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Things to Do in Split

Resting on the eastern coast of the Adriatic, Split is the largest and one of the oldest cities in the region of Croatia’s Dalmatia. Originally founded more than 2,300 years ago as a Greek colony, it became a Roman settlement 600 years later with the construction of Diocletian's Palace, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Indeed, the center of the town is built around the ruins of this ancient palace, which is one of the best preserved in the world. St. Duje's Cathedral and Peristil Square also add to the Roman charm of Split, and a time-saving walking tour will introduce you to these and other top attractions. Day tours from the city take visitors to the area’s natural wonders, such as Hvar island with its vivid Blue Caves. For those looking for sun, sea, and sand, the turquoise waters of the Blue Lagoon are just a speedboat ride away from Split; while the UNESCO-listed Plitvice Lakes National Park is one for the mountain hikers. Only a one-hour drive away and close to the town of Šibenik, the seven waterfalls in Krka National Park beg for a swim. Back in civilization, the UNESCO-listed Old Town of Trogir also boats plenty of attractions, especially its bell tower and the Venetian Cathedral of St. Lovro. Split is an ideal destination to connect with adventure: perhaps to Dubrovnik in the south, or just across the border to Mostar, the pearl of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
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Budikovac Island (Veliki Budikovac)
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Croatia is gaining a reputation or its stunning coastlines and idyllic beaches. And while the tiny island of Budikovac is still relatively untouched, it is without a doubt, the perfect escape from the energy of the mainland. Travelers who find their way to the picturesque pebble beach, protected bay, shallow waters and relaxing lagoon that exist here will be overcome with a sense of natural beauty and pure peace.

Visitors will quickly learn that only a single person lives on Budikovac Island. He is also responsible for the single restaurant that runs at this destination that attracts travelers looking to get off the beaten path and into incredible Croatia.

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Marjan
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A short walking distance from Diocletian's Palace, this hilly peninsula is a recreational park for both locals and visitors. A protected nature reserve since 1964, the park is dotted with pine trees and Mediterranean shrubs.

Some of Split's best beaches are at the foot of Marjan hill and are easily reachable by bicycle which you can rent at the entrance. To enter the natural preserve, just follow the steps from the Veli Varos neighborhood. Keep climbing and you'll reach the Telegrin belvedere -- on a clear day you can see as far as Vis Island. You'll get some of the most spectacular views of the island and the Adriatic Sea from the top of the hill. There are many other cultural spots on the hill, including Split's most interesting museums, such as the Mestrovic Gallery and the Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments. Many churches are dotted on the site, including the Church of St George, situated on the western slopes, with the Oceanographic institute next door.

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Peristyle Square (Peristil)
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Peristil Square is Split's main square, the former entry hall in Diocletian's Palace. It is derived from a Roman architectural term called the peristyle, an open colonnade surrounding a court.

The spacious central courtyard is flanked by marble columns topped with Corinthian capitals and richly ornamented cornices linked by arches. There are six columns on both the east and west sides, and four more at the south end, which mark the monumental entrance to the Vestibul. Most of the structure is made of white stone from the nearby island of Brač; however, the columns are made of Italian marble and siennite from Egypt. The Vestibul is a cavernous open dome above the ground floor passageway; a foyer that leads you into the emperor's residential quarters. The Vestibul provides great acoustics allowing klapa bands to perform traditional a capella songs there in the mornings.

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Diocletian's Palace
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This palace right in the heart of Split, was used by Roman Emperor Diocletian and is one of the best preserved monuments of Roman architecture in the world. In 1979, it was declared -- with the historic city of Split -- a UNESCO World Heritage site. The ruins of the Palace can also be found throughout the city.

A military fortress, imperial residence and fortified town, the palace covers over 31,000 square meters (334 square feet). Diocletian spared no expense in the building of the palace, importing marble from Italy and Greece, and columns and sphinxes from Egypt. Many of the buildings are made from local white limestone quarried on the nearby island of Brac. Each wall has a gate named after metals: the northern gate is the Golden Gate; the southern gate is the Bronze Gate; the eastern gate is the Silver Gate; and the western gate is the Iron Gate.

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Riva Promenade (Riva Split Waterfront)
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Travelers who are looking for the perfect way to spend an afternoon soaking up the beauty of Croatia’s idyllic coastline will find exactly what they’re after on the Riva Promenade. This incredible stretch of walkway runs the entire length of the old town and offers up incredible views of the surrounding harbor, European-style apartments and remote island’s are some of the city’s most picturesque.

Visitors will find some of Split’s best restaurants, cafes and nightlife along the promenade, which is also near to the city’s largest port. The famed walkway is flanked by towering palms and lined with glazed white tiles that lend some serious European-flare to this coastal destination.

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Cathedral of St. Dominus (Katedrala Svetog Duje)
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This Cathedral has two lives: its first life was as the Cathedral of St. Dominus, the mausoleum dedicated to Diocletian. Diocletian was known for his brutal persecution of Christians after a campaign to get rid of Christianity. Ironically, what Diocletian built to glorify his memory was used to remember his victims. His body was removed from the mausoleum in the 7th century, with no record of where his remains are now. Today, the cathedral is a popular meeting place because of its proximity to the Silver Gate at Diocletian's Palace (it leads to Hrjvojeva Street). The courtyard is the location for Split's Summer Festival in July and August.

Its second life is now as the Cathedral of St Duje, a shrine to St Dominus. St Duje was the patron saint of Split, who was a 3rd-century Bishop of Salona in Dalmatia.

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Republic Square (Prokurative)
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Since the late 19th century, the bustling Republic Square (known by locals as Prokurative) has been serving as a gather place, people-watching spot, and town center for residents of Split. Its unique architecture-constructed as a nod to buildings in Venice-proves a remarkable departure from what is found in the rest of the city.

Travelers will find dozens of quiet cafes, tasty restaurants and quiet shops located in close proximity to this central square. Epic views of the nearby harbor and easy access to the Riva Promenade make it an idea place to spend a perfect morning in the sun, or an afternoon or evening taking in the local character of Split.

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More Things to Do in Split

Fruit's Square (Trg Brace Radic)

Fruit's Square (Trg Brace Radic)

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Fruit’s Square (Trg Brace Radic) is named after the busy fruit market once held in the square; considered one of the most beautiful squares in Split, Fruit’s Square today is home to a number of historic landmarks, bars, restaurants and shops. On one side of the square is a Venetian castello, or castle. Visitors should look for an arched passageway in the structure that features two etched Christian crosses—legend says that anyone who points their fingers at the points of the cross and makes a love-related wish while closing their eyes will see that wish come true.

  On the other side is the 17th-century Milesi Palace, one of the most impressive examples of Baroque architecture in the Dalmatian region. Known for its arch-shaped windows on the ground level, the palace today hosts lectures and cultural events. In front of the palace is a statue of Marko Marulic, a 15th-century poet who is considered the father of Croatian literature.

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Gates of Diocletian's Palace

Gates of Diocletian's Palace

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There are four different gates or access points to enter Split's historic core, all named after four different metals.

The best starting point is the Bronze Gate, which opens outward from the palace's southern area to Split's Riva (harbor-front promenade). Inside, it leads to the podrum, or basement, where support staff cooked meals for Diocletian and his guests. The cryptoporticus (gallery) that runs east-west from the Bronze Gate was an open promenade. The part of the podrum that extends from the Bronze Gate toward the steps to the Peristil above is a brick-lined marketplace filled with merchants and craftspeople selling souvenirs. The podrum connects to the Peristil, Split’s main square. The Silver Gate can be accessed from the eastern wall, where you’ll pass through the jumble of stalls of Pazar, the city's produce market. Be careful accessing this point at night, as it can be crowded.

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Bene Beach

Bene Beach

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Hidden away at the foot of Marjan Hill just west of downtown Split, Bene Beach makes a tranquil alternative to the busy city beaches. It’s a scenic spot, with its rocky shore bordered by pine trees and only accessible on foot, and makes a popular choice for families in the summer months thanks to its patrolled swimming area.

As well as cooling off in the ocean, Bene Beach is a starting point for kayaking tours, while the surrounding Marjan Forest Park offers tennis courts, football pitches and ample opportunities for hiking or cycling. The beach itself is equally well equipped, with a terrace restaurant, changing rooms and showers, plus children’s playgrounds and a water slide.

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Temple of Jupiter

Temple of Jupiter

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A few steps away from the Cathedral of St Dominus and St Duje -- at the end of the street Kraj Sveti Ivan -- is a temple dedicated to Jupiter, named after his father. Roman emperors often made themselves a god. Diocletian was Jovius, son of the top god, Jupiter. This god was highly worshipped during the Imperial era until the Roman Empire came under Christian rule. Emperor Diocletian believed he was a reincarnation of Jupiter and thus positioned this temple directly adjacent to his mausoleum, not St Dominus Cathedral.

When Diocletian's mausoleum became a cathedral, the temple was converted into a baptistery, housing a huge 12th-century baptismal font large enough to immerse someone (as was the tradition in those days). Jupiter is considered to be one of the best-preserved Roman temples in the world. The temple once had a porch supported by columns, but the one column you see dates from the 5th century.

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Mestrovic Gallery (Galerija Mestrovic)

Mestrovic Gallery (Galerija Mestrovic)

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A short cab ride from downtown Split, the Mestrovic Gallery is an art museum dedicated to the life and work of 20th-century sculptor, Ivan Meštrović, who has been compared to Rodin. Formerly Mestrovic’s house and atelier, the holdings now contain 192 sculptures, 583 drawings, 4 paintings, 291 architectural plans and two furniture sets. There are also 168 works of art owned by Meštrović’s heirs.

The house and garden hold some of the artist's best work, including a pair of huge walnut Adam and Eve figures and the powerful bronze Cyclops. Mestrovic's religious art comprises much of the gallery's permanent exhibits. You will discover the family archive found inside the house, which contains letters and personal documents of family members and friends, as well as builder Marin Marasovic’s archives (which include the building of The Most Holy Redeemer Church in Otavice and the erection of the Monument to Unknown Hero on Avala).

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Split Archaeological Museum (Arheoloski Muzej Split)

Split Archaeological Museum (Arheoloski Muzej Split)

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A 10-minute walk north of Split's historic downtown is Croatia's oldest museum, which was founded in 1820.

The incentive for the establishment of the museum was provided by the visit of Emperor Francis I to Dalmatia in 1818, which also included visits to Split and Solin (formerly Salona). The original museum building was erected in 1821 next to the eastern walls of Diocletian's Palace, but soon became too small to house the growing number of monuments.

The Archaeological Museum is a repository for artifacts -- jewelry, coins and pottery -- mostly unearthed at Salona in the hills above Split. The collection includes many religious objects used by the people who fled to the palace from Salona during the Avar-Slav invasion in the 7th century. It also displays heavier stone objects such as sarcophagi outdoors.

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Bisevo Blue Cave (Modra Spilja)

Bisevo Blue Cave (Modra Spilja)

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Cetina River

Cetina River

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The Cetina River flows through 63 miles (101 km) of southern Croatia and drops down 1,260 feet (385 m) as it rushes down into the Adriatic Sea near Split. Over the centuries rapids have formed on the upper half of the river, and it is today fast-becoming a popular white-water rafting and canyoning destination for adrenaline junkies from all over Europe.

Having its source somewhere under the mountains of Dinara and Gnjat, the Cetina wends its way through a spectacular limestone gorge, passing sites of archaeological importance far above in the high canyon, where prehistoric artifacts have been discovered along with Roman shields and medieval agricultural implements. Lower down, the Cetina flows through pastures coated in flowers in spring and the rich alluvial soil fertilizes the vineyards and crop fields bordering the river.

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Klis Fortress (Tvrdava Klis)

Klis Fortress (Tvrdava Klis)

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Klis Fortress is a small medieval stronghold near Split, Croatia. The fortress dates back to the 7thcentury. Though it started as a small stronghold, it developed into a royal castle and eventually a large fortress during the Ottoman wars. Throughout history, it has been the seat of many Croatian rulers. It served as a crossroads between the Balkans and the Mediterranean, and as a result, it was often under attack. The fortress was conquered several times by the Ottomans, Venetians and Austrians.

The fortress consists of three sections, each with its own entrance. Many of the newer buildings have been completely or partly preserved. Several sections of Klis Fortress were used as inns which were used for isolation during epidemics, protecting Split from diseases in other regions. Today it is a museum where visitors can learn about the military history of the fortress. The fortress was also used in the filming of several episodes of the television series Game of Thrones.

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Cetina Canyon

Cetina Canyon

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In a country full of scenic landscapes, epic countryside and incredible coastal views, Cetina Canyon still manages to stand out. Travelers who venture to this destination where placid turquois waters meet sheer rock cliffs will find stunning natural beauty and a true state of ultimate calm and relaxation.

Travel by private speedboat across the river to a tiny restaurant area where it’s possible to enjoy a bite or a drink with a serious view. Dare devils can fly across the landscape on the Omis Zipline or descend the cliffs on a canyoning adventure.

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Port of Split (Luka Split)

Port of Split (Luka Split)

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Split is the largest city on the Dalmatian coast and Croatia's second biggest city. It is famous for the well-preserved Diocletian Palace, a Roman Emperor's retirement palace dating from the 4th century AD which still forms the city center. Split also has wonderful beaches and an exemplary cafe life.

In front of the palace walls along the waterfront is the Riva, which is lined by outdoor cafes and always teeming. During summer, Split becomes a focus for music and dance festivals. The city is also a major ferry port for the popular nearby islands such as Hvar, Brač and Vis.

How to Get to Split

Smaller ships will dock near the ferry terminals, larger ships will anchor offshore and provide tender transport. From the ferry terminal it is an easy walk around to the city center along the waterfront to the Riva. The city center is tucked in behind the palace walls and there are plenty of gates and entrances leading you inside.

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