7 TOP PICKS BY A SPLIT TRAVEL GUIDE
Whilst most guidebooks on Split are focused on the main attractions of Diocletian’s Palace including the bell tower and Cathedral of St. Duje, the cellars of the palace, Temple of Jupiter, and the Grgur Ninski statue, there are many more fascinating sights and attractions that stay off the radar. Whether a cultural site or cult hangout, we asked travel guides to list their top picks of must-see places in and around the city that showcase the true essence of Split and have rounded up seven.
1. Chapel of St. Martin
When Emperor Diocletian moved from Salona to his new retirement home in Split, he entered through the Golden Gate, located along the north-facing wall of the palace. The ornate entranceway was protected by troops and thus, the tiny Chapel of St. Martin, dedicated to the patron saint of soldiers, was built into the walls above the gate. The five-meter wide chapel is known to be one of the oldest Christian chapels in the world and can be accessed by ringing the doorbell to the nuns of the Dominican convent, located just right after passing through the gate.
2. The Crypt
Unknown to most, below Split’s landmark attraction, the Cathedral of St. Duje, is the secret Chapel of St. Lucy, dedicated to the patron saint of the blind. The substructure dungeon-like chapel was originally the crypt of Diocletian’s mausoleum; quite a paradox considering that the emperor was one of the biggest persecutors of Christians. The crypt only opens up once per year, on January 13th, where the public can bless their eyes with holy water to protect them from going blind.
3. Make a Wish at the Castello
Beyond the western walls of the palace is the square of Trg Braće Radić, known to locals as Voćni Trg (Fruit Square) as it was a sprawling fruit market back in the day. Guarding the square to the south is a castello marked by an octagonal Venetian tower that was built to protect the city against Turkish invasions. Between the two 15th-century structures is a passageway that leads to Riva on which two Christian crosses are etched onto the ancient walls. It is believed that making a love-related wish when touching the cross will make it come true.
4. Tri Volta
Tri Volta (meaning three vaults) is more of a cultural institution than a tourist attraction, located in the palace along the sea-facing walls. The legendary watering hole and eatery sports original socialist interiors and a blue-collar clientele to match. They have a daily menu of home-style dishes and a famously delicious prosciutto sliced to order as you chug down a shot of moonshine rakija at the bar. In summer, tourists swarm to the terrace marked by three vaults to eat cheap and mingle with locals.
5. The Churches of Marjan Hill
A great escape from the city buzz is a walk through Marjan Forest Park, the lungs of the city located on the southern tip of Split’s peninsula. Dotting the many trails is a collection of little churches to be discovered of which the 16th century St. Jeronimus church and hermitage (Sv. Jere), built into the crevice of a cliff is one of the most fascinating.
6. Jewish Synagogue
Surprise! Split is home to the third oldest Sephardic Synagogue in the world, which is very much in use today by the city’s 100-member Jewish community. The 16th century synagogue is discreetly tucked into two medieval houses on Židovski prolaz (Jewish Passage) and is constructed in a classicist style with black and white marble. This place of worship has rather sporadic working hours but usually welcomes visitors on weekdays till lunch.
Zanat is yet another non-UNESCO sight with cult status where you can really get a sneak peek into the life of local youth from October to May when it is open. Zanat is a bar located in a dead end back street in the palace where time stands still, where the furniture takes you back to socialism, and the air is stuffy. This is the legendary locale to play karambol, a Dalmatian boules-style game on a pocketless billiard table… weird, we know.
Which under-the-radar attraction will you be visiting on your next stay in Split?