Why visit Split, Croatia?
A family holiday once a year has always been necessary for us to nurture our relationships. To my family’s distress, I usually start planning our next holiday while I am on one. But, since my sons moved to Germany almost nine years ago, none of us take our annual family holiday for granted.
This year, my sons decided to plan our next family holiday to give us a taste of their world in Europe. At first thought, I choked up, thinking, “What if I don’t like the destination”? “What if they pick a hotel that I don’t like”? Then I remembered our family holiday isn’t about the weather, destination, or type of holiday; it’s about quality time with my family and feeling connected again.
I recalled one ‘disastrous’ family holiday in Koh Samui, Thailand, a few years ago, where it rained every day for ten solid days. But despite the rain, this became one of our best holidays, with so many cherished memories, because the weather compelled us to adapt our holiday plans. We rented scooters and toured the entire Island together.
For our upcoming family holiday in September, we only had two deal breakers. It cannot be a destination any of us has been to (a tough one as the boys travel around the globe being professional racing drivers), and it may not offer anything none of us are interested in (another demanding criterion as there is a generation gap which needs to be filled). After a vote on our family WhatsApp group, we decided on Split, Croatia.
Split has always been on my bucket list for its cultural history. None of us expected Split to be half as breathtaking as we experienced. Watch our Travel Buddy Lifestyle story on Instagram, where I ask, “Is it possible to fall in love with a destination at first sight?”.
On this holiday, we discovered the secrets to enjoying a family holiday. Like most relationships, a successful holiday needs compromise, effort, and communication.
Is Split a family-friendly destination?
Split, being only a one-and-a-half-hour flight from Munich, was the perfect choice as we could first watch my sons’ race in Sachsenring before flying together to Spilt.
Split has a contagious vibe for young and old; it offers a unique cultural history with ruins dating back to the Roman Empire, a bustling promenade waterfront and culinary experiences for a family like us who enjoy trying new restaurants.
Split offers great nightlife and is close to the Krka National Park, Blue Caves and Plitvice Lakes. It is also a less tourist trap than Dubrovnik for its many Game of Thrones sites.
In this article, I share ways to ensure you have the perfect family holiday and give some tips about the importance of compromising to make a family trip enjoyable for everyone.
Where is Split, Croatia?
Split is situated on a peninsula between the eastern part of the Gulf of Kaštela and the Split Channel. Marjan Hill rises in the western part of the peninsula. Split it the largest town in Dalmatia and the second-largest city in Croatia after Zagreb.
The history of Split
Croatia, formally known as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, received independence after the Croatian War of Independence. Initially, Split was only associated with the construction of the Diocletian’s Palace. Today, it has claimed its rightful place as a UNESCO World Heritage site and a major Croatian tourist destination. To read more about Split’s History, click here.
Ways to ensure an enjoyable family holiday (Split, Croatia)
Choose the perfect time for a family holiday
Split is a bustling port city, the second largest in Croatia, with majestic mountain and sea views. This football-obsessed city houses the local football team, HNK Hajduk. If you ever visit during a match, expect unruly behaviour as you witness the fanatical devotion to the sport of a significant fan association known as Torcida Split. Interestingly, the residents of Split prefer calling their city “the sportiest city in the world”.
Split has a Mediterranean climate characterised by hot and moderately dry summers and mild to cold, wet winters due to the strong northeastern wind called ‘bora’ from the Dinaric mountains. In the winter, the temperature rarely goes below 0 °C. July has the most sunshine hours (347.2 or 81%) and the least rain. Apparently, in early June, sea temperatures average around 21 degrees. The wettest month in Split is November, with nearly 113mm in twelve days. We didn’t experience any rain during our visit in September.
The water temperature was much colder than we expected. If you’ve ever been to Mauritius (our favourite island), you will understand why I say you don’t really go to Split for their beaches.
Pick a hotel that caters to everyone’s needs
We stayed at the Radisson Blue Resort in Split, which overlooks the Adriatic Sea. The hotel is situated only 3 kilometres from the city centre. With its serene surroundings on a white pebble beach. Among other things, the hotel offers many water sports activities (jet skis, diving school, wakeboarding and tubing), a state-of-the-art spa, a beach club, and a gym.
Expect to witness exceptional sunsets over the aquamarine waters of the Adriatic Sea. The best place to catch this is a Mistral Beach Bar. Look out for our next article, in which we will introduce you to the most spectacular beach bar near Podstrana, Spilt, called Gooshter Beach Club.
The hotel boasts five on-site restaurants and bars, the best of all being the buffet breakfast at The Fig Leaf restaurant with splendid ocean views. Here, we experienced an extraordinary sunset from the cool vibes of Mistral Beach Club, which serves the most enticing cocktails. The cocktail Gemišt is trendy in the continental parts of Croatia, while its coastal equivalent is Bevanda. Gemišt (from the German word gemischt, translated as “mixed”) is a mixer drink made of white wine and a little sparkling water.
Another hotel worth considering is Le Méridien Lav, Split, with a prime waterfront location, a beach bar, a marina and a private beach. Although we did not stay there, we visited Lav Podstrana. This area reminded me of Monaco, with the many luxury yachts. Podstrana is about 8km southeast of Split. Here, we enjoyed an exceptional lunch at Gooshter Beach Bar.
How to get to Split?
Split is fast becoming one of the most popular places in Croatia. Because Split is a major port city, there are many cruise liners and ferries servicing this port.
Split’s international airport is served by many airlines and from here you can reach the city centre by bus, taxi, shuttle or rental car.
For more information, click here.
Make time to relax and unwind together
Bačvice Beach, in the east, is one of the most popular beaches in Split. It is located around the corner from the Ferry Port and is the closest beach to the Old Town. You can expect sandy shores, shallow water, and many water sports activities. If you prefer less crowded beaches, head to Jezinac Beach, Ovcice, and Firule. Kasjuni Beach has spectacular views of Marjan Hill. Here, you can enjoy crystal-clear turquoise waters with a pebbly beach.
We also loved spending time together in the hotel’s ‘included’ wellness centre. We tried everything from the steam rooms to the Finish sauna, cold and warm pools, and whirlpools. The boys enjoyed the well-equipped gym tremendously. This was one of the best wellness centres we visited in a hotel.
Pick a unique restaurant that sparks conversation
If there is one thing besides Motorsport that our family has in common, it is food! Split’s seafront promenade is called Riva. It is the most vibey part of Split due to its many café, bars, eateries, and souvenir shops. The food in Split is highly influenced by its Italian ancestry, and therefore, Dalmatian cuisine features rich culinary traditions with unique Mediterranean flavours in this gastronomic destination. You will find many restaurants on the Riva promenade, and new ones are almost opening by the day.
Kelvin, our oldest son, wanted us to experience the most-talked-about restaurant in Split, Zoi, on the Diocletian Palace’s Southern wall (GPS location 43°30’26.5 “N 16°26’22.8” E). He booked a table on the open-air terrace on the restaurant’s top floor. We had 180-degree views over the Adriatic Sea. In our related article “Top 10 activities to do in Split, Croatia” we discuss Zoi in more detail.
This elegant Michelin-star restaurant presents Mediterranean cuisine with a modern twist and is infused with history; bookings a few days ahead are essential. The restaurant’s name is derived from the Greek word ‘meaning flower of life’, which genuinely makes you feel like celebrating life with its historical ambience.
The food and setting transported us back a thousand years; we could imagine how the kings, soldiers, and merchants lived in Split by looking at the structures around us. This setting sparked conversation and enabled us to enjoy what we all love.
Being an award-winning restaurant, you somehow expect a stiff setting and limited food that make you run to the closest Macky-Ds. This was not at all the case at Zoi restaurant. Prepare yourself to be served sophisticated meals in an unpretentious way that exuberates passion and joy. They even catered for me as a novel leaf-eater. We enjoyed a 5-course dinner for 85 Euros per person, a rather hefty price tag but absolutely worth it.
However, if you are unwilling to pay a premium for the exquisite views, we highly recommend Fig Restaurant on the ramparts of the Diocletian Palace with its sun-filled courtyard. They serve delectable meals by using fresh ingredients with a creative take. This restaurant is vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free friendly.
Allow everyone to do what they enjoy
When my sons opted to watch a tennis match, I could do two of my favourite activities on holiday: visiting markets and admiring historic buildings.
Split’s big open-air Pazar green market is worth visiting for anyone interested in the local culture. We enjoyed strolling along the many stalls that sell fresh fruit and vegetables, cheeses, cured meats, olive oils, low-cost clothing, shoes, and even unique souvenirs. Some of the stalls have been there for almost 50 years. The stalls run along Hvojeva Street from the east of the Diocletian Palace to the Silver Gate of the palace. The Pazar Green Market is open daily from 7 am to 2 pm.
Pro tip: Try ‘soparnik’, a traditional kale-type pie. It is so delicious. I had one every morning for breakfast at the Radisson Blu Hotel, but the ones from the market are just next level. Visit the call around noon if you want to buy fresh produce; this is the best time to bargain for good deals.
Click here for a recipe to make Soparik
Is the Diocletian Castle worth a visit?
Although my husband usually doesn’t enjoy museums and historical buildings, Split’s history, dating back 1,700 years, even fascinated him. The UNESCO-listed Diocletian’s Palace in the old town was constructed for Emperor Diocletian and built at the turn of the fourth century. Here, you can explore the oldest Catholic cathedral in Europe.
Peristyle square (locally known as Peristil) is the most beautiful part of the castle. This is a popular place for taking photos (early morning as crowds pack this area daily). It is also worth walking to Pjaca Square next to the town hall to admire the beautiful architecture. To read more about the Diocletian Castle click here.
What is the price for Cathedral ticket in Split?
There are four types of tickets for the Cathedral, depending on how many locations you want to visit. Here is the list:
- Blue ticket (7 euro) includes 3 sites: The Cathedral, Crypt, Baptistery
- Green ticket (10 euro) includes 3 sites: The Cathedral, Bell tower, Treasury
- Red ticket (8 euro) includes four sites: The Cathedral, Crypt, Baptistery, Treasury
- Purple ticket (11 euro) includes all five sites: The Cathedral, Crypt, Baptistery, Treasury, Bell tower
We bought the green tickets for 10 euros per person, giving us access to The Cathedral, Bell Tower and Treasury.
There are also many private walking tours in Split. click here fore more information.
Do things at your own pace
The bell tower of Saint Domnius Cathedral (known as Sveti Dujam by locals) is one of the most iconic buildings in Split. We climbed the 200 stairs to the top of the bell tower, where we were rewarded with 360-degree views of the Old Town. It is very doable in about 10 to 15 minutes if you take the time to admire the magnificent views along the way and the church bells of the tower.
For more information about the Diocletian Palace and where to buy tickets, click here.
Participate in activities that will create unforgettable memories
After carefully selecting the perfect day to make an island-hopping trip, according to our weather app, there will be no rain; we woke up to cloudy skies and soft drizzling. Not wanting the weather to spoil our holiday, we turned up to our boat with positive vibes. This trip soon became the highlight of our trip. The weather cleared within an hour and therefore turned into the perfect day trip. The full-day boat trip took us to three must-visit places on the islands of Bol, Carpe Diem Beach, and Havar. We paid 110 Euros per person. However, several ferries are operating daily trips to these and other islands for a fraction of the cost.
Our first stop was the island of Bol. Shaun and I loved strolling along the small promenade of Bol with traditional shops; it is also where we enjoyed our best lunch in Croatia (at the restaurant Pumparela) while the boys rented bicycles to explore the island.
The next stop was Havar. This charming coastal village has a unique vibe. I read so many articles about the unprecedented panoramic views from Fort Fortica. So, Shaun and I strolled up to the fortress, regularly stopping to admire the incredible views along the narrow path. The path starts to the left of Kroz Grodu Street. It is free to walk up the way to a certain point, but if you wish to enter the fortress, there is a charge of 10 Euros per person. I don’t believe it is worth visiting the fortress except for the magnificent view of Hvar and the Pakleni islands. While we explored the fortress, the boys enjoyed some ice-cold beers in a tiny little seaside restaurant.
To read more about Hvar, click on this link.
Our final stop was at Carpe Diem Beach, a small party island with Beach Clubs such as Auro Beach Bar. Instead, we all enjoyed the sun and sea and took hundreds of photos of us sitting on the swing in the water. To read more about Carpe Diem Beach visit Katie Caf’s Travel Blog. She explains the club in detail and warn patriots about some common scams.
Our favourite of the three islands is definitely Hvar. A walk up to the Spanjuletta fortress is a must!
I highly recommend staying over a night or two (maximum) on Hvar Island, but I don’t believe more than a day is necessary for Bol.
Compromise on things to do
I booked a tuk-tuk ride for us as I wanted to learn more about the culture of Split, and the boys could admire the scenery along the route. The one-and-a-half-hour tour on a four-seater tuk-tuk (booked with Viator) took us to Bacvice Beach, Poljud Stadium, Teraca Vidilica, and Kasjun Beach. The driver only stops for a few minutes at each location, so there was no time to enjoy the beaches. This tour is highly recommended for orienting you on your first day in Split.
According to all information, Marjan Hill is the most scenic hike in Spilt. We cheated by taking a tuk-tuk ride to the starting point of Marjan Hill. Here, we enjoyed the most amazing views of Old Town, Split from the bar and restaurant called Teraca Vidilica. From here, you can walk to the top of the hill. Since it was a sweltering day, none of us wanted to hike. If you want more information about the routes to Marjan Hill, Triptins provide a helpful map. Just click on this link.
Create family holiday traditions
We are known as a very competitive family, so we have to participate in a competitive activity, usually in teams, during our holiday. The boys booked a couple of Padel matches in Split, hoping to find a new sport we can compete in. Eating ice cream after dinner is another family tradition. Ice cream parlours in Split are like ants on a birthday cake. We found an ice cream parlour around every corner. Our favourte one is Aroma Gelato. It is one of our holiday traditions to taste who picked the best flavours.
Family holidays enable members to strengthen their bonds and to create memories to last a lifetime. Moreover, it gives members something to look forward to when separated by distance. The literature is bound with evidence that holidays can heal burnout and create a positive attitude. It is also the perfect time to re-examine our goals and establish our priorities in life.
So if I ask you now, where’s your favourite place? What will your answer be?
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Keep following our blogs, as in the follow-up articles; I will share information about the best restaurants, beaches and unexpected things to do and see while you’re in Split.