A bustling city situated along the eastern shore of the sparkling Adriatic Sea, historic Split offers a plethora of sights, flavors, and adventures to discover with your family. Croatia’s second-largest city, Split has origins dating back centuries. Today the city is a hub of activity and tourism, anchored by the impressive Diocletian’s Palace and the busy harbor.
The beautiful, palm-tree-lined waterfront promenade is the perfect place to get acquainted with this unique city. If you arrive in Split by boat, the Riva will be your grand welcome mat. Blending modern design with ancient landmarks, this lively hub makes a stunning place for a leisurely stroll, or opt for some people watching from one of the many relaxing outdoor cafes.
The kids will love spotting the cruise ships, ferries, and fishing boats come and go, and there’s no shortage of ice cream and gelato stands for a cool treat on a warm day. Here you can also find many tour operators selling their excursions for both land and sea trips. Flanked by awe-inspiring Diocletian’s Palace on one side and the busy harbor on the other side, the Riva invites visitors to marvel at the centuries-old gathering spot, plan your Split adventures, or rest your feet after a long day of exploring.
Arguably the main and most impressive attraction in Split is Diocletian’s Palace. The sprawling, beautifully preserved ancient palace was built in the early 4th century by Roman emperor Diocletian as both a retirement home and a military fortress. Today the palace is bustling with restaurants, bars, residences, shops, and market stalls.
Our family took a 90-minute guided walking tour of the palace which was a fantastic, inexpensive way to get a comprehensive overview of the palace’s rich history and impressive design. During the tour we were also treated to a few lovely songs performed by a traditional Dalmatian Klapa (a cappella) singing group. A walking tour of the palace is definitely one of the best things to do while visiting Split. There will be something of interest for everyone!
Pro tip: St. Martin’s Church is a tiny Roman Catholic church built right into a second-story crevice of the palace’s Golden Gate. This unique little worship space is worth a visit and offers visitors a few moments of peace away from the hustle and bustle below. As you enter, consider a nominal donation to the Dominican Sisters who care for the space.
It’s easy to spend a few days wandering through the narrow passageways, grand courtyards, and underground tunnels of the palace, imagining what life was like hundreds of years ago. Grab a coffee from 4coffee soul food, a literal hole in the wall on the northeast corner of the palace, enjoy browsing the market stalls, and then find a casual eatery for a delicious family lunch. Fresh seafood is the local specialty!
Pro tip: Be sure to check out the fresh fish market on the west side of the palace, and take time to shop around for the best bargains on popular, local Croatian goods such as lavender, olive oil, and wine!
Marble, limestone, grand archways, Egyptian sphinxes, wide paths intended for military formations, and narrow alleys built for quick hideaways all make for a majestic and wondrous place to explore. History truly comes alive within the palace, offering your entire family a unique and memorable experience!
About a 15-minute walk from Diocletian’s Palace is Bacvice Beach. Although this beach is small and often busy, its shallow waters are terrific for kids, and its a pleasant place for sunbathing. Our kids are easily occupied on a sandy beach for an hour or so, which offered our family a relaxing change of pace.
We splashed in the water, ate our picnic lunch, and enjoyed watching a group of locals play what resembled a kind of water soccer game. There are beach chairs and umbrellas available for rent. Take note: We didn’t find any public toilets so plan accordingly.
Krka National Park
One of the best things to do during your stay in Split is to venture outside of the city and explore one (or a few) of the stunning national parks. There are several to choose from, and you can either drive yourself or book tickets on a guided tour which is what we did.
We only had time for one national park day trip, so based on reviews we narrowed it down to either Plitvice National Park or Krka National Park. Because Plitvice National Park is a three-hour drive from Split, and Krka National Park is only a 90-minute drive, we opted to visit Krka National Park. We were not disappointed!
Krka National Park offers dozens of cascading blue-green waterfalls, lush trails, lovely boardwalks, a few food stalls, swimming, (depending on the time of year), and several historical buildings to check out. Our particular tour also included a boat ride to the small village of Skradin and an excursion to a small, local winery.
Top tip: Pack plenty of water, food, snacks, and loose change for entry to the public toilets.
This easily-accessible, densely forested park sits just to the west of the Riva and is often called the lungs of the city. Located on a peninsula, Marjan Hill is a favorite spot for running, walking, biking, and hiking, offering a welcomed nature retreat adjacent to the busy old town of Split. The highest peak, Telegrin, is about 170 meters high (557 feet) and is less than three kilometers (just under 2 miles) from Diocletian’s Palace.
There are a few ways to enter the park from the Riva, and each route has unique sights along the way. Marjan Hill offers several trails, lookout points, beaches, churches, rock dwellings, and even rock climbing! Take in a sweeping view of Split’s old town, relax on a secluded beach, or enjoy a nature walk. No matter what your family is looking for, there are sure to be suitable activities for everyone in this expansive and convenient park.
Our family loved visiting Split. The charming atmosphere is unlike any other city we have visited, and meandering through Diocletian’s Palace each day instantly transported us back in time and sparked endless conversations about the towers, statues, and which way to turn next.
We were welcomed by locals everywhere we went, and our kiddos loved walking along the harbor, playing at our little neighborhood park, and greeting birds on the small balcony of our apartment just a block from the Golden Gate.
With so much to see and explore, it’s difficult to select just five best things to do in Split, but we’re confident that this list of top picks will jump start your family’s planning! If you’ve been to Split, is there another must-see attraction that your family enjoyed? Let us know!