Split or Dubrovnik: Which Coastal Croatian City is Right for You?

Home to stunning coastline, picturesque cobblestone streets, tasty food, and a gorgeous smattering of terracotta rooftops, there’s no doubt that both Dubrovnik and Split are gems of Croatia’s Dalmatian coastline–so if you’re trying to decide whether to visit either Split or Dubrovnik on your trip to Croatia, you have your work cut out for you.

We have visited both cities multiple times and love them both, but for very different reasons!

Here’s how we suggest choosing whether to visit Dubrovnik or Split.

View of Split Croatia Harbor with small boats in the foreground and palm trees in front of buildings in the background
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Choose Split if…

… you want easy access to an abundance of island day trips.

Split is in a prime location to visit some of Croatia’s most popular islands via day trip!

Options include Hvar, the Pakleni Islands, and Brač, who’s Zlatni Rat beach is one of the best-known and arguably prettiest beaches in Croatia.

View of Hvar Town from Spanish Fort with Pakleni Islands in the distance

… you want to save (a little) money.

While Dubrovnik’s status as King’s Landing in Game of Thrones worked with several other factors to propel it to insane levels of international fame (and therefore tourism) over the past 10 years, Split has escaped some of that infamy.

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Split is also a big of a larger city, giving tourists more places to stay, and the combination of its less famous status and larger footprint makes it a bit cheaper to visit than Dubrovnik (and you’ll have plenty of choices when deciding where to stay in Split).

Make no mistake, though: Split is also a cruise port, also incredibly popular, and also a Game of Thrones filming location.

Whether you ultimately decide to visit Split or Dubrovnik, you’ll be visiting a very touristy place.

Jeremy Storm in a turquoise shirt standing on the edge of the water, looking away from the camera and toward Split in the distance--whether you visit Split or Dubrovnik, Adriatic views abound!

… you want to go chasing waterfalls.

Split is an excellent base for a day trip to the famous Krka National Park, and a less-ideal-but-still-physically-possible location for a day trip to the even-more-famous Plitvice Lakes National Park.

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If exploring some of Croatia’s most beautiful waterfalls is on your list, Split is the Dalmatian city for you!

Krka vs Plitvice, Krka or Plitvice

… the wonder of Diocletian’s Palace catches your eye.

In the 4th century, the Roman Emperor Diocletian retired and built himself a very nice retirement home along the Dalmatian coast.

While many palaces around the world are visited on tours and as standalone tourist attractions, Diocletian’s Palace is… not like that.

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The palace, more or less, is Split’s Old Town, and you‘ll find many of the best things to do in Split within its walls.

The cobblestone streets, temples, and other buildings that a Roman Emperor once called home are chock full of visitors shopping, having lunch, devouring gelato, and touring some of the palace’s ruins… some of which were recently home to Dany’s dragons (the palace played Meereen in GOT).

Interior courtyard of Diocletian's Palace in Split Croatia with tourists in the center

Choose Dubrovnik if…

… phenomenal city views are high on your list.

The views of Split from Marjan Hill and the Saint Domnius Bell Tower are beautiful and all, but they don’t hold a candle to the views of Dubrovnik’s Old Town and the Adriatic Sea from the Dubrovnik City Walls.

In pure looks alone, Dubrovnik is one of the most stunningly beautiful cities we have ever seen from above.

Fun Things to Do in Dubrovnik Croatia: view of Old Town from Minceta Fortress

… you’d like to hop over to Montenegro for a day.

Want to add a visit to the gorgeous country of Montenegro to your itinerary?

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That is incredibly easy to do from Dubrovnik, and well worth the effort!

The charming town of Kotor, for example, offers many similar attractions to Croatian cities like Split or Dubrovnik with comparatively with fewer crowds and lower prices.

kate storm overlooking kotor montenegro from fortress

… you’d like to stay in a more compact city.

Dubrovnik is simply smaller than Split, and if you stay in or near the Old Town, there’s an excellent chance that you won’t need to do anything other than walk to get around town or to Dubrovnik’s beaches during your stay.

In Split, however, this is not necessarily the case.

Ferries, buses, and taxis are much more likely to be a regular part of your visit to Split.

Fun Things to Do in Dubrovnik Croatia: View of Fort Lovrijenac viewed from city walls

… you want access to better swimming within walking distance of town.

While the best swimming in Croatia can undoubtedly be found on the islands, Dubrovnik does have a few lovely pebble beaches within easy reach of the Old Town.

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Split’s beaches tend to be a bit further away and garner more mediocre reviews (but then again, that’s what you day trip to nearby islands for!).

Fun Things to Do in Dubrovnik Croatia: Sunset from Buza Cliff Bar

Visit Dubrovnik and Split for…

… beautiful Dalmatian architecture.

Particulars aside, Split and Dubrovnik have a similar architectural beauty to them.

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Both cities are home to delightfully charming terracotta rooftops and smooth stone buildings, with plenty of colorful shutters and cozy outdoor cafes visible as you look up and down the streets.

Whether you choose to visit Split or Dubrovnik, you’ll be visiting a typical and beautiful Dalmatian city.

Overview of Split Croatia as seen from Marjan Hill--whether you visit Dubrovnik or Split, you'll be able to get great views of the city from above!

… delicious seafood.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise, but as cities that sit right along the Adriatic, choosing to visit either Dubrovnik or Split will give you access to some incredible Croatian seafood!

Jeremy tends to order all the squid ink dishes he can get his hands on around here, and has enjoyed every last one of them.

Photo from aboe with plate of mussels on the left and ravioli on the right, taken in Croatia

… the need to contend with the annoying reality of cruise ships.

While Dubrovnik has developed quite a reputation for the uncomfortably intense crowds that descend on the city when cruise ships are in town, the truth is that Split has the same issue.

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Yes, in Split they’re a bit more spread out (in other words, every. single. person. isn’t trying to walk the city walls at once), but you can still very much feel the impact in Split the moment the cruise ship passengers disembark for the day.

It is, unfortunately, simply the reality of traveling to Split or Dubrovnik, especially during the summer.

If you want to try to avoid the crowds, check the cruise ship schedules here to see how many ships will be in port during your visit (and to plan around them if you can).

Fun Things to Do in Dubrovnik Croatia: Girl walking staircase on city walls

Should you visit both Split and Dubrovnik?

Yes, yes, absolutely yes!

In fact, if you have more than a week in Croatia, we heartily recommend not deciding whether to visit Split or Dubrovnik and simply head out to visit them both.

Our recommended Croatia itinerary for first-time visitors includes stops in both cities.

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Both cities are fairly small and their major tourist highlights can be seen in a couple of days, so why not visit them both?

If you have less than a week in Croatia or prefer to base yourself in one spot for your entire trip–that’s when the hard decision of whether to visit Dubrovnik or Split comes into play.

Fun Things to Do in Dubrovnik Croatia: Girl standing near West Harbour doors

Split or Dubrovnik: The Final Decision

At this point, we’ve visited both Split and Dubrovnik several times, and we fully intend to keep revisiting them both as long as we continue returning to Croatia (which, ideally, will be forever).

If we absolutely had to choose a favorite, we’d choose Dubrovnik for the city itself–it’s just simply too beautiful not to love, and we don’t mind the crowds much–and Split for the location.

Kate Storm skipping along the Riva in Split Croatia

Split’s easy access to beloved favorites like Hvar makes it the perfect base for wider explorations in Croatia, and that gives it an edge over Dubrovnik for visitors looking for a base for multiple day trips.

Ultimately, whether you choose to visit Split or Dubrovnik, you’re bound to fall in love with an absolutely gorgeous slice of the Croatian coast!

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Home to stunning coastline, picturesque cobblestone streets, tasty food, and a gorgeous smattering of terracotta rooftops, there’s no doubt that both Dubrovnik and Split are gems of Croatia’s Dalmatian coastline.

If you’re trying to decide whether to visit either Split or Dubrovnik on your trip to Croatia, you have your work cut out for you–but you also can’t make an incorrect decision.

2 photos from Croatia: Dubrovnik cityscape on top and Split cityscape on bottom, black text on a white background reads "Dubrovnik or Split?"
About Kate Storm
Image of the author, Kate Storm

In May 2016, I left my suburban life in the USA and became a full-time traveler. Since then, I have visited 50+ countries on 5 continents and lived in Portugal, developing a special love of traveling in Europe (especially Italy) along the way. Today, along with my husband Jeremy and dog Ranger, I’m working toward my eventual goal of splitting my life between Europe and the USA.

8 thoughts on “Split or Dubrovnik: Which Coastal Croatian City is Right for You?”

  1. Gosh this was SO helpful! My partner and I have JUST booked a holiday to Croatia for our 11th Anniversary and my 40th birthday, and chose a lovely place near Dubrovnik, reading this has made me realize…Split is going to suit our needs way better! So, thank you!

  2. Thank you for this article. It’s a very helpful breakdown! Although, we only have enough time to visit one city and it still feels impossible!! I wanted to stay in Dubrovnik but leaning more toward split for the day trips to the islands 🙂

    • It’s a very hard choice, I know! There are some islands you can day trip to from Dubrovnik as well, just not as many (and they aren’t as famous of places). At the end of the day you’ll have a wonderful trip in either place!

    • Hi Thea,

      There are tons, and lots of them overlap with the best things to do in each city! We have blog posts on both, here’s one on Dubrovnik: https://www.ourescapeclause.com/one-day-in-dubrovnik-itinerary/

      In Dubrovnik, the views from the city walls, the view from Lovrijenac Fortress, and the view from Mount Srd are particularly amazing.

      In Split, the views from Marjan Hill and the bell tower of the St. Domnius Cathedral are worth seeking out.


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