Split vs Dubrovnik. Which Croatian City Should You Visit?

Steve Cummings

woman on the wall of Dubrovnik

If you are planning a Croatian adventure on the Dalmatian Coast but are unsure which of the most popular towns you should visit, Split or Dubrovnik, we’re here to help. A beautiful country with a long and fascinating history, intriguing culture, and incredible natural beauty, Croatia has become one of the most popular Eastern European holiday destinations, and its two biggest tourist draws are Split and Dubrovnik.

A lot needs to be considered when deciding which town wins in a Split vs Dubrovnik contest. Both towns have their strong merits, and both should be visited. However, if you only have room in your itinerary for one, let us look at some crucial factors for deciding which place is best for you. We have tried to take into account different traveling parties, different budgets, and different interests. 

1. Dubrovnik Versus Split – An Overview

Dubrovnik, Croatia
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An overview of each city is essential when deciding which place wins in a Dubrovnik versus Split contest.

Dubrovnik is the country's most southerly town, with approximately 40,000 inhabitants. One of the most beautiful walled cities in the world, it is well known and loved for its incredibly well-maintained and preserved old town, which features medieval architecture and imposing stone walls that have stood around the city for centuries. Its city center is so important and impressive that it is listed as an official UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Locals affectionately know Dubrovnik as Pearl of the Adriatic, and it’s not hard to see why.

Split is the second-biggest town in Croatia after Zagreb, home to around 200,000 people. It is another famous city known for portions that date back some 1700 years. At one point, it was a palace for the famed Roman emperor Diocletian. This part of the city, the old town, is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

One of the reasons Split is so popular is its central location at the heart of the beautiful Dalmatian Coast. This makes it not only a great place to visit in its own right but also ideal for island hopping and enjoying various day trips to places like Plitvice Lakes, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Krka National Park, and Trogir, along with the islands Vis, Brac, and Hvar.

2. Is Split Bigger Than Dubrovnik?

Split, Croatia

Is Split bigger than Dubrovnik? That question frequently arises when people are trying to decide which is best to visit. As noted above, in the overview section, Split has a far bigger population than Dubrovnik and covers a greater area. Thanks to its size and the large area it covers, it is also a lot noisier and busier, which may not be to your taste if you want a quiet and peaceful holiday in Europe.

Even during the off-peak season, there tends to be a much heavier influx of tourists around Split than in Dubrovnik. However, if you like the idea of visiting a bustling and vibrant city with a laidback atmosphere, the answer to the question of is Split worth visiting? is clear – yes, it is.

3. Which Is Best for Flights?

How to find cheap tickets
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When booking your holiday, you will want to consider how you will be there and how easy it will be to get to your chosen destination within the city. With that in mind, is it better to fly into Split or Dubrovnik? Although it depends significantly on your travel budget and the type of holiday you plan to have, Split is generally much cheaper and has more international flight connections than Dubrovnik.

You can also island hop much easier from Split, so this is the best option if you don’t intend to stay within city limits.

4. Where Are the Best Beaches? Split or Dubrovnik?

things to do in Croatia
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Now, let’s dive into the meat of our discussion. If you are booking a summer or warm holiday, you may wonder if it is Split or Dubrovnik for beaches. Although there are some lovely beaches in Split, there are far more in Dubrovnik that are of an extremely high standard. Most of these consist of pebbles that feel like fine sand under your feet and are exceptionally smooth and comfortable to walk over. The beaches also have much fancier beach bars and are much neater and tidier. Add the dramatic cliffs or Dubrovnik’s medieval old town as the backdrop, and you will have a winning beach experience.

Suppose we had to pick out a downside with Dubrovnik beaches compared to those in Split. In that case, there are fewer naturally shaded areas, whereas the ones in Split, particularly in the popular Marjan Hill part of town, have many places to find shelter from the sun beneath pine trees.

5. Which is Cheaper – Split or Dubrovnik?

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Another primary consideration when deciding which is best for your Croatian adventure is which is cheaper – Split or Dubrovnik? Given the circumstances, it may be bigger, but Split is more affordable than Dubrovnik. You will notice this most of all in the price of eating out at cafes and restaurants and in the accommodation. It’s important to note, though, that in the past, the gap between the two cities in terms of being cheaper than the other was much bigger.

Everything, from accommodation to food, drink, products, and activities, is quickly increasing in price in Split and getting closer to Dubrovnik’s prices.

6. Which is better – Split or Dubrovnik – for Nightlife?

Traveler woman walking at night
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If you are traveling with a large group of friends, as a couple, or as a solo tourist looking for a good time when the sun goes down, it’s fair to say that neither Dubrovnik nor Split could be considered a party town. However, when it comes down to it, and you have to choose between Split or Dubrovnik for nightlife, the answer will always be Split.

When people spend time together at night in Dubrovnik, they tend to do so at the bars on Iva Vojnovica Street, close to the University in the Lapad Peninsula and the bars around the old town. For the most part, these bars won’t stay open past midnight. There are a few nightclub options in the city, but the best selection is in Split, which has a better and more exciting atmosphere for a fun nighttime. The bars are open all night and have a fun and exciting ambiance. 

7. Where is Best to Stay – Dubrovnik or Split?

Happy woman enjoys view of old town (medieval Ragusa) and Dalmatian Coast of Adriatic Sea in Dubrovnik. Blue sea with white yachts, beautiful landscape, aerial view, Dubrovnik, Croatia
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When booking your trip, you must consider whether to stay in Split or Dubrovnik. Thanks to the extensive selection of different accommodation choices, Dubrovnik has the edge in this category. Admittedly, both have lovely little boutique hotels, vacation rentals in historic buildings, and B&Bs, and they have all the old-world charm and character you might expect from an Eastern European holiday residency.

However, Dubrovnik is better when it comes to beach hotels and full-service accommodation. Split has only two options for this kind of accommodation, whereas Dubrovnik has more than 30.

8. Which is Best for Family Holidays – Split or Dubrovnik?

Happy Family
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Are you looking to enjoy a proper beach holiday when you visit Croatia? It’s important to consider whether going to Dubrovnik or Split for family holiday is best. Split is best for city breaks, but Dubrovnik offers the best experience for a traditional European beach holiday that all the family will enjoy.

Along with all the beautiful beaches along the coast, Dubrovnik is home to more full-service resorts and hotels featuring indoor and outdoor swimming pools, spas and wellness centers, buffets, a la carte menu restaurants, privately owned beaches, entertainment programs, and beach bars.

That’s not to say you can’t have an enjoyable family holiday in Split. The fact that more international flights land there makes it easier to access other parts of the country from there. These are all things you need to consider before booking your flights and accommodation. 

9. Which is Warmer – Dubrovnik or Split?

Split Croatia
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For summer holidays and even late spring and early fall trips, the temperature is something you will likely be interested in. Therefore, Dubrovnik versus Split is worth noting that while the overall climate is similar in both cities, Dubrovnik is warmer during the colder months, and Split is warmer during the warmer months.

For statistics fans, it’s a recorded fact that Dubrovnik has more days of sunshine than Split. So, if it is fun in the sun you are looking for on a holiday, you should consider going to Dubrovnik, but remember that Split is far from a cold place to go on holiday. 

10. Which is the Prettier City?

Dubrovnik City walls
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A holiday destination's aesthetics can be a dealbreaker for many people, especially if you want to venture beyond the confines of your hotel or beach resort. So, when thinking about Split versus Dubrovnik, the question arises about which city is prettier. This is a difficult question to answer because both are aesthetically pleasing in their own right. 

Split is not nearly as aesthetically pleasing as the stunning Dubrovnik. While the old town may have been poorly damaged twice during its long and checkered history, during an earthquake in 1667 and the homeland war of the 1990s, the walled city remains one of the best preserved and visually stunning medieval destinations. The 2 km/1.2m of protected city walls and the intricate and awe-inspiring mixture of Baroque, Renaissance, and Gothic architecture are found throughout the old town.

Split is pretty and fascinating in its own way. However, as it is bigger and busier, it’s also harder to appreciate.

11. Which is Best to Visit for a Cruise Stop – Dubrovnik or Split?

Woman drinking in Cruise
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You may be planning a cruise trip around the Dalmatian coast and beyond and are considering which is best, Dubrovnik or Split, for a cruise stop. While both would make for great stopping points on a cruise, you need to consider the size comparison between the two cities. The fact is, as we have already mentioned, Split is much bigger and busier than Dubrovnik. If you only have a few hours to spend at a Croatian port, then Dubrovnik offers you a better chance of getting a more exciting and complete experience. While in Split, you may be unable to see and do everything of note, even just in the center of town.

12. Why Not Both?

As we said at the outset, both cities warrant a visit, and when deciding if Dubrovnik or Split is better, you could just visit them both. There are even easy connections between the two popular destinations. You can take a ferry or bus from Dubrovnik to Split and return. The ferry takes 4 hours 45 minutes to get you to Dubrovnik to split, while the bus takes 4 hours.

If you have the time, including both cities in your visit will give you a more satisfying experience of modern life in Croatia. Split is a beautiful city, while Dubrovnik is breathtaking in its old-world architectural charm and natural beauty.

13. Dubrovnik Versus Split – Eating Out

black risotto
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When deciding Split versus Dubrovnik regarding food at restaurants, cafes, and other eating facilities, it depends on what you want to eat there. For example, in Dubrovnik, the food options revolve around menus crafted to include lots of international, fusion, and modern cuisine, while in Split, the restaurants tend to stick to more traditional Croatian and related dishes.

Though Split, as we have already discussed, is somewhat cheaper, there is still a fantastic selection and reasonable prices in both cities for even those of you with the most discerning palates and preferences.

Final Thoughts

So, when it comes to the debate over Split versus Dubrovnik, two of Croatia's most popular and beautiful cities, you need to consider the type of holiday you want. If you want a busy, lively city break, then Split is the best option, with much better nightlife. However, you are interested in lazing by the pool and want easy access to the beach while exploring one of the world’s most stunning and well-preserved ancient cities and its imposing and majestic walls. In that case, Dubrovnik is the better choice. 

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