3 Days in Split, Croatia: Live Like a Local

If you’re planning to visit Split, Croatia, you’re not alone: the second-largest city in Croatia is a popular tourist destination for many good reasons. The ancient history, the wonderful food, and the surrounding beaches make it a must-visit for anyone going to Croatia, plus it’s a convenient stopover on the way to the islands.

But in high season, it can be a busy and pricey place to visit. Wondering how to make the most of a few days here? I’ve got you – I spent almost two years living here. Here’s your perfect plan for 3 days in Split, Croatia. 

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How many days in Split is enough?

Well, I came for a month and ended up staying for a full year – so there’s certainly enough to keep you busy for however many days you have to spend in Split!

But three days in Split is a great amount of time as well. It gives you the option to see the main highlights of this fascinating city, and have some time to chill on the beaches and in the cafes as well.

This Split itinerary can be adapted to your schedule as you need, of course. If you have just two days in Split, you can leave off one of the planned days, or just squeeze it all in! And if you want a Split one day itinerary, just take the first day of this plan and enjoy your time here!

How to spend 3 days in Split, Croatia

Day 1: Poke around the palace

The central attraction of Split, on a very literal and also metaphorical level, is Diocletian’s Palace. The Roman Emperor Diocletian renounced his throne and built his dream retirement house (which was also a fortress) in his homeland of Dalmatia. He settled here in 305 AD, and his palace has become a medieval town, an ecclesiastical center, an Austrian empire outpost, and today’s bustling tourist center. 

Diocletian's palace in the old town of Split, Croatia with the bell tower and Roman ruins 3 days in Split
The center of Diocletian’s Palace in Split.

But it’s not all tourists – there are plenty of locals who still live within the walls of the palace too and fill the cafes from morning until late in the evening.

You can wander around on your own through the two remaining gates and into the central courtyard, into the basement shopping arcades for free. But don’t miss climbing the central bell tower for incredible views of the city and coast, and head to the restored Temple of Jupiter for a little ancient Roman vibe. 

You can also check out a little hidden spot that’s often missed by visitors – the tiny, ancient Church of Saint Martin. It’s just inside the Golden Gate – take the first left after you enter, and head up the little set of stairs next to the church plaque.

This church was once a Roman barracks, and then converted to a Christian church in the 6th century. It even has an altar partition from the 11th century. Hand the adorable nuns who run it 5 kuna, and poke around (the convent has been next door since the 14th century, and if you’re under the windows early on Saturday mornings you can hear them singing). It’s a microcosm of how life is Split has adapted and adopted new forms over the centuries, while retaining its beauty and charm. 

Eat: I’m a fan of the bakery breakfast when I’m in Croatia, as it’s cheap and delicious. The pastry called burek comes in a variety of fillings and you can grab one to go and eat at a coffee shop (they usually don’t serve food, so BYO is fine).

Soul Coffee, D16, or Kava2 are the places to go if you’re looking for the best coffee in Split. See and be seen and get the full Riva experience at Antique or Olive Tree. Pop into O’Hara’s for a cold beer and some friendly company if you want to be comfy for a bit.

For lunch or dinner, pop into Pizzeria Portas by the Golden Gate. They have delicious pizzas, great house wine, and some of the best prices in the old town for a good, sit-down meal. Don’t miss a pizza topped with przut, a local version of prosciutto that’s heavenly. They also have plenty of pastas if you’re not that into pizza. Croatian cuisine has a lot of influence from Italy, its next-door neighbor, so you can get some great authentic meals. 

I also really love having dinner at Šug just outside the palace walls. Their menu is an ever-changing reflection of what’s fresh and features lots of traditional Croatian foods with modern updates – you can never go wrong here. But do make a reservation in summer and for dinner on weekends because it’s popular with both locals and tourists.

Don’t miss: What you need to know before visiting Croatia

Day 2: Get some culture

Croatia has a lot of rich history – lots of it involving art. You can get a glimpse of some as you wander the old town, like the statue in Fruit Square. But today you should go deeper into, well, all of the art! 

The Gallery of Fine Arts is right outside the palace, so that’s good place to start if you’re staying in the center of the city. You can see art from all over Croatia, the former Yugoslavia, and beyond, and stop for a coffee or a drink at the cafe (aren’t museum cafes the best?).

Then into the palace to check out the Town Museum, which is a medieval house. It’s probably time for another coffee break – pick one of the many cafes along the Riva promenade along the sea outside the palace walls and watch the sea and the strollers in the shade. 

Sun over the Riva promenade in Split, Croatia with palm trees and the sea.
The radiant Riva in Split. Tropical vibes, right?

Next, it’s time for a walk along the sea to Galerija Mestrovic, about 30 minutes outside the center by foot (and it’s a lovely walk, so you should walk!). Take in the views of olive trees and villas and the sea as you go, and enjoy the beautiful museum filled with sculptures and carvings by the renowned artist. He planned this spot as his retirement home, but ended up heading to the US after World War II. The art is gorgeous, but so are the views over the sea with the islands in the distance. 

Eat: Head to The Daltonist to sip some of the best cocktails in town for a very reasonable price, or a craft beer if that’s more your style. Their menu changes regularly but the food is always excellent. Or go for some incredible pizza at Bokamorra – again, very popular with locals and tourists so I recommend a reservation.

Then grab a gelato from Emilio’s (I recommend the pistachio) while you wander the ancient streets at night and take it all in – this is one of the best times to enjoy the old town. 

If you’re looking for a post-dinner drink in beautiful surroundings without a hefty price tag, Galerija Bar has a little nook in a garden within the palace walls where you can sit and sip and try to pet the local cats as they stroll through. Tereca Bamba (my favorite cafe bar in Split) has a beautiful view and 10 kuna glasses of house wine. And Marvlvs Bar is a beautiful, calm cafe with books, live music, and great wine – named after one of Split’s most famous poets.

Related: The best time of year to visit Croatia

Day 3: It’s beach time, baby

Ok, you’ve been so cultured and cool the last two days – all that history and art have expanded your brain, but probably tired out your feet. It’s time for a chill day. Sleep in and start with a hefty brunch at Brasserie on Seven on the Riva – I’m a fan of the two-tier breakfast when I’m truly starved.

Then pack up your beach gear and head off to Kašjuni, my favorite beach within a brief walk of town. Bacvice is more popular with tourists, but it’s crowded and the sand is not super appealing. 

I prefer the local vibe and spectacular views of the pebbly Kašjuni or Ježinac instead, or try one of the other top beaches in Split. Take a nap on the shore, plunge in for a warm and calm swim out into the bay, and there’s even a little beach bar with ice cream and beer for when you get peckish.

Walk back to town along the paved beach bath and check out the scenic swimming holes in the rocks (this is also an incredible sunset spot, with or without a few beers or a bottle of wine). 

the rocky shore of a beach in Split, Croatia at sunset with swimming areas and cypress trees and the blue Adriatic Sea
The swimming holes of a Split beach at sunset.

If you’re not the type to sit on a beach all day, I don’t understand you as a person but hey, you have options too. Head out away from town and walk all around the beautiful peninsula of Marjan Hill, Split’s biggest park, where you can check out the hills and beaches around the point. You can climb up the slippery steps of the Marjan Stairs for the best views in Split, if you’re so inclined, and even grab a coffee there to recover. 

Eat: For a pre-dinner drink, head to Basta in the port for an Aperol spritz with a sea view. This is also prime sunset strolling territory for the locals, including teenage boys whipping around on bikes, elderly women walking tiny dogs, and local families out taking the air. Plus the boat views are unbeatable. 

Go for dinner at Villa Spiza in the old town to complete your day in the Palace – they have an ever-changing menu reflecting everything that’s fresh in the markets that day, and wallet-friendly prices. Add in the friendly waiters and the beautiful setting in the palace, and it’s heaven.

Or for a decadent last meal, go to Bokeria for market-fresh fine dining inspired by the whole Mediterranean area, particularly Dalmatia. Their wine list is fab too and the whole setting is sleek and chic – make a reservation in advance for sure!

Related: Why Croatia is great for solo female travelers

Logistics for your 3 day Split itinerary

Getting there and around 

Split is the second-largest city in Croatia, so it has an international airport and a pretty extensive bus network that can get you anywhere you need to go for cheap. A cab from the airport is about 30 euros (yikes) so I prefer to take the local bus for 5 euro instead. 

If you’re staying in the center of Split, you can get everywhere in this itinerary by walking, but you can also hop the 12 bus to the beach or the end of Marjan Park if your feet get tired. The old city is pedestrian only and it’s really difficult to park anywhere in the center, so I don’t recommend a car rental while you’re here. 

It’s also easy to get buses from the main station to the other cities in Croatia, like Dubrovnik, Zagreb, and Zadar – I usually take Flixbus because they’re good and cheap. Ferries to the Croatian islands like Korčula and Hvar leave from across the street – book ahead at Jadrolinja or Krilo

The best time to visit Split

The weather in Split, Croatia is generally pretty mild – it’s the Mediterranean, after all. But it’s a bit cool and windy in the winter months, and very hot in August, which means some months are better to visit Croatia.

sunset over the Adriatic Sea in Split, Croatia with trees in the distance at Ježinac beach.
Sunset over a beach in Split.

I love to be in Split in the shoulder season – May-June, and September-October. It’s still warm enough to swim, at least for a New Englander like me, without being too hot to enjoy a few hours of strolling around. And the crowds are smaller and prices lower then too. 

Where to stay in Split

Split has no shortage of lovely hotels, but the location of the Heritage Hotel Antique Split is right in the center of the Diocletian’s Palace, which is incredible, Or if you’re looking for an experience of lounging and luxury on the beach, Le Meridien Lav is great.

There are plenty of hostels to choose from in Split, but I liked the chill vibes and comfy beds of the Ciri Biri Bela Hostel in Varoš, just steps from the palace. They also have the best breakfast in Split (I am addicted to their omelettes), and hostel guests get a discount at their restaurant.

If you’re looking to stay in the center of the action in an apartment, Kaleta Apartments are inside of Diocletian’s Palace and offer lots of value for the price – and local hostess Negri will take wonderful care of you. You can wave to the nuns hanging their laundry on the ancient fortress walls right across the way in the mornings, and watch the sun set over the distant hills at night all from the comfort of home.

Why you need to visit Split, Croatia

Split is a wonderful city – urban and historic, full of surprises and great food, and just a short stroll from the beach. Visit for a few days, or stay longer and get to live the true Mediterranean lifestyle at its best. Spend a weekend in Split, Croatia or be like me and base your life here – either way, you’ll love it!

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