12 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Split
On Croatia's gorgeous Dalmatian Coast, Split is the country's second largest city and a vibrant place that perfectly blends modern and ancient. It is also one of the Croatian cities used as a Game of Thrones set, and fans of the hit show can join an organized tour to learn more.
The town 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, and you'll find plenty of historic things to do in the wonderfully preserved Old Town. It is home to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Palace of Diocletian, one of the most impressive remaining Roman monuments; the Archeological Museum; and what many consider to be Croatia's best art museum, the Ivan Mestrovic Gallery.
Just east of its pretty waterfront promenade is Split's main tourist center, where visitors will find some of the top restaurants, entertainment venues, and hotels. There are also a number of wonderful day trips from Split that take you to other nearby parts of Croatia, like the ancient city of Salona and the beautiful beaches of Zlatni Rat, Brela, the Pakleni Islands, Solta, and Milna. Find the best places to visit in and around the city with our list of the top attractions and things to do in Split.
See also: Where to Stay in Split
1. Diocletian's Palace
The spectacular Diocletian's Palace is a well-preserved UNESCO World Heritage Site built in Roman military camp style, and a visit here is one of the top things to do in Split. Its basement also served as a set location for filming the Game of Thrones. 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 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. It is also possible to visit Diocletian's Palace and other attractions on a walking tour of 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 Mestrovic Gallery
While numerous fine examples of Ivan Mestrovic'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 Mestrovic Gallery. A good friend of Rodin, Mestrovic 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 Mestrovic 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: Setaliste Ivana Mestrovica 46, 21000, Split
4. Day Trips to 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 Brac. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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
Official site: www.mdc.hr/split-arheoloski/eng/index.html
7. Klis Fortress
Located about 12 kilometers northeast of the town center, the Klis Fortress is well worth a visit and can even be reached by city bus 22, which departs from Split's local bus station. If you watch Game of Thrones, you may recognize the castle as the City of Meereen. The impressive fortress sits along a limestone bluff, which is 385 meters at its tallest point, and it's used to control the valley leading into town. The fort is long and narrow thanks to its lengthy existence, which led to constant extensions as the centuries progressed.
A small museum on-site features displays about the castle's bloody past, as well as traditional costumes and swords. There is also a room dedicated to filming Game of Thrones, and visitors can climb over the fortifications inside. You can visit Klis Fortress and other Game of Thrones attractions, like the basement of Diocletian's Palace, which served Daenerys' Throne Room, on an organized Game of Thrones tour in Split.
Official site: https://www.tvrdavaklis.com/
8. Croatian National Theatre
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 Marulic (Marulicevi dani), a weeklong celebration of important Croatian literature.
Address: Trg Gaje Bulata 1, 21000, Split
9. 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 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 Mestrovic.
10. 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).
11. The Baptistery of St. John and the Papalic 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 Mestrovic, which 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 Papalic 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.
12. Day Trip to 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 Amphitheater 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. The Salona Aqueduct, built in the first century, is an impressive sight that is easily accessible and once carried water from the river Jadro to Split, ending at Diocletian's Palace.
Where to Stay in Split for Sightseeing
The most historic and atmospheric area to stay for sightseeing is the Old Town, where you'll also find many hotels, as well as tourist attractions, shops, restaurants, and cafes. Here are some of our favorites:
- Luxury Hotels: In Old Town, check out the wonderful Heritage Hotel Antique Split in the heart of Diocletian's Palace. This family-run luxe property offers the perfect mix of modern and ancient decor, with original stone walls and contemporary furniture. Another excellent luxury selection is the Palace Judita Heritage Hotel, which is also found right in the center of the Old Town and has elegant rooms with posh baths. If you want a romantic boutique hotel, try the Hotel Vestibul Plaza with just 11 rooms.
- Mid-Range Hotels: Divota Apartment Hotel is an excellent upper mid-range choice, popular with families for its contemporary rooms and apartments, Old Town location, and excellent spa treatments. Hotel Marul is another top mid-range property, just a short stroll to the old town. It features modern decor and a wonderful free breakfast.
- Budget Hotels: Nirvana Rooms & Apartments is at the upper end of the budget spectrum but features a great locale, delightful breakfast, and bright rooms. There is also a kitchen guests can use to cut down on meal costs. Villa Marjela features clean and comfortable rooms within walking distance of the Old Town. A breakfast buffet is also served.
Tips and Tours: Visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park
- Day Trip Tour to Plitvice Lakes National Park: Split makes a great base from which to explore some of Croatia's top tourist attractions on day trips. The full-day tour of Plitvice Lakes National Park visits this UNESCO-listed wilderness area, filled with breathtaking scenery and wonderful hiking trails. If you have limited time, it is best to explore with an organized day trip like this one, which takes you to the park under the care of an expert guide and allows for touring of the lakes by boat, and sightseeing by electric train or bus.
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Croatia's Dalmatian Coast: Charming towns and villages dot the picturesque Dalmatian Coast, the most famous of which is the port city of Dubrovnik. For ideas on what to see here, review our article on the Top Tourist Attractions in Dubrovnik and check out our pages on cities like Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, and Zadar, where you can visit its beautiful cathedral, old town, and beaches. For an overview of all the exciting things to see and do in this fascinating country, read our page on the Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Croatia.