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Split, Croatia: Your guide from a student backpacker

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In the past ten years, Croatia’s popularity has reached new heights, with its potential still yet to be reckoned.  Particularly alluring to backpackers are its picturesque red-roofed cities, stunning national parks, and party-friendly islands, not to mention the chance to explore the enchantingly picturesque Dubrovnik, home to Game of Thrones King’s Landing. 

As the second largest city in Croatia, Split often falls into the shadows of its rivals Dubrovnik and Zagreb. However, Split’s unique blend of the ancient and modern, its buzzing atmosphere, and insight into Roman architecture makes it the perfect base from which to immerse yourself in Dalmatian culture.

Cathedral of St. Domnius

The defining experience of any visit to Split is unequivocally the climb to the top of Cathedral of St. Domnius’ bell tower, which overlooks Diocletian’s Palace, a renowned Roman World Heritage site.

The bell tower’s suspended metal staircases and open-arch windows are certainly not for the fainthearted, but its wealth is delivered upon reaching the top, where the panoramic view of the red-roofed city, expanses of ocean, and far-away hills is unparalleled.

Did I mention tickets for the bell tower are only three euros?

Beaches

For backpackers facing a greater limit on time, popular Bačvice Beach offers a central hub for relaxation. Though small, this characteristic beach boasts fascinatingly translucent water and soft white sand. The gradual decline from the beach into the sea means that the water is always soothingly warm from the sun’s rays, and there is plenty of space to wade, swim, or just lull around to your heart’s content.

Not so well known as Bačvice Beach is Kašjuni, a half hour trek from the Riva promenade.  Kašjuni, a pebbly beach overlooked by sheer cliffs and forestry, is spectacular in its own way, providing a more remote spot to relax in nature.

Nearby nature reserve Marjan Forest Park can be explored in the same trip, where winding trails amongst the pine trees open unexpectedly into scenic lookouts and even medieval chapels and caves once inhabited by Christian hermits.

Don’t be roped into expensive excursions

A simple walk along the promenade or harbour will result in a bombardment of expensive excursions. Whilst these trips, often advertised as value for money, seem straight-forward and exciting, many of the destinations can be reached simply via ferry, an immensely cheaper option. Tickets for daily ferries to party island Hvar or idealistic beachy Brac can be purchased cheaply from the harbour or online. Besides, who wants to be restrained by a tour guide when you have the opportunity to tailor your trip to your own interests?

Night Life: Ziggy Star Pub Crawl

Since a trip to Split wouldn’t be complete without a taste of the nightlife, there is one simple rule to abide by: if you’re on a budget, avoid the promenade. Though the cocktails may look tempting, it’s way too easy to end up with a staggering bill.

Instead, from experience, there is one night out that I can always trust to deliver a friendly and fun night out.  Ziggy Star Pub Crawl, which departs every evening at 10pm from the centre of the Riva Promenade, allows you to safely explore the city’s nightlife via walking tour and coaches. Its most defining feature, of course, is the 100 minutes of free drinks with live music, where a large variety of drinks from spirits to beers to tropical cocktails are available on demand.

Ending at popular Tropic Club overlooking Bačvice beach, this bargain of a pub crawl costs only 18 euros when booked online. Plus, you get a token for free breakfast at the locals’ favourite restaurant Fife.

Food

If free breakfast isn’t enough, Split has plenty more delicious food to offer. As a general rule, the further you go from the promenade, the cheaper the food will be, though delicious acai bowls, juice, and gelato are most frequently found nearer to the promenade. Split’s busy daily market is a must-visit for foodies on a budget, boasting food stalls selling daily fresh food, prepared or organic. For vegetarians, Vege Fast Food is a must-visit.  They offer chewy, indulgent soya burgers and many unique options including zucchini fritters, all cooked to perfection in front of you.

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