As we walked down the stone steps into the cool dark underground room of Diocletian’s Palace in Split, Croatia we instantly recognized the large columns where Khaleesi’s dragons had been chained after wreaking havoc on the fictional city from Game of Thrones.
Split vs Dubrovnik may be a no brainer question for the throngs of Game of Thrones fans, although the city of Split actually does have its share of recognizable sights from the popular television series. However, there is much more to consider when deciding whether to spend time in Split or Dubrovnik, Croatia.
During our eight month tour of Europe we had to carefully calculate our time so as not to overstay in the Schengen zone. This is a border free zone whose regulations allow north Americans only a total of 90 days out of every 180 in the 25 Schengen countries. Although Croatia is likely to join in this agreement in the near future, as of this writing it is still outside of these regulations which, along with it’s famous natural beauty, made it a great choice for us to slip out of the zone for five weeks. From there we narrowed it down to Dubrovnik or Split as our home base for a few weeks.
As beautiful as the walled city of Dubrovnik is, for us Split came out as the better choice for our stay on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast. Here are some of our reasons:
Location, Location, Location: Split vs Dubrovnik
The central location of Split on the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia makes it a perfect place from which to explore the rest of the coastline. Dubrovnik, Sibenik, Trogir and Dalmatian islands like Hvar and Brac are all easy to do from Split as are the spectacular national parks not far inland from this beautiful city. The well maintained roads make having a car a good option to visit the surrounding areas but there is also decent bus and ferry service and a selection of local tour providers.
While we were in Split we twice used Adriatic4You as our expert guides. We joined them on the day tour of both the UNESCO site of Plitvice Lakes national park and also the beautiful Krka Falls national park. Both are brilliant examples of the natural beauty that abounds in Croatia and are highly recommended for day trips. We found Adriatic4You to be incredibly friendly and professional from the initial meeting at their in town office through to their tour guides and drivers and wish we had been able to try more of their tours.
You can see a short video of the lovely Krka falls below. Keep in mind that we took the tour in winter so expect it to be even more spectacular in the spring through fall months!
A Taste of Dalmatian Life: Split vs Dubrovnik
Split is the second largest city in Croatia and it feels more real than it’s incredibly beautiful but more touristy Dalmatian sister, Dubrovnik. In Split you will find a perfect balance of old and new and you can feel the buzz of a city that is alive, flourishing and actually lived in as opposed to being mainly a tourist destination…even though it has plenty to offer visitors. The best example of this balance is the old city center of Diocletian’s Palace. A UNESCO World Heritage site which houses not only the old cathedral and bell tower but also homes, shops, restaurants and bars within its ancient walls and somehow makes it all feel cohesive.
In Split, Croatia you can get a taste of real Dalmatian life and if you stay long enough you will likely want to become a part of it. From the daily fish market to the walks in Marjan park and the hours of sipping coffee at the many cafes, it is easy to fall in love with life here. So when looking at Dubrovnik vs Split for a more authentic experience we would definitely say Split.
Most to Offer: Split vs Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik, you are indeed drop dead gorgeous but when looking at Split vs Dubrovnik the tipping point for us was that we found Split to be so much more than just a pretty face. The city is a perfect balance of old and new, vibrant and chill, fantasy and real world.
- As a tourist there is more than enough to see and do not only in Split itself but also in the surrounding areas.
- Dubrovnik is beautiful but it’s also very touristy and is starting to feel a bit fake. Split has it’s share of tourists but even in high season you can get a peek at real Dalmation life.
- Within minutes you can go from strolling along the very modern Riva on the waterfront to getting lost in the ancient cobbled streets of Diocletian’s Palace.
- If you love beaches there are plenty of places to plant yourself in the sand and dip your toes in the water. If mountains are your thing they create a perfect backdrop to the city and on the edge of old town you can go hiking for hours in Marjan Forest Park.
- For foodies there is everything from modern sushi bars to traditional seafood taverns along with an abundance of cafes and gelaterias to satisfy every taste.
- Although Croatia is far from the budget destination it used to be, there are still more deals to be found in Split vs Dubrovnik.
- Add to all this the marina, the nightlife, the trendy boutiques and the modern and traditional markets and there really isn’t much missing.
Where to Stay
In the Historic Center
Hotel Vestibule Palace is a luxury boutique hotel situated right inside the Diocletian Palace making it one of the most popular hotels in Split. The combination of the original stone Palace walls mixed with contemporary furnishings and design create a beautiful balance and ambience that will make you feel like royalty. Click here to see details & prices.
Marmont Hotel is located in the heart of Old Town Split near to the Diocletians Palace. The perfect location, elegant decor, gorgeous Brazilian hardwood floors, good sized guest rooms and fabulous rooftop terrace and bar make it a top choice in Split. Check here for details & prices.
At the Beach
Radisson Blu Resort Split is a top pick for a beach vacation but it is located close enough to the Old Town that it’s a quick trip in for sightseeing or dinner within Diocletian’s Palace. However, being located just steps from the soft sand and with stunning views, a luxurious spa and gorgeous pool you may find it hard to leave. Click here for details & prices.
Hotel More is a family run property just 2 minutes walk from one of the prettiest beaches in Split and only 2 miles from Diocletian’s Palace. For the active vacationer there are bike rentals, beach volleyball, tennis and the seaside preomnade perfect for jogging or walking close by. Check here for details & prices.
Best Value Options
Design Hostel Goli and Bosi is housed in a newly renovated 19th Century Warehouse in the heart of Old Town. Choose from dorm rooms, small private rooms or suites at a very affordable price in a location you can’t beat. They also boast a great pizzaria. Check here for details & prices.
Damira Rooms is great basic hotel option situated 350 feet from Diocletian’s Palace and a 7 minute walk to the beach. All rooms come with AC, TV and private bathroom, and the staff are friendly all for a very reasonable price. Click here for details & prices.
Longer or Family Stays
Airbnb is always our go to if we want to stay longer, have a kitchen or need more room than a standard hotel. If you have not yet signed up with Airbnb you can use this link to get a $40 credit on your first booking.
For us the Adriatic town of Split, Croatia was a perfect home for five weeks and one which we could have happily lived in for much longer. Whether you are looking for a long term stay in Croatia, a home base for exploring the surrounding areas or a few days stop over, if you are deciding between Split or Dubrovnik we would choose the 1,700 old city of Split every time.
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