A gem of a place on the Adriatic coast! Split, Croatia

Less than 2 hours of flying time from London can transport you to a real gem of a place. On the beautiful Dalmatian coast is the ancient city of Split. We were told that it’s sunny here 300 days in a year and even in October it was warm and sunny. More than 17 centuries ago the Emperor Diocletianus built his palace here, near to his birthplace of Solin. The walls of the palace remain a living boundary around the mediaeval streets and beautiful squares full of excellent restaurants, galleries and history. But this is not a museum, it is a lively and vibrant community where people continue to inhabit the roman walls, and Roman pillars pop up everywhere! Here are some of my personal favourites from a recent visit.

The food

Around every corner seems to be another restaurant serving freshly caught fish. Some are tucked inside the ancient walls of the palace, in small atmospheric corners. Our main concern that we’d find it difficult to find these places again without a trail of crumbs, but the area is small (28,900 square metres) and you can’t get really lost. Much of the fresh fish served comes from the fish market situated in the old city which, it is claimed, is the only one in the world where there are no flies because of a natural phosphorus wellhead that keeps them at bay.

The Saint Dominus Cathedral

This has to be the smallest cathedral I’ve ever been in! It is built upon the mausoleum of Emperor Diocletian which is ironic as he was famed for his persecution of Christians and throwing them to lions! Attached to the cathedral is the 13th century bell tower which can be seen for miles around. Nearby the remains of an auditorium provides wonderful acoustics for local singers of beautiful Croatian arias.

The Diocletian palace

Each of the gates of the palace is part of the life of the city. The golden gates take you to the colossal bronze statue of Bishop Gregory of Nin. Created by Ivan Mestrovic, the toe of the statue is rubbed smooth by the belief that rubbing it brings good fortune. Beneath the surface of the palace are what were once the cellars and are now home to a lively indoor market of food, flowers and crafts.

The Riva

The harbour area and sea front is a wonderful place to sit and ‘people watch’ in cafes as boats, large and small, come and go. Some are taking travellers to nearby islands and the city of Trogir only one hour away. The ancient walls of the old city and palace are clear to see as integral parts of the sea front vista and the bring orange roofs add to this impressive and memorable site.

Klis Fortress

For Game of Thrones fans, Klis Fortress is a must. You will recognise Klis as the fortress as Meereen, where Daenerys Targaryen had all the nasty slave-masters crucified in season four. It is located 12km northeast of Split city centre and is an imposing place. You can wander over the fortifications and visit the small museum, which has displays of swords and costumes, as well as information about the castle’s history.

Whether you stay for a week or a weekend you will love the slow pace and enjoy every minute. This ‘little Venice without the water’ will stay with you for a long time after you have left its walls, and I bet you’ll want to return too! I visited some excellent hotels in and close to the old city. Ask me about Split and I’ll be delighted to plan a short or longer visit just for you.

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