Trying to decide between the cities of Split and Dubrovnik for your upcoming Croatian adventure? I get it, it’s a tough call!
Both Dubrovnik and Split bring a ton to the table, and ultimately I’d have to recommend that you visit both if possible. But, if you’re strapped for time, then the choice you make depends on the kind of trip you want to have.
Both cities are major Croatian hubs, coastal, and chock-full of activities to do. However, Split and Dubrovnik are also very different in some key areas. On my month-long trip to Croatia, I spent a solid amount of time in both Split and Dubrovnik and made a point to really check out the best of both worlds.
So, which city should you visit on your upcoming Croatia trip? Let’s dive in:
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Is Dubrovnik or Split Better?
Maybe you just want a quick answer to the question: Is Dubrovnik or Split better?
Dubrovnik is a better travel destination for foodies, and has a better Old Town. Split offers better nightlife, better day trip options, and is generally cheaper than Dubrovnik. Both destinations offer excellent beaches.
An Overview of Split, Croatia
The second-largest city in Croatia behind Zagreb, Split is a major hub in Croatia’s Dalmatia region. Home to roughly 200,000 people Split offers a great blend of ancient relics and modernity, with Adriatic Croatian culture front and center. Split is a major tourist hub and, like most of Croatia, is safe to visit (just be sure you get travel insurance for your trip).
An Overview of Dubrovnik, Croatia
Located on the southern Croatian coast, Dubrovnik is famed as being the “Pearl of the Adriatic” and is characterized by limestone streets, terracotta rooftops, medieval city walls, and spectacular sea views. With a population of just 42,000 people, Dubrovnik is notably smaller than Split, but its compact size has enchanted visitors for generations.
With that, let’s look into which city does it best in a few key areas:
Which destination has the best food? Split or Dubrovnik
Though Croatia isn’t particularly known for its culinary scene, given that Split and Dubrovnik are two of the largest Croatian cities, there are excellent food experiences to be had in both Split and Dubrovnik.
That said, because Dubrovnik is more of a luxury destination than Split, you’ll find more Michelin-recommended (and starred) restaurants there. Of course, far be it to say that Michelin-starred restaurants are the only excellent food experience to be had. Honestly, both cities boast eclectic culinary offers of both Croatian and international fare.
Still, I have to give this one to Dubrovnik. For even more fun, check out this traditional Dalmatian cooking class!
🏆 Best culinary scene winner: Dubrovnik
👉 Planning a longer trip? Then check out our epic Croatia trip itinerary!
Which destination has the best Old Town? Dubrovnik or Split
In a country known for its stunning old centers, both Dubrovnik and Split bring their A-game in when it comes to food.
In Dubrovnik, the Old Town dates back to the 11th century, is one of the best-preserved medieval centers in the world, was used as a Game of Thrones filming location (this Game of Thrones Dubrovnik tour is highly-rated), and you can actually walk the old city walls. In particular, walking Dubrovnik’s old city walls will give you amazing views of the medieval streets, the Adriatic, and the beautiful nearby islands.
Meanwhile, Split’s Old Town is characterized by a maze of cobblestoned paths, Diocletian’s Palace, the Narodni Trg (People’s Square), and the St. Domnius Cathedral. Being the one-time home of Roman Emperor Diocletian, these streets have a ton of nooks and crannies to discover.
With that, which destination deserves the gold star? In this case, I’d have to say Dubrovnik. Being able to walk the walls, get incredible views of the surrounding area, and learn all about local history makes for an unforgettable experience.
🏆 Old Town winner: Dubrovnik
👉 Looking to get out on the water? Our Croatia island guide is the perfect start to planning your trip!
Which city has the best nightlife? Split vs Dubrovnik
If you’re a traveler looking to get your party on in Croatia, then there are some particulars of which to take note.
First off, though Dubrovnik, Croatia is known for having a couple of the coolest clubs in the world (I’ll let you google them as they have been in flux lately), the scene is otherwise quite sparse. Yes, there are plenty of bars in Dubrovnik (and this Dubrovnik pub crawl is a great way to see some), but the city isn’t really known for its nightlife scene.
On the other hand, Split is one of the top nightlife hotspots in Croatia. Walk down the promenade, and you’ll be handed flyers for bar crawls, beach clubs, and raves. The parties are pretty easy to find. There is also a pretty notable live music scene in Split — with local and international acts circulating.
🏆 Croatian nightlife winner: Split
👉 Staying safe while partying abroad is super important. These 10 Croatia Safety Tips will help you stay aware and prepared!
Which makes the best base for day trips? Dubrovnik or Split
One of the great things about Croatia is how easy it is to take day trips or full on road trips (especially if you are comfortable driving a car). So, if you’ll be in Croatia for more than a few days, then choosing to stay in Dubrovnik or Split will also depend on which day trips you plan to take. Being in the south, popular destinations from Dubrovnik include Lokrum Island, Cavtat, Mostar (Bosnia & Herzegovina), Korcula, and Mljet Island.
Meanwhile, day trips from Split include Krka National Park, the Cetina River, the Blue Cave, Hvar, Plitvice Lakes, and Trogir.
Though you really can’t go wrong with any of these options, Krka National Park, the Blue Cave, and Hvar are three of the most beautiful places to visit in Croatia. For this reason, I’d say Split is the better day-trip base.
🏆 Day trip winner: Split
Is Split or Dubrovnik Cheaper?
Despite the tourism boom in recent years, when compared to other popular European tourist destinations, Croatia is still notably wallet-friendly. But you still may be wondering: is Dubrovnik or Split cheaper?
Generally speaking, Split is cheaper than Dubrovnik. Planning to visit Dubrovnik during high season will not be easy on your wallet. Dubrovnik is arguably the most luxurious destination in all of Croatia and, especially during the summer months, it gets flooded with tourists (especially from cruise ships). Not only can it be difficult to find a budget-friendly hotel in Dubrovnik, but it can also be difficult to find accommodation at all (booking well in advance is always the way to go).
For this reason, if you’re concerned about how much you’ll spend, I recommend either visiting Dubrovnik in a shoulder season or not staying directly in Dubrovnik.
Personally, I stayed in nearby Cavtat and took a small boat into Dubrovnik every day. This allowed me to save a pretty penny while still taking in the best Dubrovnik had to offer.
On the other hand, due to Split being a larger place that caters to both locals and tourists, you’ll find the prices are much more affordable and you’ll have more selection.
Yes, Split sees a lot of tourists every year, but there’s just more room.
🏆 Budget travel winner: Split
👉 If being budget-friendly is important to you, then check out our guide to the best time to visit Croatia. It’ll help you choose when to go and what to avoid!
Where to find the best beaches: Split vs Dubrovnik?
Hitting the beach is a must on your summer trip to the Dalmatian coast.
But, and this certainly was something I wasn’t entirely prepared for, you’ll find that many of Croatia’s beaches are rocky. In fact, unless you know where to go, sand can be hard to come by.
In Dubrovnik, the nearest public sandy beach is easy access from the old city — Banje Beach. While beautiful with excellent views, this spot can get absolutely swarming with people on hot days and isn’t the most relaxing place to spend your time. Some of the other great beaches (both sandy and rocky) nearby are Sveti Jakov, Kupari, and Copacabana. Just keep in mind some of these beaches have minimum spends.
On the other hand, the closest public beach to Split’s downtown is Bacivce, which is a sandy beach and is a major nightlife spot (it gets pretty crowded during the day too).
Other top beaches in Split include Trstenik, Kastelet, and Kasjuni.
With that info, which destination has the better beaches? I’m going to say a tie on this one.
Both destinations have great beaches that fill up with people depending on the time of year, but have a ton of alternative options depending on how far you’re willing to go!
🏆 Best Beaches Winner: Tie
That’s it for my recommendations on whether you should visit Split or Dubrovnik!
As I mentioned, both destinations are excellent places to visit, and your decision should be made on what kind of trip you’re hoping to have.
For more articles on Croatian travel, visit:
- Croatia Road Trip Guide [Epic Itinerary Planner]
- 25 Epic Things to Do in Croatia
- 15 Croatia Travel Tips for Before You Go
Have fun in Croatia!