10 Top Tourist Attractions in Split & Easy Day Trips
Split, Croatia's second largest city, not only serves as a convenient base from which to explore this beautiful country, it also boasts a number of excellent tourist attractions of its own. The city was continuously inhabited for thousands of years starting with the Romans, followed by the Byzantines, Croats, Venetians, and finally the Austrians who only left in 1918. Highlights of Split's beautifully preserved Old Town include the famous Palace of Diocletian; the Archeological Museum; and what many consider to be Croatia's best art museum, the Ivan Meštrović Gallery. Split's main tourist center is just east of the lovely waterfront promenade, where visitors will find some of the city's best dining, entertainment, and hotels. For those using Split as a jumping-off point from which to explore other areas of Croatia, you'll find the ancient city of Salona and the beautiful beaches of Zlatni Rat, Brela, the Pakleni Islands, Solta, and Milna all within easy access.
See also: Where to Stay in Split
1 Diocletian's Palace
Commissioned by the Emperor after which it's named, the spectacular Diocletian's Palace is a well-preserved structure built in Roman military camp style. Although Emperor Diocletian only lived here for eight years until his death in AD 313, the palace continued to play an important role as an administrative center and the governor's residence. Three centuries later, in AD 615, the palace was used as a refuge for the residents of Salona when their city was sacked by the Avars. Originally some 215 meters long, 180 meters wide, and enclosed with thick walls up to 28 meters high, the palace was also protected by towers at each corner and boasted four entrances, three of note: the Golden Gate, Silver Gate, and Iron Gate. Leading in from the gates on each side, two roads are laid out according to Roman tradition. Several notable attractions within this UNESCO World Heritage Site include the Temple of Jupiter, the Cathedral of St. Domnius and medieval Brace Radica Square with its 15th-century Marina Tower, the 17th-century Milesi Palace, and a statue of Marko Marulic - considered the founder of Croatian literature - made by Ivan Meštrović.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Split
2 Cathedral of St. Domnius
The Cathedral of St. Domnius (Katedrala Sv. Duje), lying within the ancient area of Diocletian's Palace and originally Diocletian's mausoleum, was designed by Filotas and consecrated in the 7th century. The cathedral has changed little since then, apart from the addition of a 60-meter-tall bell tower built in stages from the 12th to the 16th centuries (the tower can be climbed and presents great views of the palace). Laid out on an octagonal pattern and with a double line of columns - some of them Roman originals - this splendid Corinthian-designed cathedral also contains many notable interior features, in particular the Altar of St. Domnius and the 13th-century hexagonal Romanesque stone pulpit.
3 The Ivan Meštrović Gallery
While numerous fine examples of Ivan Meštrović's work can be seen across the city, the best place to find out more about Croatia's most revered artist is at the gallery named after him, the Ivan Meštrović Gallery. A good friend of Rodin, Meštrović was widely considered one of the most important sculptors of the 20th century. He oversaw the design of the gallery himself. Originally his residence during the 1930s, the Ivan Meštrović Gallery was started in 1952 after a substantial donation of art from the artist himself. Highlights include a collection of 86 statues in marble, stone, bronze, wood, and gypsum; numerous drawings; and eight large bronze statues in the gallery's pleasant gardens.
Address: Šetalište Ivana Meštrovića 46, 21000, Split
4 Marjan Forest Park and the Marjan Stairway
The citizens of Split are proud of Marjan Forest Park, and with good reason. Dating back to the fourth century, this beautiful park occupies a peninsula overlooking the city and is a wonderful retreat for foot-weary visitors. Apart from its many rest areas and benches, the park is notable for its towering pine trees, which shelter peaceful walking trails. Also of interest is the famous Marjan Stairway, which provides access to the vantage point of Telegrin where the views out to sea are spectacular and include places such as the Kastela Gulf; Salona and Klis; Trogir and Ciovo; and the islands of Solta, Brac, Hvar, and Vis (climbing is a popular sport on the cliffs below the lookout). Marjan Forest Park can be easily accessed from central Split by walking through the old quarter of Varos, a 15-minute walk.
5 The People's Square
Dating from the 15th century, the People's Square (Narodni Trg Pjaca) in Split features many interesting Renaissance, Venetian, and Gothic buildings constructed by the through the ages. Of particular note is the Venetian-Gothic Cambi Palace, along with the Renaissance-style Town Hall building, home to the Ethnographic Museum of Split, a fascinating museum that is well worth a visit. The People's Square lies in the area once occupied by the Palace of Diocletian and is west of the Peristyle. Also of interest is the nearby statue of Grgur Ninski (Gregory of Nin), created by famous Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović.
6 Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments
Focusing on artifacts from the 7th to the 15th centuries, the Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments should feature highly on every visitor's list of Split's must-see attractions. One of the oldest museums in Croatia (it was founded in 1893), the facility continues to be actively involved in the research and collection of new items, with a particular focus on the south Croatian region between the Cetina and Zrmanja Rivers. Housed in a modern building specially built for it in 1976, the museum has around 20,000 items in its collection of which it displays approximately 25% at any given time. The collection is composed primarily of jewelry, weapons, and stone carvings from Croatian churches, augmented by regular temporary exhibits.
Address: Stjepana Gunjace bb, Split
7 Split Archaeological Museum
The Archaeological Museum should be on every history buff's list of must-see attractions when in Split. Considered to be the oldest such institution in Croatia, the museum was founded in 1820 and has been at its present location since 1922. Highlights of its more than 150,000 items include the country's largest collection of gems, as well as stone carvings from Salona, Greco Hellenistic ceramics, Roman glass, approximately 1,600 ancient clay lamps, and numerous bone and metal objects (also worth a visit is the museum's beautiful garden).
Address: Frankopanska 25, Split
8 The Church of St. Dominic
Rebuilt in the 17th century and enlarged in the 1930s, Split's Church of St. Dominic (Srebrna Vrata I Sv. Dominik) stands on the site of the former Oratory of St. Catherine. Originally constructed in the middle ages, this splendid church features artwork by Palma il Giovane and his followers, including the famous Miracle in Surian and Apparition in the Temple. Also of interest is the nearby marketplace with its wide range of fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and meats from across Croatia (it also boasts the best views of Diocletian's Palace).
9 Croatian National Theatre in Split
Opened in 1893 and one of the oldest such buildings in the country, the Croatian National Theatre in Split (HNK Split) continues to play an important role in the city's vibrant arts and cultural community. All told, the theater holds a diverse program of more than 300 performances annually, including everything from ballet to theatrical events, as well as classical music performed by a local symphony orchestra. The National Theatre also hosts a number of important festivals, including the popular Split Summer Festival (Splitsko ljeto), one of the country's oldest performing arts events, and the Days of Marulić (Marulićevi dani), a weeklong celebration of important Croatian literature.
Address: Trg Gaje Bulata 1, 21000, Split
10 The Baptistery of St. John and the Papalić Palace
The Baptistery of St. John (Sv. Ivan Krstitelj) is centrally located inside Diocletian's Palace. Consecrated in the sixth century, it was originally a Roman religious building, the Temple of Jupiter. Several features of note are the baptismal font with a panel representing King Zvonimir and other dignitaries, as well as carvings by Ivan Meštrović that were added to the statue of St. John on the end wall. Also of interest are the tombs of two bishops from the 8th and 11th centuries. A number of interesting relics from both the Baptistery of St. John and Diocletian's Palace can also be enjoyed at the neighboring Museum of Split (Muzej Grada Splita), in the former Gothic Papalić Palace. Considered to be the finest of the 15th- and 16th-century buildings constructed in the open areas of Diocletian's Palace, the museum is noted for its collection of books illustrating the history of the city, as well as an armory featuring weaponry from the 15th to 18th centuries.
Address: Papaliceva 1, Split
Where to Stay in Split for Sightseeing
We recommend these charming hotels in Split, steps from the old town's top attractions:
- Heritage Hotel Antique Split: luxury family-run hotel, heart of Diocletian's palace, original stone walls, sumptuous fabrics.
- Divota Apartment Hotel: 4-star hotel, old town location, historic building, contemporary furnishing, rooms and apartments, spa treatments.
- Hotel Marul: mid-range pricing, short stroll to the old town, modern decor, wonderful free breakfast.
- Nirvana Rooms & Apartments: budget-friendly bed-and-breakfast, great location, bright rooms, shared kitchen and courtyard.
Day Trips from Split
The City of Salona
About eight kilometers north of Split is the old town of Salona (Solin), a popular destination for history buffs. Occupied by Illyrians, Greeks, and finally the Romans, this ancient town holds many historical attractions within its ancient city walls, including its amphitheater, aqueduct, Bishop's complex, and forum. Built by the Romans in the second century, the impressive Salona Amphitheatre is designed to hold up to 20,000 people at a time and is notable for its underground channels, believed to have been used for staging mock naval battles. Built in the first century, the Salona Aqueduct is an impressive sight that is easily accessible and once carried water from the river Jadro to Split, ending at Diocletian's Palace.
Zlatni Rat and Nearby Beaches
Just a short distance from the ancient city of Salona and an easy day trip from Split, the popular beach areas of Zlatni Rat, Brela, Solta, Milna, and the Pakleni Islands are well worth visiting. Of these beautiful locations, the best known is Zlatni Rat (Golden Horn) on the south coast of Brač. Famous for its unique shape and formed largely from pebbles deposited here by wind and currents, this fascinating "spit" of land juts out into the sea some 500 meters, its shape changing a little each year. Overlooked by shady pine trees and the tall Vidova Gora mountain, the beach's warm waters ensure it is almost always busy come summer with locals and tourists alike, all of them enjoying great swimming and sunbathing as well as water sports such as paddle boating, kayaking, and windsurfing. Almost as popular (and equally beautiful) is Brela, consistently voted one of Europe's best beaches, and the Pakleni Islands, a spectacular 10-kilometer-long chain of islands boasting numerous quiet coves and lovely beaches.