Picking which cities to visit in Croatia was difficult. There are numerous quaint cities dotting the coast of Croatia and each one is proclaimed a “must-see” by at least someone on the internet. Split is the second-largest city in Croatia, and as such came up in many internet discussions. The opinions on the city varied – some say it is an unremarkable city and too industrialized compared to the rest of the small Croatian towns. Others say the history and architecture make it worth a visit. As the country’s largest port city, we had to leave from Split to catch a ferry to our island of choice. After some debate we decided to spend a full day checking out the city. Although Split is missing the small-town Mediterranean charm of other cities in Croatia, it was actually a refreshing break. The size and variety of the city enabled us to have some of the most fun of our entire trip.
We stayed in a small hostel room on the top floor of an old building near the Old Town area. Right outside was a huge farmer’s market where we picked up delicious pastries and espresso to eat on the waterfront (It can be somewhat difficult to discern which pastries might have meat hidden inside, and depending on the place even more difficult to ask about it). The Old Town part of the city is structured around Diocletian’s palace – which makes it a great deal of fun to explore and get lost in. This very small area is either palace structures or winding alleyways crammed with delicious restaurants, trendy and smaller shops alike, and lots of clubs. One of these clubs is directly in the courtyard of the palace – I don’t think I’ll ever be in a more historically significant club location. Split is full of young people; if you walk around Old Town at night all you hear is pumping beats and many daytime restaurants turn into clubs all nestled within the palace walls.
Diocletian obviously thought it was a beautiful place to build his retirement home, which is now one of the best-preserved Roman ruins in the world. Indeed, the Adriatic Sea right is right outside the walls and there are some larger mountains overlooking the city. We explored the palace for a good chunk of the day and climbed the clock tower. The palace happens to be a setting for the popular show Game of Thrones.
While we had fun walking all over Old Town and finding something exciting around every corner, my favorite part of Split was the “Riva.” This is a riverfront promenade where tourists and locals alike spend time walking after dinner. There are plenty of outdoor cafes to stop by for an espresso or a cocktail all with an amazing view of the waterfront and without the inflated prices I’m used to in San Diego.
Though Split may not be at the top of any Croatia guide book, the vibrant atmosphere of the Old Town combined with the high-class feel of The Riva make it a perfect destination to spend at least one day. You won’t be sorry once you’ve had the chance to try the more varied cuisine that comes with a larger city, dance between ancient Roman palace walls, and sip an espresso while watching the ferries go by. Just a few of my favorite moments from Split, Croatia.