Croatia is one of the hottest travel destinations for 2017, and recently we’ve added even more of it to our portfolio. The newest arrival? Split, a historic city to the north of Dubrovnik. We sat down with Sovereign’s Product Manager, Helen Howard, to get the lowdown on this exciting new area…
Why did you choose to add the Split area to Sovereign’s portfolio?
Croatia has become an increasingly popular destination in recent years, with Dubrovnik and Istria both proving to be big hits with our customers. We knew the country had more to offer and decided to go and check Split out for ourselves to make sure it had suitably luxurious hotels (we’ve got very high standards here!) and was generally a great place for a holiday. After visiting with Emma Richings, our Purchasing Manager for Croatia, and inspecting 10 hotels, we chose two for the programme.
What did you like about Split?
As a city it has a lot to offer, but being on the coast you also get to combine the attractions of the city with time on the beach, relaxing at your hotel or taking boat trips to neighbouring islands.
What were your highlights of the city?
Split’s old town is similar to Dubrovnik’s, with atmospheric narrow lanes and open squares. There is so much history, with part of the old town a former palace of the Roman emperor Diocletian, dating back to 295 AD. My favourite part was where the old town met the harbour, where there’s a wide boulevard with a real Mediterranean feel. It is lined with bars and cafés where you can sit and watch the world go by.
Tell us about the history.
Split was originally a Greek settlement, founded between the third and fourth centuries, but its most famous development came when Roman emperor Diocletian ordered a residence to be built there for his retirement. The palace took 10 years to build and Diocletian lived there until his death in 313 AD. The palace was used by subsequent Roman rulers as a retreat until the end of the sixth century. It was during the 11th century that the city grew around the palace, before it was conquered by the Venetians in 1420. It was then ruled by the Austrians and briefly by the French, before becoming part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in 1918. The history and the varied influences of its heritage can be seen in the city.
I would highly recommend a walking tour, which was a great way to learn more about the history and really get to know the old town. Our guide was fantastic and showed us things we would never have noticed just by walking around on our own.
Are there any must-buy souvenirs you’d suggest?
Did you know the neck tie was invented in Croatia? It derives from the 17th century when men were going off to fight and their women would take a piece of material from their clothing and tie it around the neck of their loved one to keep them close whilst they were away. King Louis XII of France was said to have hired Croatian soldiers and liked the tie so much that he made it mandatory at royal gatherings. The accessory was given the name ‘La Cravate’ in honour of the Croatian soldiers. There are plenty of places to buy ties in Split and if you want something really special then you can even get one with real 24-carat gold thread. Make sure you visit CROTA in the old town to learn more about the history and for a great selection of ties and scarves.
Another traditional craft is filigree silver work. It was originally used to craft buttons for traditional men’s suits and now is usually used for jewellery, particularly earrings. There is a tiny shop in the old town where you can see the work being carried out by two generations of the same family. You buy the pieces by weight and there is a way to make sure you are getting a handcrafted pair of earrings – if they are machine produced then each half of the pair will weigh the same – if they are handcrafted there will be a very slight difference.
The basement of the palace, which was preserved due it being used as a rubbish tip in Roman times and only excavated more recently, is now home to lot of stalls selling crafts, jewellery and souvenirs.
What about the beaches?
The best-known beach in the city itself is Bacvice, and this is really close to the old town and literally a few minutes from the Hotel Park, one of the two hotels we have chosen. There is also a whole coastline to explore just outside the city, with about six miles of beaches between Split and Podstrana, connected by a pedestrian path.
Which hotels did you choose?
After looking at 10 hotels, we selected two as being ideal for Sovereign’s guests. The Cornaro Hotel is a few steps from the heart of the old town and combines a traditional building with modern comforts. I loved the rooftop bar, which offers amazing views over the old town to the sea. The other thing the hotel is proud of, and rightly so, is their breakfast. It includes some traditional local products – the flavours of Dalmatia – and I can personally recommend the cheeses and ham.
The Hotel Park is located just a few minutes’ walk from the beach and about 15 minutes’ walk from the old town. The hotel, an attractive stone-walled building dating back to 1921, was fully renovated in 2015 and the designer has created a classically elegant yet contemporary feel. There is a lovely terrace where you can enjoy a drink or a meal and a small swimming pool, too. With the beach and the old town both close by, you really can enjoy the best of both here.
So, would you recommend a holiday to Split?
Absolutely, there is something about a city by the sea that I really love. Being able to combine the attractions of the city with a seaside break in my opinion makes an ideal holiday. We have handpicked our two lovely hotels too, so we know you will enjoy a fantastic holiday, whichever one you go for.
Tempted? Take a look at our holidays to Split and start planning your Croatian getaway.