– Written by Victoria Philpott
Croatia’s biggest coastal city of Split is a nucleus of fun, sun, culture and history with medieval towns, Roman ruins and national parks in abundance. It’s also a great place to go when you’re on a budget as many attractions just charge a few kunas to get in. So, without further ado, HostelBookers presents… the top 10 cheap things to do in Split.
Don’t forget to check out HostelBookers Summer Sale 2011 for cheap summer accommodation in Split!
1. Laze on the many beaches
Split is well known for it’s beautiful crystal-blue coastline. From the young and vibrant Bacvice Beach, packed with restaurants and bars, to the calm and pretty Kasjuni Beach (above) at the foot of Marjan Hill, you’ll find your favourite place to tan your white bits (free!).
If you’re visiting with an active lot check out Bene Beach. The nearby tennis courts, ponies, playground and horse riding facilities will keep everyone busy, and there’s also a cafe and a picnic area to recharge your batteries.
2. Take photos of Diocletian’s Palace
Well, you can’t take it with you… Roman Emperor Diocletian ordered this palace to be built in 295AD as a retirement home for him to spend his final days. Now it’s a UNESCO world heritage site and one of Split’s top tourist attractions (free!).
The vast, fabulous palace now houses the heart of the city within the walls and an arcaded courtyard at its centre. It’s where the local residents fled when trying to escape the barbarians in ye olden days. They sought refuge among the rectangular Temple of Jupiter, the cruciform lower level of the Vestibule and the circular Temples to Cybele and Venus.
Four monumental gates mark the entrances on each of the outer walls; the Golden Gate, the Iron Gate, the Silver Gate and the Bronze Gate. Of course, it’s beautiful by day, but pay a visit in the evening, when a romantic air engulfs the palace.
3. Visit St Domnius Cathedral and the Bell Tower
Also housed in Diocletian’s Palace is St Dominus’ Cathedral and the Bell Tower, but you’ll need a good head for heights to make it to the top (15kunas/€2). At 60m high the tower looms over the city, but it’s reassuring presence can be seen all over the city. It took 4 centuries to build and it now stands proud from Split’s cathedral.
Originally built as Emperor Diocletian’s mausoleum, St Domnius Cathedral became a church in the 7th century. The Emperor is sure to be turning in his grave – he was well known for persecuting Christians. Oh, the irony.
4. Stroll along the Riva Promenade
It’s a vital part of any holiday to allocate some time to people watching, and in Split the best place to do it is on the famous waterfront Riva Promenade (known locally as Obala Hrvatskog Narodnog Preporoda — but we’ll stick with Riva).
The newly revamped walkway is a great place to grab a coffee and watch the locals and tourists go about their day, with the beautiful setting of the Adriatic in the background. The pedestrian avenue is flanked by bars, cafes and eateries, too.
Make sure you check it out in the evening, as you can see the best sunsets accompanied by a pint of the local beer. And if you’re in the party mood, it’s also the place to board the party boats, which brings us onto…
5. Check out the nightlife
Some tourists visit Split on the trail of the nightlife alone, yes, it’s that good. The city brims with the party spirit, whether you’re in the Bacvice complex near the beach or in the city’s old town.
The Riva is a great place to start your evening, try ST-Riva which has chairs and tables on the Promenade or, even better, a first floor balcony. After a few warm-up drinks work your way 100m down the Riva to Puls, Fluid and Ghetto. Popular bars where the music is loud and the party spills out onto the street.
At 1am it’s time to hit the clubs, a popular choice is Hemingway Split, which has the longest bar in Split and a newly renovated outdoors area with VIP lounges. Or try Vanilla Club, it has a huge terrace and delicious cocktails served all night. Both clubs are free to get in, but you’ll need to be well dressed – ie. not fresh from the beach.
6. Stay in a wicked hostel
CroParadise Blue Hostel is one of HostelBookers’ customer’s top rated. It’s located in the centre of the city, just a few minutes from Diocletian’s Palace, the bus station, train station and ferry port. All the dorms and private rooms have air conditioning, big wardrobes, computers, free wifi and flatscreen TVs with 3000 movies on demand. There’s also two common rooms with PC’s, two guest kitchens and three balconies to watch the city go by. With helpful staff and brimming with atmosphere and character CroParadise Blue Hostel is an excellent place to meet people.
Privates start at €13.56 pppn and dorms at €15.19 pppn.
Or, if you fancy staying in accommodation on the sea instead Hostel Adria is a unique, family-run hostel that fits the bill. Located in the lazy, picturesque village of Bajince, it’s right next to the beautiful, clear Adriatic Sea and just a short bus ride from the buzz of Split and Omis. As well as a guest kitchen complete with all the mod cons there’s also washing and ironing facilities and big, clean rooms to welcome you after a day’s spent at the beach. The helpful and friendly staff really made this hostel stand out to our customers.
Privates start at €15.60 pppn and dorms at €16.50 pppn.
7. Relish in the stunning views
It’s a tough climb up Marjan Hill (free!) but you’ll be rewarded for your efforts with incredible views of the lush greenery against the crystal blue waters. From your viewpoint you’ll also enjoy views over the islands, several small chapels, hermit caves, pine trees and wild flowers.
If your heart is pumping and lungs are crying at the thought of climbing the 300+ steps, take solace in the fact that there are several stop off points along the way – including one with a café so you can get your breath back. You can also have a nose at the private villas dotted up the hill as you huff and you puff past.
8. Enjoy the artistic history
There are many art galleries in the city worth your attention — visit the tourist information office to get a Splitcard for €5 that will get you free or heavily discounted entry. If you’re staying for more than 3 days the card is free.
The Meštrović Gallery (30 kunas/€4) houses almost 200 collected works from Ivan Meštrović, the 20th century Croatian sculptor. The gallery used to be his house, he bequeathed it to the state on his death. The beautiful gardens are an added bonus. Your ticket is also valid for the Holy Cross Chapel in the 17th-century Kaštelet complex, where you can see Meštrović’s famed bas-relief woodcarvings of the cycle of New Testament.
The Gallery of Fine Arts (20 kunas/€3) is a permanent exhibition of modern art. Located just outside the Diocletian’s Palace the gallery includes icons, paintings, portraits and sculptures of the most notable Croatian artists and some well-known European artists, too.
9. Indulge in the extreme
A little more expensive, but cheap in regard to all the memories you’ll have you should go white water rafting in the Cetina Valley (approx 200kunas/€27). The rocky canyon is the perfect place to enjoy the sea in a more extreme way and under the guidance of an expert. The three-hour trip concludes with a meal at Radmanove Mlinice – a woodland near the river.
Less than 70km from Split, the rocky slopes of Mount Biokovo in Makarska make for an exciting hike. The best views you’ll ever see of Croatia’s islands and the sea will roll out before you and on a clear day you can even see Italy over the waters. Don’t forget your camera as you’ll also be in the company of hardy chamois goats and mouflon sheep. Organised tours are available (275kunas/€38) or make like Bear Grylls and head out there yourself.
10. Eat seafood
With all this coastline and a hop, skip and a jump to the sea the fish here is the freshest you can get. Buffet Fife in the Veli Varos neighbourhood, known as the old fisherman’s quarter, sources their fish from the seafood market next door and the menu changes depending on the previous day’s catch. It’s a popular spot with those on a budget – expect to spend around €9 for a plate of grilled fish, a side and a glass of wine.
Seafood pizza still counts – Pizzeria Galija is a popular restaurant for Split’s young ones. The pizzas are generally known as the best in town and start at €6. You can also get a few local beers to wash it all down