Trying to decide how to spend one day in Split is a challenge. The second largest city in Croatia has the perfect blend of historic attractions and modern life.
From the bustling, vibrant waterfront area to ruins that date back to the Roman Empire, there are many things to make you want to stay longer than 24 hours in Split.
Located on the coast of Dalmatia, Split has also become one of the most popular travel destinations in Croatia. The beaches and nearby islands attract tourists from all over the world.
Not sure how to plan your trip? Get started with this complete 1-day Split itinerary…
What to do in Split in 24 hours: A complete one-day itinerary
Split has many attractions, and its location offers access to several fun day trips. While 24 hours in Split isn’t enough time to see everything, you can still see the main sites and many of the most famous and important landmarks.
You’ll also get to spend the trip on foot. This gives you the opportunity to enjoy the surroundings as you travel between sites. Travelling the stone roads of the Old Town, you’ll pass terrace cafes, historic buildings, and busy public squares.
Spend time inside Diocletian’s Palace, shop at open-air markets, and get a taste of the local cuisine.
Start with a stroll on the Riva Promenade
The Riva Promenade offers the perfect spot to start your Split itinerary. The Riva is the waterfront area on the south side of the city, while the promenade is its main pedestrian thoroughfare.
The seafront promenade stretches along the length of the Old Town. It’s over 250 metres long, 55 metres wide, and often filled with people.
The large promenade also acts as the main public square. It’s here that you’ll find some of the biggest local events and festivals throughout the year. As you stroll along, you can check out the backdrop of the Old Town to your north and the seafront harbour to your south.
The promenade is also a suitable spot for enjoying breakfast or a cup of coffee. The pedestrian street is lined with cafes, shops, restaurants, and bars. You’ll also come across roadside vendors and stalls selling all types of delicacies, from local dishes and pastries to ice cream.
If possible, try to enter the Riva from the western side and work your way east. When you get to the end, head north through the gates into Old Town.
Walk the winding streets that pass through Diocletian’s Palace
When you reach the end of the Riva and enter Old Town, you’ll see Diocletian’s Palace in the distance.
Among the various things to do in Split, Diocletian’s Palace tops the list. You’ll pass through parts of the palace complex several times during your trip, as the modern city of Split was built up around the ruins.
Unlike other historic sites that are now preserved as museums, the palace grounds have become liveable spaces. Some of the ruins have been converted into modern developments with shops, restaurants, and cafes.
While a lot of the palace structures were reclaimed for commercial and residential use, the monumental court, walls, and towers remain.
Built in the 4th century, the palace walls and towers form a square measuring 160 by 190 metres. The interior includes narrow streets flanked by cafes, while the exterior includes the outer edges of Old Town.
If you really want to see the most impressive historical aspects of the palace, take a guided tour. The winding streets are filled with apartments and merchants, making it hard to determine what areas belong to the palace and which are modern establishments.
View the city from the Bell Tower of St. Duje Cathedral
While you are touring Split in one day, you’ll pass several UNESCO World Heritage Sites within the palace grounds, including the Cathedral of St. Duje (Dominius).
It’s a Catholic cathedral consisting of an imperial Roman mausoleum, a church, and a bell tower. Technically, the church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, while the bell tower was dedicated to Saint Domnius.
The main structure is the mausoleum of Diocletian, the second oldest structure used by a Catholic cathedral in any part of the world. The mausoleum was built in 305 AD and was renovated to become the cathedral in the 7th century.
The bell tower was added in the 12th century and provides a chance to get a better view of Split – if it’s open. The tower goes through periods of renovation, during which it remains closed to the public.
If you’re lucky enough to visit when the tower is open, climb the steps to reach the top and stare out at the city.
Relax on a bench at People’s Square
After getting a view of the city from the bell tower, start walking west across the middle of the palace grounds until you reach a large open square.
Narodni Square, or People’s Square, is the lively main public courtyard in Old Town. Locals call it the pjaca. Since medieval times, this square has been the centre of city life.
The popular public square is always open and almost always full of people. People’s Square is the heart of Split, surrounded by bars, cafes, and restaurants.
Take a stroll around the square and look for a bar without too much of a crowd. Order a locally brewed beer or a glass of wine from the local vineyards. If you don’t indulge in alcoholic beverages, you can find vendors around the square selling other delicious refreshments, including ice cream.
If you get lucky and find an open bench, rest your legs for a spell while you watch people as they come and go. It’s the top people-watching spot.
Besides bars, restaurants, and vendors, the area around the square includes two extremely old shops. Browse the books at Morpugo Bookshop or explore the shelves of the second-oldest pharmacy. Both establishments are historic sites and still serve customers.
Enjoy local delicacies at the local Fish Market
From the square, take any of the side streets west until you smell fish, letting you know that you’ve arrived at the not-so imaginatively named Fish Market.
You can’t finish your Croatia itinerary without sampling the cuisine. As Split is a coastal city, seafood is a major part of the local diet.
Despite taking up a relatively small space, the fish market offers the largest selection of fresh seafood in the area. If you arrive after noon, the vendors tend to lower the prices.
As a side note, the market isn’t always busy. During slow seasons, there are fewer vendors and less of a selection of fish. The spring tends to bring the biggest catches and the most activity to the fish market.
Interestingly, the outdoor fish market is never full of flies buzzing around the dead fish, as the area contains a strong smell of sulfur from the nearby spas.
While you can purchase fresh fish and prepare them yourself at the hotel or apartment where you’re staying, the area around the market also includes a few seafood restaurants. You may also stumble upon a few vendors smoking fish outdoors.
Consider this your dinner and fill up on local seafood dishes.
Shop for souvenirs on Marmont Street
When trying to see the city of Split in 24 hours, you should still make time for shopping. Marmont Street is the modern commercial hub of the city and is just around the corner from the Fish Market.
Due to the modern establishments, this street doesn’t quite have the same old-world charm as the other parts of Old Town. While it’s not lined with historic sites, it does offer access to dozens of shops.
You can find little boutique stores selling unique goods as well as designer shops filled with name-brand clothing.
Marmont Street contains an interesting mixture of popular restaurants and independent shops. If you don’t enjoy seafood, you can find a few alternative options along this street, including one or two Western fast-food chains.
By this time, the area should be packed with tourists. When you get tired of pushing through the crowds, it’s time to explore the area outside of Old Town.
Climb Marjan Hill and get a view of Split
After shopping and eating, you may not have much time left on your 24-hour trip. If the day isn’t over, continue travelling west through the western gates of Old Town and toward Marjan Hill.
The hill sits west of Split and includes a mixture of residential development and public parks near its base. The entrance to the main park is just a few steps from Old Town.
Full of meandering paths and hiking trails, the park takes you through lush forests as you gradually ascend the hill.
As you get near the top of the hill, you’ll find several different scenic stops that provide views of the city or the sea.
Reaching the top viewpoint only takes a few minutes after entering the park, but it’s easy to get lost and spend hours navigating the trails. Hopefully, you can get to the top without too much trouble and have the chance to gaze out at the city below before calling it a day.
Where to stay: The best hotels for 24 hours in Split
As the tourist numbers in this spectacular coastal city continue to swell, it’s become both easier and more difficult to choose where to stay in Split.
If you’ve only got a relatively quick layover in Split, your best option is to stay in or around the Old Town. Start your search with a few of these best places to stay in Split…
- Apartment Venus of the Palace: Quite possibly the best value apartment within the popular Diocletian’s Palace. Book well in advance to avoid disappointment!
- Palace Inn Rooms: A gorgeous guesthouse with an absolutely superb location within the city walls. The views over Old Town from the rooms are fantastic!
- Hotel Slavija: Set in a lovely historical building, this mid-range hotel blends modern decor with its heritage elements for an elegant stay in Split. Splurge on a balcony room to get the most out of your visit.
- Villa Split Heritage Hotel: A luxury pick occupying a stunning 10th-century building featuring typical Dalmatian style from its stone walls to the exposed wood beams. The Old Town location is simply perfect.