03 Jul A Snapshot of Split Old Town
Lately we’ve made a habit of staying in historic towns. First we rented an apartment in the heart of Toledo, the former Capital of the Spanish Empire. Next we made a pit stop in Croatia’s most famous UNESCO town, Dubrovnik, before settling in Split, the ancient home of Emperor Diocletian. Here’s a snapshot of Split Old Town, which became our local hangout during a five-week stay on the Dalmatian Coast.
How to Spend your Time in Split
Take a wander through the Green market on the Eastern side of Split Old Town. You’ll find tables laden with local produce; piles of ruby-red cherries, furry peaches and clutches of leafy greens. The market merges into the tourists stalls which line the eastern walls of the Old Town, selling the usual t-shirts and fridge magnets as well as locally-made honey and dried lavender. In amongst the tourist bustle lies the grand, stone entrance arch to the town itself.
Diocletian’s Palace and the Bell Tower
Steps lead down to streets made of white stone mined from the neighbouring island of Brac. The eye is immediately drawn upwards by the skinny bell tower which dominates the Split city skyline. Although streets lined with shops, ice cream stands and cafes branch tantalisingly off to one side, you’ll be swept along towards the tower and the focal point of the town: the central courtyard of Diocletian’s Palace.
This hub is always full of people, tour groups and men dressed in Roman costumes posing for tourist photos. The steps beneath stone columns and arches are occupied by people sitting to sip coffee or slurp ice cream while they gaze up at the tower, taking photos and listening to live music in the evenings. Steps lead down from the courtyard into the cool depths of the Palace Basement, which is full of tourist stalls. You can pay 40 CKN (£4) to explore the ruins of the underground rooms, which give you an idea of the Roman palace’s layout.
For 20 CKN (£2), you can pay to ascend the bell tower, passing first up a claustrophobic enclosed stairway to a vertigo-inducing spiral of steps surrounded by gaping archways which offer snatches of the town below. The view from the top shows a chaotic cluster of red rooftops and streaming alleys in the Old Town which merge out into a modern sprawl of concrete buildings on the outskirts of the city. The port and Adriatic Sea stretches out to the South, while the green-furred Marjan Hill looms to the west.
Eating in Split Old Town
You can spend endless hours wandering the streets of Split’s Old Town before settling in one of the open plazas to enjoy a meal or have drinks in one of the narrow side street cafes and bars. Croatian konobas serve freshly-caught fish: sea bass and tuna steaks, as well as dishes of oily sardines. There are savoury and sweet pastries to snack on from bakeries, pizza sold by the slice and dozens of flavours of colourful ice cream on offer. We could have eaten out every night of our five-week stay in Split and still not have sampled even half the eateries in town.
Hike up Marjan Hill
Walk along the Riva, the promenade next to the town, which is lined with boats on one side offering tours of surrounding islands, and bars and shops on the other. There are food stalls selling tempting chocolate crepes and plenty of benches to sit on and look out over the sea. From there, walk past the clock tower to a flight of forested steps which lead up to Marjan Park.
Halfway up the hill you’ll reach a look-out point by a restaurant where you can watch the boats, ferries and even seaplanes cut paths to and from the harbour. Within Marjan Park there’s a church and Jewish cemetery, as well as trails which lead upwards to the topmost point, where a Croatian flag flutters in the wind. From here the views over Split, especially at sunset, are supreme.
Sit on the Beach
Sandy beaches are a rarity in Croatia, but Bacvice beach just outside of Split’s Old Town is covered with dark sand. Bacvice is where people gather to play sports, sunbathe and cool off in the sea; groups play football on the sand while others throw balls backwards and forwards in the shallows. Children dig holes on the beach and couples have picnics. Bacvice is a great place to spend a lazy afternoon after pounding the streets of Split’s Old Town.
As well as exploring these central sites, we hired a car and took day trips from Split to nearby waterfalls, lakes, gorges and seaside towns; we also spent a couple of days island hopping to nearby Brac and Hvar.
Our Split Old Town Vlog
In this edition of our new weekly Vlog, Andrew takes us on a tour of Split’s Old Town. Let us know what you think of the video and if you want to keep up with our weekly Vlogs where we’ll be sharing snapshots of our day-to-day life as we travel, subscribe to our YouTube Channel.
What do you think of Split’s Old Town, have you visited?