This destination along the Dalmatian Coast is popular mainly with European tourists looking to make a sunny getaway. Despite its location along the Adriatic Sea, there’s a rich history here in Split, as evidenced by the city’s architecture and vast array of museums.
Currency: Croatian kuna. 100 kunas is equal to about 13EUR or 18USD.
Language: Hrvatski, or Croatian. However, English is widely recognized and spoken by locals.
Tap Water: Go ahead and drink up, it’s safe!
Open Container Laws: Like many countries in the EU, it’s totally cool to drink in public as long as you’re not a drunken mess and don’t bother anyone.
Drinking Age: 18 to purchase, old enough to have to shave to drink.
Car? Nah. The roads are ancient and narrow and Split is a mostly pedestrian city. Take a bus from the airport to your crib and explore on foot. You’ll notice the little details that make this such a charming corner of the world and burn off all the calories you’re piling into your face at the same time.
WiFi: Most every place has it, and it’s almost always locked. The good news is that most cafés and restaurants have the password printed right on the menu, and display the menus out front for passers-by.
Goodbye– Do Videnja (doe vid-jen-ya)
Thank You–Hvala (like “holla!” with a v)
Getting to Split is easiest by air, with passengers flying into Kaštela Split International Airport (SPU). It’s a small airport with only 8 terminals, so getting through is seamless and as hassle-free as you can get while traveling through airports abroad.
There are also regional bus lines that connect from other cities in Croatia, so it might be cheaper to fly into Zagreb or Dubrovnik and bus it from there. It all depends on your specific itinerary.
If arriving by air, take the Croatia Airlines airport shuttle bus located on the right-hand side of the parking lot just after exiting the arrivals hall. It’s 33 Croatian kunas (about 4EUR/6USD) and the ride to the city center is smooth, organized, and air-conditioned. A taxi to the city center of Split will run you about 350 kunas.
All throughout the city center and Old Town, you’ll see signs for apartments, hotels, and hostels. Apartment rentals have been squirreled away into pockets of the renowned Diocletian’s Palace, the city’s most-recognized landmark built as a retirement home for King Diocletian centuries ago. In addition to these accommodations, several locals have posted their homes and spare rooms on Airbnb, as well as Couchsurfing.
Tripadvisor, Like Croatia, and pretty much every travel website with information on Split will tell you the same things: the majesty of Diocletian’s Palace, have fun in the sun on Bačvice Beach, look out at the splendor of Split on Marjan Hill. Yes. You should do these things. But additionally, you should do other things. Things like…
FOR THOSE WHO LIKE ORGANIZATION
-There are countless tourism offices located off the main promenade toward Marjan Hill. In these offices, you can rent bikes, boats, and cars. Also, these places organize day trips to the outlying islands of Hvar, Vis, and Bisevo (among others) with full-day itineraries mapped out so that you don’t miss any of the sights these islands have to offer. They get pricey and have to be booked at least 24 hours in advance (two of the reasons I didn’t take these tours), but they are run by locals who know what they’re doing, so you’re in safe hands.
-Take in a history lesson. Beneath the gift shop of Diocletian’s Palace is a tour of the basement catacombs. It’s 40 kunas for adults and 20 kunas for children and students.
FOR THOSE WHO JUST WANT TO CHILL
-Stroll along the promenade, enjoy a tall can of Ožujsko (the national pivo) or some wine and a snack. Beverages can be purchased from almost all of the trafikas lining the streets.
-Head a little further westward than Plaza Ješinec to Plaza Kaštelet, a beach with sand and small pebbles where you can relax under the Croatian sun. There are changing stalls as well as shaded coffee bars for your comfort and convenience so that you can spend all day on the beach. Showers are available for a fee. The coffee bars don’t offer food, so bring a sandwich or two along with you to enjoy by the sea.
-Enjoy a drink at Vidilica. This postcard-perfect viewpoint of Split is, as described ever-so-accurately in a travel guide that my Airbnb host left for me: The place where anti-depressant commercials should be filmed. To say the view is spectacular is a vast understatement and, quite frankly, selling the place short. They’ve got rows of loungers set up facing the city so no one is without a stunning vista.
-Have a meal along the marina. There are two restaurants (F-Marine, F-Maduro) west of the city center on the way to the beaches that serve food and drinks and have free wifi. Take a load off and watch the rich people float by on their yachts.
FOR THE YOUNG AND SPRY ADVENTUROUS TYPES
-Climb the bell tower of Diocletian’s Palace. Entry fee is a mere 15 kunas, and the view from the top is unmatched. It’s the best view you can get of Split, and something that can’t be missed if you’re in town. I stress here that you need to be in good physical condition; there is a sign posted as you make your way up that clearly states in several languages that you are climbing at your own risk. It’s easy to see why, as the stairs are incredibly narrow and steep, at one point, only one stair separates your head from the feet of the person in front of you.
-Hike the trails of Marjan Hill. Getting to the viewpoint (called Vidilica) of the hill in itself is a bit of a workout with its steady stream of stairs, but just past Vidilica is another incline leading further up the hill. You’ll find trails up there perfect for the athlete looking to stay in shape while in Split or the rugged outdoorsy types.
-Jump off cliffs into the Adriatic Sea. On the bottom of Marjan Hill and west of the city center, you’ll find the Plaza Ješinec: a coastline cupped by cliffs. Put your bag down (no one will touch it, as there’s this unsaid unanimous decision that everyone made to enjoy the water together and not be a thieving jerk; you’ll see plenty of unmanned bags strewn around), strip down to your suit and go leap off a cliff into the ocean! If no one else is doing it, be the first. Take a swim in the Adriatic or just do cannonball after cannonball. Just make sure not to cross the line of bouys situated a little ways out in the surf, because it’s illegal and you might die in the waves (and nobody wants that).
Split’s fare centers around seafood, so many of the local restaurants offer fresh fish that I’m told is amazing. Most menus are divided into categories for easier scoring: meat and chicken dishes, seafood dishes, pizza, pasta and risotto, vegetarian dishes, salads, and of course, dessert. Gelato stops are at every twist and turn with flavors piled high like mountains in the freezer cases. Go crazy.
You’re in luck, as almost every menu that I read had either a full vegetarian section or a few pizza and pasta/risotto dishes. You don’t have to subsist off salad in this city by the sea, I promise. Go get some gelato and give yourself a high-five. For more vegetarian tips, keep on reading while I outline eats for vegans.
Okay, so while you have to resist the ultimate gelato temptation that haunts you every couple hundred meters, the good news is that most restaurants offer one or two vegan pasta dishes. During my time in Split, I ate Pasta Neopolitana (pasta with a simple spiced tomato sauce) and also a pasta dish made with olive oil, cherry tomatoes, and garlic. Another food option that I noticed for vegans was a grilled corn station just off the Riva Splitska by the National Theater. Additionally, there are several markets tucked in the old stone buildings that have produce, and a few small bakeries stashed in the Old Town that sell fresh bread for a meager 5 kunas. Of course, if you have a kitchen at your disposal, you can also pick up some pasta, sauce, and veggies from the market and whip up something delicious.
Pizzeria Portas–incredible vegan pasta and (from the looks of it), beautiful pizzas of all varieties. There’s a romantic terrace within Diocletian’s Palace where your meal can be enjoyed as well as in-restaurant seating. Expect to spend about 50 kunas per person for food, an extra 20 kunas or so if you prefer a beverage. I brought my water bottle in with me and the waitstaff didn’t have a problem with it. Wifi is free, and the staff is top-notch.
Paradox Wine and Cheese Bar–this is Tripadvisor’s top-rated eatery in Split, and for good reason. Located off the beaten path of the promenade behind the National Theater, the menu features olives and sun-dried tomatoes that come in portions generous enough to satisfy even the hungriest vegan. Additionally, all cheeses are served with fresh bread and seasonal jams, so if you’re with a nonvegan, share in the wealth of the jam! If you’re alone, request some. The staff is incredibly accommodating and trained to assist its customers without a language barrier. Also, your wine is served to you with a complete rundown of its origins. You’ll want to order several glasses just for the history lesson! Set a high budget for this place; it’s pricey but worth it. I skated out with a bill of only 150 kunas for two glasses of wine, olives, sundried tomatoes, and seasonal jam, but I’m one person. Couples and groups could run up a tab, but like I said, worth it. Wifi is free, but the signal is very weak out on the patio (where I recommend that you sit), so put the phone down, drink some wine, and enjoy the people around you.
Teraca Bamba–this little coffee bar is situated on a street called Solurat above the ground level. As with every coffee bar I saw in Split, the offerings are mostly alcoholic beverages, coffees, teas, and nonalcoholic juices and sodas. What separates Teraca Bamba from the rest of Split’s copious coffee bar scene is the view it offers its customers: there is no indoor seating, only a shaded outdoor terrace with a dazzling view of the Riva Splitska. I saw a few sandwiches on the menu if you’re feeling peckish, but none were vegan (note the the vegans, liquor will do you just fine). Wifi is free and though it is a popular spot, the terrace was never crowded, even at peak points in the day. To get to Solurat, take the first set of stone stairs leading up to Marjan Hill and make a right. You’ll see the terrace on your right-hand side a few meters later.
You absolutely will not see a Starbucks anywhere near the vicinity of Split. Coffee is an art to be savored and enjoyed here in this coastal town, not some cheap commodity. Coffee is available at most restaurants and cafés, and enjoyed at all times of the day. I only had espresso (and it was delicious), but if you do dairy, don’t skimp on the lattes. These Croatians know what they’re doing when it comes to a perfect cup, and they don’t make it look too terrible, either.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Despite the strange conversion of euros/dollars to kunas, you can skip through Split on a budget. Most meals are around 50 kunas per person, and you can re-use the gargantuan water bottles purchased in the markets, refilling them with water from the tap. The beach is free. The alcohol is cheap. The labyrinth of Diocletian’s Palace and the Old Town provide hours of entertainment within themselves; you can get lost in the architecture and Old World charm that drips off the buildings of this little town on the coast. Whether you come for the beach, the history, the experience, or a mixture of all three, just know this: after the sunscreen is washed off and the sand is rinsed out of your hair, you’ll still have a little bit of Dalmatia tucked with you for years to come…but probably forever.