I know a couple of people who have visited Croatia over the last few years, it’s popularity is definitely on the rise (we’re seeing more destination weddings there as well) and when my friend visited a few weeks ago as a last minute, unexpected trip I was so keen to hear all about it and I thought you guys would be too. So today I hand the reigns over to Carli from Tales Of Our Travels to tell you all about her long weekend in Croatia.
We are a busy family of 4 and since the children arrived we have always acknowledged how important some ‘us time’ is. It was our 7 year wedding anniversary in June and we always try and take a long weekend away to get some much needed rest. The children stay with their grandparents and we try and explore cities which aren’t necessarily child friendly for their current ages (5 and 9). This year we had booked up to go to Sicily as the family name originated there. We had a small villa booked and all was going well, until the morning before we were due to fly!
Due to Italian air traffic control and ground staff strikes there was no option but to cancel our flight to Sicily. As we only had a long weekend of childcare we had to travel within that time. 6am Thursday morning, I found myself searching for alternative trips within those times, turns out we only had two options; Norway or Croatia. As Croatia was already on our lust list, we quickly made the decision to go for it.
Places to Stay In Croatia
Upon arrival into Split we realised we hadn’t had any time to research the city other than a quick hour in the airport that morning, it turns out that we didn’t need to worry. Matt, the apartment host was there to whisk us off to our base (with a complimentary airport transfer) for the 4 days and wow, he really had thought of everything. On the journey, which is only about 20 minutes door to door, Matt told us about the history of Split and how the tourism trade has grown over the last 5 years, places to visit, things to see and places to eat. There really wasn’t anything that he didn’t know and you could feel the passion he holds for his city.
The Whitestone apartment is part of the family’s villa; a villa that they have rebuilt from foundations over the last 6 years. The finish of the villa is just exquisite, add on top of that a stocked fridge with water, beer and wine, and a selection of teas and coffees waiting. They really have put a lot of thought into the service they want to provide to their customers. The apartment consisted of a roomy bright bedroom, bathroom, kitchen/diner and beautiful outdoor space. A private garden area flows seamlessly from the bedroom and around the corner you find sun loungers and an outdoor swimming pool. The best part of the outdoor area is the views overlooking the marina. I love a good view and it really was mesmerising glancing out into the blue sea, with the Croatian islands on the horizon.
As he finished showing us around the apartment it was approaching 2pm, Matt acknowledged we had been travelling since the early hours and offered for us to join him and his father for lunch. We enjoyed a very relaxed lunch, chatting some more about the city and thanking us for choosing to stay with them. The wine and beers were topped up as we chatted, and we had a really lovely feeling about our decision to visit Croatia after what had been a somewhat chaotic day previously scrambling to try and rebook a long weekend away. We both finished lunch and left them to their day with a very satisfying feeling and felt a sense of relaxation wash over us.
Split really is an amazing City with so much history, balanced with restaurants, bars and nightlife. If you wanted to stay in the centre of Split you could take a look at Pearl Central apartment which would be a great base for exploring from the centre out.
A long weekend in Croatia
Split is built around a palace so we decided that was where we should head first. A short walk down to the palace and we were gobsmacked. To put it into context for the historians out there, it was built for Roman Emperor Diocletian’s retirement back in 305 AD. Two of the four original walls still stand, beautifully proud to have survived so much trauma over the years. In the 7th century the residents moved to build their homes and businesses in and around the palace and this has developed over the years to what it is today.
The Palace is now a UNESCO world heritage site and has been since 1979 so is in the majority, very well preserved. We spent the whole afternoon and evening just wandering the palace grounds; from the basements which are still being excavated to stopping off at numerous wine bars for refreshments. It really is one of those idillic cities that you get lost in for hours and days without really noticing. We fully intended to go back to get showered and changed for the evening but by the time we had finished exploring it was past 8pm, so we decided to head straight to one of the restaurants Matt had recommended. That evening, as we arrived back at the apartment the heavens really opened into an electrical thunderstorm, we both watched the storm come in from the islands, the wind and rain whipping up more aggressively with each minute that passed. Thankfully the apartment is also soundproof, so once tucked up in bed we didn’t hear much more.
The following day we mostly relaxed by the pool just gazing out into the beautiful views. Around mid-morning Matt appeared, to see if we wanted any more drinks for the fridge and delivered us a bowl of fruit on ice, that he shared had been fresh from the market that morning. Later on, that afternoon he came back with fresh berries on ice, to say we were pleased with our last minute booking is the biggest understatement I could make.
On Sunday, we decided to go on a 10 hour boat trip. We got to see so many of the Croatian islands it really was worth the 8am departure from the marina. The boat was relatively small, holding just 14 guests so it felt really intimate. It was a 90 minute journey over to our first stop which was the ‘Blue Cave’. We transferred onto a small fishing boat to enter the cave. It was stunning. The bluest water you can imagine and the cave was lit from the sunlight which shone through the cliffs, reflecting onto the white sands beneath us. We learnt that it is the only natural blue cave in Europe, as the blue cave in Capri is manmade. Every day is a school day!
From there we visited another island which had a small rocky beach which was created due to a cave ceiling falling in many years ago. Next stop, a swimming spot. An area of clear blue seas and an opportunity to snorkel or body board (no boat trip in the med is complete without this!). Tom went for the snorkelling and I chose to stay in the sunshine and watch from the boat. Around lunchtime we had a few hours at Carpe Diem Beach. Think Ibiza beach clubs with white sofas and daybeds on the sea front, blue seas and cocktails. Some lunch, drinks and a swim in the clear waters and it was time to jump on the boat to explore our final stop, Hvar.
Hvar is known as the party island. In the day it’s a sleepy dreamy place to get lost in. Wondering the beautiful cobbled streets lined with bars, shops and restaurants yet we are told it really comes alive at night. Sadly, by 5.30 it was time for us to depart vowing to come back to Hvar when we next visit Croatia. Hvar is celebrating 150 years of tourism this year so the volume of tourists is definitely growing.
As we sailed back to the marina we passed Brac, which is another white sand island. We learnt from Matt that there are some beautiful villas located on the island, all with private pools and owned by his girlfriend’s family who hold their standards as high as his. They look great for family breaks and we are definitely going to consider this as a base when we bring the children back.
On our final day, we weren’t due to leave until the evening, so we chose to have a final day of relaxation after an early morning walk into Split for breakfast. We were down in the city for just after 7am. I would highly recommend doing this one morning if you can, you get a real nostalgic feeling of how the city would have been before the residents moved in and before the waves of tourists started visiting. We did a spot of shopping; the leather and the jewellery is really something special and if you pop down into the basements of the palace there are a number of stalls selling hand made goods. We bought some artwork, jewellery and shoes for me (standard) and a couple of pressies for the kiddies to enjoy.
Around lunchtime back at the villa, Matt came to see what time we would like to leave for the airport and offered for us to join them again for lunch. We sat for lunch with Matt, his girlfriend and his father at which point his father asked if we would like to visit his art studio, which was on the top floor of the villa. I had spied it on the way in a few days earlier so was really intrigued to see it. The studio is amazing; floor to ceiling glass windows and doors to allow the natural light to flow through with several oil canvases in progress. Zee’s artwork is outstanding and based on the seaside villages of Croatia and reflections. It really was a privilege to stay with this family and they made us feel so welcome, some 3 hours after being invited for lunch we left for another few hours of relaxing by the pool before reluctantly packing up for home.
Places To Eat In Split, Croatia
You will not be stuck for something to suit your needs on the food front. There’s a large variety of places to drink, dance or chill looking out over Split’s marina and cocktail bars and clubs within the Palace. There are also a range of restaurants, street food cafes and bakeries where you can grab something on the go.
Two restaurants we ate at were Kitchen 5 and Kinoteka. The first evening we visited Kinoteka, which offered sushi, Teppanyaki and European dishes. Set up like a film set with cinema seats, framed film posters and director style chairs. It has a real feel of bringing the outside in. We chose to eat with chopsticks which was quite entertaining, you’ve either got it or you haven’t. We haven’t! We shared a bottle of Croatian white with our meal and followed up with some cocktails whilst enjoying the live duo who were performing. The service and standard of food and drinks was great. We learnt that the restaurant used to be a family villa which they decided to renovate into a restaurant and bar. Our host who continued to amaze us with his knowledge of the city.
We visited Kitchen 5 on our last evening. Set in a backyard of the main building within the palace grounds, it looked and felt very quaint with a relaxed atmosphere. They offered more of an a la carte menu with Croatian and Mediterranean options and had a great selection of gins – result! Again, the service was a very high standard and we enjoyed a relaxed meal sipping gins and beers in the lovely warm evening air.
The final place I would recommend to eat is a street food café called Misto. They offer a range of hot sandwiches and burgers nestled into the external walls of the palace. Whilst waiting for our food we watched a Croatian bride enter their wedding reception, the joy and all the celebratory singing was infectious.
We Can’t Wait To Visit Croatia Again
We didn’t get to see and visit all of the places we could have but that makes it a great excuse to go back. Other places to see include the beaches, further round the coast to the marina as well as the Krka waterfalls which are about an hour from Split and Plitvice Lakes National Park. There are just so many options. The people, the views and the variety this country has to offer should mean you all want to add it to your lust list.
Much as we were disappointed to have not made it to Sicily, we could not have chosen a better city to spend our wedding anniversary. They say the 7 year marriage itch can make it a year of challenge, however, if our year continues the way it started in Split we should have nothing to worry about. Here’s to another year of sharing Tales Of Our Travels.
A fact we learnt was Croatia has more hours of sun throughout the year than Sydney, standing at an average of 2,715 hours, another reason for those sun worshipers amongst us to take the trip. I hope you have enjoyed reading about our stay in Split, we can’t recommend it highly enough. If you have been before, what were your favourite places and what do we definitely need to do next time? And has anyone ever visited with children? We can’t wait to go back.