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Visiting The Palace of Roman Emperor Diocletian is a must when in Split. Photo: Mauro Rongione
Visiting The Palace of Roman Emperor Diocletian is a must when in Split. Photo: Mauro Rongione

A city guide to Split

Croatia's second largest city is a vibrant hybrid of old and new. Inside the well-preserved Roman walls, Diocletian's Palace teems with life, while beyond the walls, the archipelago and Adriatic Sea are enticing along the lengthy harbor promenade Riva.

If Dubrovnik is a small town with loads of tourists and attractions, Split is pretty much the opposite. Don't get me wrong, but a visit to this large Croatian coastal city invokes a pleasant everyday feeling.Photo: Mauro Rongione

As a temporary visitor, you get a glimpse of how life is still lived inside the ancient city walls in the historic heart of the city. The imposing UNESCO World Heritage listed Palace was built at the turn of the fourth century CE by the homesick and homeward looking Roman Emperor Diocletian. It became his pension plan, as it was here in Split he chose to retire to after his years as emperor of the Roman Empire. The palace is one of the largest, well-preserved Roman buildings in the world today. And the dazzlingly white pedestrianized streets do their bit to communicate a feeling of total timelessness.

In Split, the sea is always a constant presence. From the palm lined, emblematic harbor promenade Riva, tourist boats shuttle out to the Adriatic archipelago. Ship horns, hollering people with their weekend bags and island hoppers waiting in the shade of a palm tree create a sympathetic symbiosis of sea and city.

The sea has always played a big part in the lives of the people of Split. In most months of the year, local inhabitants of all ages throw themselves down into the shallow waters with a death defying splash to grab a squash like rubber ball around which the game of Picigin revolves. The sport was invented in 1908 by students from Split who had studied in Prague. Picigin, which is pronounced “pih-tsih-gheen” involves several players in a circle batting around a small ball with their hands; the objective is to keep the ball in the air and out of the water for as long as possible. There are no opposing sides, no points and neither winners nor losers. It is more a question of points for style. And to make the most elegant rescue attempts to keep the ball out of the water and hear the appreciative sounds of beach spectators. Ideally, the water should be no deeper than 20 centimeters. If you want to watch the most accomplished players, head through the city gates and down to Bacvice beach any day from March to November. It was here that Picigin gained traction before spreading to all the other beaches in Croatia. Then check into the newly renovated 1920s treasure, the Hotel Park above the beach, as dusk darkens and the vibrant nightlife takes over Bacvice.

Beaches

Bene

A beach holiday is not the top priority when you visit Split. Not when tiny magical experiences await beyond the ferry jetty on the archipelago islands. But for a deliciously cooling break, try the family friendly Bene beach.

Jezinac

Excellent bathing spots on the Marjan peninsula just three kilometers west of Split city center. And when you are sufficiently cooled off, head for the top of Marjan, a beautiful hill that extends like a green mirage from the city and offers enchanting views of the coastal landscape.

Sun seekers head to the beach Bacvice. Photo: Mauro Rongione

Bacvice

Fashionistas meet people for whom time has stood still on Split's most famous bathing beach, the seductively shell shaped Bacvice. Here you can still see old men in leather caps from the communist era, sitting side by side with  young sun seekers on this, for Croatia, unusually sandy strip of beach. Numerous trendy bars and nightclubs are also dotted around Bacvice.

Bars

Uje Oilbar

50 types of olive oil and Mediterranean dishes based on this delicious green gold. Uje Oilbar is situated in perhaps the most delightful street in Split, just behind the Jupiter Temple and is the first bar in Croatia dedicated to the local olive oils. However, Uje Oilbar is just as much a cozy neighborhood wine bar.

Dominisova 3

Hotels

Park Hotel

From politicians to pop stars, Park Hotel is the place to be seen, an art deco pearl dating from 1921. All 72 rooms have recently been given a careful facelift and helped Park regain its four stars. But the location hasn't changed, a sand grain's throw above Bacvice beach.

Hatzeov perivoj 3
hotelpark-split.hr Split's first boutique hotel - Vestibul. Photo: Mauro Rongione

Hotel Vestibul Palace

With seven individually styled rooms, the Vestibul was the first boutique hotel in Split right in the heart of the Roman city. Today, there is more competition, but the Vestibul remains a contender as the most charming small-scale hotel in Split.

Iza Vestibula 4a
vestibulpalace.com

Shopping

Potomac tie store 

The word cravat originally came from the Croatian kravata. In the reign of Louis XIII of France in the 1630s, Croatian mercenaries were enlisted into a regiment supporting the King. The traditional Croat military kit aroused Parisian curiosity about the unusual, picturesque scarves distinctively knotted at the Croats' necks. Parisians adopted the style and soon cravats were the height of fashion amongst Europe's elite.

Kaptol 13
croata.hr

Nadalina

Split's best store for traditional chocolate, exudes the scents and smells of the Dalmatian archipelago.  Lavender sourced from the island of Hvar is in one of their hand made chocolates and is said to cure sleeplessness.

Dioklecijanova 6
nadalina.hr

Pazar

This large outdoor market just west of the city gates is sheer heaven for discerning food lovers. Ignore the t-shirts and novelties and track down the local fishermen's wives and farmers who come here every day from the countryside and islands to sell their produce in the market. Really great prices. And the lavender honey is divine.Cookery is an art at Bokeria Kitchen & Wine. Photo: Mauro Rongione

Wine bars

Bokeria Kitchen & Wine

Bokeria Kitchen & Wine lives by the motto “Cookery is not chemistry. It's an art”. Here, everything is based on natural raw ingredients, taste and instinct. Your taste buds will adore a trip to Bokeria. As you step through the door, you are engulfed in a wave of scents from every manner of truffle. Inspired by the eponymous food hall in Barcelona, Bokeria makes the ingredients sing – ingredients sourced a stone's throw away in the two large local markets.

Domaldova 8
fb.com/bokeriasplit

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