There always seems to be something happening in Split, either along the Riva, amid the alleyways of Diocletian’s Palace, or down on Bačvice beach. This is a Mediterranean culture where people live outdoors, and discovering what’s around the next corner is most of the fun.
Exploring this Roman garrison is pretty much the first thing everyone does when they arrive in Split. This is not a historic monument where you queue up, pay admission, stand back and admire. The Diocletian’s Palace is the living, breathing heart of Split, dotted with scores of shops, cafés and restaurants, tucked down curious passageways and hiding in corners of enclosed courtyards. Its central square, Peristil, does merit reverent investigation – it features an original 3,500-year-old sphinx from Luxor topping one of its columns.
The cathedral bell tower
In the heart of Diocletian’s Palace, the Cathedral of Saint Domnius may appeal to those interested in ecclesiastical architecture but it’s the separate bell tower that brings in the crowds. A curious mix of styles, it rises over the city’s historic centre for six storeys and the dizzying climb up is rewarded with fabulous views for miles around.
If the Diocletian’s Palace is the heart of Split then the seafront promenade of the Riva is its face. Created in Napoleon’s time, the Riva has been Split’s shop window for 200 years. The Riva is where Spličani stroll, pose, meet, greet, chat, interact, sit, watch and, most of all, take coffee. Initially greeted with horror, its revamp of 2007 has become accepted, the row of LED lights and regular line of palms now the backdrop to the age-old tradition of the early-evening passeggiata.
Statue of Grgur Ninski
Designed by Ivan Meštrović, the statue of Grgur Ninski stands outside the Golden Gate of Diocletian’s Palace. With his finger pointing and clasping a book, this dramatic figure is part of the urban fabric. No-one knows why, but touching the big toe of this early medieval cleric is said to bring good luck.
Cathedral of Saint Domnius
Created as a staid mausoleum for the Emperor Diocletian, Split Cathedral is less spectacular than its landmark tower would suggest. Built in a combination of Romanesque and Gothic styles, it attracts swarms of tourists keen to climb up the six-flight campanile for the panoramic view.
Chill on Bačvice
Split’s city beach, just across the railway tracks from the bus station, is packed with Spličani and tourists all summer long. A half-moon of sand with shallow water for quite a way out, Bačvice lends itself to endless games of picigin, a ball game played with four or five people at the edge of the water.