Planning a trip to Split, Croatia? This list of things to do in Split will help you make the most of your time in this beautiful Dalmatian city.
After hearing friends rave about the beauty of Croatia we knew we had to add it to our Europe bucket list. The next thing we needed to decide was which destinations and sights we wanted to visit.
We planned to spend four weeks exploring the Croatian coast and wanted to have a home base for much of that time. After researching Split vs Dubrovnik as a base we decided that Split would be the best choice for us.
The following Split attractions and activities are the things we enjoyed the most during our time there.
- Historic Sights and Old Town Split
- Outdoor Activities in Split
- Other Things to Do in Split
- Day Trips From Split
- Resources for Things to do In Split:
Historic Sights and Old Town Split
Old Town is a historic site in itself and is a fabulous place to just wander and soak up the history. Here are the top historic sights in Split.
Diocletian’s Palace is the main attraction in Split. However, it may not be what you expect. It’s not a grandiose building like Versailles or Buckingham Palace. Instead, it’s a fabulous complex of ancient buildings and ruins dating back to the height of the Roman era.
Emperor Diocletian built the palace as his retirement home after giving up the throne of the Roman Empire in the 4th century. The complex covered 30,000 square meters and was home to the emperor and his palatial staff. Some of the buildings were also used to house the military.
Today, the intact buildings house about 3,000 people as well as shops, restaurants and museums. It is also listed as a UNESCO Heritage Site.
Several of the following historic sites are actually part of Diocletian’s Palace. We have listed them individually as they can be visited on their own.
St Duje’s (Saint Dominus) Cathedral
Once Emperor Diocletian’s Mausoleum, the building became a Catholic cathedral in the 7th century. It’s now considered the oldest in-use cathedrals in the world. It is constructed from local white limestone and marble and has gorgeous Romanesque carved wooden doors.
Inside the cathedral, you’ll find the treasury, crypt and baptistry. As you explore the cathedral you will see many works of art and other treasures mostly from the 14th century. However, there are also pieces dating as far back as the 6th century.
Part of the cathedral, but with a separate entrance and additional fee, is the bell tower. It was first built in the 12th century but was rebuilt early in the 20th century.
Climbing the narrow stairs 57 meters to the top provides one of the best views of Split and the Adriatic. Just be prepared for a bit of a tight squeeze both during the climb and at the top. You will be rewarded with stunning photos though.
Tip: Go first thing in the morning to avoid a crowded visit.
Peristil is a lovely courtyard in the very heart of Diocletian’s Palace. It sits at the crossroads of what were two important roads to the Palace and was the gathering spot for Roman citizens.
Highlights of the square include the two 3,500-year-old Egyptian Sphinxes and it’s a great spot to enjoy a cup of coffee. In the summer months, the great acoustics of the square invite live musical and theatre performances.
There were originally three temples in Diocletian’s Palace. Today, Jupiter Temple is the only one still standing. It was built to worship the Roman God, Jupiter. Some say Jupiter was also the name of Diocletian’s father while others feel it was more a reference to his “spiritual father.”
It was later converted to a baptistry and now contains a statue of St John the Baptist. At the entrance, you’ll also see one of several ancient Egyptian granite sphinxes brought in by Diocletian.
Golden Gate & Statue of Grgur Ninski
There were four gates used to enter the palace but the Golden Gate was the most important. The Golden Gate is at Peristil Square at the end of Cardo Street which leads directly to Salona. It was only used by the emperor and his family but today is the main meeting point for tours.
Across from the Golden Gate is the statue of the Bishop of Gregory Nin (Grgur Ninski). It’s a rather imposing statue that looks to me, at first glance, like a wizard casting a spell.
Pjaca Square (People’s Square)
Back in the 13th century, Pjaca Square (then known as St Lawrence’s Square) was the first inhabited area of Split outside Diocletian’s Palace. Today it is still a central part of life in the city as it was centuries ago.
It’s now often called People’s Square and is a popular gathering place full of cafes, bars and shops. Of special note is the Gothic Old Town Hall, the unique 24-digit clock and Morpugo, which is one of the oldest running book shops in the world.
Voćni trg (Fruit Square)
This is arguably the most beautiful square in Split. The square’s official name is actually Trg Braće Radić (Square of the Radić brothers). But, it’s more commonly known as Fruit Square because it was once the site of a colorful fruit market.
As with most European squares, it is always buzzing with life as people enjoy the cafes, bars and shops. Framing the square are landmarks like the Venetian tower, a 17th-century Baroque-style palace and a monument to the father of Croatian literature, Marko Marulić.
Croatian food is delicious! Read more about traditional Croatian dishes and the best restaurants in Split to try them.
Outdoor Activities in Split
With a stunning location on the Dalmatian Coast, it makes sense to get outside and explore all the beautiful sights and outdoor things to do in Split.
Hiking Marjan Hill Park
We stayed in a perfect location at the bottom of the steps leading up to Marjan Hill Park from Old Town Split. We love exploring and exercising in nature so we saw a lot of this scenic park.
The park is full of trails and paths for walking or jogging as well as spots to sit and relax away from the city. The top of the hill is 178 meters above sea level and provides stunning views over Split the Adriatic.
For an easy but extended hike follow the 12 Churches Trail or head over to the other side of the park for some nice beaches. The hike to the beach takes a couple of hours but an option is to take a taxi or bus back to town.
Republic Square (Procurative)
Resembling St Mark’s Square in Venice, Republic Square is framed on two sides by arches from neo-Renaissance buildings. It’s open on the south side allowing lovely views of the harbour and Riva.
This is the place to go for cultural events and festivals or to just sit and watch the world go by.
Enjoy the Beaches
The beaches in Split are stunningly scenic and the water is clear and warm in the summer. But they are mostly pebble or rock beaches so don’t expect them all to have soft sand. Most of the sandier beaches are found on the nearby islands.
Having said that, the most popular beach is Bacvice which is not only sandy but also within walking distance from Old Town. Other beautiful beaches include Kaštelet, Bene, Ovčice, Trstenik and Žnjan.
Stroll the Riva
Split Riva is a lovely seafront promenade in Old Town perfect for a stroll. It runs along Old Town and the south side of Diocletian’s Palace so you can’t miss it. The walkway is lined with palm trees, cafes, bars and shopping stalls.
On a nice day, everyone will be strolling the Riva or sitting at one of the many cafes with outdoor tables sipping a coffee or cocktail. It’s the best spot in town to enjoy people watching and views of the port’s comings and goings.
Get Out On the Water
Being a seaside town in Croatia means there are lots of opportunities to get out on the water. If you enjoy a bit of exercise with your sightseeing as we do then a sea kayaking tour is a great thing to do in Split. Tours set off near Marjan Hill.
For a more laid-back experience consider a sailing tour. Enjoy the beautiful Adriatic Sea and admire Split from a different angle. Sails are available for different durations and times of the day. An evening sunset sailing with food and live music is always a good choice.
Join a Walking Tour
Most of Old Town Split is pedestrian-only and very walkable so joining a walking tour is a great way to see the sights. Of course, you can do your own self-guided walking tour but we enjoy doing a guided walking tour on our first day.
It’s a great way to get to know the area and decide where you want to spend more time. Plus, good guides have some awesome insider tips on where to eat, drink etc. Most tours start at the Golden Gate and tour Diocletian’s Palace.
Other Things to Do in Split
There are also some fantastic cultural and fun things to do in Split from museums to nightlife.
As the name gives away, this gallery is full of gorgeous pieces by Ivan Mestrovic. He was a famous Croatian sculptor in the 20th century. He actually lived in the gallery building for a few years in the 1930s.
The gallery displays many of his marble masterpieces, wood carvings and bronze and plaster sculptures. Art lovers should definitely add this to their list of top things to do in Split.
The Archeological Museum north of town is the oldest museum in Croatia. Artifacts from different periods of Dalmatian history are on display including Roman, Greek and medieval pieces.
If you love ancient history and plan to visit the Ruins of Solin, a trip to the Archaeological museum is one of the top things to do in Split.
This small museum is found on a terrace in Diocletian’s Palace. Here you will learn all about Croatian culture, especially from the Dalmatian region. On display are beautiful pieces of embroidery, costumes, woodwork, pottery and jewelry.
As a bonus, there’s also a spectacular view from the terrace.
Shop at Pazar Market & Peškarija Market
One of our favorite things to do in any European city or town is to check out the local markets. In Split, there are two main markets. Pazar Market is just outside the Silver Gate of Diocletian’s Palace. Go here to browse or shop for fresh produce, picnic items and local crafts and souvenirs.
Peškarija Market is the local fish market in the west of Old Town. It’s housed in a 120-year old building and is a great way to get a taste of local life. If you have a kitchen like we did you can pick up some super fresh fish for dinner.
Watch or Play a Game of Picigin
Watching a game of Picigin is one of the most unique things to do in Split. It’s a traditional ball game played on the beach. The game was created in 1908 on Bacvice Beach.
Players stand in a circle in shallow water and try to keep a small ball in the air and out of the water by batting it to each other with their hands. Everyone is on the same team making a fun and drama-free game that’s just as entertaining to watch as it is to play.
Nightlife in Split
Split nightlife comes in all varieties. From quiet Riva-side cocktails to lively beach bars and on to dancing into the wee hours you’ll find it all in Split. Begin the evening at one of the many caffe bars in Diocletian’s Palace and along the Riva or at a casual beach bar. We highly recommend Gaga and Luxor.
For a more local (and cheaper) experience head slightly out of Old Town to Matejuška. If you want late-night clubbing you’ll be starting at about 1 am. Bacvice Beach has two nightclubs, Club Bacvice and Tropic. Other popular nightclubs include Vanilla, Central and Fabrique.
Day Trips From Split
Split is a perfect location to explore the Dalmation Coast and inland sights. We usually prefer to hire a car in Split as we enjoy the flexibility of a self-drive excursion but tours are also an option. Here are some of the top day trips from Split.
Game of Thrones fans will likely recognize Klis Fortress as it appeared more than once in the popular television series. The imposing structure has been perched on this bluff for more than 2,000 years. It was the site of battles and bloodshed for ancient Illyrian tribes, the Mongols, Ottomans, Romans and others.
Aside from the interesting history, the fortress also provides stunning panoramic views. It’s located about 15 km from the city of Split and is easily reached by car or on a Game of Thrones tour.
Krka National Park
If you like nature and only have time for one easy day trip from Split make it Krka National Park. The park is only 1 hour from Split by car or tour. The whole park is a natural wonder but the main attraction is the 7 waterfalls.
Aside from being much closer to Split than Plitvice Lakes NP there’s the big bonus of being able to swim in the clear waters of Krka. If you decide to go by tour, consider one that includes a stop at the charming town of Sibenik.
Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Trogir is just 30 km away and makes a great day trip from Split. This small medieval town is actually on an island connected to the mainland by a bridge. Trogir is a beautifully preserved mix of Romanesque and Gothic architecture and much of the town remains unchanged since the 13th century.
Spend the day exploring the labyrinth of windy, narrow streets encased within 15th-century walls. There is also a wonderful small, colorful outdoor market that’s well worth a visit.
Croatia has some beautiful islands and many of them can be done on a day trip from Split. However, if you have time we highly recommend spending a night or two on one of the islands. The most popular islands to visit from Split are Hvar, Brač, Korčula, Šolta, and Vis.
You can take a ferry from Split port to the islands on your own or you can take a tour which will allow you to visit several beautiful spots. If you just want to see one island on your own we suggest Hvar. If you want to see as much as possible consider a tour that covers several islands as well as Blue Island Cave.
Ruins of Salona
In our opinion, a trip to the Roman Ruins of Salona is a must when visiting Split. It’s only 5 km away and can easily be added to a trip to Trogir.
This is where Emperor Diocletian was born and it was a very important city during the Roman Empire. Allow at least 1 hour to explore the archeological park including the amphitheater which would have held 18,000 people.
The Pirate Town of Omis
Back in the middle ages, Omis was famous for its pirates who founded the town. The pirates of Omis were apparently good at their “job” and brought great wealth to the town. Their acquired wealth paid for a fortified wall in the 12th century and the pirates effectively protected the town for 400 years.
Today, people visit Omis to see the 13th-century fortress, get lost on the charming streets of Old Town or relax on the sandy beaches. If it’s thrills you seek you can go ziplining, canyoning or rafting nearby.
Resources for Things to do In Split:
- Diocletian’s Palace: http://diocletianspalace.org/
- Self-guided walks in Split and Marjan Park: https://www.gpsmycity.com/tours/marjan-hill-1781.html
- Mestrovic Gallery: https://mestrovic.hr/en/home-en/
- Kliss Fortress: https://www.tvrdavaklis.com/?lang=en
- Krka National Park: http://www.np-krka.hr/en/
- Tours from Split: Viator
Born in England, Sarah developed her wanderlust at a young age as she traveled around Europe with her parents. As a young adult she spent every penny she could on experiences as opposed to possessions. Eventually she found a way to earn a living doing what she loved: traveling, writing and capturing images of the wondrous world we live in. When not on the go Sarah enjoys time in her “sometimes home” of Vancouver.