Split has become a destination increasingly visited by tourists from all over the world, for its incredible Diocletian's Palace, which dates back to Roman times, and for being the gateway to the set of islands that sit on the Adriatic Sea, such as Vis, Hvar and Pekleni.
Touring its palace complex, whose subway galleries have been one of the filming locations for Game of Thrones, is one of the many things you can see and do in Split. Viewpoints, beaches, ancient churches, narrow streets and many corners to discover await you in this city where you can take the best tours in Split.
1. Walk through the alleys of Diocletian's Palace
Diocletian's Palace is one of the best preserved Roman buildings in the world. It was built by Emperor Diocletian in the 4th century AD, and used to be surrounded by walls that are largely preserved today.
More than a palace, it is a fortress, as it consists of different buildings connected by stone alleys. Inside you will find stores, bars, restaurants, handicraft stores, and even homes.
Among the sites you cannot miss in this complex are The Peristyle, which is the central square of the palace surrounded by columns; The Vestibule, which used to be the entrance to the rooms of the palace; the Domnius Cathedral, one of the oldest in Croatia; the Temple of Jupiter, dedicated to that god; and the Underground Galleries, one of the must-sees of the Palace.
Diocletian's Palace has four entrance gates: the Golden Gate, the Silver Gate, the Iron Gate and the Bronze Gate. The most commonly used to enter is the Porta Aenea, which communicates with the Riva, Split's waterfront promenade. All gates are open 24 hours a day, although the various buildings can only be accessed at set times during the day.
- Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 8 am to 7 pm, and Sundays from 12.30 pm to 6.30 pm. In winter they close at 3 pm.
- Price: about 6 EUR entrance to the Cathedral, Temple of Jupiter and Ethnographic Museum per person; and about 6 EUR to the subway galleries.
2. Discover the treasures of the Temple of Jupiter
The Temple of Jupiter is a monument located in the Palace of Diocletian, consecrated to the god Jupiter, whom the emperor worshipped. It was built in the sixth century, but in the thirteenth century was converted into a baptistery, so you can see a sculpture of St. John the Baptist and a baptismal font inside. The statue was made by Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic.
One of the most interesting features of the temple is the 3,500-year-old black granite sphinx that guards the temple. It was brought by the emperor from Egypt and is one of the best preserved Egyptian sphinxes today, notable for not having a head.
It is also very interesting the ornamentation of its entrance portal, which has floral details in carved stone coffers and human and vegetable heads, among others. Next to the Temple is the street Pusti me da prodjem (which means "let me pass"), the narrowest street in the city, and a favorite place to take pictures.
Details of interest
- Location: Ul. Kraj Svetog Ivana 2, 21000, Split, Croatia.
- Hours: Monday to Saturday from 8 am to 4 pm, Sunday from 12 pm to 6 pm.
- Admission fee: from 6 €.
3. Dive into the subway galleries of the Palace
One of the must-see sites of the Diocletian's Palace are its subway galleries, as they allow you to imagine what the Roman palace was like in ancient times. This is because the basements would repeat the same structure, with its columns and high ceilings, that was on the upper floor, where the palace and the imperial rooms were located.
The Underground Galleries of Diocletian's Palace are one of the best preserved Roman ruins today. A lively flea market, stores and art galleries usually operate there. They have even served as the setting for the filming of the Game of Thrones series. If you are a fan of the series, you have more than one reason to tour them, as they were converted into a dragon prison for a time.
In the subway galleries, there are areas with free access and others for a fee, with exhibits related to the history of the palace. The entrance to the cellars is located next to the Porta Aenea, the most modest of the enclosure, which used to connect the cellars to the sea.
4. Meet the charming beaches of Split: Firule and Kasjuni
Split is a coastal city with beautiful beaches that you can enjoy, in addition to the unmissable ones that are on the islands. One of them is Firule beach, which is 20 minutes away from the city center; and another one is Kasjuni beach, which is a bit farther, about 50 minutes away.
At Firule beach you can swim in its crystal clear waters, sunbathe and relax for a while. If you go in high season, remember to go early, as the best spots get busy quickly. In the surroundings there are bars and restaurants overlooking the beach and the sea where you can have lunch or dinner typical dishes of the region.
As for Kasjuni beach, it is one of the most beautiful and, if you go early, you will be able to better appreciate the views, with the forest on one side and the palm trees on the other. It is a place where water activities such as snorkeling are usually performed, since its waters are crystal clear and let you see clearly the seabed.
- Location: Firule Beach and Kasjuni Beach, Adriatic Sea, 21000, Split, Croatia.
5. Enjoy the most beautiful views on Marjan hill.
Marjan Forest Park is a large green space offering the best panoramic views of Split. In total there are 3 viewpoints on the hill, from where you can see the city of Split, Pekleni islands, and even nearby villages. Also at the top there is a 13 meters high cross and bars to have a refreshment or an infusion enjoying the views.
The most traditional way to get to the top is by climbing the stairs near the Riva, Split's waterfront promenade. It is a long staircase with several landings and a viewpoint in the middle, the Vidilica, which also offers a nice view. At the top is the Telegrin viewpoint, which you can reach in about half an hour.
Marjan Hill is an ideal place for hiking, biking or running, as it has several trails of different lengths (between 3 and 10 km), ideal for those who prefer contact with nature or playing sports. It is also possible to tour some areas of the park by segway, which is also a very fun way to explore it.
On the other hand, for athletes or lovers of adrenaline sports, it is highly recommended a river trip in Split, as they can practice sports and activities such as canyoning, rafting or ziplining.
- Location: Obala Hrvatskog narodnog preporoda 25, 21000, Split, Croatia.
6. Embark on a coastal walk on the Riva
The Riva is the most popular promenade in the city, preferred by locals and visitors alike. It is surrounded by palm trees, and has bars, restaurants, stores and markets ideal for a sunset stroll.
As it is located in front of the Diocletian's Palace, it is a must for those visiting Split in two days. Walking along the Riva, you can see on one side the Palace or Deskovic House and the Monastery and Church of St. Francis, and on the other, the boats, yachts, ferries and cruise ships that are in the harbor.
The Riva is a popular place for locals to meet with friends, both day and night, and is where different festivals, concerts and cultural events are usually held. It also has its own Walk of Fame, where you can see the plaques of the city's most renowned Olympians.
7. Get to know the rapids of the Cetina River
In the region of Dalmatia, just 25 km from Split, lies the longest river in the region, the Cetina. This river is known for the lush nature that surrounds it and its cliffs, from where you can jump to swim in its deep waters. The Cetina River rises in Mount Dinara (1831 m), from where it emerges from subway streams, and is 105 km long.
This river is also famous for the eye-shaped lagoon near its source, which is known by the name of Ojo de la Tierra (Eye of the Earth). In addition, many people practice rafting on this river, since it offers rapid waters and numerous jumps.
The most usual way to get to know the river Cetina is to go to the town of Omiš, which is located about 25 km from Split. You can get there by bus in about 40 minutes. And if you are interested in joining a rafting experience, it is best to hire an excursion with transfer included from Split, as they will provide you with all the necessary equipment and take you to the best places to practice this sport.
8. Walk around the Town Square
People's Square or simply Pjaca, as the locals call it, is the central square of the city, which is located very close to the Diocletian's Palace. The square is surrounded by palaces and historical buildings of Split, and in the surrounding area there are bars and restaurants where you can sit and watch the lively life of the city.
Some of these buildings are the Gothic-style Cambj Palace, the former Morpurgo bookstore, and the Renaissance-style Town Hall, which houses the City Museum. You can also sit in the Café Central, a culturally important bar that used to be frequented by artists and intellectuals.
Another curious building is the city clock, which is located in front of the square, and that marks 24 hours instead of 12. The Pjaca is an ideal place to have lunch or a coffee, walk through its markets or participate in the many cultural events that take place there.
9. Meet the four palace gates and receive good fortune
Diocletian's Palace has four gates through which one could enter from different directions, and which are still functioning today. The most modest is the Bronze Gate or Porta Aenea, which is the most used to enter the palace, as it connects to the Riva of Split.
The Golden Gate or Porta Aurea is the one that used to be used only by the emperor and his family, and today it is one of the favorites to enter the palace. A short distance away is the famous statue of Bishop Gregory of Nin, made by sculptor Ivan Meštrović, who would bring luck to those who touch his toe. That is why many tourists today come to touch it.
The western gate is the Iron Gate, which is the most integrated into the city. The Christians would have demolished the relief of the Nike goddess in the 5th century and in its place built the church of Our Lady of the Belfry, which is still standing.
As for the Silver Gate, it used to connect the ancient main street Decumanus with the palace, and was long closed, until it was rebuilt in 1952.
10. Cross the Adriatic Sea to the islands
In front of the city of Split, in the waters of the Adriatic Sea, there is a group of islands that are true natural treasures, and charming villages full of history. To reach the islands, you must take a ferry from the port of Split, which will take you to your destination in an hour or two, depending on the island you choose.
One of the most popular are the Pekleni islands, which consist of about 20 islands and islets with almost virgin beaches surrounded by pine forests. Water sports such as snorkeling are often practiced there, thanks to its transparent waters that let you see the bottom. In addition, in many of its beaches nudism is practiced.
Another very visited island is Hvar, where two of the oldest villages in Croatia are located, Stari Grad and Hvar Grad, where you can walk through cobbled streets, medieval houses, churches and ancient palaces.
The island Vis is also very visited, especially for its wonderful beach of Stiniva and the Blue Cave, where an optical effect is produced because of the sun rays that penetrate into the cave. You can only enter with small boats, so you must hire a tour or rent a boat on Vis Island. Another option is to take the excursion from Split, which will take you to several islands, in addition to the Blue Cave.
11. Travel back in time in the town of Trogir
Trogir is an ancient town built on an island 27 km from Split, where you can get lost among its medieval houses, stone streets and historical monuments. Founded in the 4th century, it was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco.
One of the most famous historical monuments of Trogir is the Camarlengo Fortress, which was built by the sea to guard the gold of the city. It consists of three towers, a bastion and a courtyard, and has a lookout on the Kamerlengo Tower, from where you can see the city and the Adriatic Sea. Cultural events, such as archery, are currently held in the surrounding area.
Other attractions you can see in Trogir are the Ducal Palace, the Cathedral of St. Lawrence, the Clock Tower, the Cipiko Palace and the Museum of Sacred Art. It is a small historic center, with Renaissance and Baroque style buildings, ideal to get lost in a kind of time travel.
To get there, you can take a bus or a ferry from Split, which takes about half an hour to Trogir. Another possibility is to hire a tour from Split and take the opportunity to visit the Krka National Park. Another highly recommended option is to take a trip to Plitvice Lakes from Split, a green area with lakes, springs, forests and trails ideal for a day in contact with nature.