It’s the second-largest city in Croatia. It’s home to an 4th Century Roman palace. And it’s the gateway to many of the most beautiful Croatian islands. The city of Split is every bit the dreamy holiday destination you’d imagine, with enough activities to entice every type of traveller. See how to spend 4 days in Split including historical sites of interest, beaches, islands, and more!
The second leg of our 10 day trip down Croatia’s coastline took us from Zadar to Split. Although sad to leave behind the tranquility and quirkiness of Zadar, we were excitedly anticipating what would await in Split. Fortunately, our expectations were exceeded and we ended up loving this historic city!
There’s much to love about Split. Here you’ll find what we got up to over 4 days spent exploring in and around the city.
Day 1 – Arriving in Split
After a painless 2.5 hour journey down the coastline our bus arrived into Split. Immediately we were flustered with how much busier it was than Zadar! We arrived at 10am, so restaurants were already serving their morning coffees and the large vessels floating in the harbour were ushering on the eager passengers of the day.
If peace and quiet is what you’re after, the centre of Split is not going to be for you. Like many popular European cities, it was an explosion of sights, smells, and sounds all vying for attention. Anything to entice us unwitting tourists in! With the rush of the day just beginning, we walked on, map (phone) in hand to find our accommodation.
We booked an apartment just outside the Old Town of Split, about 15 minutes walk away from the city. We’d asked ahead if we could check in early, and luckily we could!
Walking from the Esplanade to the apartment was super easy, and only a short but steep part of a hill interrupted an otherwise flat walk. I wouldn’t even recommend catching a taxi, and it would take just as long and have to drive all the way around the city! If you’re less able to walk, ask your accommodation host for some advice on how best to get there with your luggage.
Explore the Waterfront and Esplanade
We were excited to get out and explore right away to catch our bearings. It’s always a good way to familiarise yourself with a new city with a little walk and not looking at the map too much. Just follow your nose and enjoy all the new things you might find.
In this case, I needed a new charging cable so we located an electronics store on Marmontova ulica (Marmont Street). This main shopping strip is packed with high end stores as well as a few reasonably priced cafes. Luckily, a gelato store was right across the street from the cable shop so of course we bought a scoop!
Meandering between tourists we ventured into the Old Town. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, there are a few restrictions on how you conduct yourself in Split. Firstly, there are no wheeled bags allowed to be pulled through the old town. Makes sense to protect those lovely stone streets! Among other things, there are also common sense codes of conduct such as appropriate clothing and behaviour.
The waterfront and Esplanade is a thriving hub of activity in Split. It’s a perfectly relaxed place to wander, sit and watch the boats in the harbour, or pause for a drink or meal in the evening.
Grocery Shopping & Early Night
We wanted to find a local supermarket to stop up on some goods for breakfast and lunch over the next few days. It’s a great way to save money and be more efficient with your time! A Tommy supermarket just down the street from the apartment served us well, and we decided to have a cosy night in with a home cooked meal.
As I was still recovering from a nasty cold, this was a good way to spend the evening after a long day of travelling and getting acquainted with a new city. The real sightseeing would begin when we felt refreshed in the morning!
Day 2 – Exploring Historic Sites in and around Split
Diocletian’s Palace & The Bell Tower of the Cathedral of Saint Domnius
The second of our 4 day trip to Split was the bulk of our sightseeing with a prominent focus on history!
It’s a good idea to start sightseeing early in Split. That way, you’ll avoid the day trip visitors and cruise ship passengers who usually arrive mid morning. Try to be up and out at 8am to make the most of the day.
Our first stop was the remains of Diocletian’s Palace. Built in the 4th Century, it’s more like a fortress that takes up around half the space in Split Old Town. It was built for the Roman emperor’s personal use with the location chosen due to its proximity to his birthplace of Salona 6km away.
You can freely wander around the “palace” where there are many shops and restaurants to entice tourists. Enter through one of the 4 gates from the outer walls to be wowed as you walk through the Old Town.
We entered from the Golden Gate at the north of the outer walls. We started here to see the statue of Gregory of Nin and the park that sits behind the Old Town. This gives the most impactful first impression of the palace with a tall and smooth stone facade.
Once inside, we let ourselves get lost and simply follow our noses of which lane looked most interesting.
Reaching the central square within the palace the juxtaposition of old and new is very apparent. The palace remains are decrepit in places, but yet the modern interiors of the nearby restaurant are thriving. Through the vestibule we reached the cellars. Below the ground is a market of sorts where you can buy souvenirs and memorabilia. From here you could also book tours and pay entry for a tour around the rest of the cellars.
We found simply walking around and soaking in the history and architecture most rewarding. We didn’t want to pay for much in the way of entry fees or tours, but they are certainly available if you prefer more guidance on your visit.
There are plenty of other places of interest and historical landmarks to stop by such as the Temple of Jupiter, the Croatian National Theatre, the People’s Square, and various towers and arches.
One of my favourite moments was walking around the very back of the cathedral until we were in a rather more residential courtyard. The washing that was drying in the breeze, the pink flowers climbing the wall, and the relative stillness was so charming and full of character.
It’s those spontaneous moments that I cherish over the tourist must-dos. I highly suggest you take the time to get to know Split for its daily life if you can. There are so many great ways to enjoy a historic city beyond the usual facts and figures told by a tour guide. To me, a place is more than the artefacts that sit in a museum and the stories told by someone else. It is also the vegetable seller wheeling his cart through the square and the cat that sleeps on the windowsill and so much more… Enjoy those small moments of peace!
Cathedral of St Domnius Bell Tower
Dragging ourselves away from our moment of solitude, we did have one touristy activity on our list: climb the bell tower!
Sveti Dujam is the catholic cathedral in Split that sits in the heart of Diocletian’s Palace. It was built in the 7th Century and is thought to be the oldest catholic church in the world that maintains its original structure and is still in use.
The bell tower was built in the 12th Century but reconstructed in 1908 after it collapses.
Entry to the bell tower cost 30 hrk per person (£3.50), and you must be comfortable in narrow and small spaces to climb the steep stairs. There are a few platforms to allow others to pass on their way up/down, but for the most part try to get to the top as quickly as you can to avoid congesting the stairs.
Once at the top, the views are totally worth it!
You have a panoramic view over the city of Split, Marjan Park, the moutains behind, and the islands off to the ocean. It’s a breathtaking place. One of my favourite ways to see a city is from above and this didn’t disappoint.
Take care as you climb back down the many stairs, the stones can feel slippery at times!
Salona Roman Ruins
For even more Roman history during your visit to Split, hop on a bus to see the Salona Roman ruins.
For 22 hrk return bus ticket and 40 hrk entry per person, you can have an inexpensive excursion to one of the largest archeological Roman ruins in the world.
While here you can explore the ruins of the amphitheatre, thermae Salonae, and more. It’s a huge site that once was home to 60,000 people, so expect lots of walking!
Although there isn’t much in the way of public information as you walk around the site, take in the elements of each area and consider what might have been there hundreds of years ago.
If you’ve got a penchant for history and some spare time on your visit, this is the perfect half-day outing for you. What’s even better, is that unlike the busy Diocletian’s Palace you’ll hardly see another tourist at the Salona Roman ruins.
To relax from a busy day of historic sites, we headed to a nearby beach to relax.
Ježinac Beach is a popular spot for locals, families, and tourists alike. It requires walking along a stretch of the coastline past the marina, swimming pool, and rocky cliffs. It took us around 15 minutes to walk from our apartment, so add 10 minutes or so from the city centre.
The beach is a mix of sand and pebble, so might not be the most comfortable to lie on! Despite that, the atmosphere is relaxed and it’s a convenient place to spend time away from the busy city. As the sun sets, groups of friends will lay out on the rocks, listen to music, and jump into the clear ocean below.
Dinner & Evening Walk in Old Town
We went on the hunt for delicious vegetarian dinner in the Old Town as a treat. Marta’s Veggie Fusion came up in our research and the menu looked too appealing to resist.
Situated in the heart of the old town, this unassuming and tiny restaurant has just a few tables. You might end up sharing a table with strangers, so don’t expect a romantic private dinner!
We couldn’t resist trying the vegan burgers and oh my they were SO GOOD! We love a good veggie burger, and this did not disappoint. It might not have been the most authentic Croatian meal, but it sure hit the spot. Costing just £18 it was a very affordable dinner for 2!
Afterwards, we walked in search of ice cream, and at 10hrk (£1) a scoop who would say no?!
Tummies full, we ambled through the cobbled streets watching street performers and dodging excitable kids as the city came back to life. It’s something I adore about European holiday destinations, the nightlife is so family-friendly and relaxed. I feel it shows the truest reflection of a destination, much more than the daytime.
Day 3 – Nature and Beaches in Split
Marjan Forest Park
We took a different approach after a busy day in the touristy spots and headed to find some beautiful viewpoints in the hills of Marjan Forest Park on our way to a more remote beach.
Marjan Park is an oasis of natural beauty from which you can see the city, nearby islands, and mountains. It’s considered an iconic part of Split due to being relatively untouched by the city’s expansion and its religious past.
Getting to the summit of Marjan park is a bit of a trek on the roads but using Maps.me you can find footpaths through the woods if you plan ahead. It can be a bit confusing though, luckily a local man noticed we looked confused and pointed us in the right direction. It turned out the footpath was hidden behind some bins!
The walk to the top (178m high) is quite steep at times, but it’s shaded and you can take as much time as you need. Once we reached the Vrh Marjana – Telegrin viewpoint, our efforts were well rewarded!
Walking to the top took us around 20-30 minutes, but would likely take longer depending on your pace and route.
We left the viewpoint just as several other visitors were arriving. It’s a spacious walled platform but people tend to crowd the same spots, so we decided to move on. As you descend the hillside there are a few other lookouts to stop at, including one that overlooks a church and across the sea towards the nearby islands.
A Hidden Surprise
As we had the path to ourselves once more, we stumbled upon a wonderful surprise. We came past the Holy Jere chapel (St Jeronmius on Marjan) and through an archway to find Karepica kula (Karepic’s Tower), a cave nestled high in the hillside! We were thrilled to find this gem tucked away in the park. From the entrance to the cave we could see right down to the beach we were aiming for.
As it turns out, there are several chapels and churches around Marjan Hill as the site was considered a spiritual haven for the deeply religious people of Split.
The area around St Jeronimus on Marjan is known for the walled hermitage caves that we saw in the rocky hillside. The camouflaged caves were built by a noble family in 1523 and became the residence of hermit monks who protected the church. It later also became a hiding spot for farmers escaping from Turkish invaders.
It’s a really special spot which seems pretty unspoiled by tourists. One can only imagine life as a clergyman all those centuries ago. With the incredible views from this height it’s easy to see why they chose to stay here away from everyone else!
Moving on, the route downhill is fairly simple and easy to follow along a footpath and taking the steps that back to the road. Keep your Maps.me on hand to double check the path to take as there is some zigzagging to avoid the longer path along the main road.
A short walk down from the hill and we reached Kasjuni Beach! Glistening, cool waters awaited and we found ourselves with plenty of space to choose a spot on the pebble beach.
Although the beach is rather remote, there were toilet facilities, a bar/restaurant, and several sun beds to rent. Space further up the beach appeared to be more private and possibly owned by a nearby hotel, but we couldn’t see any information regarding the use of the beach for other visitors.
With the hillside looming over us and the perfect Mediterranean vibes, we had a blissfully relaxed time swimming, reading, and eating!
Not wishing to disturb or chilled day, we opted for a night in with a movie and a home cooked meal. If you wish, you could stay later at the beach for dinner but be aware that it might be a long walk back! It took us at least 30 minutes to walk back along the roadside to our apartment, and it would have been 10 minutes longer to reach the city centre.
Day 4 – Day Trip to Hvar
Hvar Island Catamaran Day Trip
Our last day in Split we spent mostly at sea! We took a full day catamaran tour to Hvar via Brac and the Pakleni Islands.
We boarded the boat at the main harbour and took our seats alongside a vivacious Canadian couple.
The boat was fully booked, so along with 100 people we set sail! Unfortunately, this seemed to be the only day of our time in Split the weather was not on our side… We had a brisk wind and cloudy skies most of the day!
The first stop took us to a small bay alongside the island of Brac. Here, the staff began preparing our complimentary snacks (sandwiches) which many people made good use of the free wine and beers. Kazimir was one of the few brave ones to jump in the ocean for swim! He said it was surprisingly mild…
Next stop we reached Hvar. We had a few hours spare to enjoy the sites so we, alongside most other guests, walked up to the Spanish Fortress (Tvrdava Fortica). The views from the top are outstanding, and I can really see why Hvar is so popular!
After a quick ice cream (and sneaky G&T) we were back on the boat and it was time for a salad lunch followed by another break at the Pakleni Islands. Kazimir hopped back in for a swim, and this time I braved it too! He was right, it was surprisingly mild…
Overall, I’m not sure the excursion was worth the cost. We paid £80 each for the trip, which was around the lower end of options we found. The food and drinks were fine but nothing too special. Had there been fewer people it would probably have been a more comfortable trip, but the boat being at full capacity can’t be helped. Of course, no one can change the weather but that did impact our enjoyment of the day too.
After our fourth night in Split we had a fairly early start to walk back to the bus station and hop on a coach to take us south once more to Dubrovnik.
Cost of 4 Days in Split
So, is Croatia as cheap as people think it is? In our experience, it’s actually not… We were pretty frugal at times and only ate out once. If you stayed somewhere more high end, ate out for most meals, and visited more attractions the total could easily add up!
The biggest surprise was the cost of accommodation, as it was almost the same price as our Dubrovnik stay which is notoriously pricey. Still, we would say all the costs were justified and reasonable.
We loved our time in Split and you can’t put a price on that!
- Bus from Zadar to Split: £31
- 4 nights in apartment accommodation: £244
- Full day islands boat trip for 2 people: £154
- Daily activities & food for 4 days: 109
- TOTAL: £538 (£67.25 per person/per day)
Have you visited Split or have plans to go there soon? Let me know if it’s on your destination to-go list!
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