If the romantic winding streets of Venice and the beaches of Mykonos had a baby and it somehow came out more attractive than both of them, it would be Split. The center of the city is an actual marble palace, which has been repurposed for modern shopping and dining. What more can a girl and her gnome ask for?
Split is very small and completely safe. There is less car traffic than in Zagreb so you don’t have to fear for your life when you’re crossing the street. Many parts of the city, including the marble floors of Diocletian’s Palace and the beaches, are not accessible by car so you only have to share the road with bikes and other pedestrians. Having spent some time on the Croatian shores, I really can’t imagine this as the kind of place where I’d have to fear for my things getting stolen on the beach, or anywhere else for that matter.
Split has an upscale chill vibe to it. There are really nice restaurants overlooking the beaches and in the center of the city, some of which have traditional European prices. But it’s very laid back. You can get a cheap drink or gelato on every corner. There are nice markets selling fresh fruits and vegetables and everyone is just hanging out enjoying life. It has the kind of atmosphere any beach town has except this one happens to be stunning and historical. You can find a lot of high-end stores and boutiques, but also get lost in the meandering streets and stumble upon a nice hole in the wall to spend a few hours.
The hard part about a place like this is finding an established local presence. Everyone here speaks another language, because they’re mostly vacationing from somewhere else. And I imagine that during the cold months of the year, many of the beautiful shops and restaurants shutter their doors leaving the place a little dead. But the people we have encountered are friendly, though not as intensely so as their northern neighbors in Zagreb.
The Italian influence is strong here, so there are a lot of pizza and pasta options that are excellent and authentic. But unlike Italy, it’s not the kind of place where you can only get pizza and pasta. There are many seafood restaurants and steakhouses. There are casual dining options with wraps and burgers. And there are a ton of bakeries where you can get coffee, fresh bread, or pastries.
Since people come here to vacation, the nightlife is intense. There are many large clubs along the beaches and in the city. Within 2 hours of being in here, we were approached by a very inebriated fellow to invite us to his all-you-can-drink, best-party-in-Split, 20-Euro-a-head bash. So like many other beach cities, it seems like people have found a way to make a living here off club promoting. And there’s nothing less attractive than someone who promotes parties for a living, so I’ll put that in the negative column.
Split is small and totally walkable, even the long stretch where you’ll find most of the city’s beaches. The bus station, which doubles as a ferry port, is right in the middle of the city so you can easily get to or from Split by land or sea. No matter where you stay, you’ll be walking distance to the beaches, which is way more convenient than other European beach cities (Greek islands, I’m looking at you). But if you’re really that lazy, they also have Uber, and it will never be more than a few dollars.
Total Livability Score: 3/10
All in all, Split is a world-class vacation destination. I would easily consider it one of the most beautiful cities in all of Europe. But would I live here? Sorry, but no. I don’t love to live where you vacation. But I would love to live close enough to visit more often!