Best Things to Do in Split in One Day – An Itinerary
The best towns, villages, and cities are those on the coast, right?! Well, while this might not always be true, it is true that coastal towns are some of the prettiest places here in Europe.
With an abundance of colorful, medieval towns and villages on the coast of Croatia (and in Europe, in general), there are so many places to visit that you have to focus on the prettiest. One of the prettiest coastal towns might just be Split.
It is located on Croatia´s Dalmatian Coast, on a small peninsula, and has become a very popular tourist attraction and a must-see in Croatia. The Marjan Hill rises on the western side of the peninsula, and the Mounts Kozjak and Mosor rise high on the north and northwest sides of the city – making it one of the prettiest coastal towns in Europe.
So, whether you are in Split for one or two days, here is my Split itinerary so you can see the best places in Split and experience the best the city has to offer. But before talking about the best things to do and see in Split, here are some tips for your Split trip.
SPLIT TRAVEL TIPS
Best Time to Visit Split
Split gets extremely popular in the summer months – especially if you enjoy swimming, sailing, and other water sports. However, this also means it gets busy as heck, resulting in higher prices for accommodations (and also some activities) and more crowds.
I visited in April. I had some lovely weather, but it is definitely not warm enough to enjoy long beach days. Also, some activities and tours were not open as construction was going on and the weather forecast predicted some rainy days in Split.
So, I suggest visiting in May, early June, or late September (and even October) if you don’t want to rub shoulders with all the other tourists.
How to Arrive and Get Around Split (Old Town)
From Split Airport: The cheapest way is to get to the old town via the line 37 bus. It takes about 40 minutes to reach the main Split bus station. Alternatively, there is a slightly faster airport shuttle service.
By car: It is easy to drive in Split (compared to driving in Italy´s cities), but you might be better off leaving your car in one of the parking slots outside the old town (mostly paid, but if you park a bit further out, you can find free ones as well).
I arrived by car, but left it at my hotel in front of the old town and walked everywhere easily, as most of the sights are located in the historic center.
By train: There is a train station and you can get there from Zagreb (one-way tickets are around 28€).
Just make sure to wear comfortable shoes (just saying: cobblestone alleys and hills).
If you do day trips, you can do them easily by car (except the islands), boats, or public transportation (local and regional buses are great for visiting places on the mainland).
When getting out to the islands, you have your choice of regular ferries and more expensive speedboats, depending on which islands you’re headed to and when.
Accommodations in Split
Book your accommodation in the Old Town – ideally. With a dog and a car, I was limited, but without these constraints, a place directly in the old town would have been my choice.
Most of the tourist attractions are found in or immediately near Diocletian’s Palace, making it a very convenient area to stay in.
Many places to stay at are so-called apartments – especially convenient when you are like to prepare your own food (as a vegetarian in the Balkans this was a main issue for me).
For more luxury, check out the Hotel Park Split by Bačvice Beach.
Costs in Split
Croatia is still quite affordable compared to many countries in Western Europe, but it is far from being super cheap. Split is no different – you can find cheap food and places to stay, but drinks in the tourist hotspots (like Riva Promenade) are no bargain.
The currency is the Croatian Kuna – however, the € is often accepted (but it will probably be more expensive to pay in euros).
I often say “a few €“ in this post – as it would sound like a lot of money if I wrote “a few hundred Kuna.“
In April 2019: 10 Kuna = 1.38€ (around $1.50)
The Best Split Itinerary – What to Do and See in Split
One day in Split may not sound like a lot, but with a day here, you will be able to experience and visit the best places in Split. Use this itinerary for Split to find out about the main attractions and best places.
Day 1 in Split
Tip: Start the day early, as the tourists from the cruise ships and bus tours will arrive quite early, so to beat the crowds you have to be there before them… ideally.
Day one begins with the sights in Split’s ancient center around Diocletian’s Palace, before wandering to nearby city attractions.
A little city, within the old part of the city… This is one of the best places in Split, and Diocletian’s Palace is one of the best-preserved monuments of Roman architecture in the world.
If you enter Diocletian´s Palace (ideally via the Golden Gate, a 4th-century Roman stone entryway with arches & ornate statues), you will have an impressive start to your day in Split.
Emperor Diocletian is considered to be the founder of Split in the 3rd century. The palace was built for Emperor Diocletian’s retirement (this huge fortified palace took up much of the modern city center) and is a rectangular building (approximately 215 x 180 meters) with four large towers at the corners, doors on each of its four sides, and four small towers on the walls.
You can enter and stroll this area for free. I suggest getting here first, as it gets very busy during the day. This way, you have the option to experience the place without the crowds.
Here are the main attractions of Diocletian’s Palace:
The Peristyle is the main and most important square of Diocletian’s Palace, and it is a great place to see what the city looked like back in the day.
For a while, it was also the religious center and the ideal theater scenery, perfect for opera classics and works of ancient literature.
Now, you can have a drink in one of the cafes and watch people admiring the place (they probably also admire the Egyptian influence, as the Peristyle is closely watched over by a 3500-year-old and perfectly-preserved sphinx).
Diocletian’s Palace substructures represent one of the best preserved ancient complexes of their kind, and are listed as a UNESCO’S World Heritage site.
In Roman times, their function was to elevate the Emperor’s chambers on the floor above, but they were also the storage area for the palace; now, they are used for different things. You´ll find painting and sculpture exhibitions, theater plays, fairs (including the International Flower Fair), souvenir shops, and more.
The entrance is through Porta Aenea, from the Riva, or down the stairs from the Peristyle (there is an entrance fee of a few €, but you can buy combined tickets that can help you save money).
Cathedral and Bell Tower of Saint Domnius
Head to the Cathedral and Bell Tower of Saint Domnius, one of Split’s other major landmarks, which is just around the corner.
Among the European cathedrals, this one finds its seat in the oldest building – the Mausoleum of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. You can visit the cathedral for an entrance fee (The Cathedral + The Baptistery + The Crypt), or get a combined ticket to also climb the Saint Domnius Bell Tower.
The Bell Tower of Saint Domnius (standing at 57 meters) is the most original Dalmatian Medieval architecture, which was started in the 13th century, and you can now enjoy the views from there.
It was under renovation during the time of my visit, but it is supposed to be open again – so make sure to climb all the steps to enjoy views of Diocletian’s Palace, the waterfront, and Marjan Hill.
There are four city gates and, if you can, check them all out. As they surround Diocletian’s Palace, they are not far from each other and each is worth seeing on its own.
The four gates are: the Golden Gate (a great way to enter Diocletian’s Palace if you don’t stay in the old town), the Silver Gate (great if you want to get to the Green Market afterward), the Brass Gate (if you want to head to the promenade straight away), and the Iron Gate.
Sneak a different and unique view of the Cathedral from the Vestibule. The vestibule was used to enter the residential part of the palace. Pay attention to the single flowers there (very small, can you spot them? How cute are they?).
There is also the Ethnographic Museum. For a small entrance fee, you can learn more about the traditional costumes, crafts, and culture of the Dalmatian Coast. Apparently, you can also get to the rooftop terrace and enjoy great views from there (if you don’t want to climb all the stairs at the bell tower).
Depending on the speed of your sightseeing trip, you will probably spend half a day here. So, even if you do not climb the bell tower, you will stroll the streets and spend a few hours here.
Is it time to think about lunch before heading to the next Split sight?
If you prefer fresh fruits and veggies to a meal in a restaurant, head out via the Silver Gate and you will arrive at the Green Market, where you can buy fresh produce for your lunch/dessert.
For great views that are free, head to Marjan Hill. Marjan Hill is the perfect place for nice walks and easy hikes.
Pass the Riva Waterfront Promenade (for now) and the fountain at the end of it, and you will find a long staircase that leads you to Marjan Hill.
After 10 minutes (and many steps), you will have great views over Split and the Dalmatian Coast from the Telegrin peak.
There is a restaurant here with very cute decorations – but if you prefer some more walking, head to the church farther up, visit the Jewish cemetery, or stroll and chill in the park above the Telegrin peak.
Of course, it is up to you, but I think that if you are following this itinerary, it will be afternoon now and you should be heading to the River Waterfront.
Tip: If you want to check out the Marina, then don’t head to the River promenade, but instead turn left, coming down the hill to enjoy a nice stroll along the Split Marina.
I am normally always ready for a boat tour, but on that day, I skipped the tour. For 20€ though, you can do a 90-minute cruise and see Split from the water.
There are even some sunset cruises that you can enjoy!
Riva Waterfront Promenade
It is time to think about dinner, and the best place to have it is probably at Riva Waterfront Promenade. This is a popular and busy place – the promenade is paved with marble and lined with palm trees – just lovely!
If you are not hungry yet, relax on one of the benches and work on your tan before grabbing a good seat at one of the many bars and restaurants that line the harbor.
It is also a beautiful place to watch the sunset, so make sure to get a front-row seat.
Watch the Sunset
The Riva Promenade is probably one of the best spots to watch the sunset – and convenient, as you can combine it with your dinner. There are quite a few benches to lounge on and end your day the chill way. However, I can imagine it gets quite busy in the summer months, so make sure to grab a seat before all the other people come.
So, what about some beach time? There are a few beaches in Split, so if you are here in the summer months and want to cool down, there a couple of places to choose from.
Bačvice Beach is just behind the city’s ferry terminal. It is easy to reach from the town center and, thus, a great place to stop. This is one of Split’s most popular and accessible beaches – with one day in Split you might not want to spend too much time here, but cooling down in the summer sounds like a plan, right?
Split is a beauty – hopefully, this post helps you planning and organizing your 1-day itinerary in Split and finding the most beautiful places in the city. Enjoy!
Planning to see more of Croatia´s beauty? Then check out my Rovinj travel guide.