Whether you are visiting Split as a stop on your grand tour of the Dalmatian coast, or just having a sleepover in town before the start of your island hopping tour, our ‘One Day in Split’ guide will have you get the most of your brief stay in town and it can be used as a basis for longer stays too! From the busy, modern Riva Promenade, to the magnificent UNESCO World Heritage-certified medieval Old Town dotted with awe-inspiring 1700 year old remnants of the great private palace of the Roman emperor Diocletian, Split has a lot to offer to curious travelers.
When creating our ‘One Day Guide to Split’, we took into the consideration the situation in which most one-day visitors find themselves: where they arrive to town early in the morning or the night before, so that they have a full day of exploration ahead of their departure from the city in the evening.
If you are planning to to have a full-day in Split and want to spend the night in town, we do recommend staying somewhere within the walking distance of the Old Town. We recommend booking a place within the Old Town walls, as there is nothing more authentic than staying within the confines of the ancient port town. Good choices are also the historic neighborhoods of Veli Varoš, Lučac and Toć; which kept much of their historical authenticity as well. Further out is the ring of the more modern quarters of Dobri, Manuš, Spinut, Bol, Blatine, Bačvice and Pojišan that also work well for a convenient one-day stay.
Staying anywhere further away than the above mentioned neighborhoods probably imply some sort of commute to the Old Town (or at least very long walks, if that’s more of your thing), whether by car (which we don’t necessarily recommend due to difficulty of finding parking places), public bus, taxi or, perhaps, the well-connected public bike system.
But enough of the small talk, lets dig right into eight cool things that you can do in a day in Split.
1. A cup of coffee to start the day
For locals, there is nothing better to start the day than a big ole cup of coffee. Though the numbers of cafes in and around the Old Town have been dwindling in the recent years as they began to be pushed out by the ever-growing number of restaurants, there are still plenty of authentic places sprinkled around the Old Town where you can get your morning caffeine fix.
Granted, the quality of Split’s coffee is nothing to write home about as most of the cafés rely on big-name coffee brands, but lets be honest, we all drink coffee in the Old Town for the experience of drinking coffee in the Old Town and not for the coffee itself.
This is why Split’s iconic café street, is a place you just must visit. Snuggled behind the corner from the awe-inspiring Golden Gates, where the ancient Dalmatian stonehouses tower over the mazy stone-paved paths, the cozy little streets of Majstora Jurja and Dujma Vuškovića are a perfect movie-like backdrop for your morning coffee.
Unlike the western coffee shops, Split’s cafés don’t serve any food, but they do allow you to eat whatever food you might have brought with you. Hence, if you want to eat something along with the coffee, we suggest venturing to one of the many bakeries scattered throughout the Old Town, though our two personal favorites are the Danish pastries at Tradicija Bakery and the dearly beloved burek from ST Burek.
2. Stroll through the historic stone-paved streets of the Old Town
Contrary to the popular belief, not only is the palace of Emperor Diocletian a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but the UNESCO-protected zone includes the entire historical area of the Old Town. First inducted in the World’s Heritage list in 1979, Split’s Old Town was one of the first 100 heritage sites in the world, a trait shared only by Croatia’s other historical gem Dubrovnik.
From the ancient remnants of the original Roman imperial complex dating back to c. 305 AD, to the modest Romanesque houses of the 1200s and 1300s, to the lavish late medieval aristocratic palaces and civic buildings, Split has one of the modest diverse architectural heritage in the Old Continent.
Though walking through the labyrinth-like streets of the Old Town is an experience onto itself, there are a couple of sites we thing you must visit. First, there are the four old Roman palace gates, located on each of the four sides of the rectangular city core. The best-preserved among these are the monumental Golden Gates. Next in line are the Iron Gates, which is the name used for the palace’s western gates that have in medieval times lost their purpose as the town expanded westward. They connect the area of the palace with the medieval Pjaca Square. To the east are the Iron Gates, the least spectacular of the four, which have been largely reconstructed in the mid 20th century. They connect the palace area with the Pazar Green Market to the east of the city. The last, but not the least, are the Bronze Gates, which are less assuming that the rest of the pack, as they originally served as an entrance to the cellars of the palace from the ancient docks.
Other sites of interest are the great Pjaca Square, the town’s medieval square with the newly renovated Old Town Hall, now brimming with restaurants and cafés and the splendid late medieval aristocratic palaces with inner courtyards like the Grand Papalić Palace (which hosts the City Museum, see bellow), the Palace Near the Golden Gates (also known as Palace Meraviglia), which today hosts Kinoteka Food & Bar and, finally, the Augubio Palace, located half way between Peristyle and the Golden Gates, where Fig Restaurant is located today.
3. Visit the cathedral complex
The ‘center of the center’, when talking about Split, is certainly its magnificent Peristyle Square, sometimes refereed to as the cathedral square. Originally envisaged as a solemn atrium of the imperial palace proper that once stood in the southern sector of Diocletian’s palace, the ancient Roman-era square is still flanked by two rows of magnificent Corinthian columns that Emperor Diocletian had shipped over to his newly built estate from Egypt.
Though the appearance of Peristyle Square has somewhat changed by the architectural interventions of Split’s medieval inhabitants who utilized the ancient Roman buildings to leave their own marks on the architecture of the city in the form of lavish residential complexes, the square still retains its ancient Roman structure, particularly through the ancient protyron that originally functioned as a representative facade of the imperial palace proper as is now a popular backdrop to many Instagram pictures of Split. Behind it, is the magnificent entrance hall to the ancient palace, now known as Vestibule, whose collapsed ancient circular dome makes for a hell of a sight. While passing through the Vestibule, it is not uncommon to walk in on an impromptu a cappella performance of local klapa members.
Apart from visiting the square itself, which is free, you should not miss the opportunity to visit Split’s cathedral, as it is one of few places left in the world where an ancient Roman temple-mausoleum found itself transformed into a Christian place of worship.
The cathedral of St Domnius, dedicated to the Syrian-born martyred bishop of Salona, is open to the public, but a ticket must be purchased at its entrance or online. A good value for money deal, however, is to buy the all-including ticket instead, which allows you visits not only to the cathedral, but also the dizziness-inducing Bell Tower of St Domnius which boasts with one of the best views of the Old Town; the Crypt of St Lucy hidden underneath the cathedral; the tiny Baptistery of St John (also known as the Temple of Jupiter); and the newly opened Treasury of the Cathedral located across the square from the cathedral.
Not far away off are also the so-called substructions or cellars of Diocletian’s palace, whose grand hall is still open for pedestrian traffic and is a neat way to go from Peristyle Square to the Riva Promenade. Those wishing to explore the said substructions in their entirety, will have to purchase tickets to visit the rest of the vast complex.
4. Hide from the scorching summer sun in the cool confines of Split’s City Museum
Once done with your exploration of the streets of the Old Town, we recommend spending the hottest part of the day in the cool confines of Split’s City Museum. Founded in 1946, the museum is located in the heart of the Old Town, housed in the magnificent Late Gothic/Early Renaissance palace of the local aristocratic Papalić family, widely considered to be the finest example of private residential architecture from the period in whole of Croatia and beyond. With a magnificent inner courtyard and fantastic facade towering over the narrow street bellow it, the building in which the city museum is housed is well worth a visit on its own, and especially so because the museum’s collection, spreading across three floors, serves to illustrate the fascinating history of Split and its citizens.
UPDATE: Unfortunately, Split’s City Museum will be closed for the remained of 2022 due to a renovation project. We suggest that you replace it on your itinerants with either Split’s Archaeological or Ethnographic Museum.
5. Grab a delicious lunch at one of Split’s many splendid restaurants
We may be biased, but we strongly believe that Split has the best restaurant scene in the country that is matched, perhaps, only by Dubrovnik and the capital Zagreb. The popular Tripadvisor website lists, at the time we are writing this, a total of 494 restaurants in Split–a number that is certainly difficult to navigate through even for those more into the foodie scene of Split. This is why we did all the hard work for you, by narrowing that number down to just 50 of the best rated and best-regarded restaurants in town, that you can browse by clicking on this link.
If restaurants are not your thing, and you prefer more casual street food, we got you covered with our curated list of 30+ street food joints worth eating at in the Old Town.
To make it easier for you to find the restaurant that fits your needs and expectations, our carefully crafted list of Split’s restaurants can be sifted through filters like price brackets, starting with Inexpensive, Moderately Priced, Upscale and Upscale Plus to ensure that you find the perfect restaurant for budget.
If that’s not enough, we can help you find the restaurant you like by filtering through our mood-tags like Authentic Location, denoting restaurants located in authentic historical locations; Elegant Interior, denoting restaurants with stylishly decorated interiors and exteriors; Great View, denoting restaurants boasting with views to die for; and, finally, you can check whether the restaurant of your choice offers Outside Seating or, perhaps, just Indoor Seating.
We won’t tell you what to order, but if you are looking for some local specalties, you cannot go wrong with either Pašticada with gnocchi, a popular traditional slow stewed beef dish, or škampi na buzaru (prawns alla busara), the alpha and omega of all Dalmatian seafood dishes. Worthy mentions are also black risotto, grilled fish, and mussels na buzaru. Whatever you choose, however, don’t let it be ćevapćići, as they are best enjoyed at a ćevapi-shop and not a restaurant!
6. Swim at one of Split’s many beaches
Now that you are a couple of pounds heavier, it is best to spend those extra calories by visiting one of Split’s many beaches. Due to the tight schedule one-dayers in Split have to follow, we suggest visiting one of the beaches that are withing manageable walking distance from the Old Town. The most obvious choice would be the crowd’s favorite Bačvice Beach, located just around the peninsula from the Ferry Port of Split. Bačvice are one of only two sandy beaches in town (the other being Firule Beach), so if you have a personal vendetta against rocky seabed, you cannot go wrong with Bačvice.
7. Climb the Marjan Stairs and enjoy a panoramic view of Split
Once the scorching afternoon sun eases up a bit, it is best to take a bit of a hike to climb the First Viewpoint , locally known as Prva vidilica, which is a place half-way up to the top of Marjan Hill from which you can enjoy the spectacular view of the entire town of Split, its busy ferry port and the stunning landscape of its surrounding mountains and islands.
Often ignored by short-time visitors, the First Viewpoint is a great place to snap a view pics and to muse over the view of the city. It is accessible by two way-points: either by taking the Senjska Ulica which starts at the Šperun Square and then following it all the way to the top; or by taking the so-called Marjan Stairs (Marjanske skale) which start not far from Matejuška and go all the way up to the First Viewpoint. Because both routes are pretty picturesque, we recommend using one for the ascent and the other for descent to get the most out of your short hike.
Once you are up there, you can also check the so-called Second Viewpoint, which is located some 250 meters to the west of the First. The Second Viewpoint does not have the same kick-ass view, but is a picturesque site centered around the old church of St Nicholas, an ancient remnant of the long defunct Benedictine monastery that once stood there. The place also has a fresh water fountain, perfect to quench your thirst after a hard climb.
Between the two viewpoints is a walled area of the Old Jewish Cemetery that can, if you are lucky, be visited if the entrance doors happen to be unlocked at the time of your visit, which, in our opinion, always seems to be a bit of a dice roll.
8. Grab a drink at the Riva Promenade
After a good day of urban exploration, you will probably be a) sweating like crazy and b) be as thirsty as a sponge. Whether you want to quench your thirst at a bar of your choice or by going to one of our curated places that you can find here, we do think that grabbing a drink at the Riva Promenade while people-watching on the backdrop of the slowly setting sun is an excellent way to end your one-day in Split.
Alternatively, if you belong to a more younger crowd, buying a drink of your choice at a regular grocery store and then walking at Matejuška Pier is also a great way to rub shoulders with the local youth. Drinking your own store-bought liquor at Matejuška Pier is not prohibited, so you can leave your brown bags at home!