Summer is tragically, coming to an end. Maybe your summer holiday was beautiful, sunny and relaxing – maybe it was unseasonably grey, rainy and stressful. If you didn’t manage to squeeze a holiday in, you’re in luck. Summer officially ends on September 22nd which gives you exactly one week to pack those bags and hop on the next flight. And Split is where you should be heading. This is a bit of a belated post since I left Croatia what now feels like ages ago but that in no way means that Split is not completely deserving of my attention. It is a beautiful, historic and exciting city.
Like Dubrovnik, Split is right on the coast of the Adriatic. The city dates back well over a thousand years. The star of the city is the ancient Roman Diocletian’s Palace which is now deservedly a UNESCO World Heritage site. The term palace is misleading. Seeing as it was constructed over a thousand years ago, little remains that is distinguishable as a palace but what is left, is impressive. What makes Split so unique is that the city has incorporated the ancient palace into the heart of the city. Shops and restaurants are built into the outer wall of the palace facing the sea, houses are crowded against old Roman walls, and the whole palace is now a maze of narrow streets.
There are still some distinctively Roman structures left. The Peristyle, or central courtyard remains as well as structures from the original palace which have been converted over the years. The Cathedral of St Domnius was originally the mausoleum of Diocletian and was converted to a church. The Temple of Jupiter is also still standing though it was converted to a baptistery. It is incredible that the palace survived the construction of the Christian city in and around it. The result is something completely unique.
If you breezed through the above paragraph I can assume that the Roman ruins would act as nothing more than a beautiful backdrop and the real gem of the city would be the beautiful ocean stretched out before it. It certainly is a fierce competitor. Hiking (it certainly cannot be considered walking) up the stairs of the Cathedral bell tower gives a view over the whole city as well as the sea. It is, in a word, breath taking. The city itself is speckled with restaurants with outdoor seating along the stone streets and in larger plazas. The promenade is lined with restaurants overlooking the sea with the palace behind. Nothing is more beautiful than enjoying a drink or a meal on the promenade at sunset. Though choose your restaurant carefully. While they all share the same view, they are certainly not all of the same quality.
Leaving the central city, I must warn you, Split becomes considerably less beautiful. It is after all a modern functioning city, and not a particularly beautiful one at that. But there are a few gems beyond the ring of the old palace. Right next to the old city is a massive wooded area, Park Marjan, stretching out into the ocean. You could easily lose yourself along the paths and there are several small beaches and little inlets to swim or relax in. Further outside the city, the Fortress of Klis sits high on a hill overlooking the whole city. It is definitely worth a visit, not least because, along with the substructures of Diocletian’s Palace, it was used as another filming location for Game of Thrones. Yes, I know, it’s obsession. Only fellow fans can fully comprehend the excitement of walking in the footsteps if Daenerys up the ramps leading to the Game of Thrones city, Meereen.
I personally think nothing can quite compete with Dubrovnik, but Split is a larger city and definitely has more to offer. For those who can never choose between a beach holiday and a city break, Split solves all of your problems. The nightlife, the restaurants, the beaches … it has everything you could possibly want out of a holiday.
Middle: St Domnius Cathedral Bell Tower
Photography by Savannah Hayes