Split or Dubrovnik: Which City Is Better To Visit?

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When visiting Croatia it’s most likely you’ll face the dilemma of which top city to visit and it usually comes down to two options: Split vs Dubrovnik. These are the two most visited Croatian cities by tourists and are also considered to be the most beautiful that the country has to offer.

Ideally, you’ll want to visit both amazing destinations but it’s possible you may be restricted by time or money, so having to decide on just one spot to visit is far from easy. They are quite similar in that they both feature fascinating medieval history with some stunning architecture, as well as lovely beaches and beautiful islands to explore close by.

Having visited both awesome places we’re ideally suited to give you the lowdown on everything you need to know when comparing Split and Dubrovnik, so read on to help you reach a decision!

Split or Dubrovnik Croatia?

Reasons Why You Should Visit Split

So is Split really worth visiting? Are you missing out on much if you just skip Split and head southwards to Dubrovnik instead?

Although for most people Dubrovnik is the number one choice when deciding between the two cities, Split does have some advantages over it, perhaps surprisingly. 

Whether that’s cost, fewer tourists, and better day trip options, you will probably find you have more options during a stay in Split compared to Dubrovnik. 

Let’s take a look at some of the top reasons why you should visit Split instead of Dubrovnik:

There are less tourists in Split compared to Dubrovnik

A massive advantage that Split has over Dubrovnik is that it is much less crowded with tourists, especially during the summer months. 

When we visited Split in April there was a steady number of tourists there but it certainly was nowhere near close to being overcrowded. 

Dubrovnik however is another story. Because it is such a spectacular place, it is full of tourists – especially in the Old Town. 

Whether you want to see filming locations for Game of Thrones or climb the main walls of the city, expect to have to wait your turn to take a photo at certain spots. The Old Town can feel a little cramped at times with families and travelers from around the world, especially when there’s a cruise ship visiting.

This can get frustrating of course so if you definitely don’t want to be surrounded by tourists, then Split is the choice for you!

old stone buildings around a square with restaurants, shops and people

Split is better for day trips

Split is also a much better choice when it comes to day trips. If you fancy catching a ferry to one of the many fantastic islands nearby (Hvar, Brac, and Bisevo are the most popular), then this is a fairly easy option. 

Yes, there are several really beautiful small islands near Dubrovnik too that you can take a day trip to (Lokrum being the nearest and most popular, full of lovely nature), but in our opinion, you can reach more interesting islands from Split that make for memorable day trips. 

As well as island hopping, you can also take a day trip to one of the many wondrous national parks nearby from Split too. With Split being located centrally in the country, it makes it easier to travel to some of the beautiful national parks, but from Dubrovnik, it’s more complicated. 

Krka National Park is the closest park to Split and one of the most gorgeous nature places in the whole country. It takes around two hours to reach by coach and we highly recommend it – it’s a lovely day trip and features some absolutely stunning waterfalls. 

Plitvice Lakes is also another popular choice you can visit fairly easily from Split, but takes a bit longer – around three and a half hours by bus. 

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green water and waterfalls lining a wooden boardwalk path

Split is cheaper than Dubrovnik

As well as being less crowded than Dubrovnik, Split is also considered to be a slightly cheaper city to visit as well. 

Expect cheaper prices when it comes to eating out at restaurants as well as accommodation. 

Split is the bigger of the two cities as well, which means there are cheaper accommodation options if you choose to stay further out from the main center. Hotels in Dubrovnik are mostly located centrally which means they are more expensive, especially near the Old Town. 

Also, the attractions in the center of Split, such as the ancient Diocletian’s Palace, are completely free to enter and stroll around. 

This is unlike Dubrovnik where you have to pay if you want to walk the ancient city walls walls for example – which costs €35 and is quite a rip-off in our honest opinion. 

stone palave building with small doorway and slit windows

Split’s Croatian food is amazing!

The cuisine in Croatia is delicious with lots of fresh, locally sourced ingredients. In Split, seafood plays a big role, with dishes like brodetto, a tomato-based seafood stew on the menu. Meat lovers can enjoy peka, a slow-cooked dish of meat and vegetables, or the hearty Dalmatian pasticada, a marinated beef stew served with gnocchi.

There are lots of great places to eat in both coastal cities, and they all serve similar dishes. But Split just pips Dubrovnik to the post because the restaurants are cheaper and much more authentic. In Dubrovnik, you’ll pay at least a third more to eat out, and in our experience, the quality and service will not be as good as we found in Split.

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Reasons Why You Should Visit Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is in most travel experts’ opinions the jewel of the Adriatic coast and the top tourist destination in all of Croatia. But does it honestly live up to the hype or might you be in for a crushing disappointment?

Let’s go through all the reasons why you should most definitely visit this most popular of Croatian cities:

Dubrovnik is prettier than Split 

You may think that I’ve been a bit tough on Dubrovnik so far in this blog post, but if you take away the negatives there is no denying the fact that it is one of the most beautiful, prettiest cities you’ll ever visit. 

Despite it being overpriced and overcrowded, the Old Town is a simply gorgeous place, full of medieval streets, historical buildings, and stunning coastal views, making it a must-visit city, more so than Split. 

Split is a nice place for sure, but it’s honestly not on the same level as Dubrovnik in terms of aesthetic beauty. It’s really not surprising to learn that Dubrovnik is the most visited tourist city in all of Europe – more so than the likes of Paris, Venice or Barcelona. 

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view of a European old town with terracotta rooftops and the ocean

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Dubrovnik has the best views of the Dalmatian Coast

Not only is the Old Town of Dubrovnik a UNESCO World Heritage site, it also has some of the most stunning views of the Dalmatian coast. 

It is located right on the edge of the coastline and you can take in the breath-taking views from Fort Lovrijenac, a famous Game of Thrones filming location which you also have to pay to enter – €15, and again is a bit overpriced in my opinion. 

The Old Town walls offer great views of the coast too, as well as the gorgeous orange-reddish tinted tiled rooftops of the buildings within the Old Town, which is quite a sight to behold.

However, for the most stunning coastal views I recommend taking a cable car ride up to the top of Mount Srd. Again, this is another quite extortionate cost to be honest – €27. But you have full panoramic views of the coastline and the mountain range – the views here are better than anywhere else in the city. 

If the cable car ride sounds too expensive (it is!) then you can choose to hike up and down Mount Srd instead if you’re feeling in the mood for some exercise. It’s not too steep a climb and takes around 40 minutes to an hour to reach the top. 

There’s a very nice restaurant at the top of Mount Srd which is the ideal place to sit and relax and soak up the views. I recommend booking a table in advance as it’s a very in-demand restaurant and yes – it’s also quite expensive too!

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woman wearing a straw hat looking out to the sea and coastline

Dubrovnik has Game of Thrones filming locations

There are sixteen Game of Thrones filming locations in and around Dubrovnik, including the Old Town, which doubled as King’s Landing. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that GoT tours are in abundance in Dubrovnik. 

If you’re a fan of the series then this is a great opportunity to visit several instantly recognisable locations where scenes were filmed. 

In contrast, Split only has two filming locations, one of which is Klis Fortress which became the city of Meereen for the series.

red roofs over creamy stone buildings and a church in the distance

Split vs Dubrovnik FAQs

Still not sure whether to choose Split or Dubrovnik for your trip to Croatia? Let’s answer some of the most frequently asked questions about these two cities:

Which city is easier to travel around: Split or Dubrovnik?

Both cities have really good public transportation options, with good bus services and of course taxis. With Dubrovnik being the smaller of the two cities, it is a lot easier to travel around. 

We found the buses in Dubrovnik to be very regular and fairly cheap, though there’s a total of 13 different lines and this can be a bit confusing to find the right bus for your destination. 

We would recommend using Uber which is mostly cheaper than the local taxi service in Dubrovnik, some of which have fixed rates while other companies use taxi meters to determine the cost of your ride. 

As for Split, in our experience, we found it to be a very walkable city and didn’t have to rely on buses or taxis. If relying on taxis in Split then again, we would recommend booking an Uber instead. 

Which city has the better beaches: Split or Dubrovnik?

Both Split and Dubrovnik have several fantastic beach options close to each city, but for us, we would say Dubrovnik has the better variety of beaches to explore. Let’s have a look at the best beaches that both cities have to offer:

Best Split Beaches

Split has some great options when it comes to beaches. It’s generally believed to not have as many top beaches compared to Dubrovnik, but there are still some lovely spots if you’re looking to do some sunbathing when visiting:

Kasjuni Beach: this is a truly gorgeous bay that has stunning crystal clear blue waters and is reachable via bus from the centre of Split. You’ll need to take the Line 12 bus from the center and it takes just over 10 minutes to reach. 

Bačvice Beach: this is the closest beach to the center of Split – it only takes about 5 minutes to reach from the main bus station. It’s fairly secluded and a little bit rocky but is the perfect choice if you don’t want to travel too far. 

Trstenik Beach: this is a fairly quiet and secluded beach situated to the east of the city. It’s around 4 kilometers from the center and is reachable by catching the Line 3 bus and only takes an estimated 8 minutes to get there. 

spit of land creating a small beach with path trees in a blue sea

Best Dubrovnik Beaches

We visited several beaches during my stay in Dubrovnik and were pleasantly surprised with just how many options there are relatively close to the Old Town. Here are our favorite three beaches:

Bellevue Beach: located about a 20-30 minute walk from the Old Town, this is a lovely small beach with beautiful views. The beach, like most Croatian beaches, is pebbly and it’s only reachable via some steep steps, but it’s worth going out of your way to visit!

Banje Beach: this is the closest beach to the Old Town, literally just a 5 minute walk. Obviously this means it’s going to be crowded with tourists and it is a fairly small beach, but it’s a great option if you don’t want to travel too far from the center, and there are bars and restaurants close by too. 

Sveti Jakov Beach: this is highly regarded as Dubrovnik’s most beautiful beach, less than 2 kilometers from the center. It’s quite a secluded bay with views looking back to the Old Town, and you can only access the beach via steps. But it’s not very well known by tourists, so you may have it all to yourself if you’re lucky enough!

small beach backed by a town with turquoise water

Which city has better nightlife?

It’s generally considered that Split has better nightlife compared to Dubrovnik. As Split is a bigger place there are a lot more options when it comes to nightclubs, while in Dubrovnik nearly all of the nightclubs are found in the Old Town. 

waterfront of a town lit up at night

When is the best time to visit Split or Dubrovnik?

Of course, the summer months have the best weather in both of these cities, but the peak season is going to be costlier than other times of the year, as well as being overcrowded with tourists as already discussed.

We would recommend visiting either city in the spring or autumn months for cheaper flights, accommodation and fewer crowds. We’ve visited both places in April and late September and experienced nice temperatures and sunny days. 

pink bougainvillia on the side of an old house

Conclusion

So that concludes my blog post about which city is better to visit: Split or Dubrovnik. It’s really not a straightforward answer as both cities have so much incredible history, beautiful places to see, and plenty of things to do. 

If we had to advise you on just one city to visit then we’d have to say Dubrovnik. It is the most impressive city (especially the Old Town) and it is simply a must-visit place when in Croatia. 

Despite the tourist crowds, which can get excessive from April throughout summer, you’ll still be wowed and will fall in love with the beauty of the place.

That’s not to discount Split either; it is equally charming and beautiful, slightly less crowded and expensive, and easy to access some of the most delightful islands and national parks. If you want a more authentic experience then Split is the best option. 

When choosing between Split and Dubrovnik, we recommend an easy solution: give yourself enough time to visit both amazing cities!

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