Last week I visited Croatia for the very first time and the country left me with overwhelming impressions and memories, which I will most certainly never forget. First stop was Split - an ancient town located in the North-western part of the country. Split might not be as well-known as Dubrovnik, but there’s several reasons to pay this Croatian gem a visit! Here’s my top 5 must-see places.
1. Diocletian’s Palace
The first one is also the most obvious one, as Diocletian’s Palace literally represents the old part of the city. In other words; you can’t miss it - and you shouldn’t! Diocletian’s Palace is 1.700 years old and contains a tempestuous and deeply fascinating history, which definitely equals to many of the ancient parts of Rome. And speaking of Rome - it was the Roman emperor Diocletian, who built the palace in preparation for this retirement in 305 AD. Back then the palace was massive and it still is today - even though some parts of it has disappeared.
Diocletian’s Palace is definitely an important part of our understanding of the Roman Empire and it’s surprisingly well-kept! Today, you’ll find shops, restaurants and even some private homes within the walls - yes, people still live in the ruins nearly 1.700 years after the palace was built!
In 1979 the palace was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Monument.
Several tour packages are offered, but I recommend taking a private tour in order to get the most out of it. For more information go to www.viatour.com.
2. Waterfront promenade: Riva
Another part of the city, which is impossible not to come across, is Riva - the waterfront promenade. Both locals and tourists go for afternoon and evening strolls here to enjoy the sun and the beautiful vista over the Split bay. Equipped with palm trees and promenade restaurants and cafés, this place could resemble a mini Cannes or Nice! I wouldn’t recommend going for dinner here, but do enjoy a traditional, Croatian coffee (black or black with a dash of milk) and a sweet bite. Croatians worship their daily coffee and in contrary to many other cultures, this is definitely a social thing! If you have a sweet tooth try out the Croatian dessert ‘Fritule’. You won’t regret it.
3. Gallery of Fine Arts
Whether you’re an avid art fan, interested in Croatian culture or simply just enjoy pretty things with history, then Gallery of Fine Arts in Split is a must-visit! After a long renovation the gallery opened in 2009 in the building that once housed the city’s very first hospital. It’s located just outside the old city and there’s a nice terrace overlooking the palace - go there for a coffee with a view.
The gallery exhibits almost 400 works of art spanning of nearly 700 years and it’s a great way of getting to know Croatian culture a bit better. Sculptures and paintings by both older and contemporary Croatian artists occupy the 1st floor.
For more information go to www.galum.hr.
4. Restaurant Sperun
If you’re up for a nice lunch in Split you should visit one of the local taverns. I can personally recommend ‘Sperun’, which I had the pleasure of dining at once during my stay and it was definitely good value for money. Sperum attracts both locals and tourists, and it has a lot of fish and vegetables on the menu. Guests can enjoy both breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks. It’s a charming little venue with wooden tables on the narrow pavement and a view to the waterfront promenade. A main course is approximately 10-12 EUR and the staff is very friendly.
Sperun Ulica 3
Split offers much more than historical buildings and tourist sights - it’s also surrounded by beautiful nature. Take a break from the bustling crowds to go visit Marjan - a 179 meter tall hill on the peninsula of Split. The hill is covered in a dense pine forest and serves as home to the local Zoo and several tennis courts. Also, you’ll find amazing views of the city and of course, the ocean. Marjan has been used as a recreational retreat for thousands of years and it still is today. It’s possible to walk from the city centre.