Visit Zagreb Or Split? We Weigh Up Zagreb Vs Split Croatia

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Post author SJ

Written by our local expert SJ

Sarah-Jane has lived in Croatia for 10+ years. SJ, as she is known, has been traveling the Balkans & beyond since 2000. She now shares her passion for traveling with her husband & kids.

Having explored Zagreb and Split extensively over the past 24 years, I’m here to guide you through the decision-making process on these two destinations. Each city holds its own charm and allure, catering to different travel preferences. 

Whether you’re drawn to Zagreb’s urban vibrancy or Split’s coastal tranquility, this guide will help you make the right choice on which place to visit and a few travel tips.

Join me as we delve into the nuances of these Croatian gems and discover which destination suits you best.

Croatia Travel Blog_Zagreb Vs. Split Croatia_How To Choose

When you’re trying to decide whether to visit Zagreb or Split on your Croatian adventure, it can feel like a toss-up between the country’s inland charm and its coastal allure when you think about these two Croatian cities.

Zagreb, the capital, offers you an urban atmosphere buzzed with a vibrant culture and an array of historical sights.

It’s a city where the warmth of its coffee culture and the sparkle of its Christmas markets can make even a winter visit feel cozy and magical.

On the flip side, Split, set against the breathtaking canvas of the Adriatic Sea, brings forth a different vibe. You’ll discover a Mediterranean haven dotted with beautiful beaches, Roman ruins, and a bustling life that revolves around its ancient Diocletian Palace.

With its sunny disposition, Split not only promises sun-bathed days but also nights alive with energetic entertainment.

Both destinations offer distinct experiences steeped in their unique histories, cultures, and landscapes.

So, what’s it going to be: the dynamic and historic Zagreb or the sunny and seaside Split?

Dive into what each city has to offer and find out which one aligns with your travel aspirations.

Zagreb Vs. Split: An Overview

Are you picking between Zagreb and Split for your trip to Croatia? It’s like choosing between two different worlds.

Are you all about the buzz of a capital city packed with cultural events and that city vibe? Or does the chill, beachy feel of the coast call your name?

Let’s dive into what each city brings to the table and help you decide.

Cultural Highlights Of Zagreb

Zagreb - Croatia Travel Blog

Zagreb, the heart of Croatia, is where you’ll get your fix of both modern vibes and historical scenes.

This city is alive with excellent museums, including the unique Museum of Broken Relationships, and boasts the grand Croatian National Theatre.

Stroll through Upper Town (Gornji Grad) to see the grand old buildings and the iconic, colorful roof of St. Mark’s Church.

And if you find yourself here in December, you’re in for a treat – Zagreb transforms into a magical winter wonderland for its famous Advent in Zagreb festival.

The Allure Of Split’s Beaches & Islands

SJ on the deck of a boat holding a glass of wine - party boat in Split, Croatia

On the flip side, Split lures you in with its gorgeous Adriatic shores and gateway to dreamy islands.

At the core of Split is Diocletian’s Palace, a UNESCO spot that’s a maze of historic walls, palm-lined walks, and places to eat and shop that feel totally today.

The Riva is the place to be for that evening wander, looking out over the sea. Plus, hopping on a ferry gets you to chill islands like Hvar or Brač in no time. Have you ever heard of Zlatni Rat Beach? It’s a must-visit.

Think of Split as your launchpad to all things Dalmatian, mixing up a cocktail of ancient vibes and chill-out moments.

Visit Zagreb Or Split Pros And Cons

Aspect Zagreb Pros Zagreb Cons Split Pros Split Cons
Location Inland, diverse urban experience No beach access Seaside, immediate Adriatic access Can be crowded, especially in the summer
Climate Warm summers, cold winters Snow possible in winter Mild winters, hot summers Summers can be very hot
Cultural Offerings Rich in museums and galleries Fewer ancient historical sites Ancient sites, like Diocletian’s Palace Slightly fewer contemporary cultural activities
Nightlife Vibrant street life, variety of venues Less lively compared to coastal cities Coastal nightlife with a Mediterranean flair Nightlife peaks in summer months
Natural Scenery Close to mountains and parks Lacks seaside and island scenery Beautiful beaches and island access Less access to mountainous landscapes
Tourist Crowds Less crowded, more relaxed Popular spots can still draw crowds Popular, can feel overcrowded High tourist numbers can impact the experience
Accessibility Well-connected by road and air Farther from the Dalmatian coast Gateway to islands, good coastal access Traffic and access can be challenging in peak season
Cost More affordable accommodations and dining Tourist attractions may be pricey Beachfront options can be pricier Demand can drive up prices in peak season

Zagreb Or Split For Historical Sites & Museums

Are you choosing between Zagreb and Split? It really boils down to what kind of history and culture vibe you’re after.

Both of these cities in Croatia are stacked with cool historical and cultural spots, but they each bring their own unique flavor to the table.

Zagreb’s Rich History

Things To Do In Zagreb Hidden Streets

In Zagreb, history isn’t just something you read about; it’s something you live as you wander around.

Take a walk through the historic Old Town, where the cobblestone streets are your gateway to fantastic spots like St. Mark’s Church, famous for its vibrant roof tiles. Zagreb is very easy to explore on foot,

And museums? Zagreb’s got plenty. Don’t skip the Museum of Broken Relationships. It’s as unique as the name suggests, giving you a deep dive into love and loss via personal keepsakes from across the globe.

Must-Visit Museums In Zagreb

  • Museum of Broken Relationships, a unique collection that resonates with the heart
  • Croatian Museum of Naive Art, a celebration of self-taught artists and their work

Split’s Ancient Palaces And Ruins

Game of Thrones Croatia - Underground of Diocletian Palace, Spli

Split spins a different tale, starting with the grand Diocletian Palace. This place isn’t just a monument; it’s a piece of the 4th century still buzzing with life today.

Picture yourself wandering through ancient Roman courtyards, each step echoing centuries of history inside the palace’s sturdy walls.

And there’s more to see in the nooks and crannies of this city. Dive into the hidden spots to find the old soul of Split, showcasing the deep and diverse cultural heritage of Croatia.

Key Historical Sites In Split

  • Diocletian’s Palace, a sprawling fortress at the heart of the city, is brimming with history
  • The old town of Split, where the past meets the present, with bustling activity amidst historic architecture

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Zagreb Or Split For Outdoor Activities & Natural Beauty

When you’re picking between Zagreb and Split for your travels, think about what kind of nature scenes and outdoor fun you’re into.

Zagreb has the advantage of being a hop, skip, and jump away from some stunning landscapes outside the city limits. At the same time, Split grabs your attention with its direct access to the Adriatic’s allure and beaches, ready for you to lounge on.

Adventures In Zagreb’s Surroundings

Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia is an enchanting destination during the spring season.

Not too far from Zagreb, you’ll find Plitvice Lakes National Park, a true natural wonder of Croatia. It’s a dream spot for hikers, with its breathtaking waterfalls and clear, shimmering lakes.

Even though Zagreb isn’t right by the sea like Split, it’s still pretty close to Krka National Park. Krka’s not just about the eye-catching waterfalls; it also offers cool natural pools for a swim, making it a perfect spot to cool off when it gets hot.

Beaches And Parks Around Split

A Split beach with a lot of family - Žnjan Beach

Split really shines with its coastal charm, giving you those postcard-perfect views of the Adriatic Sea.

The beaches are a big hit, with Bacvice Beach standing out for its crystal-clear waters and vibrant vibe.

You’ll probably find yourself taking easy walks along the promenade or soaking up the sun on the pebbly shores, surrounded by the refreshing scents of pine and sea.

Whether you’re all about chilling out or diving into some water sports, Split is your go-to for that classic beach getaway.


Zagreb Or Split For Nightlife And Entertainment

Are you choosing between Zagreb and Split? Don’t forget to weigh up the nightlife scene in each city.

Zagreb buzzes with a lively street vibe and a wide mix of places to hang out, while Split brings its own exceptional coastal nightlife to the table, complete with that Mediterranean touch.

Zagreb’s Vibrant Street Life

As night falls in Zagreb, the streets really come to life.

The heart of the city’s nightlife beats strong on Tkalciceva Street, packed with cafes and bars buzzing with energy.

As you meander through the streets, the variety of choices means you can tailor your evening to anything from a casual drink to an all-night party.

Split’s Coastal Nightlife

How to Get from Split to Zadar Croatia

Split offers a laid-back twist. Here, the nightlife vibes are in harmony with the relaxed Adriatic coast atmosphere.

For something different, check out the area around Diocletian’s Palace at night. It’s where the old stones and modern fun meet, offering a fantastic blend of entertainment.

Zagreb Or Split For Local Cuisine & Dining Experiences

When you’re traveling through Croatia, indulging in the local cuisine is a must.

Whether you choose Zagreb or Split, you’re in for a delightful culinary journey that features a blend of traditional Croatian and specific regional flavors.

Savoring Zagreb’s Gastronomy


In Zagreb, your palate is treated to a rich variety of Croatian dishes influenced by Central European cuisine.

The city’s gastronomy scene is a reflection of its diverse history and cultural influences.

Truffle dishes and štrukli — a dough filled with cheese — stand as a testament to Zagreb’s culinary prestige.

Main Courses:

  • Sarma, a hearty winter dish of minced meat wrapped in sauerkraut leaves
  • Zagrebački odrezak, a breaded veal cutlet stuffed with ham and cheese

Local Cheese & Wine

  • Enjoy a platter of local cheeses paired with Croatian wines like Graševina or Plavac Mali.

Remember to visit the Dolac Market for a taste of fresh produce and local specialties.


Split’s Seafood And Dalmatian Delights

How To Make Croatian Crni Rizot - Black Risotto

Split, nestled on the Dalmatian coast, boasts a bounty of fresh seafood that’s often prepared so you can taste the ocean’s freshness in dishes like grilled fish or black risotto colored with squid ink.

Dalmatian cuisine is Mediterranean in essence, characterized by olive oils, fresh vegetables, and a plethora of seafood.

While exploring Split, don’t miss the Riva promenade for a dining experience with a view.

Seafood Staples

  • Brudet, a fish stew often served with polenta
  • Grilled Octopus, a common sight in many konobas

Signature Sweets

  • Rožata, a custard pudding similar to flan, it’s a sweet touch after a seafood meal

Zagreb Or Split For Accommodations & Hotel Prices

Choosing the perfect place to stay can really make your Croatian trip unforgettable.

Whether you’re drawn to Zagreb’s city vibes or Split’s beachy feel, there’s something for every budget and preference.

Staying In Zagreb: From Budget To Luxury

Esplanade Zagreb Hotel- Chasing the Donkey

In Zagreb, there’s a hotel or hostel just waiting to match what you’re looking for and how much you want to spend.

If you’re keeping an eye on your budget, check out places like Hostel Shappy, where you can snag a shared room or even a private space without breaking the bank.

For something in the middle of the road, Hotel Jägerhorn is a great pick, thanks to its fantastic central spot.

And if you’re in the mood to splurge on some luxury, the Esplanade Zagreb Hotel rolls out the red carpet with its fancy amenities and decor that’s dripping with history.

Zagreb Hotel Prices

Prices in Zagreb have a range as wide as the city itself. You can find hostels starting around $15 a night for a dorm bed, while the high-end hotel suites might start pushing past $150 per night.

  • Budget: $15 for a hostel dorm bed
  • Mid-range: $60–$120 for a comfortable hotel in Zagreb
  • Luxury: Over $150 for high-end hotels

Finding The Perfect Spot In Split

Croatia Travel Blog_Where To Stay In Split_Hotel Park Split
Photo Credit: Hotel Park Split

Split’s charm is all about that close connection to the Adriatic Sea, making it a fantastic spot for various accommodation choices.

You can step back in time or leap into the present within a short stroll. For those watching their budget, Old Town Hostel Split is a great pick, offering an affordable place to crash that’s still close to the action of the beaches and city center.

For a hotel stay, Cornaro Hotel is a great middle-of-the-road option that doesn’t skimp on modern comforts, all while being smack dab in the center of Split.

And if it’s those stunning sea views you’re after, Hotel Park Split might be more your speed. It’s a spot where paying a bit more means waking up to the Adriatic right outside your window.

Split Hotel Prices

Like in Zagreb, accommodation prices in Split can range from about $20 for a hostel dorm bed to over $200 for a slice of luxury with those dreamy beachfront views.

  • Budget: $20 for a hostel dorm bed
  • Mid-range: $70–$150 for a well-located hotel
  • Luxury: $200+ for premium sea-view rooms

Comparing Travel Costs Between Zagreb And Split

When you’re mapping out your Croatia adventure, figuring out if Zagreb or Split fits your budget is crucial.

Both cities have their own price tags for different experiences, and we’re here to help you sift through the main costs. This way, you can make a choice that’s good for your wallet and your wanderlust.

Budgeting For Zagreb

Zagreb in Two Days - Croatia Travel Blog

In Zagreb, you’ll find that your money often goes a bit further than in the coastal cities.

A flight to Zagreb might be your starting point, and it’s typically more budget-friendly compared to flying into Split, particularly outside the summer season.

  • Accommodation: Hostels from $15 per night, Mid-range hotels from $150
  • Food: Casual dining meals from $10, Fine dining from $30 per person
  • Transportation: Tram ticket $1.50, Daily pass $4.50
  • Entertainment: Museum entries from $5, Nightlife from $10

Zagreb offers a range of budget options, from affordable hostels to value-for-money dining, without compromising on cultural experiences and nightlife.

Expenses When You Visit Split

Balkan Trip: One Month In The Balkans Itinerary - Marjan Hill overlooking Split Riva

Split is excellent, with its picturesque beaches and historical sites, but tends to be a pricier destination, particularly during the peak tourist season in summer.

  • Accommodation: Budget hotels from $50 per night, Apartments from $70
  • Food: Quick bites from $5, Sit-down meals from $20 per person
  • Transportation: Bus ticket $1.70, Car rental from $50 per day
  • Entertainment: Diocletian’s Palace entry is free

Split’s expenses can add up, especially if you’re keen on enjoying its coastal offerings. Still, with early bookings and savvy planning, you can manage a trip that keeps your wallet in check.

Deciding Based On Your Travel Style

When choosing between Zagreb and Split for your travel destination, it primarily comes down to what you’re looking for in your vacation.

Why Zagreb Is Better

Where to go in Croatia | Dolac Markets Zagreb | Travel Croatia Guide
Dolac Market

Zagreb, the beating heart of Croatia, offers a vibrant city vibe brimming with cultural treasures.

For those who love diving into museums, wandering through galleries, and getting a natural feel for local history, Zagreb is likely where you’ll shine.

In this city, history meets modernity, serving up a mix of both timeless and contemporary sights:

Cultural Enrichment

  • Museums: Mimara Museum, Museum of Broken Relationships
  • Cathedrals: St. Mark’s Church and Zagreb Cathedral

Opportunities For An Urban Escape

  • Spacious parks like Maksimir Park & Jarun Lake
  • Mount Medvednica, for hiking and skiing

Vibrant Food And Nightlife Scene

  • Dolac Market and other similar culinary delights 
  • Tkalciceva Street with cafes and bars

Why Split Is Better

Split, meanwhile, is the go-to if you’re all about slowing down a bit but still want a slice of history with your seaside chill.

Here’s what makes Split the perfect spot for your laid-back escape:

Scenic And Historic Attractions

  • The Diocletian’s Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Riva Promenade for waterfront strolls

Leisure And Pleasure

  • Bačvice is a beautiful beach in Split for sand and sea
  • Hvar or Brač, a short ferry ride away 

Energetic Entertainment Choices

  • Partying: Vibrant clubs and beach parties
  • Watersports: Sailing, snorkeling, and kayaking

Split gives you the best of both worlds: a chance to dive into a historic seaside vibe while keeping all the city perks close at hand. If you’re all about mixing chill times with a bit of exploration, Split could be your ideal spot.


How To Get From Zagreb To Split

Map Zagreb To Split - Split To Zagreb Map

Maybe by now, you have decided you need to go to both places; if so, here is how to travel between Split and Zagreb.

Split Or Zagreb Two Popular Destinations FAQs

When choosing between Zagreb and Split for your travel, several common queries may come up. This FAQs section is tailored to answer those pressing questions and help you make the most informed decisions for your trip.


What are the main differences between visiting Zagreb and Split?

Zagreb, Croatia’s capital, is known for its historical architecture, museums, and continental vibe. At the same time, Split, with its coastal location, offers ancient Roman sites like Diocletian’s Palace and a bustling waterfront promenade.

In Zagreb, expect vibrant street life and café culture; in Split, prepare to enjoy beaches alongside cultural tours.

Which city offers a more authentic Croatian experience, Zagreb or Split?

Both cities offer authentic Croatian experiences but in different ways.

Zagreb represents the country’s urban heart and cultural richness, whereas Split offers a blend of ancient history with a Mediterranean lifestyle.

Your personal interests in either urban exploration or seaside relaxation will guide which city feels more “authentic” to you.

Considering the culture and attractions, should I spend more time in Zagreb or Split?

Your travel itinerary should reflect your cultural interests.

Zagreb boasts an extensive array of galleries, theatres, and museums, while Split captivates visitors with its Roman heritage and dynamic nightlife.

If your preference tilts towards arts and history, allocate more time to Zagreb; if you want to explore the city’s historic sites with a seaside backdrop, spend more time in Split.

What are the top things for first-time visitors to do in both Zagreb and Split?

In Zagreb, make sure to visit the historic Upper Town, the Museum of Broken Relationships, and enjoy the café scene at Ban Jelačić Square.

For Split, explore the Diocletian’s Palace, walk along the Riva Harbor, and take a dip in the pristine waters of the nearby beaches.

How do the costs compare when traveling in Zagreb versus Split?

Generally, Zagreb can be slightly less expensive than Split, especially during peak tourist season when Split’s coastal location makes it a popular destination.

Prices for accommodation and dining options may vary in price, but both cities offer a range of choices suited to different budgets.

Can you recommend whether to stay in the upper town or lower town when visiting Zagreb?

If you love quaint streets and historic charm, stay in the Upper Town (Gornji Grad). It is full of character and close to several landmarks.

For a more dynamic atmosphere and easier access to transport, shopping, and nightlife, the Lower Town (Donji Grad) might be your preferred area.

Choosing Between Split And Zagreb Wrap-Up

Choosing between Zagreb and Split means balancing the appeal of Croatia’s cultural heartbeat inland against the magnetic draw of a seaside haven with layers of history. 

Making Your Choice: Zagreb Or Split?

Zagreb buzzes with an unbeatable mix of culture and history, boasting an energetic arts scene alongside parks and museums galore.

If city vibes and keeping in step with the urban pulse are your things, Zagreb’s your spot.

  • A haven for culture vultures and city slickers
  • Think lively summers packed with outdoor fun and cool festivals

Then there’s Split, where the ancient Roman vibe is alive and well, thanks to Diocletian’s Palace.

Are you dreaming of soaking up some Adriatic sun, wandering through historic marvels, and having beach time? Split’s calling your name.

  • It is a paradise for sun-seekers, history buffs, and anyone looking to chill by the sea
  • Offers a wealth of tourist-friendly spots, with plenty of things to do, especially when compared to Zagreb

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