Dubrovnik and Split are the showstoppers in Croatia, one of the popular Balkan countries. There are quite a few similarities between the two cities, from coastal vibes, history-rich centre, culture, and cuisine to Games of Thrones locations. If you are debating between Dubrovnik or Split and wondering which one is better, we got you covered.
We had the same confusion, and struggle and had to pick one, where we could spend most of the time. This post will provide you with our research, and our hands-on experience – as we decided to visit both on our trip to Croatia.
Dubrovnik or Split: Which is better?
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We will go over various factors like sightseeing, beaches, budget, accommodation, location and day trip options; and for each factor we will give you our verdict aka recommendation. So let’s get started!
Which city has the most sightseeing options? Dubrovnik or Split
Both Dubrovnik and Split are known for their historic centres.
Dubrovnik is well known for its city walls, old port or porat, and the numerous remnants of the Republic of Ragusa. Some of the best-preserved and popular tourist attractions include St. Blaise Church, Renaissance Sponza Palace, Gothic Rector’s Palace, Old Pharmacy at Franciscan Monastery to name a few.
The entire old town is like a walking museum, almost like a stage if you will, and you get to walk in style on the paved limestone pedestrian alley – the Stradun (or Placa).
Split, on the other hand, is home to the gorgeous Diocletian’s Palace. As you get into the interiors of the old town, the monuments do take you back to the early Roman period in Split. There are phoenixes, churches, museums, and beautiful Roman structures, that will surely take your breath away.
As you walk away from the old town of Split, you are mesmerized by the promenade, it is like an open living room with sea views. This area definitely looks more touristy – like a beach vacation, of course, and further down the promenade are bus stations, small cafes, and the cruise port. So it sort of takes you from old to the new in a few steps.
Both Dubrovnik and Split have Games of Thrones film related tours, and locations that you can check out.
Visit Dubrovnik if: Walking the city walls is on your bucket list. The iconic image of the ‘pearl of Adriatic’ – of orange houses and blue seas, can only be captured in Dubrovnik. We definitely loved the old town of Dubrovnik, the walking was comfortable with cafes and shops everywhere.
Visit Split if: You wish to visit the Diocletian’s Palace and walk the promenade. Learn how to spend one day in Split itinerary to see it all
For history’s sake: Split or Dubrovnik
Both Split and Dubrovnik are part of the UNESCO World heritage sites list.
If we go by numbers (History graduate here!), the city of Split was founded as the Greek colony in the 3rd or 2nd century BC.
Whereas Dubrovnik’s presence can be traced back to the 7th century, around the year of 614.
Dubrovnik was one of two ‘Republics’ in the region. Both cities enjoyed a rich maritime history and were ruled/acknowledged Venetian supremacy.
But what makes Dubrovnik unique, in my humble opinion, is the ‘city republic’, aka the Republic of Ragusa, and its city guidelines on sea quarantine, and the successful rebuilding of the city after the earthquake of 1667 which flattened two-thirds of the Old City of Dubrovnik.
Our recommendation: For history lovers, it is worth visiting Dubrovnik to learn about their administration of the Republic, and to admire the unique city walls that once fortified the city.
We wanted to love the Diocletian’s Palace in Split, but historically (and technically) it is not a palace, it was a military garrison or a fort. It is beautiful though, don’t get us wrong.
Which has better beaches? Split or Dubrovnik
The Croatian coastline is beautiful, so you can expect stunning ocean views from both cities. Beaches in both cities are a little further from the heart of the old town (although sea views are everywhere).
The beaches in Split are sandy (and soft, makes you feel like you are on a Mexican vacation). But the beaches in Dubrovnik are pebbly, with little to no sand.
We feel that this is a matter of personal choice, beaches in both cities have something unique. If you are tired of soft sandy beaches and need a break, head to Dubrovnik.
If the pebbly beaches are too much for your soft toes, then Split is a better choice.
Did you know? Pasjača Beach, in Konvale near Dubrovnik, was named the most beautiful beach in Europe by European Destinations 2019. It is located about 30 minutes from the old town.
Better for day trips: Dubrovnik vs Split
Our deal breaker was day trips from each city. We like to make the most of our visit to Europe, and wanted to explore a few other Balkan nations, and hence found Dubrovnik to be the perfect base.
From Dubrovnik, taking day trips to Mostar and Kravice Waterfalls (Bosnia Herzegovina), Kotor, and Perast (Montenegro) is easy.
There are also quite a few island sightseeing tours that you can take – like the 3 Island tour, tours to Lokram to name a few.
We decided to stay longer in Dubrovnik to travel to Albania, Kosovo, and North Macedonia from there. They are not possible on a day trip, however, flights and overnight buses are available to Tirana (Albania) and Skopje (North Macedonia).
Split is an amazing spot to explore more of Croatian islands like Hvar and Brac, and unique landscapes like the blue cave, and other towns like Sibenik, and Trogir. National Parks like Krka and the ever-popular Plitvice Lakes National Park is an easy day trip away. You can even visit Mostar from Split on a day trip.
Dubrovnik is better: If you want to visit more of the Balkans from Dubrovnik – day trips to Mostar, Kotor and weekend travel to Tirana, Skopje, etc. Read: Best day trips from Dubrovnik
Split is better: To explore more of Croatian Islands, and popular National Parks
You can visit Dubrovnik on a day trip from Split, and vice versa.
Location wise which is better? Split or Dubrovnik
We have already covered the day trip options, and that should help you to narrow down the selection.
Here is another tip or factor to consider. If you are flying internationally like from Asia or North America, chances are you will arrive in Zagreb. Zagreb International airport is the largest in the country.
Also, many tourists prefer to arrive in Zagreb from Budapest on a road trip.
So if you are short on time, and arriving into Zagreb and wish to take a road trip vs taking flights – then hands down, Split is a better choice. It is much more feasible, and doable as a road trip exploring more of Croatia.
Both Split and Dubrovnik have airports, but the latter is a smaller airport.
If you look at the map below, there is Zagreb on the north, Split in the middle, and Dubrovnik is at the end of the southern coast. It will take you almost a day to travel to Dubrovnik from Zagreb by road (and not to forget border crossing. You have to show your passport at the land border which is under Bosnian jurisdiction).
That time is cut by half if you drive nonstop from Zagreb to Split.
Where to find the yummiest food and restaurants? Dubrovnik or Split
Both Split and Dubrovnik offer unique delicacies. The Dalmatian coast has the most delicious seafood, made of fresh and seasonal ingredients.
Dishes like black risotto, cevapi, seafood buzara, collard greens, etc. can be ordered in both cities. They are some of the popular foods to try in Croatia.
Food: Food is cheaper in Split, as compared to Dubrovnik
Which is better for nightlife? Split or Dubrovnik
Split wins this round. Sorry to break it that early.
Split, being a bigger city, offers an active nightlife with a ton of options. We love that they have a variety, from jazz bars, lounges, night clubs to open-air concerts, and festivals. So you can choose what appeals to you – and socialize, drink or dance the night away.
Dubrovnik, on the other hand, has limited options. Many of the hip restaurants are located inside the old town, and although there are night clubs nearby – your options are very limited!
Better for nightlife: Split, for variety of options
Accommodation Options: Dubrovnik or Split
Split is the second-largest city in Croatia and the largest one in Dalmatia. You will find a ton of accommodation options in Split, and it will be slightly cheaper as you move further away from the old town.
Accommodation in Dubrovnik, being a smaller geographical area, has limited options and hence also expensive. Hotels inside the old town are perfect for short 2 to 3 days in Dubrovnik, but price tags are high.
Many guests also stay further away from the old town, but as you go far, restaurant options become slimmer.
Accommodation: There are more options available for Split vs Dubrovnik
Is Split or Dubrovnik cheaper?
Because there are more accommodation, restaurants, and transportation options, Split is cheaper as compared to Dubrovnik.
Now if you are visiting for a day or two, and at the old town area, eating out most meals, the expenses between the two may not be a deal-breaker. But if you stay longer, then expenses do add up, and Dubrovnik is definitely expensive and fancier in that matter.
Taxi rides cost more in Dubrovnik, as compared to Split. It is almost 25-30% cheaper in Zagreb!
Which is better for a long term stay? Dubrovnik or Split
If you are planning to choose a city for a long term stay, like 30 days or more, then Split is a better option.
Both Split and Dubrovnik are excellent locations for different reasons. But Split is a bigger city, afterall, so you can choose an affordable accommodation away from the old town. Transportation is cheaper, and there are a lot of restaurants, and nightlife to enjoy.
Work during the day, then hit bars or nightclubs when the sun goes down. Split is a perfect base for exploring more of the Dalmatian Coast due to its central location.
Our recommendation: Split
Should you visit both Split and Dubrovnik?
One 1000% yes. Even if it’s a short day trip to explore the old town, we highly recommend visiting both cities. Of course, the more time you have the better.
Both cities are similar in terms of their coastal vibes, old town nuances, but still fundamentally both are different.
Both are touristy cities, and inside of the city centre things get pretty packed during peak seasons, or when cruise ships and/or passengers visit the centres.
It is a great idea to include both on a road trip itinerary in Croatia. The well-maintained roads provide easy access to cover both from Zagreb, the capital city. Buses are also available to connect both cities, with Zagreb as well.
To cover Split and Dubrovnik in one week, take a look at our 7 days in Croatia itinerary here.
Dubrovnik or Split: Our recommendation
If you are really pressed for time, then we say visit Dubrovnik. We liked it more than Split, and the coastal goodness there along with the old town charm is hard to beat. In a day or two, you can easily explore the city’s prime landmarks and not leave for the next trip.
Dubrovnik is definitely worth the time, money and border crossing hassles to enjoy the historic centre and the beauty surrounding it!
Where to stay in Dubrovnik
If you are convinced about Dubrovnik, here are some amazing places to stay in the city,
- Prijeko Palace: The Prijeko Palace is a 15th-century hotel offering sea-views, a rooftop bar, and a terrace. It is located within the old city walls of Dubrovnik. Click to view room rates for Prijeko Palace
- Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik: This luxury hotel is housed in an 1890’s building and is located right outside the Pile Gate in the old town. The hotel has a restaurant, bar, and a spa with an indoor pool and sauna. Click to view reviews and prices for Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik
- Dubrovnik Luxury Residence L’Orangerie: This is an apartment-style hotel with spacious rooms, balconies, and washing machines. It is located about 10 minutes ride away from the city centre. Check out room rates and prices – Dubrovnik Luxury Residence L’Orangerie
We hope you found this post useful in planning your trip to Croatia. Do let us know which city you liked better – Split or Dubrovnik?