Split or Dubrovnik: Which Croatian City to Visit?


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Should you visit Split or Dubrovnik on your trip to Croatia? It’s a question that many potential visitors to this beautiful Balkan nation ask themselves frequently, especially if they’re short on time and want to get the most out of their trip to Croatia. While both cities aren’t all the far from each other and can offer similar things to travellers, they are also distinct enough that you can have an entirely different Croatian experience depending on which city you choose to visit.

With Dubrovnik struggling under the effects of overtourism and Split becoming ever more popular each year, it can be quite the quandary to decide whether to choose Dubrovnik or Split to visit. On paper and in photos, they may look ultra similar and seem as if they both offer the same things, however, you will find that depending on your own travel preferences and what you want to experience on your trip to Croatia, both Split and Dubrovnik have different things to appeal to different kinds of travellers.

So if you’re only visiting Croatia for a short period of time and can’t seem to decide between visiting Split or Dubrovnik, then this guide is meant to help you out.

Split

Split, the second-largest city in Croatia, is an incredibly historic gem perched on the Adriatic. Boasting perennially good weather, beautiful settings, and great transport links to explore much of what Croatia has to offer, Split is one of the best places to visit in Croatia and you’re sure to have an excellent time in the country should you choose to base yourself here.

Split Harbour
Split Harbour

Accessibility

One of the first things you need to consider when trying to choose whether to visit Split or Dubrovnik is how accessible the city is, both in terms of getting to the city and also getting around once there. And if you end up choosing to visit Split, you will luckily find that the city is quite accessible.

As the second-largest city in Croatia, Split does operate as a transport hub and there are numerous direct bus connections to the city from most major cities in Croatia and even cities abroad, like Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Kotor, Montenegro. You can browse schedules for many local bus companies here and also make sure to check out FlixBus schedules here for additional options.

Split is also home to an international airport that has numerous connections daily to many major European cities (you can search flight routes on Skyscanner). It serves both budget and major airlines, meaning that it’s easy to fly directly into Split for an affordable price. The Split airport is also located just north of the city centre, close to the lovely island town of Trogir and only about 15 kilometres from central Split.

This means that it’s easy to get from the airport to the city centre in a limited amount of time. Whether you opt for a frequent airport bus (the cheapest option), grab a taxi or drive your own rental car, it won’t take long at all to get from the airport to the centre of Split.

Split is also a hub for ferries for a myriad of Croatia’s Adriatic islands (the most popular of which are Hvar, Brac and Korcula) along with overnight ferries to places like Ancona in Italy. All in all, Split is incredibly accessible from numerous other cities in Croatia and Europe as a whole and makes for an excellent jumping-off point to explore a lot of the country, especially the islands.

Now that we’ve determined how accessible Split is from other cities and countries, we need to discuss how easy it is to get around in the city itself. Luckily for travellers, Split itself has a very compact city centre and the Old Town area of Diocletian’s Palace is actually completely pedestrianised, meaning that Split is ideal for getting around on foot. The Old Town is also relatively flat and well-paved, meaning that it’s also quite easy to get around without needing to exert oneself too much.

Within Split, it is generally unnecessary to need to your own car or to use public transport, however, if you plan to explore any of the surrounding areas or go on any of the numerous great day trips from Split, then having your own vehicle will prove to be the easiest option.

If you want to rent a car while in Split, we recommend using RentalCars.com in order to find the best prices on a car hire. The platform aggregates all available cars across all major car hire companies to ensure that you don’t overpay on your rental car. We also like to take out an excess insurance policy with iCarHireInsurance in order to give yourself some peace of mind should any damage happen to your car hire.

Ferries departing from Split
Ferries departing from Split

Affordability

Another key factor in deciding between whether to visit Split or Dubrovnik is going to be the affordability of the city, especially if you’re trying to visit Croatia on a budget. And while Croatia isn’t necessarily the cheapest destination to visit in Europe, it certainly doesn’t come with the high price tag that many other countries in Europe might. That being said, Split can be an affordable destination to visit depending on how and where you spend your money.

Prices in Split are more or less on par with prices in the rest of the country and that means that you can easily spend time in the city with a budget about €50-60 per day without sacrificing much at all in terms of quality or activities. Especially if you visit in the off or shoulder seasons, you can get quite affordable accommodation and a hearty and delicious meal all for great prices.

All in all, Split certainly isn’t the cheapest city for travellers in the region, however, it is reasonably easy to travel there on a budget and if affordability is a major determining factor when trying to choose between Split or Dubrovnik to visit, then Split certainly comes out ahead.

Villa Spiza Lunch
Local cuisine is affordable in Split

Things to Do in Split

Now that we’ve discussed more mundane topics such as affordability and accessibility, it’s time to talk about all of the things there are to do in Split to help you make your choice between Split vs Dubrovnik.

As Croatia’s second-largest city, Split is blessed with a lot of great and interesting things to do, however, you also can see a good portion of the city itself in just a couple of days. Despite its relative small size, however, there are lots of great things to do in Split and the city’s size make it an attractive option for those looking for an active holiday filled with numerous activities.

Some of the best things to do in Split include exploring the historic Diocletian’s Palace complex, going for a hike in Park Marjan and even lounging on the beach for a bit. There are countless delicious restaurants to dine in and numerous quaint, cobbled streets to get lost in. There is also so much history in Split that it can keep history buffs occupied for some time.

Split is also excellently situated to explore the Dalmatian region in general and makes for an excellent base in which to go on day trips. Trips to places like Krka National Park or towns like Sibenik or Trogir are easily accessible and you can even get to islands like Hvar or Brac for a day trip from Split, as well.

If you’re looking to get further afield, it’s also perfectly possible to visit Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina from Split or even head north to visit the incredible Plitvice Lakes National Park.

Because of it’s more central location and size, Split might be the better option to visit if you also want to see more of Croatia and head out on day trips.

Trogir is one of the best day trips from Split, Croatia
The beautiful town of Trogir

Where to Stay in Split

Split is quite a popular destination to visit in Croatia and, therefore, there are numerous accommodation options available. If you’ve decided that Croatia’s second city is the winner in the Split vs Dubrovnik debate and are wondering where to stay, have a look at these suggestions:

Il Giardino Luxury Rooms & Suites — If you have a higher budget and are seeking a bit of luxury in Split, then this boutique hotel is a great choice for you. They have a number of chic and romantic rooms available and it’s well-located in the city centre, within walking distance of all of Split’s top attractions. There is also a great breakfast included in the nightly rate. Click here to see their latest prices

Private Rental — This can be a great option in Split if you would rather stay in your own private apartment. There are numerous properties available like this luxurious apartment near the city centre. Click here to browse private rentals in Split.

Tchaikovsky Hostel — If you’re travelling solo or on a budget, then this centrally-located hostel is a great choice for you. They have a range of dorm and private rooms available and come very highly rated. Click here to see their latest prices

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Split

Split from above
Split from above

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is the most popular place to visit in Croatia and because of this, it has also been struggling under the strains of overtourism. Known for its iconic walled old town and absolutely gorgeous setting, Dubrovnik is also famous for being the filming location for King’s Landing in HBO’s Game of Thrones. However, the town does have more to offer than GOT tourism and if you’re wondering if it’s the right choice for you in the Dubrovnik or Split dilemma, then this should help you make that decision:

Accessibility

Dubrovnik is located in the very south of Croatia and, in fact, it isn’t even connected to the rest of the country due to the small bit of coastline the Bosnia & Herzegovina claims as their own. Because of its southern location, Dubrovnik is actually one of the furthest-flung destinations in Croatia and it can be a bit out of the way if you’re planning on visiting many other destinations in the country.

Despite this, there are numerous buses that connect Dubrovnik with nearby cities that run frequently, meaning that it is easily accessible by overland public transportation. You can also reach Dubrovnik via overnight ferry from Bari, Italy if you prefer.

Dubrovnik is also home to Croatia’s third-highest traffic airport (the two busiest are Zagreb and Split respectively) and it is entirely possible to reach the “pearl of the Adriatic” by air. There are connections to Dubrovnik from a number of major European cities and it does cater to a number of major and budget airlines, however, many of the routes are seasonal. That means it may be more difficult to find a flight to Dubrovnik if you plan to visit in the low season.

Once in the city, you will find that Dubrovnik is quite compact (which can make the tourist crowds seem even more daunting) and that you can easily get around on foot. The old city is completely pedestrianised and meant for those getting around on foot, so if you only plan to visit Dubrovnik and don’t have any intentions to go on day trips, then having your own vehicle isn’t entirely necessary.

Because of its somewhat far-flung location, there aren’t quite as many day trip options from Dubrovnik as there are from Split, however, numerous places are still accessible from the city. For instance, there are a number of islands that you could visit from Dubrovnik, along with day trips to places like Kotor in Montenegro or Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina.

All in all, if you’re deciding between Dubrovnik and Split and easy access to the rest of the country is key to you, the Split may actually be the better option for you.

Dubrovnik's City Walls are one reason to choose Dubrovnik over Split
Dubrovnik’s City Walls

Affordability

The biggest difference between Dubrovnik vs Split comes in when you look at the affordability of each city. I’m going to say it now, but if you are travelling on a tight budget and want your money to stretch a long way, then Dubrovnik is not the city for you. Almost everything in Dubrovnik is about double the price as it would be elsewhere in Croatia and it can be prohibitively expensive for a number of budget travellers.

For instance, adult entry to walk on the city walls in Dubrovnik will cost around €30 whereas you can enter Diocletian’s Palace in Split for free. Restaurant prices in the old town are also about double the price as in Split and accommodation rates are also heavily inflated.

If you’re still set on visiting Dubrovnik but don’t have a high budget to play around with, then I recommend trying to visit in the off-season. Not only is this a far more sustainable way to visit Dubrovnik (as the city is really struggling under the effects of overtourism), but you will find things to be significantly discounted in you’re visiting in the winter months. The streets won’t be filled with tour groups and tourist crowds and the tourism board even organises free guided walking tours of the city on weekends throughout the winter months in order to encourage off-season tourism.

All in all, Dubrovnik is quite an expensive city and it’s worth being aware of that, especially if you’re trying to stick to a tight budget while travelling in Croatia.

Things to Do in Dubrovnik

Now it’s time to talk about the things to do in Dubrovnik to help make your decision between visiting here or visiting Split.

Dubrovnik is a much smaller city than Split, however, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there is less to do in the city centre. In fact, you could easily fill a day or two exploring the main sites of Dubrovnik just as you could in Split. Some of the top things to do in Dubrovnik include walking along the city walls whilst pretending to be Tyrion Lannister (or not), visiting some of the city’s many museums, taking in some of the incredible churches, or just getting lost in the quaint, cobbled streets. Because of its coastal location, it is also the ideal place to hit the beach, especially if you’re visiting in the warmer months.

If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, then you could also opt to go on a tour of filming locations within the city.

Where Dubrovnik falls short of Split, however, is its access to day trips. Because of Dubrovnik’s location, it isn’t as well situated as Split as a base to explore the Dalmatian coast or beyond. While you can easily go on a day trip to places like Kotor or even head out to some nearby islands, there just isn’t as much choice as you will find in Split.

Church of St Ignatius in Dubrovnik
Church of St Ignatius in Dubrovnik

Where to Stay in Dubrovnik

As mentioned earlier, Dubrovnik is one of the most popular places to visit in all of Croatia and, therefore, there are countless accommodation options to choose from throughout the town. If you’re wondering where to stay in Dubrovnik, then have a look at these top recommendations:

Old Town Hostel — This boutique hostel located directly, as the name suggests, in Dubrovnik’s Old Town is an excellent choice for those travelling solo or on a budget. It comes very highly rated and has both dorm and private rooms available. Click here to see their latest prices

Soleil Luxury Rooms Old Town Guesthouse — Also centrally located in the old town, this is an excellent place to stay if your budget affords more than a hostel and you’re looking for a chic and romantic place to stay in Dubrovnik. They have a range of clean, comfortable rooms on offer and it comes very highly rated. Click here to see their latest prices

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Dubrovnik

If you're wondering is Croatia expensive? The answer is yes in Dubrovnik
Beautiful Dubrovnik

Split or Dubrovnik: The Verdict

So should you visit Split or Dubrovnik on your next Croatian adventure? Well, that decision is entirely up to you, however, each city does have something different to offer visitors.

Split is an excellent choice if you want to have a great base to explore a lot of Croatia. There are countless day trip options from the city and you can easily fill a bit more time there than you can in Dubrovnik. It also doesn’t see quite as many tourist crowds as Dubrovnik and can, therefore, be quieter in high season. It is also a better option if you’re travelling on a budget.

Dubrovnik is an ideal choice if budget isn’t an issue and you want to have a quintessential Croatian travel experience. It is likewise a great option if you are a fan of Game of Thrones and you want to see the filming locations of the TV show. It is also just incredibly gorgeous and worth to go just to take in its beauty.

Whether you choose to visit Split or Dubrovnik, there is no denying that travelling to Croatia is an incredible experience and you’re sure to have an amazing time no matter where you go!

When travelling in Croatia, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have a travel insurance policy so you’re covered for any unfortunate events! We like WorldNomads and always use them for our trips – click here to get a quote from WorldNomads 

Are you struggling to choose between Dubrovnik or Split? Have you been to either city? Let us know in the comments!

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Maggie is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. When she’s not dreaming of far-away lands, Maggie enjoys drinking copious amounts of coffee, Harry Potter, and coaxing stray cats into her home.

Comments

  1. Hi Folks,
    Thank you for the info re Split or Dubrovnik. We will opt to do both, as we are attending a two day conference in Dubrovnik at the end of May, 20. We will motor up to Split after that.Would we require visas to travel through the Bosnia Herzegovina strip on the highway?I am using a South African passport, and my wife, a Belguim passport.

    Reply

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