Embarking on a city-break to the stunning Split? To savor every second, it’s essential to find the perfect base for your adventures. So, I’ve meticulously curated a list of the six best spots in Split that I believe will truly enrich your visit.
Nestled midway along the mesmerizing Dalmatian coast, Croatia’s second-largest city has risen swiftly in popularity amongst travelers eager to bask in the splendors of the Adriatic’s pristine coastline, historic grandeur, and sumptuous gastronomy.
Split’s tapestry of time unfolds back to 304 AD, when the cornerstone was set for the vast Diocletian’s Palace and its robust defenses. Fast-forward to more contemporary times, the city’s charming old town was officially recognized as a World Heritage Site in 1979.
In bygone years, Split was merely a quick pit-stop or an occasional ferry ride for day-trippers. Today, it’s a delightful fusion of Romanesque, Renaissance, and Baroque architectures buzzing with a youthful energy that invigorates its chic cafes and stylish new ventures. Whether you’re a young adventurer or seasoned globetrotter, Split, with its dynamic duality of ancient and modern, has made a place on every traveler’s Adriatic wish-list.
Stationed in the heart of the Croatian coast, Split is an ideal launchpad to venture into other enchanting coastal towns, cities, and the picturesque countryside further inland.
1. Old Town, best area to stay in Split
The Old Town, particularly the Diocletian’s Palace and its adjoining harborside locales, stands as one of Split’s star attractions. This vibrant fortified village brims with winding cobbled streets and hidden alleyways, teeming with inviting cafes, boutiques, and local businesses that seem to beckon you into their embrace.
Among the must-see highlights within the fortress walls of the Diocletian’s Palace include its heart—the Peristyle, the palace’s cellar—made famous by Game of Thrones, the Cardo—major pathway, Split City Museum, and Saint Domnius Cathedral. If heights don’t daunt you, the cathedral bell tower offers unparalleled panoramic vistas of the city and the Dalmatian Islands.
While meandering through the old labyrinth-like streets, make sure to pause at People’s Square, the pulsating heart of Old Town. This plaza, with its stately clock tower and numerous eateries and bars, makes for a splendid spot to unwind and engage in some fascinating people watching.
A leisurely walk westward leads you to Riva, Split’s iconic harbor promenade. Here, under the shade of lush palm trees, you can soak up the ambiance of the bustling port, marvel at imposing historic edifices, and let your gaze sweep across the azure Adriatic.
Come sundown, the Old Town’s vibrant nightlife awakens. From traditional pubs and stylish wine bars to a cornucopia of restaurants serving local and international delicacies, your options are boundless.
These days, the local gastronomy rivals the best in the Mediterranean, offering a variety of sizzling steaks, delectable seafood, flavorful pasta, crispy pizza, and refreshing salads. While the harbor area offers a lively ambiance, for those seeking a quieter spot, there are charming cafes, bars, and restaurants tucked away from the hustle.
Lodging options in Old Town span a wide spectrum to suit all budgets and preferences, ranging from budget hostels and apartments to luxury chain hotels and lavish spa villas.
Best Hotels in Old Town
2. Bacvice, best area to stay in Split for beach days and a pulsating nightlife
This radiant quarter, a mere hop, skip and a jump from the main bus station, is a much-loved playground for sun-bathers and party-goers alike. In summer’s prime, Bacvice heaves with a lively mix of locals and visitors, all lured by the beach and the buzzing bars.
The jewel in Bacvice’s crown, the beach, is a fascinating duality of nature and man-made brilliance. Cradling a small bay, half of Bacvice Beach is a blanket of white sand while the other is concrete, both offering scenic views with a backdrop of cypress and pine.
With the waters of the Adriatic gently lapping against the beach, it’s safe even for little ones, making it a family-friendly spot. Water sports equipment, sunbeds, and parasols are on hand, and should the beach become too crowded, there’s always the Bacvice Aqua Park nearby to keep the kids entertained.
As dusk descends, Bacvice transforms into a nocturnal nirvana, drawing the young and the young-at-heart to its smorgasbord of bars, restaurants, and trendy nightclubs. The Bacvice Port is also a gateway to adventures, offering day trips and ferry routes along the coast, to the islands, and even across to Italy.
Despite its popularity, Bacvice’s accommodation offerings are few and far between, so early booking is essential. Yet fear not, my fellow wanderers! The proximity to the Old Town means a myriad of lodging choices are but a stroll away, keeping Bacvice Beach within easy reach.
Best Hotels in Bacvice
3. Veli Varos - A Tranquil Retreat For Couples, Families, and Explorers
Nestled at the foot of Marjan Hill and dating back to the 1600s, Veli Varos is an endearing enclave that whispers of a bygone era. This tranquil haven, originally home to peasant fishermen and farmers, retains a certain charm that feels like stepping back in time.
Rustic stone houses, winding cobbled streets, and numerous historic churches, Veli Varos brims with medieval allure. The majority of the village is pedestrianized, making it a peaceful retreat from Split’s bustling city life.
Veli Varos draws those who seek quiet refuge, yet still offers a bounty of shops, eateries, and bars for your daily needs. Additionally, cultural attractions abound to keep you intrigued. The 11th-century Church of St Nicholas, or Mikula, located at the top of Cross Street, beckons visitors with its Romanesque-style archway and an impressive bell tower.
Other historic churches include St Magdalene, St Lucas, and Our Lady of Soca. On the coast, you’ll find a Franciscan Monastery and the Church of St Frances, both worth a visit.
For the adventurous at heart, the steep climb up Marjan Hill rewards you with the lush greenery of Marjan Park. This verdant oasis is crisscrossed with walking, cycling, and jogging trails, and is home to a wealth of wildlife. If the ascent feels too demanding, recharge at Cafe Bar Vidilica, savoring breathtaking views as you ascend.
At the summit, you’ll find Telegrin, a former semaphore telegraph station. The climb to the top, though challenging, rewards with stunning vistas of the Dalmatian Isles of Hvar, Brac, and Solta.
Best Hotels in Veli Varos
4. Poljud - A Contemporary Haven for Sports Aficionados and Leisure Seekers
Nestled within the larger realm of Spinut in Split, Poljud is a quaint district that boasts of a grand spectacle – the iconic Stadium Poljud. This multi-purpose arena, born out of the 8th Mediterranean Games in 1979, houses a massive 35,000 seating capacity and hosts an array of events from riveting football matches and athletic meets to pulsating music concerts. It also takes pride in being the home turf of the local football team, Hajduk Split.
Located on the beautiful coast near Spinut port and marina, Stadium Poljud, despite being nearly four decades old, stands as one of the world’s most modern arenas. Its dazzling floodlight system, powered by over 600 Philips lights, outshines many renowned venues. The stadium complex houses not just one, but three gyms, along with a swimming pool and spa facilities.
Even if you’re not an ardent sports enthusiast, you’ll find the surrounding Mladosti Park a delightful respite, ideal for leisurely strolls, picnics, or simple sun-soaking while the world goes about its business. If you’re in for a bit of adrenaline-pumping action, the stadium offers a heart-stopping 70-meter freefall experience, the Skywalk Poljud. With the safety gears on, you can brave the plunge from the stadium’s rooftop.
Around Poljud and Spinut, the nightlife is as vibrant as you choose it to be. A myriad of bars and a platter of local and international cuisines await to make your evenings memorable. The harbor area, particularly, buzzes with lively crowds.
Poljud strikes a chord as a pleasingly modern suburb to stay in Split, conveniently within walking distance from the picturesque port and marina area of Spinut, and Split’s Old Town. With numerous bus routes and taxis aplenty, getting around is a breeze. Accommodation here ranges from hostels, private rooms, and apartments to Airbnb options, villas, and hotels.
Best Hotels in Poljud
5. Znjan, best area to stay in Split for families
On the south-east side of the city, Znjan unfurls its arms with the largest pebbly beach in Split. Recent years have seen a facelift of the area with illegal properties along the front replaced with modern complexes, offering better beach access.
A charming walkway now skirts along the beach, equipped with public toilets, changing rooms, shower facilities, shops, ice cream stalls, bars, snack shacks, sunbeds, and sunshades.
For the little ones, Znjan keeps boredom at bay with a children’s play park, amusement center, volleyball courts, sailing opportunities, and a diverse range of water sports. Hotels and apartment blocks, shops, bars, and restaurants form the backdrop of the beach, and a vast park hosts music festivals through the summer months.
Evening entertainment in Znjan offers an eclectic mix of bars and restaurants to tickle all palates, with the beach area being the heart of the action. Regarded as an emerging district in Split, Znjan often has attractive accommodation deals up for grabs, making it an increasingly popular choice for visitors.
Best Hotels in Znjan
6. Stobreč - A Picturesque Beach Town Offering a Gateway to Greater Explorations
Tucked away on the Split peninsula and nestled beneath the towering Mosor mountain range, the charming town of Stobreč greets you with a rich tapestry of history dating back to the 3rd century BC. Bathed in the sun’s glow and kissed by the shimmering Adriatic Sea, Stobreč is a lovely contrast of pastel-hued houses with red pantile roofs set against the lush greenery of pine and cypress woods.
The expansive main beach of Stobreč neighbours one of Croatia’s most coveted campsites. With over 200 spots for tents, caravans, and motorhomes, the beachfront area can buzz with a festive spirit. But worry not, a leisurely stroll further along the coast will reward you with quieter spots for your towel.
The town offers a medley of water sports, including adrenaline-pumping jet-skis and the adventurous world of scuba diving. The young ones can enjoy slides and a plethora of waterborne delights. Stobreč also boasts of a quaint marina, adding to the town’s charm.
Wandering around Stobreč, you’ll find a promenade that lazily traces the contours of the marina and beach. Enjoy a pleasant saunter along the front, punctuated with moments of refreshment and some delightful window shopping.
While Stobreč might seem light on attractions, it cradles noteworthy sights like the 5th century Basilica of St Laurentius in the town centre, the 14th-century Church of St. Michael, and the 15th-century Church of St. Maria, rebuilt in the 19th century, which intriguingly houses 15th-century gravestones embedded in its floor.
The town serves as a launchpad for various trips with regular bus services connecting you to Split’s Old Town in about 25 minutes. If you have a hire car, the walled town of Trogir awaits just a 40-minute drive away, while the town of Sibenik and the awe-inspiring waterfalls of Krka National Park are within a 90-minute drive.
Nightlife in Stobreč leans toward the serene, limited to the restaurants and bars around town. But with an Uber or local cab, you can find yourself savouring a meal in the city centre within 15 minutes.
Accommodation here tends to be more affordable than the city centre, though somewhat limited. The focus is largely on private lets and self-catering apartments and villas. Camping Stobreč campsite offers several holiday chalets, where you can enjoy a host of facilities, including a pool, bars, restaurants, sauna, and spa, not forgetting the enticing beach.