Sight Seeing in Split, Croatia

In recent years, Croatia has probably become most well known as the set location for the ever popular HBO series “Game of Thrones”. While the show films most extensively in Dubrovnik, the crowd of wildly intoxicated fans wandering the streets on the night of our arrival made it very clear that any large city would be a destination for the travelers. As someone who has never even watched an episode of the show, I was just happy to experience the beautiful city- so let me know if I’ve been anywhere that was featured on the show!

Luckily, we had arrived towards the end of travel season, and by Monday the majority of the rowdy youths had cleared out. Still, it left a bit of a bad taste in our mouths and we made a concentrated effort to learn some Croatian vocabulary in an attempt to balance out their rude visitors.

Since we had arrived in the evening, we wanted to hit the ground running with some good old fashioned view points. Nearly half of the car-free city center of Old Town Split is formed by the ancient Diocletian Palace so we immediately went to climb up the iconic bell tower of the Cathedral of Saint Domnius. Tickets are required to enter, but they are available for purchase at the tourist center just across the main square.

While around 200 steps up to the peak of the Bell Tower already seems like a lot, its important to note that many of these already narrow steps are nearly knee high- its definitely not a climb for the faint of heart.

There are a few open platforms to stop for a break and a few pictures on the way up, so make sure to take advantage of those opportunities- we really got our workout in for the day, and it was only our first stop! Best to visit this attraction while your legs are still fresh.

Once the highest view point is reached, however, all the sweating, swearing, and breathlessness is worth it. The bell tower is the highest structure around which means it’s got an incredible view of the surrounding city, mountains, and ocean. Spectacular views sprawl out in every direction.

After we’d taken in the views and struggled our way back down those steps, we explored all around the rest of Diocletian’s Palace. For a structure built in the 4th century, it’s remarkably well preserved. Although the narrow pathways and winding streets of the palace and surrounding Old Town may seem confusing at first, it’s not a very large area so feel free to wander without the fear of getting lost; if you hit the Palace walls, just turn back around!

While we did see a huge portion of the Old Town, I did feel that I would have benefited from a tour guide. The architecture was beautiful, but I had no idea what I was looking at! This can, of course, be solved with a dedicated perusal of a local guide book, but it was a long trip and we were feeling a bit lazy.

We entertained ourselves for a while checking out the vendors that had stalls set up underneath the palace, and practicing our new Croatian phrases on them. This seemed equally entertaining to the vendors who returned our efforts by correcting our pronunciation and offering us little vocabulary lessons. “Fala”, we learned, is a local way to say “thank you” and was leagues easier for us to pronounce than “hvala”.

Sandwiched between Old Town and the waterfront, Split’s promenade Riva is home to cute little restaurants, bars, and bakeries. In warm weather, it makes for a lovely walk along the water. Making our way down the promenade, we stopped to explore the awe inspiring Trg Republic, with its huge courtyard of arched walls.

Continuing on in that direction lead us to the Marjan Hill Stairs, which winds up a hill to a lovely overview of the city. I didn’t find it quite as impressive as the view from the bell tower, but nevertheless, it was an enjoyable hike- and it was free!

Since we were traveling at the very end of the season in early November, we elected to have a rather short stay in Split. It was a little on the chilly side at night, but a light jacket easily solved the issue so I was shocked to see how quickly the city shut down. I’d estimate that about half of the restaurants in the city were closed for the season by the time we arrived.

We spent one evening eating ice cream and watching a crew break down the main tourist pavilion outside of our hotel. Even ferries were limited to non-existent, which meant we weren’t able to go island hopping, or even take the ferry between Split and Dubrovnik!

With these limitations, it was definitely a different experience, but not one I can say I regret. From what we heard from the locals, we had a rare opportunity to see the area with significantly less crowds. Still, I think it would have been much more enjoyable to have visited earlier in the season- the city did feel unsettlingly like a ghost town at night. Make note- visit Split in early Spring or late Summer to balance the crowds with the the city life.

For those interested in a little more nature on their visit, check out my post about our Plitvice Lakes National Park Tour.

6 thoughts on “Sight Seeing in Split, Croatia

    1. You’re going to love it! I’m in the middle of a series of Croatia specific posts, but don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions! We didn’t do a whole lot of day trips, but for Split and Dubrovnik, I’ve got you.

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