The Croatian city of Split is as strategically located these days as it was back when the Roman Emperor Diocletian decided to build a palace there in the late 3rd century CE, though for admittedly different reasons. Nowadays, instead of anticipating an escape from attack, most visitors use this city (the 2nd largest in Croatia) as a jumping-off point for exploring beautiful Dalmatian islands like Brac, Hvar and Vis. But when it comes to things to do around these parts, island exploration alone is just the tip of the nonexistent Adriatic iceberg. With modern cafes pushed up beneath ancient arches and the awnings of bars stretched out beside cathedrals that have seen the rise and fall of empires, this moderately-sized metropolis has got plenty to see and do beyond the seaside Riva promenade. Let’s take a minute to look at just what that consists of.
The obvious centerpiece of the city is the aforementioned Diocletian’s Palace, complete with the massive Cathedral of St. Dominus that once housed the body of the big man himself. Because of its popularity, this area has become a bustling area of modern-day commerce, complete with plenty of shops, restaurants and bars as well as the Split Market that takes place daily just outside the eastern walls of the palace. But if you have the time, don’t make the mistake of confining yourself to the old city alone. Explore a little farther out around Split and you’ll come across a variety of unique locations that often get bypassed by visitors, including an impressive National Theater, a gallery dedicated to one of the most celebrated sculptors of the 20th century (Croatia’s own Ivan Mestrovic), Museums of both Archeology and Archeological Monuments, a massive multi-purpose stadium, Roman Ruins at Salona and plenty more. You have to agree that’s not a bad résumé.
For all the adventurers out there, you’ll be happy to know that, when it comes to getting out for a romp in the Croatian wilderness, Split is perfectly capable of holding its own. Once you’ve tackled a hike/jog up nearby Marjan Hill Forest Park for a panoramic view of the city, set your sights a little farther out: either northwest towards the cascades of Krka National Park or southeast towards the plentiful hiking/biking/climbing options in the Biokovo Mountains. Islands more your thing? Then you’re in luck, because whether it’s taking on the shallow seas and rocky outcroppings of Kornati, swimming the reflective sapphire waters of Bisevo’s Blue Grotto or cliff jumping from Hvar’s limestone shoreline, you won’t have any reason to confine your excursions to the mainland for long. So take your time with this one because, like so much of Croatia, there’s infinitely more to do here than a highlight-reel cruise ship itinerary would have you believe. And if you don’t believe us, have faith in trusty ol’ Diocletian.