10 Best things to do in Split, Croatia

“You’re going on holiday?” asked one of my friends, slightly incredulously. “Your entire life is a holiday”.

She had a point. The last year has been something of a wonderfully, long vacation. But we were travelling (aka throwing ourselves up mountains and taking cold showers at high altitude), then teaching English, setting up a business and finally, taking North American students on tours of Europe.

So to reward ourselves we decided it was time for a holiday. And so off we set with a Kindle full of books and a bag full of swimwear; vowing to do little but eat, sleep and sunbathe. We were on our jollies!

Our first stop was Split (before heading to the islands) and we instantly fell in love. With flights costing from £100 return, I thought it would be rude not to try and convince you to get involved with this gorgeous port city. So, once you’ve booked your flights, here’s my top 10 things to do in Split to get you started:

1) Gorge yourself on seafood. I’ll be honest, we found Croatian cuisine to be a mixed bag. Sometimes glorious, sometimes a tad bland – think, gnocchi with watery meat juices. However, the seafood on offer in Split and the nearby islands is absolutely wonderful. Many restaurants will offer a seafood platter for two and we ended up having some of the best fish of our lives at Konoba Marjan (Senjska 1, Split). For about £30 we were served sea bass, sea bream, squid, tuna steak, hake and large prawns served with marinaded roasted vegetables and homemade crusty bread. The white fish was superbly tender and melted in our mouth, while the tuna was perfectly seared and meaty. The waiter recommended the Bibich Riserva 5, a Croatian white wine that I was initially a little sceptic of as it blends five grapes – but it worked very well with the dish.

2) Find some locals singing under the naturally acoustic arches of the town. We were fortunate in that there was a big festival approaching in Split – whether that was why we chanced upon the teenage singers I don’t know – but it was quite a remarkable experience. Surrounded by Ozujsko beer bottles they were singing some traditional songs under some arches within the palace walls – and their voices carried powerfully – warbling and reverberating across the square.

3) Find a bargain lunch. I first visited Croatia 10 years ago and upon returning this time I was staggered by how much more expensive everything is. It’s hard to find a meal for less that about £7 these days (and that’s before you add the booze). But we found some great bargains. Firstly, head to one of the Billa supermarkets and buy the crustiest bread, local cheese, hams, salad and cold beers and enjoy an impromptu picnic on the waterfront. The ham here is like Iberico ham – delicious – and this is a much cheaper option than most restaurants. However, we also found a fabulous little restaurant near the waterfront called Dujkin Dvor on Obala A. Trumbica (also known as Pasta2Go), that had a really wonderful range of affordable dishes. We opted for the meatballs of the day (huge homemade meat balls in a delicious sauce and creamy mash) which cost just £4 and a lovely Mexican tuna salad that cost £2.70. Bargain! And tasty.

4) Take a Walking Tour. We had been in Split for a couple of days before we took the One Penny Walking Tour – and wow, I felt like I had been walking around with my eyes closed for two days! The tour costs 1 Euro per person and we were given a wonderful guide who expertly walked us around the Diocletian’s Palace for 90 minutes. The old town is set within the palace walls, which dates from 305BC and our lovely guide took us right back hundreds of years ago as she showed us where the ‘vomiting’ rooms would have been so that people could gorge themselves on 21-course meals without having to skip any courses. Man, I was born in the wrong century.

Split... where the pavements are made from foot-polished limestone

Split… where the pavements are made from foot-polished limestone

5) Get amongst the Croatian Wine. Croatia has a wine history that dates back to the Ancient Greek settlers and most of it is made on the islands off Split. We quickly deduced that only philistines would dare neglect wine on a trip like this. Our first supermarket bottle left us somewhat disappointed but then we decided to sign up to a walking tour (see point four) that finished with some wine tasting. Perfect. We ended up at the Diocletian’s Palace Hostel and Wine House, which did not disappoint. Set in one of the narrow cobbled alleyways of the old town, surrounded by stone buildings the atmospheric wine bar has cute wooden tables and makes for a pretty picture-perfect wine tasting setting. We liked the Cesarica white wine (made on Havr island) so much that we ordered a bottle of it (for about £12) alongside a platter of ham and cheese. We also heard great things about the Art of Wine, a shop which does tastings and trips out to the nearby wineries but with three taster glasses of wine and a nibble platter starting at 35 Euros a head we thought it was a little steep. The Diocletian’s Palace Hostel and Wine House is located at Ulica Julija Nepota 4.

6) If all the wine, cheese and fish consumption gets too much head to one of the fabulous galleries in town. We visited the Mestrovic Gallery, which was fabulous. Home to a huge selection of sculptures by Ivan Mestrovic (who is the artist behind the large-wizard like statue by the golden gates of the palace – which incidentally has a golden toe. The gallery is set in the most beautiful house overlooking the sea and nearby islands. He built the house himself as a home, gallery space and workshop before fleeing the country due to his anti-communism tendencies. The view and the building itself is just as impressive as the sculptures. We had a marvellous hour or so here.

The fabulous work of Ivan M

The fabulous work of Ivan Mestrovic

7) Stay in a funky apartment with a balcony overlooking the old town. We have used the apartment rental website of Airbnb throughout our trip in Croatia and have not been disappointed. We have not spent more than £17 – 30 on accommodation per night and have had lovely little apartments with balconies and light, airy rooms. We loved this little place in Split.

A small but perfectly formed balcony on our apartment on Split

A small but perfectly formed balcony on our apartment on Split

8) Climb up the steps of Marjan (west of the town) to be rewarded with the most fabulous views of the Split. And if you’re parched, fret not, there’s a bar at the top. Even better, hire a bike and cycle the peninsular around this area. It is gorgeous. We cycled up to a different viewpoint, enjoyed a fish soup near a gorgeous, rocky cove and just took in the gorgeous forested landscape around us. Bliss. There are a few places in Split hiring bikes, we hired ours from a place near the port – they tend to cost around 2 Euros per hour and we were impressed by the quality of the mountain bikes.

Matty working up a sweat...

Matty working up a sweat…

9) Visit the nearby islands. You cannot come this far and miss them. Vis, Hvar and Brac are the islands off Split, which are anything from an hour to 2.5 hours away by catamaran. We visited Hvar, which has the most beautiful town and apparently a happening night life in the peak season (be sure to have sundowners at the Hula Hula Beach Club on the ocean) and Brac which has the beautiful Zlatni Rat Beach near Bol.

The lovely island of Hvar

The lovely island of Hvar

Zlatni Rat beach near Bol, Brac

Zlatni Rat beach near Bol, Brac

10) Last but not least, pack your running kit. Early morning runs around a town as beautiful as Split is every runner’s dream. I can’t think of a nicer way to see the town.

Marche Saint-Quentin, Paris: The perfect lunch near Gare du Nord

I think I may have already told you how much I adore train stations. There is so much to love; the air of expectancy, the pitter patter of well-heeled boots rushing across platforms and the beauty of the large antique clocks that take centre place – never falling to remind us that we must move on, that time will not wait, the train will depart and the show must go on. Hugs, kisses, perverts and thieves. So much history, so many moments.

Take Liverpool Street Station in London, which has been around for more than 130 years; where162 people were killed by a single bomb in World War I, and where hundreds of children left with just a name tag and a suitcase in World War II. Imagine the stories it has seen since then – did it raise its bricked eyebrows at the acid-addled passengers of the 1960s? Sigh in despair at the generations of homelessness? Admire different tactics of pickpockets and wonder why now everybody walks with their eyes glued to a small screen in their hands? Yes, if walls could talk, train stations would be among the most interesting invites at the party.

And it is for all these reasons that I find it especially disappointing that most of the world’s major train stations are surrounded by nothing but sleazy bars, dire cafes and shoddy hotels. Leave Nottingham Station and you’ll follow a neglected road of greasy spoon cafes to an almost derelict shopping centre. Leave London Kings’ Cross and find yourself in a seedy 24-hour off license (or is that just me?) and exit Gare du Nord in Paris to find a plethora of over-priced brasseries. It’s so tragic.

And so, somewhat unintentionally, I have made it my mission to find great places near train stations. It is amazing how useful they can be. I think I pretty much wrote my university dissertation at Big Chill House near Kings Cross after weekends with friends in London.

My latest project has been Gare du Nord in Paris. Having frequented the station six times already this year, I am ashamed to say I have visited the McDonald’s (read free wee and wi-fi) over the road almost as much.

And so it was, with a heavy booze-laden suitcase in one hand and a flimsy umbrella hoisted into the air with the other, we hurried into the rainy, puddled streets of Paris to find somewhere ‘cool’ to kill a few hours. As my hair began to expand in the moist air and my suitcase turned a darker shade of soggy grey, I found my mind wandering to the dry plastic benches of McDonald’s and questioning whether we had been in a little rash in our scathing rejection of the place, which does after all sell macaroons.

“Let’s have a look in there,” said Matty. I lifted my gaze from the wet, shiny pavement and pulled my umbrella back just enough to catch a glimpse of him pointing towards what looked like an indoor market over the road. And somehow instead of yelling: “Last time I checked indoor markets did not have cafes, wi-fi and toilets”, I just nodded, glad to get out of the rain for the moment.

And so we shuffled over the road, into the dry, sheltered space and were immediately greeted by an impressive cheese counter. I felt instantly soothed. It never fails to amaze me how even the most fancy-pants impressive cheese delis in England just pale in comparison to the simple market cheese stalls of France. The shapes, the sizes, the smells. I could sense the cheese oozing from within their pretty little circular wooden boxes, while the dry cured meats dangled from the ceiling in an alluringly tantalising manner. We gushed and ‘ooh la la’’d’ over the huge slabs of cheese in bad French and splashed out on a few slices that were embarrassingly small for the amount we paid. C’est la vie.


But that was just the beginning. As we made our way across the market space, we passed more fromageries, an array of fresh fruit and veg and bakeries – and to my delight I realised the stalls also had tables and chairs besides them as if set up for those who cannot wait to get their feasts home. Then we passed a funky sushi bar, all lit up in blue lights, an African restaurant, even a bar where people were sat drinking pints of beer, and an assortment of bistro-like cafes that in London would be declared ‘pop-up restaurants’ and full of hipsters. This was, I declared, the best indoor market ever. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Borough Market and the food stalls at Camden Market but this felt so much more undiscovered – a sparkling little gem in the ghetto, so to speak.



We marvelled some more over the endless options before settling for an Italian ‘restaurant’ that went by the name of Cafe Toraldo, which boasted a wide section of lasagnes in the counter (even a salmon lasagne dah-ling), as well as fresh ravioli, salads and cheeses. We took a seat on the wooden bench in the attached room next door as a pichet was filled with a rather good red wine for us.



It was the end of a five-day French food binge and so we opted for a light salad of cannellini beans, tuna, roasted vegetables and rocket, tossed together with a tasty olive oil and balsamic glaze. Small crusty artisan bread rolls appeared in a little wicker basket and we tucked in immediately.



Deliciously fresh and served with a smile, the lunch was one of the tastiest salads I’ve had in a while. And unlike most of my favourite lunch spots in the city of love, it did not come with a hefty price tag. The salads, bread and pichet of wine set us back only 10 Euros each.

Matty didn’t want me to tell you about this. He wanted to keep it all to himself but I believe there is a need for a where’s-good-to-eat-drink-and-be-merry-near-train-stations-movement and that is one I am only to happy to front. Bon appetit!

Travel Tips

Marche Saint-Quentin is open from Tuesday to Sunday and seems to be busiest in the mornings and around lunch time. It’s located on Boulevard de Magenta near the junction with Rue de Saint-Quentin, just a few minutes walk from Gare du Nord.

Another favourite spot of mine is along the canal of Saint-Martin, which is full of wonderful little cafes and bars. It’s a 10 minute walk from Gare du Nord and the perfect option for a sunny day.

If you’re looking for a good hotel or apartment to rent in Gare du Nord I really recommend this wonderful place – we stayed here for a few nights earlier in the year and it really is every bit as wonderful as the pictures suggest. After all, what more do you want than a sunny balcony space on the top floor of a beautiful Haussman period building?