Croatia is an absolutely amazing country to visit. The Country is pretty much all stunning coastline with the clearest water ever. On top of the coastline, this sunny country is home to picturesque ancient cities which are full of culture. Split and Dubrovnik are two of the most popular cities in the country as they both have so much to offer as holiday destinations. We loved both cities individually, but both for different reasons. This post aims to break down the pros and cons of each city to help you decide which destination is right for you.
In the descriptions below, we have indicated which city is better for each category using (✅ & ❌). Although one city may be better for a specific category, it doesn’t mean the other city is bad by any means!
Split is Right For You If…
The idyllic city of Split is conveniently positioned right in the centre of the Adriatic coastline. Split is the largest city in the region of Dalmatia, so as you can imagine, there is a lot to discover here. This city is full of culture with much of the region dating back to Roman times. Split is a fantastic base for checking out some of the close-by Croatian islands.
The main public beach in Split is called Bačivce Beach. This sandy beach is a short 10-minute walk from the historical centre and is very accessible. The beach is fine, not the most amazing beach in the country, but it serves its purpose. Sandy beaches are pretty rare in Croatia, so it gets a couple of bonus points for that.
If you want to visit a truly beautiful and clean beach in Split we recommend hiring some bikes and heading to Kasjuni Beach. This pebble beach is a lot more peaceful with hills surrounding the area. The downfall of this beach is that it is not the most accessible. You need to venture through Park Šuma Marjan (which is pretty large) to get there.
Sight Seeing ❌
As the 2nd largest city in Croatia, there is plenty to see in Split. It is an incredibly scenic city which is wonderful to stroll through, soaking in your surroundings. Filled with Roman ruins, the old town area is always busy with people trying to see the highlights. Peristyle Square, which is part of Diocletian’s Palace, is always bustling. Another classic attraction in the old town area of Split is the Cathedral of St.Duje. You can climb up the bell tower for unparalleled panoramic views of the city.
Although there is a lot to see in Split, one of our favourite things to do here was wandering around the stone alleyways. You never know where they will lead you. We found lots of interesting little boutique shops and cafes through exploring the smaller streets.
If you’re looking for the perfect spot to watch the sun setting over the terracotta roofs in Split head up Marjan Hill. A 20-minute climb up the hill will take you to a beautiful lookout point – Telegrin Peak. It is such a treat to see the sun dipping below the stunning city here.
Split is the place to go for a fun night out. There are many bars in the historic centre as well as further along the beachfront. The Riva (Promenade) is a great place to start your evening as it is normally buzzing here with lots of activity. Charlie’s backpacker bar is a great, dependable bar which is always a good time. If you are looking for a wild night out, Split has options for you. Clubs of different shapes and sizes are scattered around the city.
We always find the best way to enjoy the nightlife in a new city is by participating in a pub crawl. The Split Pub Crawl is a lot of fun where a guide takes you to different hot spots so you can enjoy yourself without the hassle of researching and planning.
Day Trips ✅
One of the best things about Split is its location, mid-way down the country. It is the perfect place to base yourself if you want to explore some of Croatia’s amazing islands on a day trip. We recommend visiting the island of Hvar. This is a ferry ride away and is absolutely worth it. In fact, we loved Hvar so much that we stayed for over a week there. Other nearby islands such as Brac are definitely worth a visit too. Check out the stunning Zlatni rat beach in Bol, it is also known as the golden horn and it is clear to see why. Whilst in the area, take a boat trip to the Blue cave. Tours can be a little expensive but it is such a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
There are also fantastic day trips in mainland Croatia from Split. No trip to Split is complete without taking a day trip to the iconic Krka waterfalls. This is truly the perfect getaway for nature lovers. Enjoy the beautiful cascading waterfalls in the surrounding lush greenery.
When planning a trip, the cost is a big factor that you should consider. Split is very reasonably priced. You will find hotels, apartments and hostels for any budget. It is a pretty large city, so if you want to save extra money you can stay a little bit further from the historic centre.
As for food prices, it is less expensive than in the UK but not ridiculously cheap. Everything is very fairly priced, even in the historic quarter.
Split is noticeably less expensive than Dubrovnik. If cost is a big factor in determining which city to choose – Split is the city for you.
Dubrovnik is Right For You If…
Located right at the southern tip of Croatia, Dubrovnik is a real delight. This coastal city is known for being one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, thus being known as the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’. This fabulous town has gained a lot of popularity in the last decade due to its ties to the ‘Game Of Thrones’ TV series. The ancient city of Dubrovnik makes for an excellent backdrop for the fictional show. The old quarter is filled with magnificent medieval architecture, which is why it is now a UNESCO world heritage site.
Much like Split, Dubrovnik isn’t particularly well known for its beaches. The main public beach (Banje beach) is a 10-minute walk from the Old Town. This beach is pretty unique with its fantastic views of the Dubrovnik city walls and port. Unfortunately, because there are not many beach options in the centre, it can get quite busy in the summer months.
For stunning, peaceful beaches take a bus to the nearby town of Mlini. The water here is crystal clear. You will find lots of little bays which don’t get overcrowded, even in the summer months. One of the private beaches in this area is on the site of an abandoned hotel which is amazing to explore.
Sight Seeing ✅
Both Dubrovnik and Split have incredible old town areas. Dubrovnik’s old town is pretty small and very recognisable. The whole area, filled with medievil forts and stonework, is surrounded by imposing city walls. It is possible to walk along the top of these walls to get some of the best views in the city, admission to the walls is a pricey 250 Kuna (£25). Within the old town, you will find some amazing architecture such as Rector’s Palace and St. Blaise’s Church.
If you are a fan of Game of Thrones, Dubrovnic is the place to visit. You’ll recognise a lot of the filming locations from the hit TV series here. The iconic ‘shame steps’ are right in the middle of the old town and just west of the walls you will find Blackwater Bay (Dubrovnik West harbour) sandwiched between a couple of forts. There are many walking tours in the area which show you all the iconic spots you shouldn’t miss.
To get the best view in Dubrovnik we recommend getting the cable car to the top of Srd Hill. There is a bar/restaurant up there with breathtaking views of the old town.
Compared to Split, The nightlife in Dubrovnik is more relaxed. It has more of a casual feel to it. The atmosphere in the evening couldn’t be more different to Split if it tried. Although there is less of a nightlife scene – it is not nonexistent. Many people enjoy drinking in the small bars in the old town as well as the Irish bars in the same area. There is also one club (Culture Club Revelin) which is open on Fridays and Saturdays. Located in an ancient fortress it is fair to say it is a pretty cool club.
Day Trips ❌
Dubrovnik is truly an amazing city however it is pretty small. If you plan on spending more than a few days in the area, chances are you will want to cast your net a little further and explore some of the surrounding areas. There is a cheap daily bus service to the nearby towns of Mlini and Cavtat. These areas are definitely worth a visit for a more slow-paced and peaceful beachy escape. Another nearby trip is to the luscious Elaphiti islands just offshore. There are lots of companies which offer boat trip packages complete with lunch onboard the boat.
If you have a vehicle with you or hired one, take to opportunity to explore the neighbouring countries of Bosnia and Montenegro. Mostar is 100% worth the long drive!
Although Dubrovnik is absolutely stunning, the cost is a bit of a drawback. Compared to Split, Dubrovnik is significantly more expensive. Accommodation-wise, there are fewer options as Dubrovnik is so small. This means the prices are more expensive than in the rest of the country. You can expect to pay twice as much for a similar quality hotel in the centre of Dubrovnik compared to the centre of Split.
The price difference is even noticeable when dining out at restaurants. Generally speaking, everything is more expensive. A meal is roughly 50 kuna (€5) more expensive per plate; this can really add up if you stay in the city for a few days.
If you are asking which city is better, there is not a straightforward answer. Both cities are absolutely amazing. The real question is, which destination suits your needs better? Below is a quick rundown of why you should pick each city.
You should pick Split if you want a good mix of relaxing during the day and enjoying the nightlife at night. You can check out the stunning ancient architecture and enjoy wandering the cobbled alleys to find amazing places to eat. All of this at a very reasonable price. Split is the perfect spot for you if you are looking for a place to base yourself whilst you explore all the nearby activities such as waterfalls and islands. If you are young at heart, you will love Split and its surroundings.
Dubrovnik is the place for you if you enjoy the finer things in life. This is a real hotspot for culture seekers. If you want a laid-back trip exploring the quaint town and relaxing at the beach this is the place for you. On top of all this, you will find some amazing restaurants here to really indulge yourself. And of course, if you are a Game Of Thrones fan, Dubrovnik is the city for you.
It is a pretty tough decision choosing to visit Split or Dubrovnik, why not try both? Although you may only be planning to visit one destination, consider the option of visiting both. Croatia is a fantastic country for travelling around with great, cheap bus links. It is easy to spend weeks in any Croatian city, but in reality, you only really need to spend a couple of days in each city to truly experience it. A few days in Split and then a few days in Dubrovnik would make the perfect getaway holiday.