. We also sat outside here since the weather was so nice, but they have a beautiful interior and they also serve food in case you need some grub.
We can’t wait to make it back to Croatia and explore more of the coast and hopefully spend more time in the capital, Zagreb. We definitely recommend making it somewhere in Croatia on your next getaway, especially if you can visit on the off season when you get it all to yourself. It is such a culturally rich and inviting place, we know you’ll love it!
Anything else that we missed in Croatia? Let us know in the comments below!