We are touring the Eastern Mediterranean on the Celebrity Silhouette cruise ship. Today's destination is the Croatian port city of Split.
As you are used to from other destinations, the cruise line offers its guests an abundance of excursion offers for the attractive city. The excursions concern destinations inside and outside the city. As far as Split is concerned, the fundamental question arises as to whether the guided excursions offered within and outside of Split are even needed. Excursions are mainly in the historic old town and the neighboring districts. Significant sights in public space are signposted in several languages; among others in German. With the appropriate preparation, you can easily visit the city on your own.
The historical sights of Split
Split's old town has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. A stay in Split absolutely requires a visit to Diocletian's Palace and its branches. Also worth seeing are the city wall, the Riva promenade, the squares in the old town and the Marjan peninsula in front of it. It is no problem to see the goals we have mentioned in one day.
The berths of the cruise ships
Small cruise ships dock at the “Split Cruise Pirs” within sight of the old town. Large ships anchor in the bay and take their guests ashore in tender boats. The Celebrity Silhouette is a large ship: the tender boats land at the level of the harbor master's office on the Svetog Nikole quay. From there we take a few steps over to the spacious, palm-lined Riva promenade lined with innumerable cafés and restaurants.
Split Cruise Pirs
Split - landing stage for the tender boats
Before we start our individual city tour, we take a look at a large city panorama made of bronze on the promenade. It shows in a catchy way Split's winding old town.
Model of the city of Split
Our first destination for the day - Diocletian's Palace
Opposite the city panorama is the Porta Aenea, one of the four historical gates of the palace complex initiated by the Roman emperor Diocletian. We descend through a simple gate into the palace's catacombs, known as Podrumi. The Podrumi are a huge, underground vault that is currently opened for theatrical performances, exhibitions and concerts. In ancient times the Podrumi were used as dungeons. Part of the basement area is used for through traffic. Souvenirs and art objects are sold in the wide strip.
We climb a staircase from the Podrumi to the peristyle. The peristyle was a large colonnaded square that served as a meeting place during Diocletian's lifetime. Audiences were held in the peristyle, and it was there that the emperor presented himself to his subjects. On the way up we pass the "Syrian Arch" and we see an original, more than 3000 years old Egyptian sphinx in front of the neighboring cathedral.
Split - the Syrian Arc
Split - the Egyptian Sphinx
Next to the peristyle is the vestibule, the anteroom of the imperial apartments. The outer construction is square. Inside the building is round. The building was originally crowned by a dome. This was destroyed and no longer renewed. The rays of the sun fall into the peristyle through a circular opening in the ceiling.
Next to the peristyle stands the cathedral of St. Domnius of Split on a pedestal almost four meters high. Originally the octagonal structure was the mausoleum of Emperor Diocletian. In the 6th century the tomb was rededicated in a church dedicated to the martyr Domnius. In the 10th century the church was elevated to a cathedral. Precious objects decorate the interior of the sacred building. The treasure chambers hold golden objects and valuable vestments.
The Cathedral of Saint Domnius of Split
Split - cathedral tower
The nearly 60 meter high bell tower was built between the 13th and 16th centuries. More than 200 steps lead to a viewing platform.
Out and about in Split's old town
A tangle of small streets and alleys stretches around the vestibule, the peristyle and the cathedral. We see shops, hotels, cafes, restaurants and much more. The cleanliness of the area, which is constantly visited by large numbers of tourists, is remarkable.
We leave the old town through the Golden Gate, the northern of the four city gates. In front of us is a small park, in front of which is the monumental sculpture of Bishop Gregory of Nin, which is more than eight meters high. The statue was created by the Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović. To our regret, the statue is covered up due to restoration work. The bishop's big toes, which have become shiny from many touches, remain hidden from us. Touching the toes is said to bring good luck and good health.
Split - northern city walls
Split - northern city wall with the Golden Gate
The bell tower and the chapel of St. Arnirius and the Museum of Fine Arts, which looks inconspicuous from the outside, are within sight. We don't have the time for the beautiful inner courtyard with the arcades. We circle the city wall in an easterly direction and come to the street market, the Pazar Split.
Urban life on the Pazar Split
Before we go back through the Silver Gate to the old town, we visit the fortress-like Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria. On our way through Split's old town, we marvel at the sometimes adventurous construction of some houses.
Split - Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria
Split - Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria - Altar
Split GetYourGuide activities
Our next destination is the nearby Narodni Trg, the People's Square. We are still in the area of the former walled Diocletian's palace. At the time of the emperor, the entire area was 215 meters long and 180 meters wide. The distances in the old town area by no means overwhelm the visitors.
Notable buildings on Narodni Trg are the old town hall and the townhouses of distinguished merchants. The clock tower rises in the background. It is obvious that in those distant times, when the buildings were erected, there were no budgetary constraints.
Split - the Narodni Trg
Split - the old town hall
On our forays through the old town we see the fish hall. We see the Holy Spirit Church and the former temple of Jupiter, which was later converted into the baptistery of St. John.
Split - the temple of Jupiter
The next place worth seeing is Voćni trg, Split's former fruit market. The square is nicknamed Trg braće Radić. The monument dedicated to the Croatian poet and humanist Marko Marulić stands in the square. Marulić lived in the late Middle Ages. The Milesi Palace rises behind the monument. Opposite it is a mighty Venetian defense tower.
Split - Voćni trg
Split - Marulić Monument with the Milesi Palace
We leave the square and change over to the Riva waterfront. One side of the promenade opens to the port and the bay of Split. The other side is bounded by the huge walls of Diocletian's Palace. Over the centuries, apartments and shops were incorporated into the masonry.
Split - the Riva waterfront
Bus excursion to the Marjan peninsula
Time flies. It is important to us to get to know the area around the city. To do this, we take the sightseeing bus to the Marjan peninsula. Open buses head for a total of nine stops on their route throughout the day. The buses run every three quarters of an hour.
Our journey begins on the Riva promenade. A guide gives explanations in English about the nearby sights. The first stop is Bačvice, the town's main bathing beach located in a bay. Then the driver heads for the Gripe district. Sights of the quarter are the fortress of the same name and the maritime museum. The next stops are the Archaeological Museum and then the bowl-shaped Poljud Stadium, the stadium of Hajduk Split. At this stop there is also a Franciscan monastery and the Church of the Holy Trinity.
Split - Riva waterfront
Split - city panorama with Bačvice beach
The three and a half kilometers long, pine-lined Marjan peninsula is located in the west of Split. The huge limestone rock was afforested from the middle of the 19th century. The townspeople use the area as a recreational area. Visitors can enjoy unrestricted views of the city from a café below the 180-meter-high hill.
The journey to the next stop at Bene leads through a beautiful Mediterranean landscape. Wooded land, deep blue sea and the rocky islands off the coast are imprinted on us. The remains of two churches stand on the rock high above us.
At the turning point Bene there is a short stop. A family-friendly beach, sports facilities and gastronomic offers beckon at this stop. After the stop, the bus driver drives back the same way. On the way there is an art gallery dedicated to the sculptor Meštrović mentioned above. We know the artist's works from photos and imagine that it would be interesting to see the exhibition. Finally, there are the Zvončac stops with a monastery and the monastery church of St. Francis.
Split - Church and Monastery of St. Francis
We leave the bus at the monastery church and walk from there to Trg Republike, the Republic Square. The procuratives stand on both long sides of the square and on one side. The buildings remind us of the Venetian procurator's palaces on St. Mark's Square. We order a refreshing drink in a café on the square. Two hotels and several restaurants line the Trg Republike. We are lucky with our choice, mainly because we are looked after by a dedicated waiter, and the prices keep us happy too.
Split - Trg Republike with the Prokurative
After the break, we stroll back over the Riva promenade to the mooring point for our tender boats. With the return trip to Celebrity Silhouette, we end a pleasant day in Split. We will remember this beautiful city fondly and for a long time to come.
Update May 2023