One of my favorite restaurants is Villa Spiza, which is down an alley within walking distance of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Diocletian’s Palace in the old town. It’s small and bustling – the locals love it! The menu is handwritten each morning to reflect the season. Depending on the day, you might also find traditional Croatian dishes pasticada (slow-cooked beef in red wine with gnocchi) or brujet (Fish Stew) – The grilled fish and shellfish dishes are always delicious.
For fine dining, there’s Dvor, a 20-minute walk east of Old Town. The chef is one of the best in Croatia. There is an outside terrace overlooking Firule Beach where you can sometimes see people playing in the sea Picigin (a unique sport in Split where a team holds a small ball out of the water).
We also have the wonderful Pazar Green Market selling fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese and olive oil. Some of the stallholders have been there for almost 50 years and they are such characters.
We have wonderful museums in the city. One of my favorites is the Ethnographic Museum, which is packed with exhibits showing how people lived in Split in the past, with everything from jewelry to pots. Its roof offers a breathtaking view of the Peristil – the central square of the palace complex built for Emperor Diocletian at the turn of the 4th century.
We also have the magnificent National Theater, a beautiful neo-baroque building from the late 19th century, one of the oldest preserved theaters in Dalmatia. Ballet, opera and concerts performed here are world class.
I live in Meje, a quiet part of Split, 20 minutes walk west of the old town. Located near the Ivan Meštrović promenade, named after Croatia’s most prolific sculptor, it’s one of my favorite walks. It follows the west coast of Split and provides access to some beautiful pebbly beaches – like Obojena Svjetlost and Kašjuni – where the water is crystal clear.
On Sundays I like to go to Marjan Hill, a park we call “Split’s lungs”. The view from the top is breathtaking and stretches to the islands of Brač and Šolta and even a bit of Hvar. This is a popular place for cycling, climbing and hiking, and you can take the hiking trail to get here from the western Riva – the seafront promenade.
Just outside of Split there are hiking trails in the Mosor Mountains known as the “Split Alps”. In the summer it can get too hot to hike, but in the fall and winter it’s a popular spot with great views.
In 2021, the new 140 km long hiking trail Via Brattia opened on Brač, a 50-minute ferry crossing from Split. Dubbed the Croatian Camino, this circular island walk connects 12 historical, religious, and natural beauty sites.
Marcus Marulus, known as the father of Croatian literature, was born in Split, and the Gothic palace where he lived as a child is now Marvlvs Library Jazz Bar. Its walls are lined with bookshelves and it serves Dalmatian drinks from rakia ( fruit brandy) to wines such as pošip. For cocktails, there’s Noor, which has an imaginative menu that includes the Spicy Sunset, made with chilli-infused tequila.
The bar in the Michelin-starred Kinoteka restaurant offers an excellent wine list. Order a Malione of the most important grapes in Dalmatia, and drink it in the 15th-century courtyard.
Where to sleep
On Pjaca, the city’s main square, the Santa Lucia Heritage Hotel (doubles from £90 room only) is housed in a 17th-century building: a recent refurbishment has made it particularly pretty. The rooftop bar offers excellent views over the old town.
Robyn Vulinovich runs My hidden Croatia, to organizeFood, Wine, Sailing, Hiking and Cultural tours for small groups in Split and Dalmatia