Split | Croatia
Split | Croatia
We arrive in Split, swept in by coastal winds, signalling the start of autumn. It’s late afternoon, and although only partially visible through altostratus cloud, the sun still offers its welcoming warmth.
The romance of Split’s distinctive location has seen film crews arriving in hordes to capitalise on the sparkling seas, beautiful coastlines, sun-drenched beaches and pristine historical architecture, culminating in world recognition and a huge boost in tourism.
The city of Split is the largest in the Dalmatian region, laying on the eastern shore of the Adriatic sea linked to the Adriatic islands and the Apennine Peninsula. This beguiling city is small enough to be walkable, yet large enough to fill a long weekend. Old Split is dominated by the Palace of Diocletian, which forms about half of the old city, and is the main point of attraction for the tourists and history buffs who now flock here.
Split’s small marina and port is a cruise ship stop-off, bringing cruise tourists into the city in droves. From the promenade, looking out to sea, the marina extends out to the right, where I see yachts and boats, large and small, bob and roll with the increasing swell of the incoming storm. As the winds whip up, the vendors batten down, and our tour is cut short by winds reaching 35 mph, and waves breaking forcefully onto the promenade. We head down narrow alleys to Galeria cafe to wait out the storm.
Venturing through the labyrinthine streets of the palace and old town, you are met with pure visual pleasure. The architecture of the old town is a mix of Roman palatial and Venetian. Narrow alleyways lead into tiny courtyards cast deep shadows and protective shade from the oppressive heat in summer.
On our last day, the winds calm and sun rays break through the cloud, twinkling its buttery, autumn light over the Adriatic. Although the weather wasn’t favourable during most of our trip, it in no way lessened our enjoyment of Split. We head to the promenade for coffee and a very Croatian pass time: fjaka, the fine art of doing absolutely nothing.
The Palace of Diocletian
The original ground plan of the palace, an irregular rectangular design sits on a small bay, latitude 43.5086 N, longitude 16.4403 E, in the Roman province of Dalmatia. The Palace of Diocletian is a stunning, well-preserved example of Roman palatial architecture representing traditional half Greek and half Byzantine styles. Built for the Roman emperor Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus who found himself this nice little spot in which to retire from Roman imperial life. Built between 295 and 305c, the palace forms about half of the old city.
Thick stone walls are punctuated by four magnificent gateways: Porta ferrea (iron gate) on the western side, Porta argentea (silver gate) on the eastern side, and Porta aurea (golden gate) are on the northern side and the site of the giant statue of medieval Croatian bishop, Grgur Ninski. The southern, fourth gate is less elaborate and said to have been used mainly as a service entrance. Abandoned after the death of Diocletian only ten years after its completion, the palace was left in ruins for centuries until, in the 1700s, Scottish architect Robert Adams happened upon the ruins, bringing the palace once more into European awareness.
Mayan Forest Park
Take a walk up to the Mayan forest park lookout point where tourists begin to peter away, and take in the stunning views over the city, the harbour and across the shimmering Adriatic all framed by a mountain backdrop. Venture further up and you will come across the tiny church of St. Nicholas. Head into the forest, and you will eventually stumble upon caves and churches built directly into the rocks.
Cathedral of St. Domnius
For top-down views across the red-tiled rooftops of Split, a climb up the bell tower is worth vertigo. The stone steps at the base of the tower are fairly steep and narrow, so expect a bit of a climb.
Head to the open-air vestibule next to the Peristil, and enjoy a choir singing beautiful traditional Dalmatian Klapa songs.
Gallery of Fine Art
Founded in 1931 the gallery contains works from the 14th century up until the present day, exhibiting paintings and sculptures from major Croatian artists.
Take a seat on the steps of the Peristil, order your favourite beverage from a waiter at Lvxor restaurant, and be entertained by musicians. This is a perfect way to end an evening. Music starts at 8pm until midnight every night.
The food of Split is a beautiful menage of the cultures which have dominated this city at one time or another. Venetian, Hungarian, Turkish, Greek and Roman are all characterised in traditional Dalmatian cuisine.
Makarun was recommended to us by our host, and I have to say the best restaurant we ate at in Split. Freshly grilled local seafood, amazing Croatian wines, succulent meat dishes and great service.
Fantastic selection of Croatian wines, accompanied by a stunning tapas style menu.
Paradox Wine and Cheese
If you are remotely intrigued by Croatia’s wine and produce industry, then head to Paradox to be educated. They have a vast selection of Croatian wines and cheeses on the menu, and your sommelier will recommend a perfect match for you.
Uje Oil Bar
Offers a unique concept based around olive oil, local and worldwide. Their menu is tradition Dalmatian regional cuisine with a modern twist and every dish from appetisers to desserts contain olive oil. Oil tasting classes and boutique shopping are also available.
Coffee and cocktails
Located in a quaint narrow courtyard close to the Golden gate (see our cover image), this was our favourite place for coffee and pre-dinner cocktails.
We stayed at the Grisogono Palace Apartment, a beautiful apartment in the heart of the Diocletian Palace over looking the Peristil.
Video of Split by Madame Marmalade Food & Travel