Top 6 Central Croatia cultural sights, Split & Makarska Riviera
In my previous Dubrovnik City Trip blog you can read all about this amazing Unesco city and my stay at the luxurious Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik Hotel. During our trip to Croatia we did a 6 day road trip which also included the Makarska Riviera past the coast of central Croatia all the way to Split.
Split has also been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979 and good to know for all you ‘Game of Thrones’ fans is that many scenes are filmed inside the city and in the immediate surroundings of Split as well! This certainly helped attract tourists to this area the past few years and made it a popular destination in Croatia.
As there is so much to do here I made another list to help you choose when you decide to visit. I adore heritage and cultural sights and as Split’s historic old town is located within Diocletian’s Palace and is practically built around it, the whole city is a living museum.
Read all about it in my top 6 list with many personal pics so you can see for yourself what makes them worth a visit:
Croatia's second-largest city, biggest city of central Dalmatia and the location of many Daenerys scenes in ‘Game of Thrones’. Also the perfect base to explore Croatia and the rest of Dalmatia from. You can easily reach the islands of Hvar, Brac, Vis, and Solta from here or even explore the stunning nature areas of Krka and Plitvice National Park more to the north. The mild climate of this area, sheltered from the wind makes it a sunny oasis both in summer and wintertime.
Known as a real center of Croatian culture it is the perfect city to experience Dalmatian life as it’s really lived. Here you will find many café’s, restaurants and shops spread out amidst the ancient city walls in the picturesque streets and city squares with Venetian style ornamented windows and facades, telling thousand year old stories of Italian domination and Medieval times.
Split has 4 ancient gates in the town’s wall dividing the Palace and center of the city into four quarters and making it very photogenic.
Republic Square is one of the most beautiful squares in Split. This Neo Renaissance square is striking, surrounded by colorful facades and arches on 3 sides and opening up to the sea and Split’s seafront promenade the Riva Waterfront.
This classy wide boulevard lined with palm trees always buzzes with people. Here you can spend hours people watching over a coffee or beer along side the locals on one of the many terraces facing the sea.
Constructed by Emperor Diocletian in the 3rd century the 1700-year-old Palace has great historic value and remains Split’s most famous site. You might recognize it as the throne room and training area for the dragons in season 4 of ‘Game of Thrones’.
While the upper levels of the Palace are in ruins the underground tunnels are again fully intact after the excavation in 1952. Because this space was actually used as a sewer for decades the feces and rubbish helped preserve the structure. Now you can walk around the gloomy tunnels and basement rooms freely again, recalling Roman times and feeling like a queen of your own GoT episode.
Next to the Palace you will find the cathedral which was built in the Middle Ages with the Peristyle square in front of it. Surrounded by decorative columns this square is popular for its traditional folk shows performed here every day and many festivals and musical events in the summer.
Only a 20 minutes’ drive from the city you can visit the oldest Fortress in Croatia. Built on a cliff to defend the region from the Turkish invasion, this was a highly strategic point to guard the peninsula, not to mention one with the most stunning views over the valley and the city of Split!
As a popular filming location for many GoT ’s season 4 episodes this spectacular location with panoramic views is a must see and wonderful to visit as it was so quiet and peaceful when we were there.
Near Klis are the ruins of ancient Salona, once the capital of the Roman province Dalmatia and the biggest archaeological site on the eastern Adriatic coast. This Roman city was always just considered a group of interesting ruins near Split and Diocletian’s palace.
We however found it an interesting and quiet site to visit and easily combined with the ruins of the nearby amphitheater, which used to accommodate up to 20,000 spectators, looking out directly towards Split.
30 minutes north of Split along the Adriatic coast you will find the Unesco harbour town Trogir. Filled with quaint houses, ancient churches, a stunning town hall and many cafés and restaurants in the picturesque streets, boulevard and squares where 2 millennium-old history is woven in with modern life.
This quiet village with only 400 inhabitants is located along the coast further from Split, about a 45 minutes’ drive from Dubrovnik. On the way there you will pass by the colorful Ploce lakes and beautiful nature areas.
This is the ideal place to stay when you prefer peace and quiet and want to experience real Dalmatian culture and village life with good, but very affordable food, friendly people, tranquility and nature. Still perfectly located near Dubrovnik and the popular Mljet island with plenty of outdoor activity options in the immediate surroundings.
Ston dates back to the 14th century, and is renowned for 3 things: 1.its city wall, 2.oyster farms and 3.salt pans, the oldest active salt-works in the world, which made the village of great economic importance in the old days!
The city wall was completed in a period of over 300 years and is an impressive 5,5 kilometers long which can be followed for many miles overlooking the area, leading you to the neighboring village. This makes it the 2nd longest wall after the Great Wall of China!
If you fancy a good wine tasting I recommend to take the wine route to find several beautiful vineyards, wine estates and farms just outside Ston.
If you like beautiful beaches and stunning sea views the Makarska Riviera is the perfect route. The official Riviera starts 60 km south of Split and is made up of several small beach side villages with white pebbled beaches of which Makarska, Omis and Brela are some of the better known. We loved the stunning viewpoints, and fully understood why it’s said to be one of the prettiest coastal routes of Dalmatia.
During our 5 hour drive we even stopped 10 times to take pictures and fully take in the views!
The views upon the many surrounding islands and the imposing backdrop of the Biokovo mountains with sheer cliffs so near the shore create a stunning panorama and setting.
I can certainly recommend taking this route and not the highway when driving to and from Dubrovnik to Split. The highway will save you up to 2 hours, but as the mountains will be blocking your sea views you will be missing out on these panoramas.
Naturally you do need a car for this and we rented one with Dutch car rental agent Sunny Cars, which provided us with the coolest ride and the most relaxing service we experienced so far. They arranged a beautiful jeep for us which even matched the colors of the Croatian sea😊
As Sunny Cars acts like an intermediary between the car rental company and you, they handle all insurances and hassles when something might happen. Very convenient and nice as they only work with trustworthy rental companies which are really friendly.
We booked their premium package, which offers many extra’s such as online registration in advance, only cars which are less than 1 years old and express check-in, which had us on the road in already half an hour after arriving at the airport!
Therefore I can definitely recommend the Dutch site SunnyCars if you are looking for a reliable car rental for your trip through Croatia or any other destination around the world.
Have I stimulated you to visit Croatia, explore Split and surroundings and drive the Makarska Riviera route as well, or have you been here already?
Always happy to hear from you in the comments below or find me on social media, where I post daily pics, direct links at the bottom😊