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History and urban cool in Croatia

A crumbling Roman palace with a backdrop of the Dinaric Alps, fringed by the Adriatic Sea’s turquoise waters and urban beaches – it’s hard to find a more sublime setting for a city break than Split. The largest city in Croatia’s Dalmatia historical region, it’s a maze of cobblestone streets that unfurl into charming alleyways. Taking time to appreciate the city’s history is a must-do on Split city breaks, whether it’s to wonder at the remains of Diocletian’s Palace (part of a Unesco World Heritage Site) or pore over classical sculptures and Palaeolithic artefacts at the Archaeological Museum.

A visit to Croatia’s second-largest city doesn’t have to be one long history lesson though, as Split is also home to some of the country’s best cuisine and atmospheric cocktail bars. The city’s haphazard layout makes for a fun bar crawl – but, be warned, you may not be able to find the same place again come the next day. City breaks to Split aren’t complete without a visit to Bačvice beach. Although you’ll find wilder beaches a short drive away, Bačvice is a great family spot. Want to explore further afield? Catch a boat to the islands of Hvar, Brač and Vis from Split’s ferry port. For a city break that combines seaside cool with a ancient charm, Split’s a sure-fire winner.

Three tips for a top trip

Hire a car

The rugged landscapes surrounding Split are beautiful, so think about hiring a car in order to visit the nearby Mosor mountain range or Split-Dalmatia County’s stunning interior.

Meander up Marjan

Marjan is the name of the tree-covered hill on the tip of the Split peninsula. It’s a steep climb to the top, but worth it for the city vistas.

Step into a film set

Although Dubrovnik is known as King’s Landing, ‘Game of Thrones’ fans are often surprised to learn that Split was also used as a prominent filming location.

Best attractions to see in Split

The palace walls

The Unesco-protected Diocletian’s Palace is a remarkable sight. Walk its lattice of cobbled streets, or drink a cup of coffee in one of its cute cafés.

Klis Fortress

Just north of the city are the historic ruins of Klis Fortress, which stand on a 360-metre-high hill. Spend time climbing over the fortifications before visiting its small museum.

Cathedral Sveti Duje

Set in the mausoleum of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, Cathedral Sveti Duje is a remarkable building. For a small fee, climb to the top of the bell tower and enjoy fabulous views.

Your Split questions, answered

Without a doubt, the Roman palace is Split’s most famous attraction. But it’s also known for its ferry port, connecting the mainland to Hvar, Brač and Vis islands.
Families love Split’s central beach Bačvice for the convenience, but it can get rather busy – quieter beaches are just a short drive away from the city.
Split is very busy in summer, and very hot, so you're probably better off picking a shoulder season like April/May or September/October. The weather will be cooler. In the autumn you can still swim comfortably and in early May you have the festival of Sv Duje. You'll see a flower show, art installations, a rowing regatta and religious processions, along with live music, dancing and other events. The climate is unpredictable in winter, and you might get hot sun or occasional snow. On New Year's Eve, you can see the Salsa Silvester festival, Europe's biggest dance celebration.
Croatia has always been known as a child-friendly holiday destination and it’s one of Europe's safest. You'll find plenty of activities in Split and the Dalmatian islands, apart from the fine beaches. Walking tours of the old city take you to ancient walls and an emperor's palace, or you could hire a bike. You can visit the fortress at Klis, or take the little road train up to Marjan Hill for a view of the city. At Znjan sandy beach your kids can trampoline or jump around on bouncy castles, or ride a paddleboat.
Thanks to its balmy Southern European climate, Split remains temperate throughout the year. In summer, it’s nearly always sunny, and it’s milder but pleasant in other seasons.
You'll discover both sandy and pebbled beaches around Split and some wilder rocky places where you might need swim shoes. Trstenik beach is pebbled and looked after by the big hotel, so there are sunbeds and changing facilities. Bacvice city beach is sandy but usually crowded, so you could walk for 20 minutes to Kastelet beach instead. It's not so busy and there are bars. You can get a bus or bike to the beautiful Marjan area, or take a boat trip out to the island beaches of Brac or Hvar.
If you've never been to Split before, you'll probably choose the historic old town. It's in the centre of the city and you'll be close to the major attractions and eateries. You'll find something to suit all budgets but, if that's too busy, you could choose the Veli Varos area. You'll still be close to the old town but it's generally quieter while, east of the old town, the Radunica district is good for lower-cost hotels. If you fancy staying by the beach, Bacvice is closer to the city's nightlife, and Znjan is a good family location.
You'd go to Split primarily for Emperor Diocletian's Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that's one of the best-preserved Roman buildings anywhere. You'll also see its old medieval walls, a Venetian tower and a baroque palace, not to mention a maze of ancient twisting streets. Split has always been famous for its beaches and islands and now you'll find that it's also known for its nightclubs and dance scene, its unique ball game called picigin, and Game of Thrones. Many of the show's scenes were filmed in and around the old town, the palace cellars and the fortress of Klis.
It's not necessary to hire a car in Split unless you're planning to explore out-of-the-way places. You can catch a direct bus from the airport to the city centre, share a transfer car or take a taxi. Since this is an ancient city, the streets are narrow and you'd be restricted to parking outside the old town. It's all pedestrianised within the old town walls and on many urban streets, as well as on the seaside promenade. Hiring a bike is a good option if you want to get to the beach, and there's a good bus network.