Few places are as inspiring as Croatia’s coastline. The twinkling turquoise waters form the base of century old castles and crisp lush forests in Split, Croatia offering a myriad of things to do. Croatia’s tumultuous history and political regimes also add a fascinating layer of history to every site.
Split is the second largest city in the country. Situated on the Eastern Shore of the Adriatic Sea, Split dates back to the second century. Split has been a part of the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Italian, and French Empires, and was formerly a part of Yugoslavia before Croatia won their independence. Evidence of Split’s complex history is visible all over the city.
Today, Split is internationally renowned for yacht weeks, and attracts droves of hard partying tourists throughout the summer. It’s fondly referred to by Croatians as “the craziest city in the world,” and the hardest partying spot in the country. For better or for worse, tourism has become the city’s main economy driver.
While spring and summer bring tourists and parties, fall and winter belong to the locals. Unfortunately, this means many businesses close their doors during off-season. Navigating the city during this time can be incredibly difficult as bars, restaurants and rental places close without notice. Despite this, I have found Split to be nothing short of magical during these quieter months.
If you’re interested in visiting Split during these off-seasons too, consider this your master guide to the city. Here are the top activities and eateries to try so you can enjoy Split the local’s way.
Explore more of the Dalmatian Coast with lifestyle/travel photographer Mat Rick, learn about the world’s greenest city in Croatia’s neighbor country Slovenia, or read up on 10 ways to enjoy the summertime in Croatia’s other neighbor country — Hungary.
What to Know Before You Go
- The country is not very diverse. Additionally, Croatians have mixed feelings about tourists.
- While Uber is available, the company heavily taxes drivers. Most uber drivers have a private driving service. You should ask your uber driver for their contact outside of the app to call them privately if you require their services again. They will usually honor the same price or charge less. Most drivers prefer this.
- If you’re an English speaker, download google translate during your travels and practice basic phrases. Croatians may appreciate your effort to speak their language.
Local Dishes To Try
A Dalmatian classic, peka is a stew-like mixture of meat and vegetables baked in a dome.
Tiny fried fish (traditionally eaten with olive oil, lemon juice and some wine).
- Pašticada with Gnocchi
Another traditional Dalmatian dish where gnocchi is covered in a red wine-based beef stew.
- Black Risotto
A Croatian staple, this risotto is made with seafood and turned black by the addition of squid ink.
- Prosciutto with Cheese and Olive Oil
If you’re a charcuterie fan, you’ll love Split. This is the most popular starter around.
Other notable items to eat when in Split include pizza, shawarma, and seafood. You should also drink as much coffee and wine as you can muster.
Where to Eat and Drink
An incredible wine bar whose ambiance and food put Split on the culinary map.
A Michelin guide restaurant right in the Old town serving primarily local dishes.
With a stunning garden and view, this is a popular place for late night coffee and dessert, or a romantic dinner. During the winter, they fill the garden with music and vendors selling mulled wine and treats.
Just outside of Old Town, this family-owned seafood restaurant should not be skipped.
This no-frills place is a true local favorite. Order the cevapi, a Bosnian street food speciality.
An absolute must if you’re craving pizza and some local fare. This family-owned spot uses only fresh ingredients from local farms.
A popular happy hour and cocktail place where reservations are recommended. Enjoy the affordable pizza and the spectacular ambiance.
One of the oldest restaurants in Split, this is the perfect cafe to enjoy a relaxed coffee or cocktail.
While the interior is ordinary, this hidden cafe boasts an incredible rooftop with spectacular views. Because it’s lesser-known to tourists, you’ll likely get to enjoy the place without crowds.
Whether it’s cocoa, a gin and tonic, or wine that you seek, this is a true gem. Hidden inside Diocletian’s Palace, come to read, socialize, or attend a poetry night.
Open 24 hours, this donut shop is known by locals to be the spot for late night eats after the club.
What to Do
Enjoy a Long Coffee Break or Lunch on the Riva
While restaurants lining the Riva are often tourist magnets, they are also loved by locals. Locals dine and spend hours here enjoying coffee, or brunch and soaking up the sun.
Grocery Shop at the Green Market
Right at the start of Old Town, you’ll find this bustling market filled with local vendors, farmers and food stalls. It’s where many people grocery shop.
This is the best and easiest day trip from Split. With so many islands to explore, I recommend hiring a driver or guide if you don’t know how to drive your own boat. Alternatively, Uber Boat is often available during high seasons.
Dance All Night
Croatians love to party, so clubs are open through the morning. My favorite night out in Split begins at Fabrique for some karaoke and mingling, and then finishes at Central for dancing into the morning.
Enjoy Live Music
Go to the Theater
You haven’t been to a theater until you’ve been to the Croatian National Theater. It is stunning, with architecture and class that many of us didn’t know still existed.
See a Football Match
Football (or American soccer) is very popular in Croatia. If you’re a sports fan, go to a game while you’re in the city.
Explore Local Beaches
While there’s many to choose from, beaches such as Kasjuni Beach and Bačvice Beach are less touristy. If you’re visiting Bačvice, you’ll see many people playing a popular game called Pigicin in the water. Join in if you have the confidence.
Spend Quality Time In Marjan Park
Steps from the city center is Marjan National Park. Hike, run, or watch the sunset. At night, vendors serve drinks, snacks and play music.
Go To Klis Fortress for Sunset
Roughly thirty minutes outside the city center, a massive fortress sits on top of a hill. This is the magnificent Klis Fortress, a prime sunset-viewing location. While you can drive, riding a motorcycle or scooter to the top lends to a more immersive experience.
These Roman ruins have stood the test of time. Restaurants, cafes, hotels, and shops were built inside, modernizing this popular attraction.
Bell Tower of the Cathedral of St. Domnius’
It’s worth the price and the climb to see the 360 degree view at the top.
This UNESCO site is a massive park, so even on days with more visitors, you can still enjoy the numerous waterfalls, lakes and forests without crowds.