7 Reasons To Fall In Love With Beautiful Split, Croatia

I have a passion for visiting places where I can stroll through centuries of history. Hence my fascination for the second largest city in Croatia, Split, a marvel of architectural preservation with the added bonus of a magnificent setting on the Adriatic. Split is basically a big UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The historic center of Split, along with Diocletian’s Palace, gained UNESCO designation in 1979. No matter where you turn once you pass through the four city center gates, you are surrounded by antiquities , beautifully maintained, each corner telling a story. years of the city under the rule of various nations. Originally founded by the Greeks, Split was the location chosen by Roman Emperor Diocletian for his summer palace. Brought to the forefront of international tourism by a music festival held there in 2013, Split is accessible, not by chariot, but via a variety of cruises and a convenient airport with connections to major European cities.

There is so much to discover and love in this beautiful city located on the so-called central coast of Dalmatia. Here are the reasons why I am already planning my return visit.

Peristil (Photo credit: Meryl Pearlstein)

1. A pedestrian city dating from the third century

A city within a palace, or perhaps a palace within a city, Split stands out for its old town and its maze of cobbled streets and squares dating back to Roman times. A rectangular open courtyard, the Roman-designed Peristil remains a central gathering place to this day, and is where you can enter the basement of Diocletian’s 4th-century palace (tickets are required). Sit for a while on the steps, sip an espresso, and marvel at the beautifully intact marble columns, the 3,500-year-old Egyptian Sphinx, and the scale of the Emperor’s retirement home.

You can trace a walk through the 1,700-year-old alleyways that meander through the area that was once the fortress surrounding the palace, or simply wander around and learn about the different periods and styles that blend seamlessly with the shops, bistros and restaurants. restaurants today. cafes. Be sure to look up as you walk around and note the residential apartments above the walls and near the doorways; they take the concept of living among history to its most literal expression.

It’s wise to book a tour with one of the knowledgeable city guides who will point out things you’re unlikely to notice on your own, like stone carvings, examples of Roman building expertise, and estates. important to Diocletian and his court. A visit to Diocletian’s Palace is suggested early in the morning or just before dusk when crowds thin out, and the vestibule and outdoor areas offer spectacular views of the sunset and the bell tower of St. Domnius Cathedral.

Pro Tip: If you are a fan of game of thronesdon’t miss it palace cellars where scenes from seasons four and five were filmed – you’ll definitely recognize the chamber of dragons. If that whets your appetite, there’s a game of thrones museum and gift shop steps away.

Ethnographic Museum of Split, Croatia.
Split Ethnographic Museum (Photo credit: Meryl Pearlstein)

2. Even more history

Split’s complicated history from its earliest origins under the rule of Venice, Byzantium, Croatia, Hungary, Austria and Napoleonic France is recorded in several fascinating museums. Just behind the cathedral, consisting of a church, an octagonal mausoleum and a bell tower, the Ethnographic Museum of Split houses an interesting collection of costumes and furniture that illustrate customs and traditions over the years. The Split City Museum blends art and history in a late-Gothic palace worthy of medieval Split. To get a sense of the original structure of Diocletian’s Palace and to see earlier artifacts from the area, visit the Archaeological Museum of Split. Remnants of the Jewish ghetto, now indicated only by faint wall markings and artefacts saved from the fascists’ destruction in 1942, can be seen in the remarkable Split Synagogue, a testament to survival and community. It’s worth climbing the stairs to seek entry to what is the third oldest synagogue in Europe.

Pro Tip: The synagogue is not always open. It’s best to stop in advance to arrange a visit. Plus, you can get a free SPLIT card for free entry to city museums if you stay multiple days.

3. A starting point for a cruise to the islands, a day at the beach or a walk in the woods

You can sit along the beautiful Riva, a coastal strip of cafes and restaurants, and watch the parade of people, yachts and ferries while sipping a coffee or a glass of champagne. Then, with a backpack and swimsuit, board a water taxi or catamaran for a day trip to the nearby islands of Brač, Hvar, Vis and Šolta to enjoy the crystal clear Adriatic water and refreshing sea breezes. Too complicated? Visit Split’s own Bačvice beach where the traditional and unusual ball game known as picigine is played (the game consists of players preventing a small ball from hitting the water).

If you prefer to seek the greenery of the city instead of the blue of the sea, the beautiful hill of Marjan is just a few steps from the promenade with the reward of panoramic viewpoints, hiking and biking trails and a cemetery Jew dating back to the 1500s.

Pro Tip: If you go to Brač, note the buildings there. The same white limestone from the island was used in the construction of Diocletian’s Palace as well as the White House.

Lavender stand at the Pazar in Split, Croatia.
Lavender stand at Pazar (Photo credit: Meryl Pearlstein)

4. Daily markets instead of deliveries from InstaCart

Local early risers know that the best shopping is early morning in the Pazar, the huge open-air green market just outside the palace walls. There, rows and rows of fruit and vegetable sellers, cheesemongers, lavender vendors and garment artisans peddle all manner of wares. The market is open daily until 2 p.m. Don’t miss it, it offers a view of the color and spirit of Croatia.

At the other end of the palace, the daily fish market is a noisy and smelly indoor and outdoor showcase for fishmongers selling their local catch. Interestingly, due to its location, the market is known as the “place without flies”, as flies are believed to be repelled by the smell of the ancient sulfur baths nearby.

5. Farmhouse and Seaside Dining with a Mediterranean Accent

Split’s restaurants take advantage of local lamb and beef, cheeses, olive oils and, of course, fresh Adriatic fish. Choose from tiny konobas (home style restaurants) like Villa Spiza which feel like you are dining in someone’s kitchen where you can watch your pasticada, pasta puttanesca or stuffed cabbage made in front of you. Or experience the other end of the culinary spectrum at ZOI, a fine dining experience with elegantly presented and served dishes. Ask for a table on the outdoor terrace adjoining Diocletian’s Palace for a spectacular view of the sunset and the Adriatic.

Ice cream and pizza are as ubiquitous in Split as they are in Italy. Pizza makers are getting creative by adding pineapple, Croatian mushrooms, tuna, and shrimp in addition to the usual pepperoni and ham. You will also notice that glaciers seem to appear at every turn. The split ice creams, presented as beautifully sculpted as one would expect in Italy, are creamy with inventive flavors. You can also taste a happy remnant of Austrian rule over Split with a puff pastry strudel in many pekaras (bakeries).

The cafes are nestled among the old palaces and narrow streets of Split (Photo credit: Meryl Pearlstein)

6. Wine, spirits and coffee life

Sipping, chatting and casually relaxing is a way of life in Split. Not only does the city have a vibrant spirits and wine scene, but it also boasts a rich coffee drinking culture shaped by the Ottomans, Venetians and Austro-Hungarians.

Riva’s seaside shore has plenty of outdoor cafes adjacent to the non-stop passeggiata of adults and skateboarders. Spend a few hours among the palm trees like the locals do, drink a coffee or a cocktail and chat. Downtown, the aptly named NoStress Bistro is the place for music and lively company. Hip bottle bars like Noor and Bar Sistema are also tucked away in the corners and cellars of the city’s small streets.

Wine lovers have plenty of opportunities to taste famous Croatian grape varieties. Malvazija, a white wine from Istria, pošip and grk from Korčula, and zinfandel (primitivo) from Hvar and Vis feature on many menus with the biggest selection at the trendy Bokeria Kitchen and Wine Bar. Bokeria’s knowledgeable waiters host a tasting of red and white Dalmatian wines that pair perfectly with the restaurant’s menu of small plates and truffle-dusted dishes. Add a relaxing touch to your meal with a cherry brandy or a travaricaa potent yet mild herbal infused rakija it is the Croatian version of grappa.

Pro Tip: To reverse the effects of booze (and catch up on your emails thanks to the free Wi-Fi), stop by D16, a charming bar-and-café in the labyrinthine “Get” district of the old town.

Heritage Hotel Santa Lucia in Split, Croatia.
Heritage Hotel Santa Lucia (Photo credit: Meryl Pearlstein)

7. Sleep with the story

Split offers a range of accommodations from boutique boutique hotels to Airbnbs fashioned into Split’s historic buildings, some even among the remains of the palace. For a truly unusual stay that requires climbing a fair amount of stairs, the four-star Vestibul Palace Hotel sits literally inside Diocletian’s Palace, incorporating original walls and brickwork into its rooms and spaces. public.

Located on the Pjaca of Split, the “people’s square”, the Central Hotel has been renamed Heritage Hotel Santa Lucia. I was invited to be one of the first guests of the “new” hotel which has re-opened after a 2 year full refurbishment, along with its revered restaurant and bar, Central, the first kavana (café) in Split, which dates back to 1776. A nice addition, La Luce’s rooftop terrace offers dining with a view of the cathedral’s bell tower. There is also a secret garden, perfect for an afternoon refreshment.

Pro Tip: Ask the front desk manager at the Santa Lucia to see the archaeological find discovered during the hotel’s renovation. As part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the ruins adjacent to the hotel’s kitchen remain in their original state and remain a mystery as to their original function.

One final note, for the easiest tour and hotel booking, visit Split in the spring and fall when the weather is still nice and the crowds are smallest. November is quite rainy and can present some challenges walking the cobbled roads or climbing the stairs around Diocletian’s Palace.