How you get to Dalmatia’s coastal destinations depends on your wallet, time, and whether you want to settle in at a single destination or move around to see as much as possible. Split is the logical northern starting point for any trip along the southern coast, unless you are chartering a private yacht and can pick your ports of call without worrying about traffic, bus schedules, or flight plans. On the mainland coast, a car gives you maximum flexibility, but to do the coast and outlying islands, you’re best using a combination of buses and ferries.
The pretty city of Split has a rich history. Since ancient times it has, in various guises, served as the economic and administrative centre of the beautiful Croatian Adriatic coastal region, today called Dalmatia. The city sits mainly on a peninsula on the eastern part of the island of Ciovo, although it has nowadays spread onto the mainland and encompasses the mouth of the River Cetina. From the 5th to the 2nd century BC Greek colonists settled the mainland and adjacent islands. Later came the Romans, in particular the Emperor Diocletian, who, being of Dalmatian origin, elected to build a huge palace at a spot then called Salona, in the year 303. A town grew up around the palace, and eventually, by the Middle Ages, the city of Split had begun to develop.
Be sure to stroll down Split’s spiffed up Riva, one of Croatia’s busiest promenades. In the morning, people linger over coffee at the Riva’s sidewalk tables before work, after the market, or in preparation for a day of sightseeing. From then on the tables aren’t empty until closing time. Never deserted, the Riva is at its busiest in the evening when people dine, stroll the concrete length, or arrive and depart on the late ferries.
Another important point of reference is Marmontova Street, a broad, paved pedestrian street that forms Old Town’s western border, lined with international clothing shops such as Zadar and Bershka, and mobile phone company stores. West of Marmontova, you’ll run into the Prokurative (aka Trg Republike), a horseshoe-shaped set of neoclassical buildings, some of which are now cafés and restaurants, with outdoor tables on the car-free square.
The Diocletian’s Palace still stands in the very heart of the old part of Split, which charms visitors with its cobbled streets and Roman architecture. The greater Split area is characterised by its lush vegetation and green areas, particularly Marjan Hill on the west of the peninsula with its ancient indigenous forest. The city makes an ideal base from which to explore the islands, beauty spots, and historic villages in central Dalmatia.
Split is also world renowned among seafarers for the quality, and quantity, of its marinas. There are 44 of them in the city area together, drawing yachts and catamarans from all over Europe and making it a great cruising destination in the Adriatic.
Sleepy through winter, Split wakes up with a vengeance in summer, when countless small bars and cafés set up outdoor seating and stay open until 1am. July and August also see a lively program of open-air after-dark concerts, along with the cultural events organized for the Split Summer Festival.