ROMAN PALACES & WATERFRONT WALKS
It’s time to leave Hvar and head back to the mainland and the vibrant city of SPLIT, dramatically wedged between the Adriatic and the karst ridges of the Mosor mountains. Jadrolinija car ferries set sail from the port near Stari Grad every couple of hours or so; there’s a convenient year-round crossing at 11.30am (the journey takes 2 hours), but you can check the latest seasonal schedules here (the fare for a family of 4 in an ordinary saloon is around 305kn in the shoulder season).
Split’s compact Old Town, just a few hundred metres from the ferry terminal (and overnight car parking), is built around the incredible DIOCLETIAN’S PALACE, the fourth-century retirement home of the Roman Emperor Diocletian that is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its buildings have been absorbed into the fabric of everyday life in Split, with craft stalls occupying the Central Hall and shops and cafés squirreled away into the walls. Passing through the Bronze Gate and the Central Hall leads into the PERISTYLE, the palace’s former courtyard, which looks like it’s been lifted straight out of Ancient Rome. Surrounding this are the palace’s main sights – the Cathedral of St Dominus, the bell tower, treasury, crypt and baptistry – which can be seen with a combined ticket [45kn, under-12s free]; of most interest to kids is the cathedral’s octagonal BELL TOWER [open daily until 7pm, 6.30pm on Sundays | individual entry 20kn, under-12s free], up which you can climb 200ft above Split for far-reaching views over the city. From the Peristyle, you can head up into the warren of narrow alleyways (known as kalete) north of the courtyard, or west, out through the Iron Gate (and the palace) and back down to Split’s breezy RIVA. The cafés along here are buzzing come late afternoon – pull up a chair beneath the palm trees or join the local Splićani promenading along the waterfront (with a soft-scoop gelato in hand, of course).
TOP TIP If you catch an earlier ferry from Hvar, make sure you’re in the Peristyle by noon for the daily CHANGING OF THE DIOCLETIAN GUARD, when costumed actors enthusiastically recreate the arrival of Emperor and his wife, and Diocletian, flanked by serious-looking Roman soldiers, addresses the crowd to much pantomime booing and cheering.
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