Split: A gateway to a wonderful region

Croatia’s historic jewel is number two on the Kiwi.com 200 Coolest Cities list

Croatia’s Dalmatia coast has always been one of the most beautiful regions of the world. The Romans knew it, the Venetians knew it and the Ottomans knew it.

Split has been a resort for thousands of years – Shutterstock
Split has been a resort for thousands of years – Shutterstock

There are hundreds of clusters of islands and archipelagos, surrounded by the azure Mediterranean, to explore, and the Dinaric Alps roll down to the coast. Split is the gateway to this wonderful region, a fantastic city in itself, and has taken second place in our Kiwi.com 200 Coolest Cities ranking.

It was the Greeks who founded Split, and then it became the local Roman capital. Since then, the city has changed hands many times – but it has always been a resort.

Even under the Yugoslavian communism of Josip Broz Tito, tourism never collapsed. In fact, it grew. Millions of Brits took the opportunity to visit centrally-planned, custom-built resorts in a precursor to modern, luxury trips on a budget.

At the centre of Split lies Diocletian’s Palace. The Roman emperor had it built to be his retirement home. Now it forms half of the city’s old town – and is one of the reasons it was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1979, in the second year of selection.

Split’s old town is full of red-roofed buildings holding cafes, bars and restaurants that open onto the tiny squares and winding streets. The culture is to eat and drink in the warm open air whenever possible, and that is much of the year.

The culture in Split is to eat and drink in the warm open air whenever possible — Pavel L Photo and Video / Shutterstock
The culture in Split is to eat and drink in the warm open air whenever possible — Pavel L Photo and Video / Shutterstock

The cuisine is mostly Mediterranean seafood – fish and calamari and mussels slathered in olive oil, oregano and sage – although delicious pasta, meat and vegetarian dishes are available, of course.

Once you’ve eaten yourself into a stupor, the Park Šuma Marjan affords views over the city and sea after a delightful walk through the pines. It’s much quieter than the old town, and much more relaxed.

In summer, flights to Split are cheap. You’re looking at $120 for a return flight from the UK. Hotels start at around $400 for a week’s stay, but if you want views over the Adriatic from an infinity pool you can add another $1,000 on top for the luxury.