If you’re searching for a luxury holiday on a budget then look no further than the Croatian city of Split. Its hot climate, miles of coastline, abundance of secluded islands and friendly locals make it a hit with everyone from holiday makers, backpackers, cruise ships and sophisticated party revelers alike.
Prices here are also much cheaper than other European cities (which helps even out the cost of the flights which can be expensive if flying directly from Ireland in peak season – about €400 return).
I fell in love with the country a few years ago after a family holiday to Dubrovnik (which is also beautiful but also a lot more expensive). I always wanted to return and this year decided to head to Split, the second biggest city in Croatia. Now I’m even more in love with the country so decided to write a little blog post on my “Top 10 Things to do in Split, Croatia” to give anyone else who’s heading there or thinking of heading there an insight into what makes it so amazing…
If you are thinking about going to Split you can read my full post on travel and accommodation here (including details and links on how to get around by air, bus and catamaran and where to stay).
Top 10 Things to do in Split
1. Breakfast on the Riva
There’s no better way to start of the day than by having breakfast on the Riva, which is the main promenade. Lined with cafes and bars you could honestly sit here all day people watching and looking out at the cruise ships sailing in and out of the harbour. Even with it’s prime location prices are extremely reasonable with an espresso being 7kuna (€1) and a coffee with milk being 11k. Accompany this with a fresh traditional pastry or croissant and you can have your breakfast all for about €2.50.
2. Explore the Old Town and Diocletians Palace
I could have spent all day everyday exploring the streets of the Old Town. If any of you are fans of Game of Thrones you’ll actually feel like you’re in Meeren or Kings Landing (and as it happens parts of the show were actually filmed here). Every time you enter you stumble upon new streets and cafes and you couldn’t feel safer (even when you’re stumbling through a bit lost at 2am…).
In the heart of the old town is the Diocletians Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage site dating back to Roman times. For €6 you can explore the Cathedral, Crypts and Bell Tower which is well worth a trip up for the amazing view of the city (however if you don’t like heights or narrow spaces then maybe not!). Also it’s still in use so avoid heading up during bell ringing time!
Another place to visit is the old palace basement which has been converted into a lovely jewelry and craft market.
3. Visit the Food Market
This is a must, even if you’ve no intention of buying anything. It’s packed full of the freshest and most colourful produce and if you do want to buy anything you have to haggle with tiny old women who seem so sweet but drive a hard bargain! But on the plus side everything is really cheap anyway. One of the things we wanted to get were some fresh cherries as here the prices are extortionate. We tried to ask the seller to only give us a small bag but he ended up bagging a kilo of them which I know here can be about €9 but there was only 80cent!
4. Picnic on the Cliff
Stock up on fruit and bread and head out of the town towards Marjan hill direction for a picnic with a view. Keep on the road along the pier, bypassing the Olympic Hero Walk of Fame. Eventually you’ll end up at some quiet beaches and along the way there’s a secluded little cliff edge where you can stop and enjoy lunch in your own little slice of paradise.
5. Grab an Ice Cream
Morning, noon or night it’s always ice cream time in Croatia. A double scoop is about €1.50 so grab one and sit on one of the many benches scattered along the Riva.
6. Head to the Beach
Since most of Croatia is coastline or island, the beaches are fabulous and full of marine life. Most of them are pebble beaches which I love as it means there’s no sand making a mess but if you do like sandy beaches then Bacvice beach is for you. It’s about a 10 minute walk from the Old Town. There are lots of cafes and restaurants down here and if you walk towards them and then a bit further you come to a lovely secluded pebble beach called Ovcice Beach where we spent most of our time. The water is so clean and clear all over Croatia and if you stick on a pair of goggles and dunk your head under the water you’ll be able to see fish swimming around your feet.
7. Climb Marjan Hill
If you prefer something a bit more active than sitting on the beach then take a hike up Marjan Hill. It’s not a tough climb but there are literally hundreds of steps. The view from the top however makes it worth it as you get a 360 degree view of the entire city and on the way back down there is a little bar where you can lounge in a deckchair and take in the view (or you could just sit here and not climb to the top, it’s up to you!).
8. Sample the Local Cuisine
Croatian food is lovely and very reasonably priced for eating out. They do amazing seafood but there is also a very strong Italian influence with gnocchi and pasta featuring heavily on the menu.
We found a lovely little restaurant called Restaurant Sperun which was just across from our apartment and did the nicest fish stew and seafood risotto.
One things you will see everywhere is a dish called cevapi. It’s sort of like a skinless sausage made with minced meat and served with a red pepper relish. It’s definitely one dish to try and they serve it almost everywhere. Another popular dish is grilled seabass served with a traditional side dish of potatoes, swiss chard, garlic and olive oil.
After talking to some locals we were told to try real Croatian dish called Pasticada. It’s a stewed beef dish served with gnocchi. It’s delicous, rich and full of flavour and I’d highly recommend it. You’ll most likely find it in any restaurant with “Konoba” in their name – (I think it means something like ‘tavern’ but they’re basically traditional Croatian restaurants).
You also have to try the local drink rakija – it’s a fruit flavoured brandy that comes in about 20 different flavours -our favourites being cherry and honey – and is only €2 a glass.
9. Chillax in the Peristlye
When the buzz of the city or the heat of the sun starts to take its toll during the day head to the Peristyle in the centre of the Old Town to relax. It’s basically a large open square surrounded by steps which people can sit on, shaded by the surrounding buildings, and just watch the tourists swarm in and out. Be careful where you sit though as we were often engulfed by huge groups of Japanese tourists listening to their tour guide and snapping selfies.
At night it’s a totally different vibe. Barmen come around and serve drinks while live music is played and random couples just get up and dance around the square with everyone else watching on. I would advise heading to Creme de la Creme after dinner, get a slice of cake to take away, sit in the peristyle, have a drink and listen to the music in the ancient surroundings and imagine what was happening in that spot a few thousand years ago.
10. Take a trip to Hvar
One thing I would definitely recommend doing is taking a boat trip out to see some of the beautiful islands. We decided to spend a night in Hvar which is very easy to get to by catamaran and there are lots of decent hostels (for transport and accommodation review click here). Hvar is a small but charming island and in the summer is a rather unassuming party spot. Expect to see lots of boats and yachts docked in the bay and harbour and try not to feel massively jealous of the owners…
While here it’s well worth taking a stroll up to the fortress on the hill where you’ll get a great view of the island and surroundings. Take in the sunset at one of the seaside bars and then head to this lovely little restaurant we found called Marinero for dinner. The food is delicious, the staff are lovely and it was packed with locals. Just to give an example of price we got 2 starters, 2 beers, a huge fried fish platter for two people and a portion of chips for €30.
After dinner sample the Croatian nightlife at one of the bars until 2am, after which the clubs open. And if you’re planning on doing all this as a day trip then you can catch the 5am ferry back to the mainland…
I hope you enjoyed reading this and found it helpful! Split is an amazing city and I would recommend it in a heartbeat. If you have any questions I’m more than happy to try and answer.
Don’t forget to read my full post on travel and accommodation here.