Sitting on the coast of the Adriatic Sea, Split is an ancient city nestled in pure paradise. The most beautiful water in shades of blues and greens surround the city and its nearby islands. Whether you visit for a few days or a week, there are numerous Split attractions to see that won’t disappoint. Keep reading to find out the top things to do in Split old town during your trip!
Upon first arriving in Split you might be slightly dismayed at first as it is a large busy city that is quite modern and not like the medieval fairytale of Dubrovnik.
But don’t worry, once you get to the old town of Split you will be delighted. It is here where you will likely spend the bulk of your time.
Split’s Old Town is steeped in a ton of history from the Roman Empire. It feels like an outdoor museum that you are fortunate to explore and should be part of any Croatia itinerary.
Many of the buildings and sights originate from the 3rd and 4th century with a surprisingly good amount intact and well preserved.
In this post, I will share what to do in Split and its charming old town, where to stay, and foods to try on your trip! And if you are looking for other activities near Split, explore:
Best Things To Do In Split, Croatia
1. Wander Split Old Town
When you arrive in Split, you will likely spend all of your time in Old Town as that is the center of life and has the most sights to see.
It is without a doubt the most beautiful and charming section of Split. Outside of Old Town, Split will look like many modern cities and doesn’t have the appeal of Old Town.
Outside the walls of Diocletian’s Palace (I’ll mention below), the main town square is Narodni Trg or the “People’s Square”.
The Iron Gate entrance into Diocletian’s Palace is right off of the People’s Square.
Branching off from the People’s Square, wander the many small streets to find café’s and shops in every direction.
You will also come upon smaller town squares like Vochi Trg that is near the waterfront.
A popular street to find restaurants and high-end shopping is Marmontova. It is a wide pedestrian-only street that will take you straight down to the promenade (waterfront).
2. Go On A Food Tour
Going on a food tour in Split on your first day is a fantastic way to sample several different local dishes.
Plus, with a guide who is local they will take you to the best places to try Croatian foods.
An added benefit of experiencing a food tour at the start of your trip is that your guide can give you recommendations of places to eat. That way you won’t miss out on must eateries during your stay. Two top food tours to take are:
Croatian food is a mixture of Mediterranean, Italian, and Eastern European cuisines. I ate a lot of delicious pasta meals that were quite heavenly.
Some popular and delicious Croatian dishes you should try when in Split are:
Soparnik – this savory thin pie is filled with Swiss chard, onions, and parsley between light dough brushed with olive oil and salt.
Peka – You will find Peka in many cities within Croatia as it is so tasty. A dish made with a protein, potatoes, and vegetables are cooked in a large iron pan over an outdoor flame. It is then cooked slowly over the hot coals for hours. In Split the main protein will likely be octopus.
Fresh Seafood – From freshly grilled fish to octopus, there is no shortage of fresh caught the day of off the coast.
Pasticada – Another traditional dish involving slow cooked beef in a sauce made of a Croatian sweet wine, onions, prunes, and nutmeg.
Pizza & Pastas – Yes, Croatia serves up incredible pizza and pasta! I never had one I didn’t love…
3. Gregorius of Nin
Before entering the gate into the walled Diocletian’s Palace, you will notice a huge statue looking as if he is greeting you to Split.
The 28-foot statue is Gregorius of Nin a Croatian bishop during medieval times and was created by the Croatian Ivan Mestrovic. Gregorius opposed the pope and replaced Latin with the local Croatian language into religious services.
You might notice that his one big toe is shiny as it has been rubbed many times. It is said that if you rub his big toe it will bring you good luck and you will return to Split one day.
Did I rub it? Of course! Gregorius of Nin is located in the park directly in front of the Golden Gate.
4. Golden Gate
There are four gates into Diocletian’s Palace, one in the center of each wall. The gates are all named after a different metal and the one nearest the Gregorius of Nin statue is the Golden Gate (northern).
The other gates are the Silver Gate, Bronze Gate, and the Lead Gate. Of the four gates, the Golden Gate is the grandest and the main entrance into the palace.
I was particularly in awe of the carvings as you enter. I felt like I was back in Roman times… All four gates lead and meet up in the same square (Peristil) sectioning the palace into four areas.
Hours: Entry through the gate is open 24 hours a day
5. Diocletian’s Palace
Once you enter Diocletian’s Palace via the Golden Gate, expect to spend about 3 hours wandering the ruins and sights within it.
Wandering the historic ruins of Diocletian’s Palace is one of the best Split attractions to see. Sights #4 through #10 in this guide will all be within the Diocletian Palace walls.
Diocletian’s Palace was built in the 4th century for the Roman emperor Diocletian just steps from Split’s idyllic waterfront.
Diocletian’s Palace is in the heart of Split’s Old Town and most likely where you will spend most of your time in Split.
Did you know what the name Split means? Split is derived from the Latin word of spalatum with origins meaning palace. Seems fitting as the main sight to see in Split is Diocletian’s Palace!
Diocletian’s Palace is one of ten UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Croatia that is a must to visit.
The limestone and white marble throughout make the palace eye-catching and impressive to see. No question, walking among the ancient ruins is one of the greatest things to do in Split!
I felt quite lucky to be able to walk freely in and around so much ancient history. I find it so fascinating to imagine what life would have been like all that time ago…
There are still around 3,000 people living within the walls of Diocletian’s Palace today. Talk about a prime location!
Tip: Entry into Diocletian’s Palace is free and open 24 hours a day so visit at your leisure. That includes all areas except the City Museum, Cathedral, Temple of Jupiter and the Cellar.
6. Visit Split’s City Museum
As you walk from the Golden Gate, make a left turn at Papaliceva (street) to see the Papalic Palace. The Papalic Palace in its Gothic architecture was built in the 15th century and home to noblemen.
Today the palace is used as the City Museum. The City Museum has a lot of wonderful information, photos, and artifacts on the history of Diocletian’s Palace and the city of Split.
Hours & Admission: The City Museum is open from 9:00am to 5pm or 8pm daily depending on the season. Admission for adults is 3 Euros or about 20 Kuna.
7. Roman Peristil
The Peristil is one of the most visited and photographed areas of Diocletian’s Palace in Split old town, right in the center of it.
A Peristil or sometimes seen as Peristyle is an ancient Roman courtyard that is lined with columns and steps around it.
There is nothing like it anywhere that I have seen. You truly feel like you are walking among magnificent and palatial Roman ruins, following in the footsteps of the past.
It is a favorite spot to come together and socialize with others, especially while enjoying a cocktail on the steps. Where else can you have a coffee or a glass of wine in a setting like the Peristil?
When you realize that your surroundings are over 2,000 years old, it is mind-blowing to think!
If you want to capture the Peristil without a lot of people, go super early or later in the evening to have the place to yourself (or mostly)…
Tip: Make sure to get a glimpse of the sphinx statue from Egypt that is one of many still surviving. As you exit the Cathedral of St. Domnius and walk towards the Vestibule, you won’t miss it! You can see it in the middle corner of the photo above.
Hours: Open 24 hours a day and free entry.
8. Temple of Jupiter
From the Peristil, head west (turn right) down the tiny street of Sveti Ivana. At the end of this, you will see the Temple of Jupiter which was built in the 3rd century.
As its name implies, it is a temple to honor the Roman God of Jupiter. It was also known as the Baptistery.
During Roman times, Jupiter was the highest-ranking god and the father of Diocletian so to speak.
Diocletian believed that he was a reincarnation of Jupiter and the reason behind his desire to build a temple dedicated to him. Could he have been one of the first narcissists possibly?
Later, the temple served as the baptistry and is one of the best-preserved temples of its time period. The high vaulted ceiling with numerous stone panels has incredible details in the carvings. It is quite a sight to see!
Tip: Right next to the Temple of Jupiter is what is said to be the narrowest street. I’m not sure about that, but it is pretty slim! It is called “Pusti me proc” or “let me through”.
Hours: Temple of Jupiter is open from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm or 7:00 pm depending on the season. Your entry fee is included in your ticket to the Cathedral of St. Domnius on the other side of the Peristil. See #9 below.
9. Cathedral of St. Domnius
Directly across from the Peristil and opposite the Temple of Jupiter is the Cathedral of St. Domnius.
Locally it is also known as St. Duje’s Cathedral and built as Diocletian’s mausoleum in the 4th century. Over the years additional sections were added to the ancient Roman structure.
The cathedral has an interesting history, as in the 5th century Christians destroyed Diocletian’s sarcophagus and transformed the tomb into a catholic church.
The church was then dedicated to Saint Domnius who had been a victim of Diocletian’s persecution. I guess the Christian’s got the last laugh…
The most remarkable thing about St. Domnius, is that it is the oldest church in Europe that is still used and in its original form. I am amazed at the preservation of the cathedral, tower, and crypt.
Definitely make the climb up to the top of the bell tower for spectacular views of Split and its waterfront.
If you enjoy visiting gorgeous cathedrals, don’t miss out on seeing the Zagreb Cathedral. It is one of the top things to do in Zagreb. Plus, it is a great city to include a stay in if you are flying into the airport there!
Tip: Your entrance fee is good for entry into the cathedral, the treasury, crypt and the Temple of Jupiter.
Hours & Admission: The Cathedral is open from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm (summer) or 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (winter) Monday – Saturday (opening at noon on Sunday). Admission varies depending on whether you get the blue, green, red, or purple ticket.
- Blue Ticket: 7 Euro to visit the Cathedral, Crypt, and Baptistery (Temple of Jupiter)
- Green Ticket: 10 Euro to see the Cathedral, Bell Tower, and Treasury
- Red Ticket: 8 Euro to visit the Cathedral, Crypt, Baptistery, and Treasury
- Purple Ticket: 11 Euro to see the Cathedral, Crypt, Baptistery, Treasury, & Bell Tower
10. The Vestibule
After leaving St. Domnius Cathedral, head south (turn left) and walk up the steps to the jaw-dropping Vestibule. It is one of the top Split attractions for its spectacular architecture and beauty.
The Vestibule is an enormous round-shaped room that is open to the sky through the top. It is a rather grand and over-the-top entrance to the living quarters of Diocletian’s Palace.
Standing at 55 feet tall, the Vestibule was built in the 4th century and was the official greeting area before entering the inner part of Diocletian’s Palace. Kind of like the lobby of a hotel!
Spend some time walking around the dome-shaped room (minus the dome) to get different perspectives of the architecture and its pristine condition.
If you stand against the walls of the Vestibule, you can get a photo of the bell tower and blue skies peeking through the ceiling. There was a complete roof, but at some point, the top of the dome collapsed.
Tip: From the outside of the Vestibule, it looks rectangular yet on the inside, it is circular! Entry is free and open 24 hours a day.
11. The Cellar (Palace Basement)
Go back the way you came in and go down the steps to the Peristil and take the next set of steps down to the basement or the cellar.
As you get down to the cellar, you will see a long corridor that is now lined with various vendors selling items local to Croatia. All the chambers of the cellar mirror the floorplan of the above living quarters.
As you make your way towards the end of the basement corridor, you have the option to go left or right. Don’t miss out on seeing this section of the cellar.
You truly feel the history walking through the many rooms in the cellar and can imagine what it was like at one time. There are areas that are quite damp adding to the old and mysterious feel.
During the time of the emperor Diocletian, the cellar was primarily used to store food and wine. Today you are able to roam the sections of the cellar and possibly even attend an exhibition or party here.
For Game of Thrones fans, one room in the cellar was used as the scene where Daenerys kept her dragons chained (in the land of Meereen). As you finish up wandering the cellar ruins, exit south out the Bronze Gate to Split’s promenade or riva.
Hours & Admission: Open daily from 8:30 am to 8:00 pm. Admission for adults is 5.60 Euro or about 42 Kuna.
12. Take A Stroll Along The Riva
The Promenade or “Riva” is Split’s seaside waterfront that is a broad and long path to walk along.
The Riva runs the length of about 2-3 football fields with many cruise ships, fishing, and tour boats docked here. You can see and feel the life of Split as you stroll on the Riva.
It really is the perfect place to stretch your legs and stroll along the palm tree-lined seafront at your leisure.
There are tons of bars, cafes, and restaurants scattered along the promenade. It makes for an ideal spot to take a break from site seeing and have a coffee, drink or a meal.
Don’t be surprised if you are drawn to the Riva to have a drink to watch the sunset every evening.
Sunsets on the Adriatic Sea are quite breathtaking to see. There is no better spot to people watch and see the pulsing city in motion.
Tip: If you happen to take any kind of boat tour, you will meet up and take off from the marina right off of the Riva.
13. Walk Up Marjan Hill
Other than the view from the Bell Tower, Marjan Hill is a wonderful place to see the city of Split in full view. It is also a great location to take a walk and enjoy nature on one of many trails up the hill.
Up the hill, there is a café called Vidilica to relax and marvel at the views with a coffee or some wine. Continue on from Café Vidilica to the summit where you will get even a better view at the peninsula’s highest point.
Make sure to bring plenty of water with you especially if it is a hot day. If your feet feel like wandering more, there are two churches to visit. The first is St. Nicholas Church (13th century) and St. Jerome Church (15th century) both located up on the hill.
Tip: A great viewing platform to photograph the city of Split is from Prva Vidilica Na Marjanu. If you enter that into Google Maps, you will get there no problem!
14. Visit The Ivan Mestrovic Gallery
If you plan to take a stroll up Marjan Hill on the Marjan peninsula, make a stop and tour the Ivan Mestrovic Gallery.
The museum is dedicated to one of the most famous artists in Croatia known for his sculptures in marble, bronze, and wood.
You likely have seen one of the more notable statues he created back in front of Diocletian’s Palace. And rubbed its toe! Yes, Gregory of Nin was created by Mestrovic in 1929.
The museum once served not only as his art studio but where the artist lived. There are two floors exhibiting his works including sculptures in the garden.
His work consists primarily of almost 200 sculptures in addition to drawings, paintings, and more.
15. Go Island Hopping
Split is one of the best locations to stay if you are interested in doing some island hopping off of Split’s coast. The beauty of the turquoise clear waters and pristine beaches will win you over before you even step foot on any island.
There are many island-hopping tours that you can take to see anywhere from 3-6 islands in a day. I wouldn’t recommend seeing any more than that because you won’t get enough time at each place.
Although you can easily spend weeks exploring all the islands off of Split’s coast, the top one’s to visit are:
- Bisevo Island (Blue Cave)
- Vis Island
- Paklinski Island
- Hvar Island
- Korcula Island
- Brac Island
If you are searching for a great day trip to visit a few islands, I recommend these tours:
16. Lounge On A Beach
If you are visiting during the warmer months between late spring through fall, the temperatures will be perfect for relaxing on the beach.
Although the beaches on the nearby islands are breathtaking, don’t overlook the lovely beaches within walking distance of Split Old Town and Diocletian’s Palace.
The three most popular beaches in Split are Bacvice Beach about a 15-minute walk south of the Riva Harbor. You’ll find a beautiful sandy beach with crystal clear calm waters and fairly shallow. There is even a bar where you can grab drinks and snacks.
Another great beach to hang out at is Kasjuni Beach which is in the opposite direction from Bacvice Beach on the Marjan Peninsula. I would recommend taking a taxi as it is about 20-minute drive from Old Town.
At Kasjuni Beach, you can rent a beach lounger or find a spot to lay your towel down but keep in mind that it is a rockier beach than Bacvice. The bonus is that it has a more remote feel to it with less people.
17. Explore Split Via A SUP or Kayak Tour
One glance at the waters of the Adriatic Sea running along Split’s shores and you will be in amazed.
Waters as clear as a swimming pool with hues of turquoise and emerald green are an inviting sight for sure.
The best way to discover Split’s coastline is by kayak or on a stand-up paddle board (SUP)!
If you decide you want to get in a workout and explore every nook and cranny of the coast, hop on a SUP.
You’ll get the chance to see the stunning cliffs along the Marjan Peninsula, Bene Beach, and Kasjuni Beach in the morning or at sunset. Either time of day is beautiful but being on the water with views of Split at sunset is quite beautiful.
Another fun adventure on water is to take a kayaking tour that cruises past Marjan Hill, Bene Beach, Tito’s Villa and with a break for a swim if you choose. Both experiences are around 3 – 3.5 hours.
18. Sip Croatian Wines
Croatia might not be as famous for wine as nearby Italy, France, or Germany but don’t pass up sampling it!
You’ll find several great wines with local varietals that are not only delicious but unique compared to what you are used to at home.
The top local Croatian wines to sip are:
Red Wines (Plavac, Babic, and Dingac)
White Wines (Bogdanusa, Debit, and Posip)
In Split Old Town, the best place to try a selection of Croatian wines is at Zinfandel Wine Bar.
You’ll find not only wonderful food but a wide assortment of wines from nearby regions in Croatia.
If you prefer to go on a tour with a guide, the best wine tours are:
19. Wander The Charming Town Of Trogir
If you have any spare time while staying in Split, take at least a half day to visit the cutest town of Trogir.
Trogir is on the coast 30-minutes north of Split and is super quaint with a fairytale vibe about it. The old town section of Trogir where most of the attractions are located at are on an island connected to the mainland by a few tiny bridges.
This is an island you can walk the entirety of a few times no problem. But even though it is small, don’t rush as there a number of cobblestoned walkways to get lost in, take photos, and even pop into a café.
Or grab a bite to eat on the promenade, a great spot for watching people and boats passing by.
For amazing views of the town and Adriatic Sea, climb up to the top of the Kamerlengo Fortress and the Clock Tower. Both offer incredible vantage points!
Tip: For more information about visiting, read about the top things to do in Trogir.
Places To Eat In Split
Croatian food is very Mediterranean with a mix of Italian and Greek cuisine, adding their own variation to it.
Because of Croatia’s location along the Adriatic Sea, you will encounter a lot of seafood especially in towns on the coast. I also had a few pizzas that were just as good as in Italy (don’t tell my Italian friends)!
Most of the traditional Croatian meals I had were all centered around meat usually beef, lamb or chicken and cooked deliciously. Below are some great places in Split to find an awesome Croatian meal that will leave you happy and satisfied.
And don’t forget to sample the tasty Croatian wine with your meal. Here are a few yummy restaurants to get you started during your stay in Split.
Chops Grill Steak & Seafood
Zinfandel Food & Wine Bar
Bokeria Kitchen & Wine Bar
Where To Stay In Split
Wondering where to stay in Split? The best location to stay is in the Old Town section of Split, steps from all the sights to see!
Although there might be more options at bigger hotels and resorts outside of Old Town, I think being close to Diocletian’s Palace and the Promenade is ideal.
It is definitely the most charming section and near all the Split attractions. Here are some excellent places to stay in Split:
Tips For Visiting Split
- As of 2023, the currency used in Croatia is the Euro, previously the Kuna. Use the XE currency app to assist in currency conversion.
- I was pleasantly surprised to find that almost everyone speaks English or at least enough to converse with.
- From the airport or within the city, Uber is the easiest way to get around and cheaper than taxis.
- Croatia does not have a train network like the rest of Europe, so I suggest renting a car. Driving is super easy throughout the country and more convenient than a bus.
- Split, its islands and nearby waterfalls are a photographers dream, so don’t forget to bring a good camera to capture it all!
- For taking photos and video on the beaches of the islands, a GoPro comes in handy for underwater or above.
- Wear comfortable shoes as you will do a lot of walking.
- Although you should be cautious in any city, I felt incredibly safe in Split. This is a city I would recommend for solo travel for this reason.
- Try to travel during the shoulder season to avoid crowds and high prices.
- To keep valuables safe, wear a concealed travel pouch.
Split Walking Tour of Diocletian’s Palace – This tour will take you through the historic city center of Diocletian’s Palace to see incredible Roman ruins and architecture. Tour is 1.5 hours.
Split Game Of Thrones Tour – If you are a fan of the show Game Of Thrones then this is the perfect tour that walks you through locations used in the show including Diocletian’s Palace and the Riva (promenade). This tour is 3 hours and includes breakfast and a drink.
Blue Cave & Hvar Full-Day Tour – Spend the day exploring some of the best islands off of Split’s coast that will leave you speechless! This is a full day, about 10 hours and a tour not to be missed!
Krka Falls Full-Day Tour – Krka Falls might not be as famous as Plitvice Lakes but both are worth visiting! Krka National Park has gorgeous waterfalls and boardwalks to wander and admire the lush landscape.
Split Sunset Cruise – Enjoy sailing along Split’s coast for a spectacular sunset over the Adriatic Sea with live music and an open bar.
Where Is Split?
Split is the 2nd largest city in Croatia and most likely on your agenda when visiting Croatia. Centrally located on the Dalmatian Coast, Split is about 4 hours north of Dubrovnik and 2 hours south of Zadar.
Because of its central location, there are several day trip opportunities to discover. I recommend spending 2 days to enjoy Split but you could stay up to a week if you are planning to use Split as a base to do day trips from.
I stayed 4 days and used 2 of the days for day trips nearby. It is the perfect spot for sailing from island to island with sailboats and yachts in abundance.
One town that I don’t mention in this post but shouldn’t be missed is Trogir about 30 minutes from Split.
Read my post, 10 Best Ways To Experience Trogir to learn about this remarkable city. So, follow along with me and find out what to do in Split!
When To Visit Split
Situated on the Adriatic Sea, Croatia experiences a Mediterranean climate much like Italy and Greece. Visiting Split is pleasant any time of the year with the best months from April to October.
The winter months bring mild temperatures and a lot of rain whereas the summer months are pretty hot and humid. To get the best weather and avoid the crowds, the shoulder seasons are ideal, April/May/June and September/October.
How To Get To Split
The closest airport to Split is the Split International Airport (SPU), or the Resnik Airport. The airport is actually closer to Trogir than Split, with about a 30-minute drive to Old Town of Split.
If you are coming from the town of Dubrovnik, it is about a 3.5-hour drive and you can get there by bus or renting a car. Or if you are coming from Mostar, Bosnia it is about a 2-hour drive to Split.
Packing Tips for Split
Traveling anywhere along Croatia’s Adriatic Sea, you will encounter plenty of intense sunshine. And that is even more so if you are island hopping off of Split’s coast. The number one thing to pack is a good reef-friendly sunscreen.
Now that you are fully covered and protected from the sun, make sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated in the heat. An easy and convenient way to do this is to carry your own reusable filtered water bottle.
On days when you will spend a lot of time on your feet, having a comfortable pair of walking shoes is key! Not fun having feet that are hurting by the end of the day…
My favorite water bottle to travel with is the Yeti Rambler as it keeps liquids either super cold or hot. Plus it is spill-proof which is needed when on the go.
Before You Go…
Another remarkable town in Croatia that you are sure to love if you enjoy small towns with tons of history, cobblestoned streets, and unique attractions.
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Vanessa Shields is the founder of Traveling Ness helping people with trip ideas, itineraries, travel planning, and boosting confidence for female travelers to take a solo trip. She has been a travel writer and content creator since 2019.