Ah, the tale of two ancient cities, both breathtaking in their own ways. One, the Adriatic Pearl, the other, Dalmatia’s bustling capital – but both full of pride that there is no better place.
Their vibrant history more or less defines them. Dubrovnik’s roots trace back to the 7th century when it was founded as Ragusa by inhabitants of the ancient Greek colony of Epidaurus (present-day Cavtat). Split, on the other hand, founded as the Greek colony Aspálathos only a bit earlier, in the 3rd or 2nd century BC.
Centuries later, both cities are certainly known for their turbulent history and historic cores – Dubrovnik, a town wrapped by medieval defensive walls, and Split, a city that boasts the 1700-year-old Diocletian’s Palace, the former retirement home of Roman Emporer Diocletian.
While it may be humanely IMpossible to decide which is better, we do know one thing: these ancient artifacts have turned two coastal cities into tourism champions in much more recent years, where history mixes with the mood of the Meditteranean to make for one stellar holiday.
Is it better to stay in Dubrovnik or Split?
We recently covered how many days you should spend in Dubrovnik, much like the magic number for Split, but where should you stay in both cities?
Dubrovnik abounds in 5-star hotels and villas, attracting luxury travelers thanks to its deluxe amenities. From the Excelsior, Rixos, and Sun Gardens to the centrally-located Hilton Imperial and lavish Grand Villa Argentina, tourists with higher spending power really have their pick when it comes to the upper echelon of hotels in the area. And that’s without mentioning ultra-luxurious villas, like Sheherezade.
Private accommodation in Dubrovnik, however, can get a bit tricky. While basic old-town offers in the summer can cost you an arm and a leg, literally and figurately (remember, endless flights of stairs and NO elevators), apartments outside of the center, while more affordable, are less accessible. Yes, taxis and Uber do exist, but so do narrow roads and summer traffic, both of which plague Dubrovnik in the peak season.
Split, on the other hand, is still a bit behind in the luxury hotel world. And to compensate for its lack of hotel rooms, the city has seen a boom in private accommodations over the last few years, with things getting a little out of hand.
But there is hope.
The newly-opened 4-star Amphora Hotel has done a significant job adding to the hotel capacity in Split with 206 rooms, while newcomers like briig boutique hotel add flair to the Bačvice neighborhood. The Birkenstock-owned Ambasador will add 101 rooms to the West Coast sometime this year, while the Adris Group will step into the Dalmatian market with the hopeful opening of the ‘new’ hotel Marjan in 2022.
Lovers of luxury hotels can currently only choose from the 5-star Le Meridien Lav hotel, located about 15 minutes outside of Split in Podstrana, or the beloved Bačvice-based Hotel Park. However, the history-rich-heritage hotels in the center make up for any missing affluence (check out Palace Judita, Heritage Hotel Antique, or Jupiter, for example).
Does Split or Dubrovnik have better beaches?
Bačivce or Banje? It’s unlikely you’ll spend an hour in either city without hearing their names.
Bačivce, Split’s public beach, is located about a 10-minute walk outside of Diocletian’s Palace. A sandy beach popular for speedo-clad picigin players, Bačivce boasts views that extend out to Brač during the day, while it is the hub of Split nightlife in the evening, where young partygoers let loose until sunrise. Needless to say, things can get a bit messy (and crowded).
On the other hand, Dubrovnik’s public Banje beach is a short walk from the old town, with views onto the city walls and harbor. While you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more unique swimming spot, it is penetrated by thirsty tourists in the summertime, making it often impossible to claim a lounge chair.
Fortunately, Bačice and Banje aren’t the only beaches in Split in Dubrovnik. Split’s coast is decorated with beaches, as is Marjan Hill, where you’ll find Kaštelet, situated just below the Ivan Meštrović Gallery, or Kašjuni, boasting a deep bay with the cliffs wrapping around you.
Šulići is just a short walk from the Pile Gate in Dubrovnik, while the family-friendly Copacabana beach in Babin Kuk offers a restaurant, water sports, and cocktails for the adults. And if you have a car? Head 30 minutes south of Dubrovnik to discover the best beaches in Konavle!
Is Dubrovnik or Split nightlife better?
As someone who just crossed over into her 30s after a vibrant decade of partying in her 20s, the answer to this one comes quite easily. One thing young travelers visiting Dubrovnik often mention is the lack of nightlife in the city. And as it should be, because Dubrovnik’s beauty shouldn’t be embraced with a hangover. However, you can’t deny that people want to let loose on holiday, whether they’re at a pub or a club. So, where to?
For those who enjoy partying until the early morning hours, there is one special place to go – Culture Club Revelin. It even made DJ Mag’s Top 50 Best Clubs in the World. Located in a 500-year-old medieval fortress, it’ll be hard to find another setting as unique. Just like it’ll be hard to find another club Dubrovnik.
And if you’re not the clubbing type after all? Dubrovnik flourishes with cafe and wine bars, and there are even a few Irish pubs!
Split, on the other hand, has become a hotspot for Croatian nightlife. After the wine-bar-boom came the craft-cocktail-bar boom, and there is a nightclub for all types of partygoers. Bar crawls also rule summer nightlife, and all roads eventually lead to the Bačvice beach clubs, where you can enjoy a sunrise swim if you stay long enough.
Split’s live music scene also thrives most of the year; you can catch up-and-coming Croatian acts or touring international DJs if you’re lucky!
Are Split or Dubrovnik restaurants better?
Both Split and Dubrovnik have upped their culinary game in the last few years. Dubrovnik currently boasts 10 Michelin-recommended restaurants, while one restaurant, 360, carries a Michelin star. And because it is a luxury destination, you’ll notice more fine dining options in Dubrovnik than Split.
Split cannot currently boast a Michelin star, though it does have five Michelin-recommended restaurants and many trendy newcomers that add flair to classic Dalmatian cuisine.
Long gone are the days of only ćevapi and pomfret (though you’ll still find it on most konoba menus), as both cities have become creative in their culinary offers, with many international options on the table too. If you’re after the flavors of sushi, Mexican, Thai, or Chinese, or want to keep it traditional with grilled fish, black risotto, and octopus salad, you’ll be pleased eating in either city.
Would you choose Dubrovnik or Split in October?
Ah, the offseason debate is back again!
If you’d like my personal opinion, both cities are a gem in October, that is, if you’re not coming to Croatia solely for the sun, sea, and swimming. October weather could also surprise, and you may find that Indian Summer comes out to play.
Best-case scenario – you’re swimming in slightly cooler sea temperatures with fewer boats and emptier beaches. Worst-case scenario, you’re stuck in the rain and have to schedule your outdoor activities around when it’s dry – so you get to sit in a cafe and people watch or enjoy museums to kill time instead. Is that really so bad?
Realistically, most everything remains open in both cities throughout October, making it easier for you to enjoy what you’d plan on doing in summer without fighting sweaty bodies wanting to do the same thing.
October is also a good time to enjoy emptier roads, so why not take a road trip from Dubrovnik to Pelješac for wine tasting? Or from Split to Omiš for ziplining over the canyon? The opportunities are endless.
In conclusion: Is Dubrovnik or Split better?
The real question is – which city is better for you?
One might suggest that if you’re young, looking for vibrant nightlife, good food options, and easy access to the islands, you’ll fit better in Split. And if you’re a Game of Thrones fan looking to tick tourist attractions off your list? You’ll likely choose Dubrovnik. But both cities offer something for all ages and all members of the family, and because they’re only 3 hours apart by car, you don’t really have to choose at all.
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