The buzz that envelops Split is indescribable. You don't know if it's the yachts that are gearing up to set sail along the Dalmatian Coast, or the ongoing carnival on the street that's responsible for this vibe, but Split strikes this balance between the old and new perfectly. The Riva, the promenade that runs through the length of the old town, is one of the finest in Europe. With its harbour views, unique mix of architecture and maze-like cobbled streets, Split wins the pageant for being the best looking city in the Adriatic.
Even if a history lesson is not on your itinerary, this ancient palace from the 4th century will give you the chills. Its exterior was built at the turn of the 3rd century using materials from a mausoleum. Today, it's an enlisted UNESCO World Heritage Site, and has also made a cameo in season five of Game of Thrones. Have we got your attention now? Okay, good. Considered as one of the most important Roman ruins, this palace lies in the heart of old town Split, and is surrounded by shops, cafés and apartments. The interiors of the palace haven’t fared well over time, but the massive structure built with limestone and white marble poses as an impressive backdrop. There are free cultural performances every alternative night in the palace square; just be sure to arrive early pre-dusk to grab yourself the best seat. Otherwise, book a table in the neighbouring restaurants and watch a fire dance and performances by actors in togas as a side to your three-course meal.
The very handsome coral structure of this open-air square is liveliest during the summer months with ballet performances, traditional Eastern European dance shows and opera music. Built during the latter half of the 19th century, the architectural aesthetic of this building resembles that of the buildings in Venice, Italy. A daily art market is expected to pop-up here from June 1 to September 1 this year.
With the view of the azure Dalmatian Coast on your left and the lush green mountains on your right, this mini-hike up the Marjan hill is a must when visiting Split. Take an afternoon off and walk north along the harbour and through the dense pine forest to reach the lookout point. The 20-minute uphill hike offers uninterrupted views of the coastal town and the Dalmatian Coast. If you get lucky with the weather, you might just be able to spot the neighbouring islands off the coast such as Hvar, Solta and Brac.
Where to stay
Conveniently located next to Diocletian's Palace, this hotel has just 12 rooms, all individually styled with curated artwork and furniture. Some of the rooms even feature the original palace walls and overlook the Peristyle and main St. Domnius Square.
Luxe Boutique Hotel
Being a playground for backpackers, finding a budget-friendly hotel in Split is easy, but what if you're looking for something a bit more luxurious? Enter Luxe Boutique Hotel, the latest edition to the hotel scene in this terracotta-kissed town. Standing beside buildings that are more than 100 years old, this boutique hotel adds a leaf of modernity, glamour and sophistication to a city that's otherwise very old-school. The suites overlook the ocean, while the spa facilities have a view of the cobbled streets and green hills. Book a night here if you want to end your holiday on a fancy note.
While there are no direct flights from Dubai and Abu Dhabi to Split, Croatia Airlines flies from Doha, with a stopover in Europe. Etihad Airways also flies from Abu Dhabi, but via Belgrade, Serbia. Those not patient enough to do a minimum of 18-hour transit time could choose to fly into Dubrovnik instead with Emirates Airlines. There are four flights a week from Dubai that stopover at Munich, from where you can get on a bus that will take you right to the heart of Split.
Check the bus timetable at www.buscroatia.com.
With travel time of around nine hours from the Middle East, you cannot justify coming to Croatia and not going to any of its neighbouring islands or national parks. If chasing waterfalls (and proving 90s girlband TLC wrong) is your idea of a perfect vacation, then head over to the remote countryside area of Lika, about 250km from Split. There are regular tour buses that leave daily at 7am from the main bus terminal in Split, inclusive of a guided day tour, lunch, and personal leisure time at the popular lakes. There are accommodation options at Plitvice Lakes as well, if you decide to spend a few nights amid one of the greenest spots in Croatia.
You can also head to Zagreb, Croatia's capital, which is a 45-minute flight away from Split. Known to be the cultural capital of the country, Zagreb is humming with life during summer when many street festivals take place. Boats leave from Split for the islands in the Adriatic on an hourly basis, for the party crowd.
However, if you're solely after some R&R, kickback on the harbour in Split and enjoy the chilled out vibe of this town. The Adriatic allure of this city is everything your summer holiday currently craves. Trust us.
Croatia is a relatively small country, with everything along the coast only a car ride away. Irrespective of where you fly into, we recommend hiring a car and driving along the coast if you're not tied down to any organised tours. Dubrovnik, Zadar and Plitvice Lakes are all only a two-hour drive away. If island hopping is on your agenda, Hvar, Vis and Stari Grad should be your go-to. There are daily ferry transfers from the mainland for about 55KN (Dhs30).
The idyllic beaches of Croatia prove ideal for some of the biggest summer music festivals in Europe. You don't need to get on a boat to groove along to a popular DJ, as INmusic, with its inland location and ridiculously cheap prices, makes for a great alternative. Its setting beside Lake Jarun allows you to camp by the lake and even take free yoga classes. Another late-June festival is Hideout that serves house and electronic dance music fans. Outlook music festival will be held over the weekend of August 31, and will see hip-hop, reggae and dubstep acts being performed in an ancient Roman amphitheatre.