Cathedral of St Domnius
Split’s octagonal cathedral is one of the best-preserved ancient Roman buildings still standing. It was built as a mausoleum for Diocletian, the last famous persecutor of the Christians, who was interred here in AD 311.
In the 5th century the Christians got the last laugh, destroying the emperor's sarcophagus and converting his tomb into a church dedicated to one of his victims.
The exterior of the building is still encircled by an original colonnade of 24 columns. A much later addition, the tall Romanesque bell tower, was constructed between the 13th and 16th centuries
In Cathedral you can see crypt, treasury and baptistery
Taking up a prime harbourside position, this extraordinary complex is one of the most imposing ancient Roman structures in existence today, and it's where you’ll spend most of your time while in Split.
Don’t expect a palace, though, nor a museum – this is the city's living heart, its labyrinthine streets packed with people, bars, shops and restaurants. Built as a military fortress, imperial residence and fortified town, the palace measures 215m from north to south and 180m east to west.
Although the original structure has been added to continuously over the millenniums, the alterations have only served to increase the allure of this fascinating site.
The palace was built in the 4th century from lustrous white stone transported from the island of Brac, and construction lasted 10 years. Diocletian spared no expense, importing marble from Italy and Greece, as well as columns and 12 sphinxes from Egypt.
Each wall has a gate at its centre that's named after a metal: the northern Golden Gate, the southern Bronze Gate, the eastern Silver Gate and the western Iron Gate.
Controlling the valley leading into Split, this imposing fortress spreads along a limestone bluff, reaching 385m at its highest point. Its long and narrow form (304 m by 53 m) derives from constant extensions over the course of millennia.
Inside, you can clamber all over the fortifications and visit the small museum, which has displays of swords and costumes and detailed information on the castle's brutal past.
Peristyle represents the very heart of Split, and a place you’ll hardly miss even if you try to. As its name implies, it is a court turned town square surrounded by a row of columns.
This picturesque colonnaded ancient Roman peristyle (courtyard) lies at the very heart of Diocletian's Palace. In summer you can almost be guaranteed a pair of strapping local lads dressed as legionaries adding to the scene.
Notice the black-granite sphinx sitting between the columns near the cathedral; dating from the 15th century BC, it was one of 12 looted from Egypt when the palace was constructed.
In the middle ages, it became the religious center. The Jupiter Temple got a bell tower and was turned into a baptistery.
Climb the Bell Tower
If you want to experience the best panorama of Split, you ought to climb the Split bell tower.
Built between the 13th and 16th centuries and later reconstructed in 1908, the tower is 59 m high, and it takes about 200 stairs to climb up.
However, the view is absolutely worth it. The stairs are narrow at certain places. They start as steep stone stairs, just to quickly pass into suspended metal stairs.
Visit the Temple of Jupiter
When taking a look at the Split's Cathedral, don't miss a visit to the baptistry. It was originally built in the 3rd century as a Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter, a king of Gods but was transformed into the Baptistery in the 6th century.
Today the structure is almost intact. The carving on the barrel-vaulted ceiling features a relief with 64 different facial expressions. It's interesting to gaze at all those faces showing different emotions.
The decorative door is also interesting, and so is the headless granite sphinx that Romans brought from Egypt. The early Christians destroyed sphinx head because for them it was a pagan symbol.
The ruins of the ancient city of Salona, situated at the foot of the mountains just northeast of Split, are the most archaeologically important in Croatia.
Salona was first mentioned as an Illyrian town in 119 BC and it's thought that it already had walls by then. The Romans seized the site in 78 BC and under the rule of Augustus it became the administrative headquarters of the empire's Dalmatian province. When Emperor Diocletian built his palace in Split at the end of the 3rd century AD, it was the proximity to Salona that attracted him.
While many of Salona's ancient treasures are now on display in Split's Archaeological Museum, there's a surprising amount in situ
A treasure trove of classical sculpture and mosaics is displayed at this excellent museum, a short walk north of the town centre. Most of the vast collection originated from the ancient Roman settlements of Split and neighbouring Salona (Solin), and there's also some Greek pottery from the island of Vis.
There are displays of jewellery and coins, and a room filled with artefacts dating from the Palaeolithic
A lot of the most interesting items, including the larger statues and sarcophagi, are arranged outside in the cloister.
A 178 m high hill, set at the small peninsula, northwest of the old town, Marjan Hill is locals’ favorite recreational spot close to the city center.
The hill offers numerous footpaths and jogging trails, and it has always been a popular place for walking, jogging, rock-climbing, and mountain-biking (more about some of these activities below).
Up, at the summit, there is a café bar Vidilica, perched atop the hill, where you can chill out, and enjoy a view over the town and the sea.
When you are already hiking Marjan Hill, don’t miss to explore numerous small churches, and chapels scattered throughout the area.
St. Jere Church was built in the 15th century. We like this church because of a nearby hermitage site, carved into the hill rocks.
Located on the southeast slopes of Marjan, a church of St. Nicolas the Traveler was built in the early 13th century.
A church of Our Lady of Good Counsel was built in 1513, within the Capogrosso Castle. It contains woodcuts by Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic, showing the life of Christ.
A church of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows is located in the area of Kasjuni. It was built in the mid -14th century. It contains a relief from the 17th century, believed to be a work of Juraj Dalmatinac, a great sculptor and architect from the time of Venetian Republic.
Other churches on the Marjan Hill include Our Lady of Bethlehem, St. George, St. Benedict, Our Lady of Spinut, St. Magdalene of the Poor, etc.
Fish Market in Split
As stinky and chaotic a scene as you could possibly imagine, Split's indoor-outdoor fish market is a spectacle to behold. Locals head here on a daily basis to haggle for all their scaly and slimy requirements from their favourite chain-smoking vendors. All over will finised by about 11am.
You will love examining the daily catch and get particularly excited by small, bluefish, like anchovies, and sardines. This kind of fish is typical for the Adriatic and was a staple of Dalmatian cuisine for centuries.
Stroll along Split seafront promenade (Riva)
Split's waterfront, Riva, is the heart of the town, and the pride of every person from Split.
People of Split demonstrated in 2007, after Riva’s renovation, how sensible they are to their waterfront. Riva's new, shiny look enraged locals so much that they protested for months demanding the old patina to be brought back. I think today everybody would agree that the new look is simply great.
The seafront promenade is lined with cafes, bars, eateries, and souvenir shops. On the east side, there is a green market, and on the west side, there is a Republic square, the church of St. Francis, and a nice fountain.
Enjoy morning or evening stroll, have a drink in one of many bars, and feel the vibe of this magnificent city. People-watch is the local sport here.
Offering great-quality Dalmatian fare, this friendly little Veli Varoš tavern features daily specials such as cuttlefish brujet (a flavour-packed seafood stew – highly recommended), gregada (fish stew with potato) and prawn pasta.
The wine list is excellent, showcasing some local boutique wineries, and there are a few seats outside on the street leading up to Marjan Hill.
This cosy, rustic tavern, in an alleyway minutes from the seafront, specialises in well-prepared seafood – as epitomised in its perfectly cooked fish platter for two.
The grilled squid is also excellent, served with the archetypal Dalmatian side dish, blitva, Swiss chard with slightly mushy potato, drenched in olive oil. Book ahead.