Updated for January 2023
If you’ve decided to spend your next vacation visiting Croatia but can’t decide whether to visit Split vs Dubrovnik, then these highlights of Split will help.
A city break in Split offers so many wonderful things to see and do for a first-time trip to Croatia.
We loved our road trip to Croatia, and spending three days in Split exploring the old city was one of our highlights.
But even if you have only one day in Split, there is much to see and enjoy.
Related Post: Best Places to Visit on a Road Trip in Croatia
Related Post: Why you need to put Zadar on your Radar.
Is One Day in Split, Croatia, enough?
Split is one of those cities you need to put on your travel bucket list.
With so much on offer for you to experience the varied history in the old city, stunning beaches to enjoy and, of course, the food sample, Split will have you returning to see more of Croatia.
Split is also the gateway to some beautiful islands, so be prepared to spend quality time absorbing it all.
If one day is all you have, check out our one-day itinerary below.
But if you have time to stay longer (and you should), we have plenty of wonderful things to do and see while you are here.
How to get to Split
With an international airport, only 20 km away from the old city means more cocktail and beach time when you arrive in Split.
It’s easy enough to get a bus from the airport to the old city or organize a private transfer as they can be cheaper than a taxi.
If arriving by car, parking in the old city is at a premium, so it pays to ensure your Hotel or Airbnb has parking available.
Seeing more of Croatia
Hiring a car or using the ferry are options to see more of Croatia.
You can check out the ferry timetable by clicking here Jadrolinija (click for the English translation at the top of the page)
But if you enjoy a bus ride, then the intercity buses are one way to explore and see more of Croatia.
Best Things to See in Split
1. Veli Varos – Wandering the old town area
When first arriving at a new place, we love to go for a walk and get a feel for the city or town.
It can be tempting to unpack and just relax, but going for a walk can be your wow factor for finding hidden gems.
Luckily for us, our Airbnb was within the old area known as Veli Varos.
The winding narrow streets made getting lost easy, but also a gem when we found a local bakery nearby.
And, of course, an early morning walk without the tourist crowds is always a must for photos. But a night-time walk allure of the lights showcases the beautiful old buildings.
2. The Riva – Split’s Waterfront Promenade
You could be forgiven to think you are on the French Riveria as you stroll along the many cafes, restaurants, and bars shaded by the tall palm trees.
With views out into the harbour, it’s no wonder people sit here for quite a while absorbing the experience known as the Riva
The waterfront is also where you can pick up a boat tour from one of the many sales booths. Remember to haggle the price, as there is some leeway.
The island tour boats leave further along the pier, and the ferry to Trogir is in the opposite direction.
We chose a day trip for a five-island full-day tour and took the Ferry to Trogir.
Check out the day trips below for more information.
3. Bazaar of the Diocletian Palace
As you leave the Riva promenade and walk through the arch, you will be greeted by a local bazaar in the old underground cellars of the Diocletian Palace.
Anything from lavender, jewellery, and souvenirs to more risqué items can be found here. It is also a great place to avoid the heat during the day as you browse through various items.
The sellers are pleasant and helpful too.
4. Diocletian’s Palace – Peristil
Visiting the Diocletian’s Palace would have to be one of our most awestruck moments, especially if your first experience is on a cool evening.
The area known as the Peristil or Peristyle (a Greek porch formed by a row of columns surrounding the courtyard) is where centuries ago, people gathered back in the 4th century when the palace was built by Emperor Diocletian for his retirement.
Today, perhaps not a lot has changed in the Peristil as we find people sitting on either side sipping their drinks while a local songster sings to them. And yes, the songster does invite you to sing along.
Don’t be shy – sit, have a drink and enjoy this wonderful atmosphere.
We came back in the early morning to get this photo without the throng of tourists and to enjoy the quietness of this ancient UNESCO site.
If you want to learn more about the history of the palace, then click this link to read more about Diocletian Palace.
5. The Four Gates of the Diocletian Palace
While in the old city, you can enter and exit through some of the old gates of the Diocletian Palace.
Along the waterfront known as the Riva, you’ll enter through the Bronze Gate.
The Silver Gate is on the east side next to the Pazar Market, selling souvenirs and the Green Market of fresh produce.
On the west side is the Iron Gate.
And finally, the North Gate is known as the Golden Gate.
At the Golden Gate, you will find another must-see when visiting Split.
The statue of Grgur Ninski (Gregory of Nin) fought to retain the old Slavic language when Pope Ivan X made Latin the official language of the church.
6. St Domnius Cathedral Bell Tower
The Cathedral Bell Tower is best visited in the morning at the opening time of 8 am. With the sun behind you, your morning view and photos will be spectacular.
Be careful climbing the steps up to the top of the tower, as some of the steps need your full attention.
7. Pazar Green Market
We always love visiting fresh produce markets to see what is on offer.
Visiting Split in late September, there was an abundance of pomegranates and grapes. The grapes were particularly sweet and delicious.
But it wasn’t just fresh produce, but the smell of barbeque pork and freshly baked bread that had our taste buds alerted.
It got us thinking of a picnic lunch, so we found a stall selling cheese and tasty tomatoes along with bread and barbeque pork. Delicious.
And buying more fresh vegetables for our meal this evening at the Airbnb.
Sunsets on Marjan Hill
If you like hiking or walking to get your heart pumping, then a walk to Marjan Hill will tick both boxes.
From our Airbnb in Veli Varos, we made our way up via the narrow streets to find the pathways taking us to the top of Marjan Hill.
The trees provided shelter from the sun, and when we spied a chapel, it was a good excuse to stop and explore.
We made two trips to Marjan Hill to enjoy the spectacular views from late morning and again for sunset.
Split Croatia Nightlife
The nightlife of Split is one of the best and made all the better with outdoor dining.
Riva is vibrant, the Peristil relaxed, and the Trg Republike elegant.
With so many wonderful restaurants to try in the old city and Veli Varos, you are spoilt for choice. It was easy to spot the favourite restaurants busy with patrons and people waiting or being turned away.
With the best Croatian food on offer, we were happy to venture out each night to try new dishes.
Where to Stay in Split
Having a recommendation of where to stay is always a bonus when travelling.
Diana of Carpe Diem has a tidy one-bedroom apartment in Veli Varos, an old town area of Split.
Walking through the gateway into the courtyard gave us the feeling of experiencing life as a local. With a bakery tucked away in a back street and a very good, reasonably priced restaurant on our doorstep. The location was ideal.
Diana was a great hostess and in communication with us to ensure our stay was the best. If we needed any local tips on what to see and things to do in Split, Diana was able to recommend places to us.
Beaches of Split Croatia
The one thing which will always bring us back to Croatia is the beaches.
Even in September, the seawater was warm for us, but it was also the clear blue water we loved so much.
While there are lots of beaches in Split, we visited just four near the old city.
If you walk towards Marjan Hill, you will pass by Jezinac and Kasjuni.
If you walk past the ferry terminals, you will pass by Bacvice and Ovcice.
Beaches in Split we loved …
Ovcice is about a 20-minute walk from the old city waterfront, is pebbly, and you need to watch your footing walking into the water.
We did pass by Bacvice on the way to Ovcice, but it was crowded, and the black sand and not appealing to us.
Kasjuni is about a 30-minute walk from the old city waterfront and does take you past the Jezinac beach.
After a walk up to Marjan Hill, a swim at the sheltered Kasjuni beach is perfect.
Day Trips from Split Croatia
Spending a weekend break or one week in Split gives you more time to visit some of the nearby islands of Brac and Hvar.
You also have the famous Blue Caves or take the ferry to Trogir for lunch.
1. Five Island Tour with Blue Cave
This is a full-day excursion starting at 8 am from the waterfront pier.
The boat ride out to the Blue Cave takes about 1.5 hours.
Once you arrive, your tour organizer will book tickets for your 10-minute boat ride into the Blue Cave.
But the wait is so worth it.
The entrance to the cave is narrow, but the experience is fantastic, even if it is only for the 10 minutes allowed in the cave.
The next stop is Stiniva on the island of Vis for a swim from the back of the boat.
The water is so clear for a swim into the cove shore for a quick lie in the sunshine. Stiniva was rated as one of the best in Europe in 2016.
Next was the Blue Lagoon which didn’t impress us. Perhaps it was our expectations, but to us, it was just a beach where we had time to swim for half an hour. And the snorkelling was uneventful.
Our final island was Marinkovic at Carpe Diem Hvar beach, where we enjoyed lunch and relaxed for an hour.
This island was chosen for its lower restaurant prices compared to Hvar. And it was another chance to dive into the beautiful and warm seawater.
2. Hvar Medieval Fortress
Your final stop is the island of Hvar on the Five Island Tour.
However, you can purchase a ferry ticket from Split for the 1.5-hour ferry ride to spend a day swimming or enjoying one of the many restaurants.
Hvar is a UNESCO site and dates back to the Greeks from the 4th century.
We took a walk up through the narrow streets to the medieval fortress for great views over the harbour. And as you wander back down, you’ll find many hill-lined streets dotted with cafes and shops.
3. Trogir for Lunch
Trogir is a beautiful old port town and dates to the 3rd century when Greeks from the island of Vis settled here.
Trogir became an important port over the centuries with various rulers. But it was the Venetian rule from 1420 to 1797 that left Trogir with some amazing architecture.
The Duke’s Palace and the Cathedral of St Lawrence are some main attractions.
We climbed the cathedral tower for great views. And you’ll love the narrow winding streets, restaurants and cafes.
24 Hours in Split
During the busy summer months, cruise ships arrive at the Port of Split.
For cruise ship travellers, a one-day itinerary is the only option.
Morning – We suggest visiting the old city to wander the streets full of history. You’ll find the Tourist Office is near Diocletian Palace.
Grab a map and ask for directions on where to book a walking tour which takes about one to two hours, and payment is required.
And you can always pick up a Burek (cheese pastry) with a coffee before you start.
Lunch – For views of the sea, we suggest the Riva as the vibe is great or find one of the smaller squares within the old city with cafes.
Maybe enjoy a long lunch at Trg Republike (Republic Square). Sitting here with a glass of wine, you can take in the beauty of the 19th-century buildings surrounding the square.
Afternoon – If visiting an island is a thing to do for you, then one of the nearest islands is Trogir. The ferry ride takes about 40mins from Split, leaving you an hour or two to leisurely explore this UNESCO site.
Or take a swim at one of the Split beaches.
Evening – Our suggestion would be to enjoy a drink first at the Peristyle.
Relax and enjoy the music and the ambience of knowing people who have gathered here since the 4th century.
Perhaps dinner in Veli Varos, then a walk along the Riva with a cool sea breeze and views back to the old city of Split.
It’s a fantastic way to end your stay.
Experience the best of Split
If Croatia is your travel destination for your next vacation, Split is definitely the city to visit.
With so much on offer, even if only for a day, it will inspire you to stay longer.
And remember to book your travel insurance before you go.