Croatia Guide: Split
After spending a few days in Dubrovnik I finally felt like I could breathe in Split. Split is still a large and crowded city but it does not feel overrun with tourists the way Dubrovnik does. The restaurants and cafe’s in the old town offer a good mix of locals and visitors.
Split is known for it’s nightlife and at some times of year becomes a big spring break destination. While I didn’t go to many clubs myself I hear the city really gets going after 2am. If you are looking for an earlier night there are so many hip and trendy restaurants on every corner.
Where to Stay
In Split (and much of Croatia) you will have a choice of staying in the Old Town or staying in a big hotel chain. In the Old Town you will only find small inns, guesthouses and apartments for rent. Wanting to be close to the action we chose to rent an apartment on VRBO. We stayed in the lovely Stone Villa which was just a short walk to all the restaurants and things to see. The apartment and the hosts were great. Apartments fill up fast in the summer so you will need to book at least 3 months out to get something good. You should also set your expectations that this is a very old European country. Outside of the big hotel chains you will likely find things like tiny bathrooms, low ceilings, awkward hand held showers, etc., which are pretty common and normal.
Outside of the city, about a 20 minute taxi ride there are two large hotels, Le Meridien and Raddison Blu. Both are lovely beach front properties with pools, watersports, beach cabanas and restaurants to enjoy.
Things to see & do
Riva – The main promenade on the water in Split is called the Riva. The whole area is lined with restaurants with outdoor dining terraces where you can sit and watch the boats and the palm trees and people pass by. A great photo opportunity is the large Split sign near where the cruise ships dock. At night it is lit up and there will be a line of people taking photos.
Beach Club @ Le Meridien – Within the Old Town there is not really any where to swim or lay on the beach. For that you will need to go a little bit outside the city. If you are looking for a bit of a luxury experience the Beach Club at Le Meridien Lav is a great place to spend the day. If you rent a beach cabana you get full access to the hotel amenities including the pools and locker rooms. There is a day club on site at Le Meridien called the Gooshter Beach Club or there are plenty of relaxing beach front cabanas in the quieter area of the beach.
Pro-Tip: Almost all Croatian beaches are stone beaches, not sand, so water shoes are a must. Bring your own or buy a pair for about $10 from a street vendor in the Old Town.
Bicycle Tour – Taking a bicycle trip outside the city is a great way to view the city from above. We took a bicycle guide who brought us into the Marjan Forest Park and the paths above the city. We had great views and enjoyed working off a few of the calories from all the meals we had in the evenings.
Corn on the cob – A unique thing in many Croatian cities is fresh corn on the cob being grilled and served by street vendors. Try this tasty treat to refuel for all the walking you will surely be doing.
Bokeria – Bokeria was one of my favorite meals of the trip. It is a wine bar with a mix of Spanish-Mediterranean cuisine. I had the oxtail & chateaubriand (beef) risotto and it was by far the best thing I ate in Croatia (although that bar is a little low; I didn’t love most of the other meals I had.) We also had our favorite bottle of wine here a local ….. which we were not able to find at any other restaurants. The ambiance is very cozy with indoor and outdoor dining which flows together, appropriately dim lighting and hanging cured meats and bottles of wine for decor. Bokeria is probably one of the most popular reservations in Split and I would make a reservation a few weeks in advance.
Pro-tip Most restaurants and other sorts of venues do their reservations over either email, whatsapp or facebook messenger. Don’t even bother opening Open Table while in Croatia.
Oyster & Sushi Bar Bota ($$) – Most of the restaurants in Croatia serve typical Dalmatian food (think meat and potatoes). After a few too many of those meals finding a sushi restaurant was a welcome treat. This restaurant has a lovely outdoor dining space which is shared by a few neighboring restaurants. It creates an enjoyable atmosphere and on the night we visited some musicians were playing live music in the square. The sushi itself was good, better than expected in a country with so few non-local cuisines, but not the best sushi I ever ate. The service was also quite average but the Oyster and Sushi bar is worth it if you need a break from Dalmatian food.
Zinfandel – Zinfandel is another very cute little restaurant serving Dalmatian food. It may be hard to find as it is tucked into one of the narrow alley ways near Diocletian’s Palace. While the food was a bit more of the same that you will find all throughout town, the draw here is the live music. The night we went they had a lovely guy-girl duo sitting right next to the bar singing gorgeous music to both the diners and passerbys on the street who stopped to listen through the open restaurant windows.
Split is the place to visit for the nightlife, some people have referred to it as the Ibiza of the Adriatic. I would be remiss to not mention that in an article about Croatia, however I am a bit old and didn’t make it out to see much of the nightlife myself as all the clubs start after 1 in the morning! We did stumble into one cool place that was open earlier called Inbox. This is an open air club in what looks to be a public open space in the middle of town. You can hear the DJ from a few blocks away and wander straight onto the dance floor from the street.
Overall Split is a great city to visit. Whether you stay in a luxury resort and spend your afternoons by the pool, or stay in the Old Town and have dinners while viewing the palace walls you will surely enjoy yourself.