Spread across a peninsular on north Croatia’s Dalmatian coast, bang in the centre of a sprinkling of over a 1,000 Adriatic islands, you’ll find Split, one of the Mediterranean’s most charming and under-visited coastal cities.
Influences on the city date back to the 2nd century when it was the Greek colony of Aspalathos, and they include delightful traces of Roman, Byzantine, Venetian, Ottoman, Napoleonic, Hapsburg, Austrian, and more recently Yugoslavian, architecture.
The Old Town’s Roman character oozes with history, allowing for the opportunity to get blissfully lost amid the myriad of stone-built streets, historical monuments and eventually to come out on the Riva Promenade with its palm-trees, seafront cafes, restaurants and bars.
Even if time is short, I highly recommend a visit by foot, cycle or segway to the nearby Marjan Peninsular. North of the Old Town, and enjoying the protection of National Park status, it has panoramic views across the Adriatic inlets and a variety of quiet beaches, perfect for swimming. In particular, the sun-drenched Bacvice Bay is one of Europe’s oldest swimming spots, with crystal clear water and café terracing across the water from Brac.
Although Split is a year-round city, the Summer Festival is one of the most exciting times to visit. It has an excellent programme of classical art, music, opera, drama and dance, in addition to exhibitions, street theatre and classical performances. Backed up by a profusion of restaurants, bars and centuries-old wine cellars, you’ll struggle to keep pace with all that’s on offer.
Aside from holing up in a local café and watching the world go by, my favourite ‘top tip’ is to wind your way through the old town to the UNESCO Heritage Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian. Follow your nose and you’ll find your way, as all the Old Town roads and alleys eventually drop you at the base of the fortress Palace complex, where you can explore the Roman buildings and the phenomenal Cathedral of Saint Domnius.
As these photos from the top of the cathedral’s Bell Tower show, the views of Split majestically sprawl out below you like an ancient terracotta-coloured quilt. Rimmed by the sapphire blue Mediterranean to the west and distant countryside to the east, it feels as if hardly anything has changed over centuries. Whether your visit is short or long, as you wait for one of the harbour ferries to take you to the outer islands, you will soon yearn to return.