We had an afternoon in the port of Split, where we quickly disembarked and made our way to Diocletian’s palace, entering the city through the Bronze (south) gate. After cutting through the basement of the Palace (now converted into a museum and gift shops), we emerged into a tourist free Peristyle (the central courtyard of the Palace), with the massive Cathedral St Domnius looming over us. The large tour groups had yet to make it here, so we hastily took some photos and decided to climb up St Domnius (St Duje) bell tower for a view over the city. We didn’t have any Croatian Kuna, but the ticket seller happily accepted Euros. It was an easy climb up with no other tourists to contend with, and we had an awesome 360 degree view of Split. On our way down, we ran into bus loads of tourists…we sure were glad to have gotten the only touristy thing knocked out straight away so we could escape the crowd.
Back down on the Peristyle, we noticed the only remaining granite sphinx (apparently there used to be 12 of them guarding the Palace, but Christians took exception to Egyptian idolatry guarding their cathedral and all but one were destroyed). From the Peristyle, it was a short walk over to Jupiter Temple (closed), which is guarded by a headless sphinx. Next to Jupiter Temple, we squeezed our way through the city’s narrowest street, called “Pusti me da prodjem” (Let me pass, please) before making our way over towards the Golden (north) gate. Here, the massive statue of Grgur Ninski (Gregory of Nin) stands, and we took turns rubbing his big toe which seems to be a rite of passage for all Split tourists!
We had arrived too late to see the Ribarnica (fish market) in action, but did stumble upon it as we wandered the streets of Split. While roaming this mazelike city, we definitely recommend checking out the architecture…there are dozens of beautiful buildings tucked away in this lovely city, hiding in plain sight! Their facades are slowly fading away, but we really enjoyed imagining Split in its heyday. Eventually, we made our way over to Marmontova Street, a marble lined street that links the waterfront to the Croatian National Theater. Since our ATM cards weren’t working for some reason, we were lucky enough to find the city’s only currency exchange booth still open on a Sunday on busy Marmontova Street. With Kuna in hand, we decided to take a quick hike out to Varos (west of the city), which is the foothills of Marjan Hill. It was an easy hike up the hill where we had the best view of Split…gorgeous!
Back down by the waterfront, there must have been over 200 teenaged boys (plus one or two hard core girls) drinking beer from massive 2 liter bottles. We decided to join in and were pleasantly surprised at how cheap Croatian beer is, especially compared to the prices on board our cruise. Apparently everyone was preloading for a football rally. Off in the distance, we heard canons being fired and a loud drum beat…it was as if the pied piper was playing his pipe as everyone stumbled over to the rally in a zombielike state. The smoke, firecrackers and noise proved too much for us to linger, so we made our way down the Riva (the main waterfront promenade) before ducking back into the Palace for one final view of the Peristyle at sunset.
Split was a fun and easy city to wander around in. Seriously, who on earth would pay for a tour here? Save your money, use your feet and get lost in this easy to explore city! We are both repeat visitors and wouldn’t hesitate to come back for yet another visit.