Arriving in Split is exciting. It is the second largest city in Croatia (Zagreb being the largest and the capital) and the stunning turquoise waters of the Dalmatian coastline are breathtakingly beautiful when you are hovering to touch down.
Learn local language
On landing, the airport is small but efficient and you will find the local people are charming and friendly and it always helps if you can say a few local words. Try saying: “dobro jutro” which is good morning, “dober dan” good afternoon, or “hvala lepa” many thanks, “prosim” please (or you are welcome) “krasno” wonderful and “zelo dobro” which means great.
Enjoy local food
You will pay for things with Croatian Kuna and you will find the value is remarkably good on your shopping visits to well-stocked supermarkets like Konzum. There is even a Lidl store near the airport so you can get most things you need to buy. When you are in the supermarket, be adventurous and try some of the traditional ‘Rolani Burek’ which is a delicious spiral filo pastry filled with spicy meat.
Rolani Burek pastry
The smell of the warm freshly-baked pastry will tempt you to don a pair of supplied disposable gloves and grab your tongs, ready to bag a bargain. Don’t worry, if you are not keen on meat, there is a vegetarian version with feta, cottage cheese and spinach – a type of spanokopita.
Rakija alcoholic grape juice
You might want to wash it down later with a glass of rakija (like grappa) which is clear and alcoholic made from grapes and usually 40-65% proof, so be careful how much you drink! Alternatively, a large glass of water will do wonders to cleanse the palate from the flaky filo pastry – and don’t worry the water is safe, it is sparkling clear from the Adriatic Sea.
Seafood is a specialty
The Croats love their seafood, and you will find a multitude of choice. Squid, mussels, oysters and sardines will all tempt your tastebuds, and are often served with polenta, risotto, or a basket of wholesome crusty bread.
Tasty Plajeskavica burger for 18 kuna
If you just want a spicy hamburger you will love how many small local pork and beef sausages (occasionally lamb) they cram into a bun with onions and pickles. Or sometimes it is a huge Plajeskavica patty stuffed into a pita flatbread and drizzled with yoghurt dressing. You can enjoy munching into your tasty burger for 18 kuna and then down a glass of beer for 15 kuna (USD2.30) which completes a very satisfying meal and doesn’t break the bank with a total spend of around $5. The delicious taste of this local fare beats McDonald’s hands down!
Roman ruins in the old town
So when you’re sated and ready to explore there is so much on the menu to see. Take a trip into the old town and you can view ruins dating back to the Roman Empire. Spend time meandering through the labyrinth of cobbled streets, capturing amazing photo opportunities with every turn. Or queue up and pay to visit the magnificent Diocletian’s Palace, built in 305 BC, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Filming of Game of Thrones
Lovers of ‘Game of Thrones’ will be delighted to discover that the cellar was used in filming, and Daenerys kept her dragons here when she was in Meereen. The centre of the Palace is called the Peristyle, with an amazing colonnade and steps, and even a black marble Sphinx brought from ancient Egypt.
Ancient Egyptian Sphinx
Of the twelve Sphinxes that the Emperor Diocletian brought to Split around 297 AD only this one remains; the rest were decapitated and destroyed with the arrival of Christianity. You will often spot a couple of Roman guards strolling for effect near the Sphinx and ready to face the cameras, or maybe you will hear the local traditional Klapa singers, standing at the Palace Vestibule, harmonising a cappella beautifully.
The Vestibule was built to greet visitors before entering the Palace, and its dramatic open air oculus (which is Latin for ‘eye’) is captivatingly stunning and is said to be a pathway between earth and sky.
St Domnius Cathedral
One of the main streets within the Palace is called the Cardo, and you can also enter through the enormous 13th century carved oak doors to view the St Domnius Cathedral which was built in the 7th century AD and is one of the oldest catholic cathedrals in the world.
Temple of Jupiter
A short walk from the Cathedral is the Temple of Jupiter, which is dedicated to the Roman God, Jupiter. The temple was built between 295 and 305, at the same time the Palace was built, and is richly decorated – including a barrel-coffered vault.
St John the Baptist
During Antiquity and The Middle Ages in the 6th century, the temple was dedicated to St John the Baptist, and the crypt was dedicated to St Thomas. In front of the temple there are reliefs depicting gods and heroes like Jupiter, Hercules, Apollo, Triton, Helios and Victoria. When you have finished viewing the temple, and if you are up for it, you can climb the Bell Tower where you will be rewarded for your effort by the spectacular views of the hillside and harbour.
People’s Square (Narochi Trg)
After all your exploring, if you’re ready for a coffee or something a little stronger, then make your way to People’s Square (Narochi Trg) which is the centre of the Old Town and paved in white marble. Listen to the town clock chime as you sip your drink of choice and drink in the splendour of all the history that surrounds you. No wonder the Emperor Diocletian chose Split over 1,700 years ago.
Lucky toe Grgur Ninski statue
Entering through the towering Golden Gate is impressive, as are the enormously thick military walls. For luck, don’t forget to rub the big toe of the imposing 8.5 metre statue (sculpted by Ivan Mestrovic) of the 10th century Croatian bishop, Grgur Ninski (Gregory of Nin). He was revered for fighting for the right to use old Croatian in liturgical services instead of Latin. You won’t miss the well-worn shine of his big toe from the thousands of eager tourists who have taken up the challenge and rubbed his toe for luck with the promise to return to Split. Afterwards, you might be tempted to take a stroll along the seaside promenade, known as The Riva.
Split on the beautiful Adriatic Sea
The harbourside of Split is always a great place to people-watch. Lined with palm trees, bars and restaurants you will constantly stop to gaze at the magnificent Baroque architecture or maybe it is time to stop and relax as you drink in the view. Seated in comfort and sipping your favourite tipple, you can enjoy looking outward to the myriad of bobbing fishing boats and stylish yachts that grace the clear blue Adriatic Sea and reflect with gratitude that you are present to witness this exquisite moment in time.