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In the past couple years, you’ve probably been hearing a lot about Croatia. And for good reason. It’s extremely photogenic, one of the many settings of Game of Thrones, has countless beautiful islands… the list goes on and on.
The most famous place to visit is probably Dubrovnik (King’s Landing to you Game Of Thrones fans). And I’ll be the first to admit: it lives up to the hype. But this article isn’t about Dubrovnik. It’s about knowing that there is so much more to explore on Croatia’s beautiful coast, starting with the biggest “city” in Dalmatia: Split.
I put city in quotes because it doesn’t really feel like a city. At least not when compared to other cities around the world. It has a population of less than 200k, and it’s pretty physically compact (about 30 sq mi). Even so, it’s the second biggest city in Croatia after the capital of Zagreb. But its history and culture are so much bigger than its size. Here are five reasons you should book a flight to Split immediately!
1) YOU CAN SLEEP IN AN ANCIENT ROMAN PALACE
If there’s one thing to know about Split, it’s this: the city center exists within a living monument. It’s a large palace that dates back to the 4th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But what might surprise you is that Diocletian’s palace isn’t a museum or ticketed attraction. It’s the city itself. The narrow stone corridors are lined with cafés and restaurants, shops and galleries. And yes, there are countless options for renting apartments or staying at a hostel within the palace. Even if you choose to stay outside the palace walls, you’ll still be meandering your way through the labyrinth-like structure for a good portion of your trip.
2) IT’S CHEAPER THAN DUBROVNIK
It’s true. Higher demand means higher prices. Even Split has high-season premiums, but it’s nothing compared to Dubrovnik, where they cater specifically to the spending habits of tourists. A cup of coffee might still seem cheap compared to Starbucks, but in Split, you can get your caffeine fix for half the price.
3) THERE ARE SO MANY OPTIONS FOR ISLAND HOPPING
Let’s talk for a sec about the geography of Croatia. Split is on the coastal side, towards the south in Dalmatia. Dubrovnik is way south. As in, you need to cross through Bosnia for a few miles and re-enter Croatia to get there. Skip the border controls and base yourself in Split. Split is a popular port for everything from cruises to sailboats and everything in between. And for good reason. There are so many islands within easy reach of the coast. The big ones are Brač, known for white pebble beaches, and Hvar, known for historic cultural landmarks and fun nightlife. There are dozens of other islands easily accessible by ferries or tours: Korčula, Vis, Mlijet, Šolta…the list goes on. Trust me, once you see the bright and clear water, you’ll never want to leave.
4) GAME OF THRONES WAS ALSO FILMED HERE
We all know that the biggest appeal of Dubrovnik is that it is King’s Landing. But you don’t need to give up your Game Of Thrones dreams, because Split was also a filming location. There are tour guides that can show you filming spots, shot by shot. There’s a reason why the narrow stone passages seem weirdly familiar. But honestly, you don’t even really need a guide. Just go down into the dungeons of the palace and see for yourself.
5) IT’S LESS SEASONAL THAN DUBROVNIK
Again, not only is it cheaper, you can actually visit off season and still have stuff to do, people to see. Sure, things are more lively during the summer, (especially because Split hosts Ultra Europe), and ferries to the islands may be less frequent off-season, but it’s nothing compared to Dubrovnik, which practically empties out during the winter. According to locals, many people just go there for summer jobs, and then hang out in other places (like Split) during low season.
6) THIS VIEW
Sure there’s the whole ancient Roman palace going on, but don’t let that distract you from the true gem of Split: Marjan Hill. Think of it as the Griffith Park of Split. It’s at the end of the peninsula, so you get sweeping views of the sea and the city. You could spend a whole day hiking, biking, swimming in the park, but even if you only have one day in Split, do a quick 10 minute hike up to the cafe, grab a coffee and take in the view.
Have you visited Split or another city Croatia? Please share with our readers in the comments below! Read Next > 6 Reasons To Go To Slovenia Immediately