I did not have an idea of what exactly to expect from Split. This was one of the first trips that I did not plan an extensive itinerary for, instead opting to see how each day panned out on its own. Split surprised me with how charming and small it felt, even being a relatively large city (the second largest in Croatia).
We opted to stay right outside of the Old Town walls, which was a fantastic idea. It meant that we were far enough away from the noise of the crowds, but it was easy to stroll in and out of the town. I expected the Diocletian’s Palace to be an actual palace (see, not a lot of research done on my part), but was surprised (and happy) to find that the lively, historic town center was the Palace. Originally built in the late 3rd to early 4th century, and updated throughout the centuries, the Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I spent most of the time looking up at the old city walls, the numerous flower boxes and painted window shutters, and soaking up the centuries of history. My favorite way to enjoy our evenings was to sit on the Old Town steps while looking up at the lit Cathedral of Saint Domnius, and enjoying gelato.
On our first night, it started storming heavily while we were exploring. Sans an umbrella, we quickly found refuge at Kitchen 5, a self-described Mediterranean/Croatian restaurant. I had an fantastic mushroom risotto and Croatian cheese platter while we waited for the rain to stop.
The following morning, we wandered down to the palm tree lined Riva promenade. There were some cute juice and food stands, where we opted to grab some mini donuts and scan the dozens of boating trip booths advertising short trips on the water. There were numerous boats where customers could be taken to snorkel, swim, and explore nearby islands and caves. We decided to take a 1.5 hour sightseeing boat tour that took us by Tito’s villa, the Marjan and the Renaissance hermitage caves, and Stadion Poljud. The weather was perfect mid-70s with a nice breeze.
Later that night, we decided to take a local bus up to the Klis Fortress. This place didn’t show up in my tour book, and we happened upon a description of it online. The bus ended traveling on insanely windy roads (with road construction, nonetheless!) and some cars had to back up on the mountain to make room for the bus. Our bus driver, who was undoubtedly experienced in navigating the mountain roads multiple times a day, handled it expertly. The bus ride was pretty uneventful, since the local buses ended up not having fully transparent windows. After about half an hour, we were dropped off at the bottom of the fortress.
From the fortress, you could definitely understand why such a structure was built on that exact pass between two mountains. The fortress used to be a royal castle and seat to numerous kings, later becoming a large stronghold during the Ottoman wars (and as a small display revealed, a shooting location for Game of Thrones).
The fortress was undergoing renovations, so there was a lot of construction equipment, power lines, and debris laying around. There was also a small museum and church, but the English signage was a bit lacking. We only saw a handful of folks during our visit; once the fortress is restored, I can imagine it being more of a tourist hot spot. The views from the fortress were stunning, mountains on three sides and the sea straight ahead.
Note to future travelers: make sure you eat before going to Klis (or bring a snack). There are two “caffe-bars” at the bottom of the fort, but they only serve drinks (who thought of a cafe-bar concept with no food?! Alas, it seemed to be a trend in the region :)) In any case, there is a small market if you’re desperate enough for snacks. We grabbed some cheese and bread while waiting for the bus back into town!