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Let’s Split: This year’s must-make city break

What makes the perfect city break? If it’s a combination of captivating culture, breathtaking scenery, a Mediterranean climate, and mouthwatering cuisine, then Split is a city that has it all.

Let’s Split: This year’s must-make city break

It’s no wonder that it was named the best Croatian destination of 2017. 

Split’s history spans no fewer than 17 centuries, since the Roman Emperor Diocletian — a Croat himself — built his retirement palace on the peninsula near Salona, once the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia.

A city emerged in and around the palace, and miraculously it’s still there today. In fact, it forms around half of Split’s modern-day Old Town. In 1979, Diocletian’s Palace and the city’s historic centre were added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Photo: Ante Verzotti

Needless to say and cliché as it sounds, walking through the ancient city is like stepping back in time. The tiny lanes are packed with nooks and interesting crannies, pop-up shops sprout up this way and that, street performers weave their way around sauntering tourists.  

The mark of a great holiday destination, though, isn’t just in its culture, climate, and attractions. It’s also in the cuisine, and there’s no shortage of places to refuel in Split

The city offers a wonderful taste of Dalmatian seafood, restaurants serve up superb pasta dishes and risotto, and there’s a great selection of pizzerias (after all, Split is just a stone’s throw across the Adriatic Sea from Italy).

One sip of Croatian wine too, and you’ll be wondering why it isn’t already a staple in your wine rack (in part, because it’s rarely exported — so you better drink your fill while you’re there).

Sports fans can also get their kicks while in the city: Split is Croatia’s capital of sport, with the names of more than 70 Olympic medal winners immortalised on the Olympic Walk of Fame on the seafront.

Photo: Vojko Basic

If you want to get away from the hubbub of the city, the Marjan forest park has kilometres of paths which you can stroll, hike, cycle, or even go for a cross-country run. 

There’s also a seven-month swimming season in Split, lasting from April until late October. Escape for a day at the secluded shingle oasis at Marjan or take a dip at bustling Bačvice with its stretching shoreline just 500 metres from Diocletian’s Palace. 

Beyond Split, there are no fewer than eight UNESCO sites within two hours of the city by ferry, bus, or car. Two more: Plitvice Lakes National Park, a spot of exceptional natural beauty, and Dubrovnik, or ‘King’s Landing’ to fans of HBO’s Game of Thrones, are also within a day’s travel.

Photo: Ante Verzotti

More adventurous travellers can hike nearby mountains Mosor, Kozjak, or Biokovo; raft or cycle around the rural and spectacular Dalmatian Hinterland; or dive into crystal clear waters off neighbouring Dalmatian islands. It’s an expansive area of untouched beauty that ticks all the active traveller’s boxes. 

Events throughout the year

Not a week, or even a day, seems to go by in Split without an event of some kind.

May is marked by Saint Domnio’s Day, a city-wide celebration of Split’s patron saint. The whole town comes out in droves to salute the Christian martyr with a grand and moving procession around the Old Town, culminating at the oldest cathedral in the world, once Diocletian’s mausoleum.

Photo: FMFS archive

Summer in Split kicks off in June with the Mediterranean Film Festival, an annual review of the best films to come out of the region. It’s the rare chance to discover films you may otherwise never have seen, and to watch them at the open air cinema next to the Bačvice Beach in the heart of a pine forest.

Tens of thousands of young people make the pilgrimage to Split in July for Ultra Europe Festival, one of the biggest music events in Europe. Some of the top names in electronic music take to the decks, with every club and bar in town getting in on the action. 

Photo: Ultra Music archive

If electronic music isn’t your thing, the Split Summer Festival from mid-July to mid-August, with its theatre, opera and ballet performances, concerts, and exhibitions, may be more up your street.

Towards the end of August, ancient history enthusiasts can immerse themselves in the days of Diocletian as Roman legions line the city streets, and the Emperor himself (*ahem*) parades through the town and greets the crowd. So take your own toga and experience a snapshot of what life looked like in Split nearly 2000 years ago.

Photo: Ante Verzotti

The season ends in October with Split Film Festival, a presentation of arthouse films, installations, performances, retrospectives, and discussions taking place across the town.

All good things must end and even in Split the summer doesn’t last all year long. But that doesn’t mean the city goes into hibernation.

Split lights up with Advent celebrations in the weeks leading up to Christmas; fairs and concerts, folklore performances, and gastronomic events pepper the city throughout December.

If you’re a fan of a white Christmas, prepare to be disappointed. The average temperature in December hovers around a not entirely unpleasant 15 degrees.

Photo: Maksim Basic

From Scandinavia to Split

Seasonal flights to Split from Scandinavia start in March, and by June are in full swing. SAS has announced that, in high season, there will be no less that 80 flights a week to Split departing from Aarhus, Bergen, Copenhagen, Gothenburg, Kristiansand, Oslo, Stavanger, Stockholm, and Trondheim. Additionally, the airline is collaborating with charters from Apollo, Ving, and TUI.

Norwegian Air, too, flies to Split from Copenhagen, Gothenburg, Oslo, Helsinki, Stockholm, Trondheim, Haugesund, Bergen, and Stavanger. Croatia Airlines has also announced a timetable of weekly flights from Copenhagen to Split, while any Finns out there can hop on a Finnair flight for their Croatian fix.

  

This article is produced by The Local Client Studio and sponsored by the Tourist Board of Split, Split-Dalmatia County Tourist Board and  Croatian National Tourist Board.

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TOURISM

Denmark’s ‘freetown’ Christiania hangs onto soul, 50 years on

A refuge for anarchists, hippies and artists, Denmark's 'freetown' Christiania turns 50 on Sunday, and though it hasn't completely avoided the encroachment of modernity and capitalism, its free-wheeling soul remains intact.

Denmark's 'freetown' Christiania hangs onto soul, 50 years on
Christiania, one of Copenhagen's major tourist attractions, celebrates its 50th anniversary on Sunday. JENS NOERGAARD LARSEN / SCANPIX / AFP

Nestled in the heart of Copenhagen, Christiania is seen by some as a progressive social experiment, while others simply see it as a den of drugs.

On September 26th, 1971, a band of guitar-laden hippies transformed an abandoned army barracks in central Copenhagen into their home. They raised their “freedom flag” and named their new home “Christiania, Freetown” after the part of the city where it is located.

They wanted to establish an alternative society, guided by the principles of peace and love, where decisions were made collectively and laws were not enforced.

Soft drugs were freely available, and repurposing, salvaging and sharing was favoured over buying new.

It was a community “that belonged to everybody and to no one”, said Ole Lykke, who moved into the 34-hectare (84-acre) enclave in the 1970s.

These principles remain well-rooted today, but the area has changed in many ways: tourists weave through its cobblestone roads, and the once-reviled market economy is in full swing.

Perhaps most importantly, it is no longer a squat. Residents became legal landowners when they bought some of the land from the Danish state in 2012.

Now it is home to some 900 people, many artists and activists, along with restaurants, cafes and shops, popular among the half a million tourists that visit annually.

“The site is more ‘normal’,” says a smiling Lykke, a slender 75-year-old with ruffled silver hair, who passionately promotes Christiania, its independence and thriving cultural scene.

Legislation has been enforced since 2013 — though a tongue-in-cheek sign above the exit points out that those leaving the area will be entering the European Union.

‘Embrace change’
It is Christiania’s ability to adapt with the times that has allowed it to survive, says Helen Jarvis, a University of Newcastle professor of social geography engagement.

“Christiania is unique,” says Jarvis, who lived in Christiania in 2010.

“(It) endures because it continues to evolve and embrace change”.

Some of those changes would have been unthinkable at the start.

Residents secured a bank loan for several million euros to be able to buy the land, and now Christiania is run independently through a foundation.

They also now pay wages to the around 40 people employed by Christiania, including trash collectors and daycare workers.

“Money is now very important,” admits Lykke, who is an archivist and is currently exhibiting 100 posters chronicling Christiania’s history at a Copenhagen museum.

But it hasn’t forgotten its roots.

“Socially and culturally, Christiania hasn’t changed very much,” he says, noting that the community’s needs still come first.

‘Judged a little’
Christiania has remained a cultural hub — before the pandemic almost two dozen concerts were held every week and its theatres were packed.

But it is still beset by its reputations as a drugs hub.

Though parts of Christiania are tranquil, lush and green with few buildings, others are bustling, with a post office, mini-market, healthcare centre, and Pusher Street, the notorious drug market.

Lykke says it’s a side of Christiania most could do without.

“Most of us would like to get rid of it. But as long as (marijuana use) is prohibited, as long as Denmark doesn’t want to decriminalise or legalise, we will have this problem,” says Lykke.

While still officially illegal, soft drugs like marijuana and hash are tolerated — though not in excess.

Since early 2020, Copenhagen police have seized more than one tonne of cannabis and more than a million euros.

“Sometimes I don’t tell people that I live here because you get judged a little bit. Like, ‘Oh, you must be into marijuana and you must be a smoker’,” says Anemone, a 34-year-old photographer.

For others, Christiania’s relaxed nature is part of the appeal.

“It’s different from what I know, I really want to see it,” laughs Mirka, a Czech teacher who’s come to have a look around.

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