TL;DR for our Split Post:
Split has a bit of a reputation for being a stopover point for other Croatian destinations. It’s a real-live city with 250,000 citizens (versus Dubrovnik, which is a high-density tourist bomb).
Due to the fine photography of a friend of ours and a bit of reading on Diocletian’s Palace, we decided to spend a few days exploring Split– and we really enjoyed it.
Diocletian’s Palace (wikipedia) is an archaeological site like no other that we’ve seen. It’s a truly sprawling palace built as a retirement home for a Roman emperor in the 4th century AD. It was never occupied and was fairly quickly abandoned. A few centuries later, the local folks moved inside the palace because it provided a solid defense against marauding barbarians, which was the genesis for Split.
The town grew up inside and around the palace. So instead of an ancient seaside ruin with tickets and tour buses, you have a thriving hodgepodge of roman, medieval and modern, living and breathing inside the (remarkably preserved) palace.
You can stay inside the palace walls (we did– recommended!), and spend a few days wandering the streets/port area. With 4 walls and plenty of landmarks, you don’t need a map and you pretty much can’t get lost. There are far fewer walking tours and pitchmen trying to sell you tours and it’s significantly less manicured than Dubrovnik. The restaurants are more of the same (pizza, expensive seafood, etc), but it’s all fresh and tasty.
Outside of town (a longish walk) is Marjan Park, which features more of the now-familiar Croatian-style swimming areas on either side with a ridge of rock running down the middle of the little peninsula. It’s worth a walk though town to the north shore of the park, which has an outstanding beach tucked into a tiny little inlet (see the map above). It features a nice little cafe, fresh water showers for after your swim, and a lovely pine forest on the beach to keep you shaded. A few steps away from the beach there’s a little arcade with air hockey, etc., which was keeping some of the waterlogged children entertained.
We ended up walking around the entire peninsula, where there are a few more run-of-the-mill gravel beaches to choose from which seemed popular with the locals.
Would We Go Back?
It’s hard to recommend Split if you have to choose between it and places like Dubrovnik and Plitvice Lakes National Park (post forthcoming)… But hopefully you don’t have to make a choice. Diocletian’s Palace is truly amazing and it’s conveniently walkable from the dock, train and bus station. If you had the time it’d be silly not to spend a few days exploring.