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.

World in Pictures: Lenton Flats, Nottingham

The Lenton Flats in Nottingham are like the Eiffel Tower to Paris, the Shard to London, or the Empire State Building to New York.

Of course I’m exaggerating, they never quite made it as a tourist destination, but nevertheless the five 1960s tower blocks dominate Nottingham’s skyline, well if you live in that part of town anyway.

But not for much longer. Nottingham City Council is pulling the whole lot of them down… They are going the way of the dodo.

In my job as a reporter I went out there for resident reaction (yes I was the person ringing all the buzzers until someone let me in), which gave me the opportunity to explore a place that will soon become a little piece of history that separates generations. And contrary to the popular belief that no one would want to live in these ‘eyesores’, I found people in spacious, well looked after flats with tenants who were sad to leave. Yes, they said it was cold in the winter but they had raised their children here, their grand-children lived round the corner, Mavis upstairs is their best friend.

But the council says they are not financially viable and I’m sure they’re not. They are building new, warmer homes in their place. But as I walked around the estate that has been a landmark for so long, and a home to so many, I found myself singing ‘The Way of the Dodo’ by The Streets. And here are my pictures… to the lyrics.


I’m right behind you but don’t expect me to ride like it’s a race


Conspiracy theories – we all see these


Just another brother trying to love my son and mother


Scramble for the top, for the bottom of the ceiling


For the kids let’s make the rules


It’s not that I don’t care, just that I’m way too caught up with breathing air to grieve the trees


I can’t imagine the day when things have actually faded away

World in Pictures: The People of Bali

The people in Bali are a beautiful bunch. Blessed with big, bright smiles, glossy hair and romantically chiselled faces, many are undeniably good looking. But it is the beauty I found underneath all of that – their warmth, their friendliness, their sheer delight when you attempt to speak their language, that really sets them apart.


This beautiful man works at the Monkey Temple in Ubud and while hundreds of tourists coo and scream at the scavenging monkeys he just goes about his job, sweeping leaves and tidying the place up. He seemed quite bemused when I stopped him to ask if he’d mind being in my picture, he laughed and pointed at the monkeys as if to say ‘they’re the bloody attraction, not me!’ But nevertheless he obliged.

Fortunately, people in Bali always seemed quite happy for me to take their picture, I’d make that international sign of an over-exaggerated shutter push and they’d smile and nod and pause for a minute to allow me to capture a split second of their world.

I guess they’re used to it. But while hundreds of thousands of tourists descend on their tiny little island every year, most Balinese have never left. One of the nicest people I met in Bali was our lovely taxi driver Ketut, which literally means fourth son, who drove us from Kuta to Denpasar. Unbelievably they only have four names in Bali, each one represents the birth order and if a fifth child is born the cycle just starts again.

Anyhow it was on this journey that Ketut explained to us that the Balinese don’t have enough money to travel. Not just because their wages, which may allow them to live comfortably in their local villages, don’t translate into international air tickets, but more because of what they choose to spend their money on.

‘Ceremonies,’ he explained.
‘Our Hindu faith means we spend years and years saving for our ceremonies. Weddings, funerals, cremations are very, very expensive. We spend it all on ceremonies.’

So there you have it, while I am busy saving for a holiday for me, a new camera lens for me, some clothes for me, another holiday for… yep me, many Balinese spend their whole lives saving for ceremonies for their families. And I guess when you look at it like that, posing for a picture is an easy thing to give.

A taxi rank in Ubud.

A stall owner in Ubud… his stall must have one of the best backdrops in the world.

The children in Denpasar who put flowers in my hair…


A woman blesses her offerings for the day in Ubud.


Setting the scene for a traditional dance performance at Ubud Palace.

Jimbaran’s rambling beach band

And of course, my favourite man of all, Gung Bawa, who I will be eternally grateful to.

World in Pictures: The Colours of Bali

If I had to choose one word to describe Bali it would be colourful. Every day vibrant colours drew me in like a magpie to diamonds… The dazzling shades of pinks, reds and yellows in its flowers, the ripe, rich greens of its rice paddies and its brilliant blue skies. To put it simply, I fell in love with its colours.

Even the greyest of pavements are lit up by dozens of colourful offerings for the Hindu Gods. Seemingly discarded on the floor, they are found everywhere from shops and restaurants to outside hotel doors. We found them at the top of Bali’s highest mountain Gunung Agung, lying on the sandy beaches (which Matty accidentally trampled on, burning his foot on the incense – but no one seemed to mind) and precariously balanced on taxi meters.

Varying in shapes and sizes, the offerings can be as small as a few grains of rice on a banana leaf, or as lavish as a full size meal, decorated in orchids with sweet, floral scented incense burning. Some had brightly packaged biscuits, most were made with rice and flowers, but all were beautifully colourful, decorating miles of pavements across the island.

It was quite magical to watch women, carrying trays of burning incense and brightly coloured flowers, bless each offering as they laid it down. Silent and transfixed, their mouths moved as their fingers sprinkled water over the small presentation, as if they were casting a beautiful, enchanting spell.

Here’s a few of our favourite picture that I hope convey some of the colours of Bali…




And these beautiful structures, which I think must be made from palm leaves, lined many of the streets and were found outside homes, shops and restaurants. Most had small platforms at eye level that were laden with offerings.



It is an island blessed with vibrant natural beauty…




And the sunsets, which paint the sky with colours at dusk, are second to none.


We found dazzling displays of colour when we least expected it… Like this golden shrine at the top of Gunung Agung.


And perhaps unsurprisingly, the Balinese traditional dress is also colourful.


As is everything else from their dogs to their graveyards…



Whatever the spell, I’ve fallen under it.