If you think it’s hard not to get lost in Split’s old town, check out Varoš (pron. Varosh), a charming labyrinth of streets and alleys west of Diocletian’s Palace, on the eastern slopes of Marjan hill.
This is the second oldest settlement in Split, founded when refugees from the Roman city Salona fled ahead of barbaric nations. They settled first within the Palace, and then began spreading outside. For centuries, Varoš (or Veli Varoš as some people in Split call it) was the place where fishermen and small farmers lived, mostly in poor conditions. Still, Varoš has an almost mythical meaning for Split, there are dozens of folk songs dedicated to it, Marjan, and the nearby old fishermen’s port Matejuška.
Today, Varoš is an incredibly charming neighborhood that can give you a glimpse into a life in old Split, with stone houses, miniature churches, and narrow streets. Also, Marjan is considered a part of Varoš, or vice versa, so long walks, hikes or bike trails in nature, with some spectacular views on Split and the vicinity are just around the corner, or on top of those stairs.
One of the advantages Varoš has is its peace, no despite being really close to the old town and major tourist attraction. Actually, the only fuss in Varoš are tourists, because most of the area is pedestrian. That’s why Varoš is another neighbourhood that is not really friendly for those arriving by cars. Beside Marjan, the main attraction in Varoš is Varoš itself, almost frozen in time. There are several medieval churches here and in Marjan worth seeing, the 15th century old Jewish cemetery, the Croatian National Theatre is also very close, and the Old town and Diocletian’s Palace are just minutes away.
Recently, Varoš has been discovered by tourists, especially those seeking apartments, ranging from modest to real gems, like Divota. There are no hotels here, though, since projects such as Hotel Marjan that was supposed to be managed by Hilton, and Hotel Ambasador near Matejuška are not finished yet, and it’s doubtful they will be any time soon. However, staying in apartments and rooms can give you better insight into a local lifestyle. Here we come to the same suggestion like in the old town – locals are living around you, they are not hotel or apartment staff. Respect them and their privacy. Prices are pretty much value for money, just try not to get trapped by some black-market lenders.
Varoš is getting more popular with its restaurants, too. There are no so many of them like in the old town, but you shouldn’t miss either those more contemporary like wine and cheese bar Paradox, or their soon-to-be Paradigma, or some nice tavernas like Tinel, Hvaranin, Šperun, Varoš, Dioklecijan concentrated on a small square Šperun just above Saint Francis church, or cheap and hugely popular Fife on Matejuška, or some of the best pizza places in Split like Galija and Maslina. Important is that all the restaurants are on the edges of Varoš, another good feature, meaning you will mostly avoid noisy people hanging under your window after a late dinner. Also, there is practically no nightlife, except around Matejuška which is a very popular hang-out spot for both locals and tourist youth.
Downsides? Not many, except if you are completely unfit, so can’t endure the steep stairs and streets when coming home from more partying parts of the city. And, of course, it won’t suit you if your concept of a good vacation includes wild no-sleep partying. Even enjoying the beach is not very hard, you can swim anywhere on Marjan.
To be continued
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