The Central Dalmatia region of Croatia has got something for everyone. Looking for a cultural city break with astonishing ancient architecture? Got it. Want a vibey beach break with warm turquoise waters? Nails it. Want to island hop? Sorted. A fan of waterfalls, mountains, Game of Thrones ….Like I said, there’s something for everyone.
Thanks to Jet2holidays I recently spent 5 days exploring Split, Croatia’s second largest city, and the diverse region of mountains, islands and UNESCO Heritage Sites that surround it. Here are my personal highlights.
(Disclosure: I travelled to Croatia as a guest of Jet2holidays and Central Dalmatia Tourist Board. This post may also contain some affiliate links. Please visit the disclosure policy for more information.)
Travel guide to Split and Central Dalmatia
Best things to do in Split
Split is one of the most unique cities I’ve ever been to as at its heart is an old town that is enveloped in the ancient walls of a Roman palace. The Emperor Diocletian built a palace-come-fortress for his seaside retirement in the 4th Century AD and modern-day Split has been constructed within its ruins. It’s incredible how layers of history are visible as you stroll around the city, adding an unforgettable atmosphere to the thriving present-day dining scene.
You don’t see a ticket to see most of Diocletian’s Palace as the centre of Split is built within in. It’s amazing to see Roman arches, gates, walls and columns rising above the buzzing shops and restaurants. If you have time though, a guided tour is a great way to learn more about what the various remains you see around town were originally used for.
You can also buy tickets to enter the excavated remains of the palace cellars. The substructure contains some of the world’s best preserved Roman ruins. Their more recent claim to fame are as a filming location for Game Of Thrones – Daenerys kept her dragons down here!
Cathedral of Saint Domnius
If vertigo isn’t an issue, you might like to climb the narrow staircase to the top of Cathedral of Saint Domnius’ bell tower for spectacular views of Split city centre. The Cathedral is one of the oldest Christian churches in the world, but don’t worry the bell tower was reconstructed at the turn of the 20th century!
After climbing the bell tower, take a look inside the cathedral, which was originally built as Diocletian’s octagonal mausoleum.
For one of the best views of Split, climb (slowly) the 100-ish steps to the top of Marjan Hill. This viewpoint gives a great perspective of the Old Town, the harbour and the mountains in the distance, and the walk there is really scenic too.
I definitely recommend rewarding your efforts with sundowners at Teraca Vidilica – a restaurant right next to the Marjan Hill viewpoint – afterwards.
Of an evening, head to atmospheric Peristyle Square (the central square of Diocletian’s Palace) to perch beneath imposing Roman Gothic columns and enjoy cocktails and live music from Lvxor.
This popular restaurant and café is named after the Egyptian city of Luxor, which is where the ancient sphinx that sits on Peristyle Square originates from. There were originally around 30 sphinxes, constructed 36 centuries ago, that Emperor Diocletian had shipped to his palace in 305 AD and this is one of the only ones that remains today. There are not many places in the world you can have a cocktail with such historic company.
Check out this reel for more on the best things to do in Split.
Best restaurants in Split
The culinary scene in Split is so good, we didn’t have a single bad meal. Some restaurants I would recommend are:
Fig Restaurants Split – Come here for creative comfort foods served in a 15th century palace.
Zoi – For an extra special evening, head to Zoi, a Michelin-starred restaurant, which serves exquisite Mediterranean cuisine with views of the Split waterfront.
Heritage Hotel Santa Lucia – Enjoy some of the best people watching in Split paired with fine food at the restaurant of this boutique hotel found on Pjaca Square.
Konoba Varos – Experience authentic Croatian cuisine at a traditional taverna.
Finally, head to D16 Coffee, a speciality roaster and coffee shop, for the best coffee in Split.
Where to stay in Split
We stayed at the super-chic and family-friendly Le Meridien Lav Split, which is approximately 20 minutes outside of Split city centre, on the coast in Podstrana. I loved the infinity pool, private beaches and incredible food at their vibey waterfront eateries. Find the full review of this stylish hotel in Split here.
Hotel Le Meridien Lav Split is one of the luxury holidays packages offered by Jet2holidays.
Jet2holidays offer Split hotels for all budgets though so take a look to see what suits your needs best.
(Side note: If you are booking with Jet2holidays for the first time you can get up to £45 cashback via TopCashback. You’ll also get £10 credit for signing up via my referral link! That should cover a really nice meal while you’re away!)
Best day trips from Split
One of my highlights from this trip to Central Dalmatia was spending a day on the laid-back island of Brac. From Split you can take a 45-minute ferry to Supetar and enjoy sights including the charming Olive Oil Museum in Skrip, where they demonstrate the traditional process of making olive oil and treat you to a sample of a typical Mediterranean diet.
Another must-do in Brac is swimming in the crystal-clear waters of Zlatni Rat Beach in Bol. Zlatni Rat or Golden Cape Beach is arguably Croatia’s most famous beach due to its unique triangular shape that changes with the tide and wind. The beach has sunbeds to hire along with a beach bar/café and several food and drink vending huts. Don’t forget to bring your water shoes though as the beach is pebbly.
To get a bird’s eye view of Zlatni Rat as well as the islands surrounding Brac, head to Vidora Gora, the highest view point in the Adriatic.
For lunch head to Konoba Kopacina – a traditional Croatian taverna known for their grilled lamb dishes. They also serve sensationally moreish chips!
One of my favourite places I visited on my first trip to Croatia in 2010 was the island of Hvar, an approximately 1-hour ferry ride from Split.
Hvar is one of the most popular and glamorous islands in Croatia, and it’s easy to see why. It has a beautiful old town with a 13th-century fortress and lively nightlife. It’s a great departure point for boat trips to the stunning Pakleni Islands, an archipelago of deserted beaches and cobalt blue lagoons that looks like something out of the Philippines.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice Lakes National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that boasts 16 turquoise lakes connected by cascading waterfalls and surrounded by dense forest. It’s both the oldest and largest national park in Croatia and one of the most breath-taking natural wonders in Europe.
You can walk along the wooden boardwalks that crisscross the park, or take a boat or train ride to admire the scenery from different perspectives.
Situated about 2.5 hours’ drive from Split, it is possible to visit Plitvice Lakes on a day trip from Split, although the journey time is a lot shorter from Zagreb or Zadar. It was another of my highlights from my previous visit to Croatia though so I feel it’s worth mentioning it in this post in case you’re planning a longer road trip.
Just 45 minutes from Split is the tiny UNESCO World Heritage listed town of Trogir that has a reputation for being an ‘open air museum’.
Trogir is located on a small island connected by bridges to the mainland and has a well-preserved medieval core that features a Romanesque-Gothic cathedral, a Renaissance palace, and a Venetian fortress.
It’s great place to come for a morning, walking through living history and enjoying the atmosphere of the charming waterfront promenade and lively market. We also enjoyed a lovely lunch on the terrace at Calebotta.
Any hardcore Game of Thrones fan will recognise Klis Fortress as it starred in a couple of key scenes in the fourth and fifth season of the show, representing the city of Meereen.
In the real world, Klis is a medieval fortress and important stronghold that defended the region from various invaders, including the Ottoman Turks. It’s impressively well preserved and there’s lots to explore, including the fortress walls, tunnels, towers and a small military museum.
Very close to Klis is Solin, which is home to the roman ruins of Salona and was the birthplace of Emperor Diocletian.
Salona was once the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia, and the fourth biggest city of the Roman Empire at the time. It’s the largest archaeological park in Croatia, home to a jaw-dropping number of Roman ruins including a forum with temples and an amphitheatre from the 2nd century that could seat 15,000 spectators.
There isn’t much shade here so I would recommend visiting early in the day if coming during the warmer months.
If you’re up for an adventure, part way between Split and Dubrovnik is Skywalk Biokovo, a glass horse-shoe shaped walkway that extends 11 metres over the edge of a cliff at the highest point of Biokovo Nature Park.
It’s the first of its kind in Croatia and makes for an exhilarating viewpoint. On clear, windy days you can see as far as Italy.
How to get to Split
We flew from London Stansted to Split with Jet2 flights. The flight time from Stansted to Split is just 2 hours 40 making it a great option for families with young children. Jet2Holidays also offer free child places, free transfers and baggage included.
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