Croatia may have Game of Thrones to thank for luring a giant new wave of tourists to the country over the past decade since a number of locations in cities like Spit and Dubrovnik were used as filming locations for the hit TV series.
However, travelers are now realizing that Croatia has much more to offer than just settings of fictional kingdoms. There are plenty of real-life palaces and fortresses as well as countless beautiful islands to explore.
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And travel to Croatia looks to get even easier thanks to the fact it is expected to join Europe’s visa-free Schengen zone starting in 2023. And there couldn’t be a better time to consider the Croatian island of Hvar as it has been named one of the top destinations to visit in 2023.
Why You Should Visit Split in 2023
While Zagreb may hold the title of being Croatia’s capital and largest city, it’s also over 2 hours away from the coast which means it misses out on one of the country’s greatest attributes.
Meanwhile, Split is Croatia’s second-largest city and the largest along Croatia’s Adriatic coastline. It makes a great base for island hopping, where you can easily arrange a short ferry from Split to Hvar, Brač, or Korčula.
Split offers up plenty of intriguing history, nature, and of course, delicious local Mediterranean food like brudet fish stew, the unique black risotto featuring squid or cuttlefish, or Janjetina s bižima if you enjoy lamb.
And there’s no need to feel guilty about indulging in all of Split’s great dishes since you can easily burn off calories with the following top attractions and activities in and around the city.
What You Should Visit Split in 2023
Visiting Diocletian’s Palace is one of the top things to do in Split and it’s pretty hard to miss considering it takes up a great deal of the Old Town. This “living museum” if you will, dates back to the 4th century when it was the hangout for Roman Emperor Diocletian. In fact, Diocletian was born in Croatia just outside of Split.
More than just a massive collection of impressive ancient Roman architecture, Diocletian’s Palace has been transformed into a lively place filled with shops, accommodations, cafes, and restaurants where you can sample all that great Mediterranean food I talked about previously.
Four gates lead into the Palace, and it’s free to roam around. However, there are a number of areas that require tickets to see. So what’s inside? There are Egyptian sphinxes, the Temple Of Jupiter, the Cathedral of Saint Domnius with its imposing bell tower, and subterranean chambers to explore.
The main Peristyle Square, once a Roman court, is where much of the action is. During summer, it’s an especially beautiful place both day and night where you can catch live music, theatre, and festivals.
You may also want to check out the museum which details Split’s impressive and long history through its beautiful displays and exhibits.
Just a short distance out of Split, there are even more historic ruins worth visiting. Klis Fortress sits perched atop a limestone bluff overlooking the small town of Klis and the sea beyond. You can access the fortress by bus, organized tour, or simply driving yourself if you have a rental car which will take you under 30 minutes.
The fortress is quite impressive to look at, probably the reason Game of Thrones used it to portray the fictional city of Meereen which was notable for its many slaves. You, however, will feel like anything but a slave as you wander through the various gates and lookout points.
The fortress’s strategic position has meant it has been used for more than 2,000 years, first by the Illyrians and then by Venetians, Ottomans, and Austrians. What was once used as defensive lookout posts are now used to get stunning Instagram shots.
Some of the best views can be found from St Vitus' Church and Oprah Tower. And no the tower wasn’t named after that Oprah, although she has cruised along the Croatian coast in the past. The tower was once one of the vital defensive strongholds of the fortress.
At the base of the fortress in Klis is another great place to try some local food, and you’ll likely have worked up an appetite after walking around the fortress above.
Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city by visiting one of its top green spaces. Situated within Marjan Forest Park, you can easily access Marjan Hill from Old Town. You can rent a bike and cycle to the top via the road or take the famous Marjan Stairs” located near the monastery of St. Francis.
The main reason to climb Marjan Hill is to take advantage of the stunning views of Split below and the many popular islands just offshore in the distance. It’s also possible to often spot birds and butterflies while walking the trails that are flanked by pine trees.
You could say the park is a bit of a religious one in that there are a number of churches you’ll pass depending on the route you take, in addition to a giant white cross. While you can expect some elevation gain, it’s a rather comfortable walk for most fitness levels and there are many benches that allow you to take a rest.
The walk to the top of the hill takes approximately a half hour and there are a number of scenic lookouts both along the way and at the top of course.
Seeing all those beautiful islands from the various viewpoints on Marjan Hill will likely entice you to want to visit at least one or two. Thankfully, daily ferries make it to visit a number of islands that make great day trips from Split, which again acts as a perfect gateway to explore all the magic that lies offshore.
The ferry to Hvar is one of Split’s most popular. Hvar is known for its energetic nightlife with beach bars and dance clubs keeping the fun going late into the night. You’ll find a number of great restaurants and cafes in St. Stephen’s Square and beautiful quiet side streets to walk off your meal.
Hvar is also home to seasonal lavender fields that your nose will appreciate and you can arrange visits to the nearby Pakleni Islands.
Brač is even closer to Split and is home to Golden Horn Beach, likely the most popular and beautiful beach in the country. Hiking is a popular activity on Brač, whether you’re tackling the summit of Vidova Gora or arranging a guided tour to see the so-called Dragon’s Cave.
Brač is also home to lovely wineries and an olive oil museum with a tasting room.
Korčula offers up a very well-preserved medieval center along with the sandy Vela Przina Beach which is a bit of a rarity since most beaches along the coastline are pebbly.
If you want to head to a remote island, then check out Vis. Vis has only really been open to tourism for the last 30 years and still retains a bit of an exclusive feel. You may recognize a number of landscapes in Vis being that it was chosen as a film location for Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. And don’t tell me you’re not singing in your head or even aloud right now!
Visiting Vis also allows you to take boat trips to Biševo Island’s famous Blue Cave or Green Cave on Ravnik Island where you can do a bit of snorkeling and swimming.
If you’re up for some true adventure, the Cetina River isn’t too far from Split and offers all kinds of exciting outdoor recreation. A range of different tours can be organized as day trips from Split that include return transport and equipment.
One of the most enjoyable experiences is white water rafting which involves Class II and Class III rapids, meaning you don’t need any previous experience to enjoy it. If you’re not up for rapids, you can also book more relaxing tubing or canoe trips down the river that allow you to take in the natural surroundings at a much more leisurely pace. They can even arrange to have a picnic or barbecue along the river for you.
Additional adventure activities at Cetina River include canyoning which may include walking beneath waterfalls, exploring subterranean tunnels, swimming, cliff jumping, and abseiling. You can also enjoy ziplining over the river if you wish to stay dry. Most of the trips are offered from spring through fall.
These are just a sampling of the many attractions and activities available when visiting Split. Further research will show that day trips to Krka National Park are also achievable. Krka is a nice alternative to Plitvice Lakes National Park which of course attracts far larger crowds of tourists and is about twice the distance from Split.
A drive along the coast will also introduce you to a number of charming coastal towns and of course plenty more mouth-watering Croatian cuisine.
I hope you are inspired to consider visiting Split (or anywhere in Croatia) in 2023!
How about you? Have you ever been to Split? What was your favorite part? If you haven't what looks most interesting to you? Do tell!
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