Though climbing to the top of the Cathedral of Saint Domnius may be the most popular way to get a bird’s eye view of Split, Croatia, it wasn’t our favorite. The sprawling Marjan Park occupies the City’s entire western peninsula, and it offer’s a refreshing natural break from the stone walls and souvenir shops of the old town. Here is our guide to help you explore and get the best photos you can out of your trip to the park.
Getting to Marjan Park
It’s possible to drive to the top of Marjan Hill, but the route is indirect and we never tried it since walking there from the old town was easy and enjoyable. There are three ways to approach the park:
1) The simplest way is to start by the waterfront promenade and head west. On the right you will eventually see what looks like a cliff face on the right. Right after that there is a stairway that will take you all the way to the entrance of the park.
If you take this route the views of the old town and the water are limited until you get pretty high up, but there is a straight section with trees branches overhead that we thought looked very attractive. I chose to photograph Dannie and Lisa from the top of this section using a zoom lens, but I could have done it shooting upward just as easily. Shooting upward would definitely be a better option if you only have a wide angle lens since it will be easier to compose your shot with your subject in the foreground.
2) If you are coming from north of the old town you will probably take prelaz Vladimira Nazora. This is the least scenic route to reach the park, but it is definitely the least challenging. If you plan on bringing a baby stroller or are just generally not that into steps, this is the only route we know of that doesn’t have any stairs. It’s also probably the safest way to go up and down for some night photography, like the shot of the harbor above.
3) There is another stairway you can take if you start at the waterfront. This path was my personal favorite, just because it had a very unique look. Start at the waterfront promenade again, but when you get to the fountain (you can’t miss it) go to the right of the church instead of hugging the water. Keep going west and uphill and you will come to a long, flight of stairs. Instead of several short and winding sections, this stairway is long and straight. The stairs are very wide and deep, and the incline is shallow.
All three of these routes take you to the same place; the beautiful Vidilica Cafe near the entrance to the park.
Vidilica is a great place to stop and rest before entering the park or to refresh yourself after your excursion. It’s also a great place to get some photos of your family enjoying themselves with a stunning view of the old town and harbor in the background. Whether you’re using a DSLR or a cell phone, a wide angle will serve you well here. Be aware of the light though. If you are under the covered area you’re subject will be in shadow and might be silhouetted against the background on a sunny day. If you’re using an app that automatically tone maps your image, or if you know how to do it yourself, you will be fine, otherwise, consider posing closer to the edge.
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The Panoramic Vista
Right near the Vidilica Cafe there is a platform with a great view of the old town, the harbor, and the mountains beyond. Your first instinct here will be to go to the edge and take a photo that captures the whole scene (and you should definitely do that), but there are a couple ways to get more creative here.
I always like to find a way to compress the distance between my subject and beautiful backdrop since it often provides a composition that isn’t overly done. This is done by separating yourself from your foreground and zooming in. The platform isn’t very big, but if you climb up the path into the park a little way you can get enough distance to make it happen. Because you’ll be shooting downward this will bring the promenade, lined with palm trees into view, along with the tower of the Cathedral of Saint Domnius, one of the landmarks of Split that is hard to photograph from the ground.
You can get a similar composition with more of the ocean in the shot by having your subject climb up the path a little and shooting from even higher up the slope. Don’t worry, you won’t run out of slope. There is more slope than you will know what to do with. In fact, one of the biggest challenges for photography in this area will be to avoid getting sweaty. If you’re here in the summer you might want to save this outing for a cloudy (but not rainy) day.
Marjan Park’s Walking/Biking Loop
I recommend taking a look at a map of the park before or during your visit. Whether you use google maps or get one of those free paper maps from one of the city’s tourism offices, the map will have all the information you need to avoid getting lost.
You don’t have to do the whole loop. The northern part isn’t all that photogenic. It does have a few views of the city, but it is the industrial half of the city and I didn’t find it to be particularly attractive (although the trail itself is still a pleasant walk and good exercise). The part of the loop that goes along the southern face of Marjan Hill is where all the action is, photographically.
Apart from non stop views of the shimmering blue-green Adriatic Sea, there are a couple of beautiful monasteries that provide some nice scenery. The first is right at the top of the slope you climb right after leaving the cafe. Our favorite angle was just after passing it. I had Dannie and Lisa climb up onto an elevated section and shot from below so we could get the old fashioned bell tower in the shot along with beautiful flora in the foreground.
The next monastery is about a half hour walk down the trail (at least while pushing/carrying/playing with a toddler). It’s on the right hand side of the trail at the top of an attractive staircase lined with beautiful trees. The monastery itself is very pretty, but I thought the stairs weren’t bad for photography either. We had to rush this part a little because Lisa was in desperate need of a nap. If we ever return to Split we’ll come back to this spot to try a few more angles.
The Summit of Marjan Hill
If you want to see as far as possible this is your destination in Split, Croatia. No matter which route you take to get to the top – you can drive, walk the loop road or take a direct stairway – you will find it rewarding. At the very top there is a large platform with views of the city, the ocean, and the surrounding mountains. By putting Dannie and Lisa in the Southeastern corner of the platform I was able to get a great shot of the two of them with the mountains fading into the hazy sky over the ocean behind them.
Our apartment was close to the park and it wound up being one of our favorite locations. We returned to it several times, at first for photography, but also for a relaxing place to get some exercise and quiet time. Inside the park there are no stairs and it is stroller friendly, so Lisa had no problem napping while Dannie and I walked and talked. Somehow the conversation kept drifting to discussions of how lucky we were to be spending so much time in such breathtaking settings.