Split grew up within the walls of Diocletian’s Palace, a vast and magnificent third-century Roman structure overlooking the calm blue waters of the Adriatic. Later, under Venetian rule (1420-1797), the city developed into a prosperous trading port – grand Baroque and Renaissance mansions were built within the palace, and Split gradually expanded beyond the confines of the ancient walls. To get a better picture of the layout of the splendid old town, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, head for Split cathedral and bell tower and climb the elegant campanile for a bird’s eye view down onto the historic centre. If you want to sleep within the palace complex, book in at either Hotel Peristil or Hotel Vestibul Palace.
The modern city
But it’s not just about ancient stones and medieval merchants. Croatia’s second largest city, after Zagreb, Split is Dalmatia’s leading economic and cultural centre. Lovers of modern painting and sculpture mustn’t miss the Meštrović Gallery or the Gallery of Fine Arts, and party animals should venture out after dark to experience Split nightlife – buzzing open-air wine bars and waterside live music venues. Remember that Split is also the point of arrival for many visitors to Dalmatia, being served by flights from most European capitals and daily overnight ferries from Italy, as well as a perfect launching pad for exploring the nearby islands of Brac, Hvar and Korcula, which are all served by daily boat connections.
City of sport
Split is said to have produced more world-class athletes than any other city in the world – recent names include high jumper Blanka Vlasić, former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanišević and Croatian national team football coach Slaven Bilić. If you’re an outdoor type, you’ll love hiking on Marjan peninsular, a nature reserve planted with pines, just a 15-minute walk from the old town. And if you like sailing, Split is home to several well-equipped marinas and is also Dalmatia’s top base for charter companies. While staying in Split, you might also make out-of-town trips to try Rafting on the River Cetina near Omiš and Hiking on Mount Biokovo behind Makarska.