Split. The Italian name of the city is or better was Spalato.
Split is located in the heart of middle Dalmatia, almost exactly between Zadar in the north and →Dubrovnik in the south. The town itself stretches along the Adriatic Sea. The capital →Zagreb in the north is around 250 km away as the crow flies. A few kilometres north of Split, the Dinaric Alps run parallel to the coast. Actually there's not much space left between the mountain range and the sea. Near Split, there are countless islands and islets within sight.
Split has around 190,000 inhabitants. This means that it's the second largest town of Croatia - after Zagreb, of course. Even today, many descendants of the Romans settle in and around the centre of town.
Split occupies a large peninsula, which is only connected to the mainland by a small corridor in the east. There's a natural harbour stretching along the southern coast. This port is simply called Gradska Luka (city port), Next to the port starts the old town. East of the harbour there's the main train station, which is only a few dozen metres away from the old town. Due to the topography. it was necessary to build a long tunnel below the old town for the railway. The bus terminal and the ferry pier are conveniently located next to the train station.
|View over Split and the port from Mt Marjan|
The historic city centre, built during the Roman empire, is rectangular and clearly separated from the rest of the city. The old town and the port are separated by the Obala Hrvatskog Narodnog Preporoda (Croatian National Revival seaside promenade), which becomes the most vibrant place of Split at night. West of the promenade, the modern pedestrian zone Marmontova starts. Much further to the west there's the green mountain Marjan occupying the tip of the peninsula. Marjan offers a nice view not just of the old town but also of the large Luka Poljud (Port Poljud), an industrial and military harbour in the north of Split. There's also a large stadium used by the local (and quite successful) soccer team. The Dinaric Alps in the north look like a huge, white wall limiting the space for further urban development.
The history of Split started already more than 1,700 years ago. Around the year 300 AD, the famous emperor Diocletian decided to spend the last years of his life after retiring in Split - probably because of the beautiful setting. Diocletian was famous for two things - one was the reformation of the Roman empire. The second was the brutal prosecution of Christians, starting in the year 303. After his death, the palace started to crumble and for a long time, no town or settlement developed in or around the palace. However, in the year 615, the colony Salona, at that time the capital of the Roman province Dalmatia, was destroyed. The citizens had to flee and sheltered behind the thick walls of the palace. And so, even today the descendants of the Salona refugees live in the old town. Soon, the town started to develop. Same as →Dubrovnik, Split became a part of mighty Venetia (Venice) during the 14th century. This shouldn't change - except for short interruptions - until the year 1797. After that, Split together with the rest of Dalmatia belonged to Austria-Hungary until the end of World War I and then to Croatia resp Yugoslavia.
Although Split is by far the biggest town in the area, it never became the capital of Dalmatia. Today, it's one of Croatia's most important industrial towns and an important transport hub. Since industry and history are clearly separated from each other, it soon became a popular place with tourists. It also makes a convenient base for exploring the islands near Split. The Diocletian palace is quite unique, and so it was declared World heritage by the UNESCO in 1979. Additionally, Split is the capital of the province Split-Dalmatia.
Getting there / transportation
Split marks the southern end of the Croatian railway network. Therefore it's easy to get there from →Zagreb. The trip takes around 8 hours. However, there are only two daily trains, one of them is a night train.
It's also possible to get there by boat, bus and plane. Ferries connect Split with the bigger islands in the vicinity, eg →Brač and many others. It takes around one hour to get to Brač, the single fare is 19 Kuna. There are also direct ferries running to →Dubrovnik (three departures a week, 14 hours) and to Ancona in Italy.
Buses run everywhere. There are several daily buses to →Dubrovnik in the south-east. The trip takes around 4 hours, the fare is 94 Kuna. The route is very scenic and extremely popular, so it's not a bad idea to book ahead in summer. There are also direct buses to →Mostar and →Sarajevo in →Bosnia, to →Ljubljana and even to several destinations in Germany, Austria etc.
West of the city there's an international airport. Many charter flights connect Split with some of the major cities in Europe, so it's worth to check the internet for cheap flights.
To put it in short - Split mainly impresses by two things: One is the city with its marvellous historic centre in and around Diocletian palace itself, the other one is the setting. The turquoise Adriatic Sea with some islands floating on the horizon in front of the city and the massive limestone wall of the Dinaric Alps in the background are very impressive. This is best viewed from above-mentioned Mt Marjan or from the area around the train station and the ferry port. The centre of the old town is clearly marked by the large cathedral (see picture below).
|Some ferries, the cathedral and the Dinaric Alps|
Providing that the weather is fine, a walk to the top of Mt Marjan in the west of Split is highly recommended. Some more or less small paths lead through the forest to the summit. Actually there are two summits - one features a small funfair and a tall antenna, the other one a viewing platform giving stunning views over the old town and the harbour, the modern suburbs in the north and the islands around Split.
|Split: Inside Diocletian-Palace|
It's impossible to miss the ancient core of the city, namely the Dioklecijanova Palača (Diocletian-Palace). The palace is protected by very thick walls and some watchtowers at the corners. The rectangular structure is around 215 m long and 180 metres wide. There are several gates leading inside - among them the Željezna Vrata (Iron Gate) in the west, the Zlatna vrata (Golden Gate) in the north with a beautiful park in front of it, the Srebrna vrata (Silver Gate) in the east and the most important one called Gradska vrata (City Gate) leading to the seaside promenade.
Since limestone dominates the Dinaric Alps, it doesn't come as a surprise that limestone was used as construction material. Hence, almost everything is very bright. During the centuries, the roads were polished by all the people and vehicles, and so they reflect the sunlight in a way that makes sunglasses almost compulsory. The middle of the Palace is marked by the central square, which is surrounded by colonnades. Therefore the square is simply called Peristil (=Colonnade). Logically, the tourist information can be found here.
Diocletian's palace included the residence of Diocletion himself, a mausoleum, a temple and all the other facilities characterizing a typical Roman palace. Some parts survived the centuries; they are amazingly well preserved. Other parts were rebuilt, substituted by newer structures or used for a purpose not intended. Most people enter the palace from the promenade, passing through the City Gate. Behind the gate is a very large and impressive vault, which was built during the reign of Diocletian, later buried and eventually excavated. Actually there's nothing inside the vaults (see picture on the right), but the dimension and the atmosphere are stunning. And - in summer it's a nice place for a rest, since the temperature inside is substantially lower than outside. Admission fee is 6 Kuna.
|The Vestibule as seen from above|
It looks like the vault is often used for concerts. Unfortunately there was no concert at the time we stayed in Split, but I guess the acoustics are overwhelming. From the City Gate, a roofed hallway leads to Peristil square. On the way to the square, there's the impressive Vestibulum (Entrance Hall, Vestibule) - some sort of open dome with a round hole in the middle. This structure looks interesting from above, too (see picture on the left). When stepping out of the hallway onto Peristil, it's worth to look behind. There you will see the fascinating façade of the emperor's residence itself - perfectly preserved and framed by newer but not disturbing buildings featuring colonnades (for a picture of the palace itself see →History of Croatia).
Countless Souvenir shops and street cafés line up along Peristil. Prices are comparetively high, but enjoying the atmosphere while sipping an espresso is priceless. Another fascinating fact about the Diocletian palace is the diversity of architectural styles: Impressive examples of Romanesque and Roman, Gothic and Renaissance architecture form a unique melange. It's amazing how much is left of the original palace. Fortunately, Split wasn't attacked during the war from 1991 to 1995.
|The cathedral in the centre of Split|
Already from far (see picture at the top) you will notice a tall, white tower called Stolna crkva (Cathedral), which is a Neo-Romanesque structure. It's possible to climb the tower, admission fee is 5 Kuna, but it's quite tough - the stairways are extremely narrow compared to the vast number of visitors. The platform atop provides a stunning view over the entire palace and the vicinity. The city walls surrounding the palace are well preserved, too. The south-east corner of the palace is marked by the so-called Katedrala, which was built during the reign of Diocletian and originally used as a mausoleum. Further to the west there's the Sv. Ivan Krstitelj (St Ivan Baptistery) - once used as a Jupiter temple.
Needless to say that there are also countless museums in town giving fascinating insights into the history of Split and Dalmatia. Among them are the Enthographic Museum, the Archeological Museum, the City Museum, a gallery and many others. It's also worth to explore all the small lanes inside the palace to experience the unique atmosphere of this town. Although the area of the palace is rather small, it's possible to get lost for a while. However, the city walls and the central cathedral make it easy to orientate. Of course, countless restaurants and souvenir shops cater to the visitors.
When in Dalmatia, exploring at least one of the many islands is a must. Croatia has more than 1,000 islands, but only few of them are big enough to be inhabited. Near Split, the islands of Brač, Korčula, Hvar and Vis belong to the bigger ones. Brač island is almost rectangular in shape, about 37 km long and 12 km wide. Which means that this is one of Croatia's biggest islands. The port of Split is around 15 km away. The main town on the island is called Supetar and stretches along the northern seashore. Several ferries a day run between Split and Supetar. The trip takes less than one hour, making it a perfect day trip.
|White chapel on Brač island|
Supetar is a rather small town, and there are some other small towns and villages on the island - connected by an excellent road network. The island also offers large seaside resorts, especially concentrating along the northern coast. Except for the flat land along the northern coast, the island is quite mountainous. The highest mountain right in the middle of the island is 780 m high Vidova gora. There's not much forest left on the island - the landscape is dominated by meadows and bushes. Brač makes for a nice hiking place. However, don't expect quiet spots at the sea - at least not in summer.
West of Supetar and not very far from the centre, there's a small, white chapel standing next to an old cemetary. The chapel is rather new, but it looks nice - especially with the sea and the Dinaric Alps in the background. As everywhere in Croatia, the colour and purity of the sea is amazing. One of the reasons for the beautiful turquoise colour is the omnipresent limestone.
|Old, traditional stone cottage in Supetar|
The centre of Supetar and the touristy, overcrowded stretch along the coast are not very attractive. However, the further you get away from it, the more interesting it gets. Outside Supetar, there are some interesting, even romantic places with old stone cottages hidden behind tall hedges, nice gardens and much more. This can be said about other Croatian islands as well: They offer everything - mass tourism which huge and ugly concrete blocks, small, traditional villages, a breathtaking setting and more. Exploring the Dalmatian islands is, of course, very time-consuming.
There are numerous hotels and pensions in and around Split - just look for the signs hanging out everywhere. When arriving by train, bus or ferry, some, mostly older, women approach offering private rooms - at least in summer. Sometimes it's possible to negotiate. It's a good idea to listen to at least two offers and to check the location, because it might be a room far away from it all. One of them is Prenoćište (=inn) Dragica Bilić. A double in summer will set you back € 30. We were listening to some other offers, but this was the cheapest. It's a three minutes walk to the palace and to the train station from there. The owner is quite friendly. Address: Kralja Zvonimira 12, 21000 Split, Tel: 021-554 201
|21000 Split · Plinarska 75|
Number of floors:
Number of rooms: 11
Rates from: US$115
|The 4-star Divota Apartment Hotel offers comfort and convenience whether you're on business or holiday in Split. The hotel offers guests a range of services and amenities designed to provide comfort and convenience. Facilities like family room, smoking area, airport transfer, concierge, safety deposit boxes are readily available for you to enjoy. In room safe, refrigerator, ironing facilities, hair dryer, satellite/cable TV can be found in each guestroom. The hotel offers various recreational opportunities. For reliable service and professional staff, Divota Apartment Hotel caters to your needs.|
|21000 Split · Zadarska 13|
Number of floors:
Number of rooms: 21
Rates from: US$149
|Stop at Hotel Marmont to discover the wonders of Split. The hotel offers guests a range of services and amenities designed to provide comfort and convenience. Service-minded staff will welcome and guide you at the Hotel Marmont. Relax in your comfortable guestroom, featuring non smoking rooms, hair dryer, air conditioning, in room safe, mini bar. The hotel's peaceful atmosphere extends to its recreational facilities which include massage. Discover all Split has to offer by making Hotel Marmont your base.|
|21430 Split · Put Sv. Nikole 51|
Number of floors:
Number of rooms: 6
Rates from: US$271
|Stop at Martinis Marchi Hotel to discover the wonders of Split. The hotel has everything you need for a comfortable stay. Facilities like room service, car park, Wi-Fi in public areas, family room, bar/pub are readily available for you to enjoy. The well-appointed guestrooms feature internet access – wireless (complimentary), hair dryer, in room safe, television LCD/plasma screen, internet access – wireless. To enhance guests' stay, the hotel offers recreational facilities such as sauna, garden, massage, outdoor pool. No matter what your reasons are for visiting Split, Martinis Marchi Hotel will make you feel instantly at home.|
- www.split.hr Official website of Split. Nice layout. Croatian and English.
Do you have or do you know a good website about Split? Don't hesitate, let me know! After checking it, I would love to add it to the link list. You can submit a link by using the →contact form. Note that commercial websites will be treated differently.