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Split Or Dubrovnik: Where to Visit in Croatia

If you have limited time for your Croatia vacation, you might ask, “Should you visit Split or Dubrovnik?” Both cities offer plenty, with Dubrovnik the most famous of the two having been featured as “King’s Landing” in “Game of Thrones,” although Split was used as a setting in many of the scenes with Daenerys. Dubrovnik is smaller in size but boasts a charmingly compact Old City while Split is more affordable and offers more when it comes to nightlife. Both make great bases for a variety of day trips. With these destinations each offering many reasons to visit, it can be challenging to choose, which is why we’ve put together this guide to help you make the best possible decision.

Best Time to Visit

Aerial view of Dubrovnik Old Town
Split Riva Promenade

The best time to visit Split and Dubrovnik is generally the same. The country enjoys a Mediterranean climate with warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters along the coast. Most visitors come between April and October with summer the peak of the tourist season. This is the warmest, the busiest, and the most expensive time of year, drawing many cruise crowds. 

If you visit in April, May, or mid-September through mid-October, you’ll avoid the biggest crowds while still enjoying pleasant weather. Early fall is best for those who want to enjoy swimming from the city’s beaches as the summer temperatures have been warming the sea all summer and it usually doesn’t begin to cool until later in October.

Culture

Diocletian’s Palace
Dubrovnik main street

If you’re looking to immerse yourself in the culture of Croatia, you’ll find many cultural attractions in both cities. Dubrovnik offers the chance to delve into time-honored Croatian traditions, history, and heritage, with the medieval Old City a haven. One can walk atop its ancient city walls for views of the red-tiled rooftops in the historical center, the sea, and nearby islands. Performances at open-air venues of historical sites, including Gothic Rector’s Palace and Lovrijenac Fort, a world-famous setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet, can also be enjoyed. 

The world-famous Diocletian’s Palace with buildings dating to the late 3rd century AD is one of the many reasons why you should visit Split on your Croatia vacation. It also hosts numerous world-class museums from the City Museum to the Archaeological Museum.

Top Attractions

Dubrovnik city walls
Split

Dubrovnik’s historic center is one of the reasons why you should visit Dubrovnik with everything from the city walls and historic palaces to the Franciscan Monastery with one of Europe’s oldest still operating pharmacies dating to 1391. Lokrum Island can easily be accessed via a 10-minute ferry ride, with enticing swimming spots, a nature reserve, and a medieval Benedictine monastery. Don’t miss the cable car ride to Mount Srd’s summit for a panoramic view. 

In Split, Diocletian’s Palace is the star attraction Diocletian’s Palace with numerous historical sites within the complex, including St. Domnius Cathedral with a bell tower that can be climbed for a magnificent view. Outside the palace gates, immerse yourself in local life at the Green Market.

Beaches

Dubrovnik Beach
Kasjuni Beach

The best beaches are a bit further out, but both Dubrovnik and Split offer stretches that will take your breath away with enticing spots for sunbathing and refreshing dips during the warmer months. Bacvice is just north of Split but it can be very busy. Just around the corner is Ovcice Beach, a pebbled stretch that’s much quieter although there are no loungers. Kasjuni Beach can be reached within a 30-minute walk south and is arguably one of the best in the area.

Copacabana is one of the best near Dubrovnik, a half-moon of gravel and pebbles along Seka Bay, featuring deckchairs, loungers, watersports gear, and a beachside eatery. Locals head down the coast 20 minutes on foot to peaceful Sveti Jakov.

Food

Market in Dubrovnik
Seafood in Croatia

Dubrovnik and Split offer thriving dining scenes with many restaurants serving dishes made with locally sourced ingredients. Their seaside settings mean you’ll find lots of delicious, fresh seafood in both cities, often with beautiful water views. In Dubrovnik, look for the green stew known as zelena menstra, a filling dish with staple ingredients that include meat, potatoes, and cabbage. The city is also close to the Peljesac Peninsula, renowned for some of the world’s best oysters.

Split has many fine-dining eateries for sampling local cuisine and one can also take a gastronomic walking tour here. It visits the Green Market where you can taste the local produce and numerous spots for sampling everything from prosciutto and cheeses to traditional soparnik pie.

Nightlife

Dubrovnik at night
Split Riva Promenade

When it comes to nightlife, Split is the clear winner. Dubrovnik has its share of trendy bars and nightclubs, but nearly all are in the Old Town. If your focus is fun after dark and you choose Dubrovnik, choose an accommodation near or in the historical center. In Split, clubs are everywhere from the beach to the Old Town. You can even dance on Bacvice, the city beach. Something else to consider is that Dubrovnik tends to favor bars over clubs. While there are some, the scene can’t match Split for variety. If you’re looking for a bar crawl rather than the opportunity to dance the night away, Dubrovnik is the better choice, but for nearly everything else, Split prevails.

Day Trips

Perast
Hvar Lavender Field

If you want to use Split or Dubrovnik as a base for day trips on your Croatia vacation, either can be ideal. It depends on where you want to go, with Split conveniently located in the middle of the Dalmatian coast, making it easy to reach many islands like Solta, Brac, Hvar, Lastovo, and Vis. The Blue Lagoon and the Blue Cave are both easily reached and Plitvice Lakes National Park is closer to Split, roughly a 2.5 hour drive away.

From Dubrovnik, you’ll be within easy reach of Croatia’s spectacular neighbor, Montenegro, including Kotor and Perast. Mostar and its famous bridge in Bosnia and Herzegovina is just over a two-hour drive away. There are many islands nearby, including the Elafitis.

Transport Links

Dubrovnik bus
Ferry in Split

When it comes to public transportation within the cities, Split is cheaper than Dubrovnik but Dubrovnik is better suited for exploring on foot which means you may not have to use it at all. As far as transport connections to other destinations, Split is arguably the better choice. It offers a more central location as well as being a major transportation hub, making it a popular base for exploring many places throughout the region. Split International Airport also has more international connections making it typically cheaper to fly into.

The bottom line is that Split has more transport links while being closer to many of Croatia’s highlights, including Trogir, Sibenik, Krka and Plitvice national parks, and multiple islands like Brac and Hvar.

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