With the new release of a digital nomad visa allowing Americans and other Non-EU citizens to live in Croatia, the country is now Europe’s latest hotspot. Split is one of the most popular destinations in Croatia. While the coastal city of Dubrovnik (better known as King’s Landing from Game of Thrones) further south gets most of the accolades, the port city of Split is on the itinerary for nearly all first-time visitors for a good reason.
Tourists, digital nomads, and ex-pats flock to Croatia’s second-largest city for its affordable living costs and picturesque combination of ancient ruins, a charming seaside promenade, and beautiful natural surroundings. Split is also home to one of the best-preserved examples of Roman architecture in the world outside of Italy.
Most visitors on a trip to Croatia head straight for the beautiful islands off the coast, which is understandable given the dramatic scenery, sun, and sea that the islands have to offer. However, it would be a pity to miss the cultural charms of Split.
The heart of Split’s historic center (Old Town) is the famous City Walls of the Diocletian Palace, built in the 4th century with stone from nearby islands. The walls, along with the residences, towers, and churches that make up the palace, have been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1979.
Split is an ideal Croatian home base for a two-day itinerary. There is a large selection of accommodations, several must-see attractions in the city center, a choice of places to eat, plenty of beaches, and enough nightlife to keep any party-goer busy. Plus, Split is a major transport hub and the gateway to exploring central Dalmatian islands like Hvar, Brac, and Vis. Visitors choosing to stay on the mainland can visit several Game of Thrones film locations such as Klis Fortress, Kastela, or Trogir.
This is a guest post by Marco Sison of Nomadic FIRE.
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Two Days In Split: Where To Stay.
As you can expect, this fantastic city is brimming with loads of hotels, hostels, and Airbnb; it is one of the most popular destinations in all of Croatia. For two days, what type of accommodation you prefer is probably less important than where in the city you should stay. The Old Town is the best place to stay in Split for a two-day itinerary.
If you are only visiting for a couple of days, then you’ll still want to pick a neighborhood that is convenient to everything. Old Town is the perfect place for tourists to stay. This neighborhood was the center of life in Medieval times, and it remains the heart of Split today. The area is within walking distance to all nearby city attractions. It is home to the city’s ancient ruins, a bustling shopping district, a lovely waterfront, and a bit of the nightlife.
How To Spend 2 Days In Split, A Perfect Itinerary
With all of the must-see attractions in Split, it’s easy to fill up a two-day itinerary. Your first day will be exploring the old city walls and the city’s beautiful old towns to experiencing Split’s incredible history. The second day will be taking a day trip to the nearby island of Hvar. But what if you more than have a day or two to spare? We have a couple of options you can add if you have extra time.
Day 1: Riva Waterfront Promenade, Diocletian Palace, the Cathedral of St. Dujam
If you’re planning a trip to Split, Croatia, and only have two days to explore, here’s what you absolutely must do. You’ll have to start your day at a Riva coffee shop for a relaxing morning with a selection of Croatian pastries and baked goods.
The Riva is what Croatians call a seaside promenade, and Split’s Riva is the best place in the city to start a morning of sightseeing. Here Roman buildings with their stone facades and quaint little alleys contrast with the outdoor cafés, restaurants, and shops lining the length of the ancient seaside promenade. The views of the busy harbor with boats heading out to sea provide a charming contrast to the relaxing start of the morning.
Then head to Diocletian’s Palace, the heart and soul of Split and one of the most impressive Roman monuments outside Italy. Originally built in 305 AD by the Roman emperor, Diocletian, the palace was built as the emperor’s retirement home. About 4-6 years after his retirement, the emperor died in the palace.
One and a half centuries after his death and the fall of the Roman Empire, refugees re-settled within the palace walls. The interior buildings have been damaged, rebuilt, and repurposed several times over the centuries as people went about their lives, but the external town walls still date from Diocletian’s time.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site in the heart of Split’s Old Town is so massive that you can easily spend a whole day exploring its narrow streets and crannies. However, if you only have a day, here are the two things you must see:
- Cathedral of St Domnius, originally the mausoleum and burial place of the emperor. When Christians took over the palace in the 7th century, they removed his body and turned his tomb into what is now the oldest original Catholic church.
- Peristyle is the impressive Palaces central square. Here flanked by Roman columns is a 3500-year-old perfectly preserved Egyptian sphinx standing watch over the court. There were originally 12 Sphinxes shipped to Split from Egypt after Diocletian squashed an Egyptian rebellion, but they were all decapitated and destroyed after the Christians took over the city. No one knows why this one survived.
Day 2: Klis Fortress and Hvar
This day assumes you are visiting after April when ferries start earlier and run later. Passenger tickets range from $6 to $17.
Split to Hvar- 14:00 15:05 Catamaran Adriana
Hvar to Split- 19:50 20:50 Catamaran Krilo Star
Often overshadowed by the Diocletian’s Palace, Klis Fortress is a hidden gem for tourists visiting Split. While missing the palace’s UNESCO World Heritage designation, the fortress is still one of Croatia’s most important historic sites and the royal castle of many Croatian kings.
But the fortress’s prominent acclaim is as the slave city of Maureen in Game of Thrones. Thousands of Game of Thrones fans visit the Klis Fortress every year. It’s one of the few filming locations for the entire GOT series where you can get up close and personal with the set. The walls, gates, towers, and courtyards of Klis are perfect for taking photos, and the film location museum is a must-see for fans of the show.
Klis Fortress is one of the few historical sites in the world, with a medieval wall built into the side of a mountain. It sits at the top of a deep gorge, and you can feel your heart pounding as you walk onto the fort’s ramparts.
Now you have time for a quick lunch on Riva before you hop on the 2 PM ferry to Hvar.
Located just 60 minutes away from Split, Hvar town is the favorite travel destination for locals and tourists looking for a day trip. The island is home to some of the most beautiful beaches and turquoise blue waters in the area and the ancient town of Hvar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Start sightseeing at Hvar’s Old Town. Hvar Town, the oldest in the entire country, started as a Greek settlement in 384 BC. The Stari Grad museum even has a Roman shipwreck on exhibit. Next, head to Hvar’s central square (Pjaca). To the east, you’ll find the Baroque-style St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The catholic cathedral built in 1605 AD on top of a previous church from the 6th century is a foundation of the island’s history.
When you’ve had your fill of history and culture, head to one of the many famous beaches. Hvar’s popularity booms during the warmer months. When yachts and celebrities come during the summer, Hvar becomes party central. The two most popular clubs to spend a beach day are:
Hula Hula Hvar- Best known as the “daytime” club. Hula Hula brings the tropical island vibes to the Adriatic waters.
Carpe Diem- The seen-and-be-seen VIP place on the island. During peak season, the club is reservation only.
Practical Tips for your 2-Day Split Itinerary
When is the best time to visit Split?
For those looking to visit Split for the first time, it’s hard to imagine a better time of the year to visit than spring. The stunning beaches and numerous islands around Split make summer the peak period a great time to visit this city, but the spring season has the advantage of being both more affordable and less crowded. In the springtime, the mild Mediterranean climate provides warm sun and cool fresh air and the city’s best attractions without having to elbow your way through a crowd of other tourists.
How to get from the Split airport to the city center
The cheapest method is the city bus that travels from Split International Airport to within 700 meters of Diocletian’s Palace and costs about 17 km (about $2.65). It’s bus number 37, and the schedule runs all day, including Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. You can buy a bus ticket directly from the driver on the bus.
For slightly more (still only $5), there is also an airport bus run by Croatian Airlines, though anyone can ride it. This bus picks you up outside the Arrivals gate and drops you off at the central bus station next to the port in Old Town. The bus times line up with Croatian Airlines’ Arrival times, so check the airline’s schedule to see if this bus works for you.
If you don’t want to take a bus, there are three ride-sharing apps, Uber, Bolt, and the cheapest, Cammeo, for roughly $30 fixed price fares from the airport.
How to get around the city
It is entirely possible to visit Split for a two-day trip and not rent a car. The tourist area of Split isn’t huge. Walking the length of the peninsula from the top of Marjan Park overlooking the Adriatic sea, all the way to the main city beach, Bacvice, would take you about one hour.
The only public transportation in Split are the city buses, but they are on time and reasonably convenient. There are 19 routes (confusingly numbered 1-22) plus three additional night routes (22, 39, 40).
$2 will get you to most places in the city. $5 for a 24-hour pass is an even better deal. There is also a $12 72-hour pass that would be perfect for a two-day itinerary.
If you want to rent a car, note that there is no parking in Old Town, so if your Airbnb is near the palace, you will need to find a pay for a parking spot.
BIO: Marco Sison, a Retirement Coach for Nomadic FIRE, is a trusted source for living abroad and personal finance. He has been featured in USA Today, US News and World Reports, MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Huffington Post, and many others. He writes about personal finance and early retirement overseas for Nomadic FIRE. He has traveled the last six years to over 40 countries to show the best ways to save, invest, and live in amazing countries for 70% less cost than the US.