Split Croatia was the second stop in our one year journey through Europe. Though we were on a photographic mission, we wanted to make sure that we were enjoying ourselves as well. This meant finding places where we could relax, have a gelato, and maybe do a little shopping. And finally, we needed places where Lisa could run around, indulge her curiosity, and engage in a little well-supervised exploration. The waterfront promenade was the most obvious place, and in winter it was also the easiest.
What’s on the Split, Croatia Promenade?
Our Airbnb apartment was just a five minute walk from the promenade, and for the entire month of February, we made it down there just about every day. It wasn’t just that the promenade was convenient, it was also really beautiful, and ideal for a family to relax in. I imagine that in the summer it must get crowded, but in the winter we could easily let Lisa run around without losing sight of her. There were other children for her to play with, not to mention pigeons and lots of surprisingly well behaved dogs.
For Jake and I, there were cafes, pastry shops benches to relax on while we looked out at the water. On the end of the promenade opposite us there was a green market where fresh vegetables were sold. Walking there for our groceries was a delight, and we always made sure that we had enough time to stop and relax under the palm trees. Our favorite cafe was in the courtyard of the Trg Republike, a red palatial construct modeled after the St. Mark’s Square in Venice. There was so much open space there that we could easily let Lisa play with other kids while we sipped our tea and coffee.
Photographing the Split Promenade
But of course, being photographers we were also on the lookout for good angles. The iconic rows of palm trees were beautiful, and made you feel warm inside, even in the winter time. Actually, some days you didn’t even need a jacket, which was nice because we bought a couple dresses while we were there, including a rather dramatic one that I wore to Klis Fortress, in the mountains over the city. What I loved about the Promenade is that it was so beautiful we didn’t feel out of place doing our photo shoots, but relaxed enough that we could could enjoy ourselves at the same time.
The waterfront promenade is also surrounded by the active Split harbor, used by fishing and tour boats, as well as cruise ships coming and going from other destinations in Croatia and the Adriatic Sea. We spent entire days exploring the docks and piers, finding fun angles for photography and enjoying the smell of the ocean. Unfortunately our research found that most rentals on the islands were closed in the winter, so we had to limit our photography to dry land.
But for a better perspective on the waterfront, one that captures it’s entirety, consider climbing up to Marjan Park in the hills to the west. The view from there is the iconic shot you’ve probably seen in photos (in the link above Jake gives details about exactly where that view is and how to find it).
Gateway to the Old Town
And if you are thinking of exploring Split Croatia, you are also looking forward to getting lost in the Old Town, home to the Diocletian’s Palace and the bell tower of St. Domnius Cathedral. From the Split Promenade you can easily duck into any number of alleys or archways and quickly find yourself in a maze of glassy stone streets or even underground in the Palace basement. Stepping from the modern promenade into the dark and labyrinthine Old Town really does feel like switching centuries (especially if you can disregard the tourist traps that abound in Old Towns all over Europe).
On a Personal Note
Even though we only spent a month in Split, we really felt like Lisa grew up a lot in Split, and in our memories, the Promenade will always be the place where she learned to climb on stone benches and jump over cracks (big strides for a one year old). It’s the place where she made friends with other toddlers and walked up and down the square holding hands with expat kids from other countries, communicating in the international language of baby talk. It’s where she learned how to tear up a slice of bread and throw it to pigeons. It’s where she learned to say “boat.”
We find that’s how it has been as we travel. We look back at the photos we take in each city, and the memories that rise to the surface are more about family than the destination. It’s the nature of slow travel to make travel feel a little bit like just living your life, and remind you that any place can feel like home if you make the experience personal. Lisa is just now getting to the point where she might start forming lasting memories. She won’t remember Split, or the promenade, unless we show her the photos, so we’re glad that our time there was more than another hurried photo shoot.