The days when Split was little but departure point to nearby Brač, Vis and Hvar are gone. Having nearly doubled its accommodation stock in next to no time, Split now welcomes visitors all year round. When the Le Meridién Grand Hotel Lav opened in 2006, it was the first five-star in the region. Now it’s one of several, including the Radisson Blu Resort in the company of a dozen good four stars, with the Hotel Marjan to come on stream later in 2011.
A long-term plan envisages most of the bay becoming a hotel complex and conference centre, with the train and bus stations to be relocated from their convenient spots near the ferry port. As for culture, the purpose-built Split Art Gallery is the major attraction of recent times.
Despite this progress and property price hikes, Split has not sold its soul to tourism in the way that Dubrovnik has been perceived to have done. Café terraces on the main promenade, the Riva, fill on on sunny days with locals happy to chat all day. Coffee is Split’s source of energy and social glue. Contemporary decor and lighting still grate with some but at least Split’s café society is sacrosanct. Equally, the city’s prime tourist sight, the gutted Roman palace behind the Riva, awaits tourists who need pay no admission charge: the grand gutted shell of Roman Emperor Diocletian’s Palace, a 30,000- sq-m maze, the atmospheric ruin where you will be spending most of your time. Away from it, you’ll find historic relics from the same era at the Archaeological Museum and the Ivan Meštrović Gallery, in the villa designed by the sculptor himself.