Split Winter Tourism: New Menu at B7, Nomad Table at Zinfandel, Charlie’s Advent at Zvončac

Daniela Rogulj

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Nomad Table
Nomad Table

If there is one power couple that has engraved their name in the Split hospitality industry, it is Maria Mustapić and Korana Bučić, two Aussie-Croats who moved to Split back in 2004, opening one of the first proper hostels in the city, a backpacker’s bar, and two of the city’s finest culinary establishments. 

TCN has long been fans of Mare and Ko and their consistent effort to create an inclusive environment in the center for foodies, wine-os, and travelers looking to let loose on holiday – even in the winter. 

We caught up with Maria to find out what motivates them to keep Split alive in the offseason, what needs to change, and what we can expect from them this year. 


Croatia and Split had booming year-round tourism in the 1980s until the outbreak of the Homeland War, but now the Dalmatian coast sleeps through the winter. Why do you think that is?

As people have mentioned before, the summer season has become so intense and popular that there has been a shift. People see Croatia as predominantly the Dalmatian coast, which is the land of the sea. The most that we have to offer is the crystal-blue Adriatic, sun, and beautiful islands. 

When Croatia was part of Yugoslavia, you had the other regions included as well. Thus people saw Croatia differently. The Greek islands, the Italian coast, or French Riviera, were the main places for holiday goers in summer, whereas Croatia has always been pleasant and pristine, but it wasn’t on the map. Almost like it was kept a secret. 

Because people work so much in the summer,  they like to take the winter off. Many more places used to be open year-round, which is a huge factor. But again, it is a catch-22 – if no people are coming, then why would you stay open? It is hard to balance. 

The market depicts that we work in the summer and rest in the winter. During Yugoslavia, there was more industry and manufacturing, and the main income wasn’t tourism. More people were living in the city, which made the city fuller. It’s hard to feel the city when it’s empty, and there are no inhabitants in the palace anymore. The same goes for Dubrovnik. But it is a shame that it has become so bare and empty here in winter. 

If flights were not the problem, does Split have a winter tourism offer, and if yes, what is it?

I think we have to work on that. I think Split can be accepted as a city-break destination where travelers get away for 3 days. They don’t expect much, except for some life around town. They arrive, rent an apartment, but once they step out of their place every night, they want to see it happening. I think to start, that is all that can be expected. If you’re here for only 3 days, I suppose you won’t book in a cooking class or something similar; you won’t look much into extracurricular activities.

I think Split ultimately could start with congress tourism over winter. Congress tourists have a plan while they are here and in their off time, they can explore the city, dine at some restaurants, see a few sights, be amongst nature, and walk the beach promenade. But it is still relatively simple. Depending on where they are coming from, the weather could be refreshing for them, too.

I believe the town needs to be happening, and people will feel that especially if we have nice weather and establishments stay open – including a few more shops. 

Are you aware of any initiatives to improve the winter tourism situation? 

The biggest initiative I can see is the digital nomads movement. Split is becoming more and more enticing for digital nomads. Since there is a market for them, initiatives are taken to entertain them, which are becoming successful and a lot of fun. We are also beginning to create a really lovely culture around digital nomads. 

Digital nomads get to see the city when it is not in the peak season or with tourism. They can see how locals live, like shopping at the pazar or fish market every day. 


Advent, of course, is also a great initiative that has to stay afloat. 

Give us a few quick wins that could make Split a bit more attractive in the winter months?

We need to get the locals to come into town. For example, let’s offer free parking down at the port to motivate people to go into town. We need to create a plan for the locals in winter and include the community, whether it’s kids dancing on the Riva stage or something similar, the parents will come and perhaps the extended family. We will then create an atmosphere in town. I would love to see what the money is used for in summer because it isn’t noticed; Split is busy anyway in summer. 


However, we can use that money when it is not busy to create something. Another example is that certain events can be pushed to November. To start with, if we could build on November and December with flights and see if there is a difference made, we can include January and February. But if we can get enough to take us through the end of the year, that is huge. 

Then we can get the flights starting from March, and then in 5 or so years, we can incorporate January and February if the other months are a success. The initiative needs to be from the council and the tourist board, then the private sector can follow. But we can’t do it on our own. 

Let’s see the plan and agenda created for the summer and see how much of it can be crossed out or pushed to the winter. 

Are you planning an event(s) of your own soon?

We have our winter menu at Brasserie on 7. Our chef, Alex, has incorporated some of his French specialties like the cassoulet, which is done with a duck confit, pancetta, sausage, and beans.


We also have a pappardelle with lamb ragu, whipped pistachio, and orange confit. Because B7 is located on the Riva and breakfast and brunch is very popular, we also have the 60 kuna brunch special, where you can choose between the eggs Benedict, French toast, and porridge, and it runs until mid-day. The locals appreciate it as well. 

We are taking part in the Advent at Zvončac this year. Charlie’s Bar will be the main caterer for that within our company. Alex is creating the menu, and the offer is going to be loaded hot dogs. We have an Asian style one with sesame, soy, and cucumber, a Texan one with bbq sauce and beans, a New York one with cream cheese, scallions, and cheddar, a Spanish one with roasted peppers, and a classic with fried onions. 

Every second Friday, Zinfandel hosts Nomad Table with a set menu. It is a super fun event organized for digital nomads by Tanja Polegubić and Saltwater Nomads. There are games for everyone to interact and get to know each other better. 

When winter tourism is mentioned, many locals say that they do not want it, as they are tired after the busy season. What is your perspective as a successful business owner?

I think it is a shame that is the case. If you have a more stable income over the winter, then you can hold more staff. You have a core team. We already have that to a certain extent, but we would like to keep more people year-round. The turnover from the summer enables us to do that but it also cuts into your summer profits. It would be nice if it didn’t go from one extreme to the next. That way, people can rotate their holidays, and it will feel more like a year-round city. Everything will level out. But there is no one to stay open for; that’s the problem. 

While the staff does get very tired in the peak months, they can cut back on some hours towards the end of the season. On the flip side, they also get bored when they come to work, and there is nothing to do, which is demotivating. When you have your shift, and there are tables to be served, it is easier for everyone. The day goes by quicker; you feel more like you have accomplished something. 

What are the critical steps in your opinion to getting more flights in winter? 

I’m assuming it all has to do with finance. Airlines should be filling the seats and the demand, and subsidies should be available so that the airline doesn’t lose money. If Croatia can maybe invest in that on a national level, then perhaps we have something. The Ryanair Zagreb base will also take time to kick off. While they are connected to many destinations this winter and some 42 next summer, the bookings won’t happen overnight. 

Marketing is also one of the key successes. Split needs to be branded for Europe as a city-break destination, especially for travelers from the UK or Scandinavia who want to see a blue sky in winter. 

Split needs a program and agenda which needs to be marketed so that people have a clear idea of what they can do here. 

If you are a business in Split with a winter program, please contact [email protected] with the subject Split Winter Tourism. 


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