Tango’s Destination Rating: 4/4 Paws: It doesn’t get better than this!
Imagine a city on the sea were your dog can run through palms trees lining a promenade. What if I told you there are miles of beach for your dog to sniff and explore off leash and is accessible directly from an ancient city with ruins dating back to the third century AD. This place exists and it is Split, Croatia!
We rolled into Split in the early morning after spending the night on a train from Zagreb. We had a wonderful sleep and then took in the view of the sun coming up over the sea. There was no one around when we got off the train in the middle of Split. We walked the edge of the sea by ourselves and then through the Diocletian’s Palace in solitude. Our apartment, in the middle of the palace, was the perfect place to start exploring the city from.
We arrived weeks before the tourists and felt like we had the whole place to explore by ourselves. Once the tourists came the shops and restaurants increased their prices. Split is not the most inexpensive destination.
Tango decided to extended our stay from 2 weeks to a month because she needed medical attention. Read about her experience here.
Museums: The Diocletian’s Palace is a spectacular place to visit with your pooch. You can wander freely for hours (or in our case days) within the palace walls. The palace is full of restaurants and little shops build right into the palace.
If you would like to further explore, you will find a museum of excavated remains of the basement. This basement area was formerly the entrance to the palace via boat. You will notice a “No Dog” sign at the entrance however carried small dogs are allowed and there is a small fee to visit this portion of the palace.
Restaurants: We had no problems finding places to dine. Check out our review of pet friendly restaurants in Split here!
Hotels: There are many pet friendly accommodations priced for the budget to luxury traveler. Here are our experiences and recommendations!
Safety: I feel safer in Split than I do in Canada. There was no one bagging for money or sketchy people hanging around. I only saw police driving on the streets and there were no military presence.
Street cats are the most terrifying part about Split. They would literally scout out Tango and stalk her even when she didn’t know they were there and she was minding her own business.
Cleanliness & the ground: Split is ridiculously clean. Every morning in the tourist area city employees hand sweep the streets of garbage and empty the cans. You will find seeds and bread scattered for the birds and plates of cat food laid out for the stray cats. Watch out on the riva by the water’s edge as men leave their fishing hooks and accessories lying around.
Dog Parks: We don’t normally visit dog parks however, we found a hidden gem in the Diocletian’s Palace. What an amazing location! How many dogs do you know who play in ancient ruins dating back to the third century AD? It is quiet large with tons of room for the pups to play off-leash and socialize with some local dogs. And I mean LOCAL. This park is locked and only locals have keys. Not to worry, if the gate is locked (try yanking the gate really hard first) give a little wave and someone will come unlock the gate for you. Visit 8pm daily or mid mornings to find lots of playing pups.
Animal Cruelty: There was never a time when I felt Tango wasn’t tolerated and people were always courteous to Tango. I did not see a street dog and all dogs I did see where friendly, well taken care of and many over weight. The street cats are all of very healthy weight and people regularly feed them, leaving food out for them to graze on. I have been told by locals the situation is different once you leave the outskirts of the city. Many dogs are tethered on the property, not walked and considered property, with owners taking a “macho” stance with aggressive dogs. I always ask locals about intentional poisonings as it is a concern in the Baltics. I have been told it happens and Montenegro and Croatia have approximately the same number of incidents. It also happens unintentionally with neighbours using snail poison and not thinking about the repercussions if dogs eat it. One local said both her dogs only sniffed the poison and they needed medical treatment and their poo was neon green.
Beaches & Walks: Split is the perfect vacation spot for the dog who loves to swim, hike or as we do, stroll. On a daily basis we strolled the palace walls or walked along the Riva. We sat on the promenades edge and watched the sea life below. For a longer walk we would head to either Marjan Peninsula or Bacvice beach.
Marjan Peninsula is enormous and features three sides surrounded by the sea-shore and offers plenty of beach area to swim from. Our favorite spot to stroll is from Beach Bene on the north side of Marjan Park to Marjanska Vrata. It is paved with designated walking and biking paths and at any time you can pop off the train and walk along the spectacular shore. You will see “No Dog” signs but many have been spray painted and it is obvious locals do not obey the signs.
You can climb Marjan Park as we did. With so many paths and stairs we never took the same trail twice and come across many unique chapels and structures. Tango would run off leash and tire herself out as we climbed to the top of this 178 meters hill!
Bacvice beach offers a flat and friendly stroll along the water’s edge with families and other dog walkers. A beautiful place to be as the sun goes down or to stop for a drink seaside.
Dog Stores: A simple Google search will show many pet stores however we choose to frequented three particular stores that sold Raw BARF Diet. Unfortunately, this particular brand has distribution issues and only a small amount was available at any one time. Once a week we would walk from store to store in hopes that one store would have received a new shipment.
Gold-Pet Shop is located at Mažuranićevo šetalište 9A and Pet Shop Gold is located just down the street at Mažuranićevo šetalište 42. I’m not sure the relation between the two. Both are large with a selection of high quality kibble although Gold-Pet Shop has the larger selection of kibble varieties. Pet Shop Gold is the only place I found bully sticks. They were 6″ and cost 1.21 Euro each.
Zoo City in Joker Mall also sells the Raw BARF Diet! Normally I don’t buy or support pet stores that sell animals however at times it was the only place I could find raw dog food. I was comforted by the fact that the animals were in enormous, very clean cages. Some in a separate room away from children banging on the glass. There were only small animals such as rabbits and rodents. No cats or dogs.
Vet Care: No one wants to go to the veterinary at home let alone while on vay cay but that’s exactly were we ended up. We are very fortunate to have found Veterinary Clinic Pilic. Our experience here!
Activities: Split is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream! When you are not walking the seashore or hiking with your pooch I suggest visiting the market. We would visit early in the morning for local meats and fruits. Tango become tight with a lovely lady who sold cheese and Tango would make a beeline to her for a daily sample! You can also buy fresh-baked goods, flowers, seeds, nuts, alcohol, jams and it goes on and on!
Shopping: Traveling with your dog will not interfere with any shopping addictions! We often visited the five-story Joker Mall (location) to get our shopping fix. Dogs are allowed in the mall however you will find a few stores within the mall displaying no dog stickers. Grab a coffee, window shop and head up to the 4th floor where you will find Zoo City pet store.
Within and around the palace are small boutiques and larger brand name stores such as Guess and Zara. Tango was always welcome to shop inside with me.
Getting to Split: We arrived to Split by train but arriving by air and of course car is also available.
By Train – We took an overnight train from Zagreb to Split. We reserved a private room which consisted of three bunk beds that do not fold up. We snuggled into the bottom bunk at 11pm with some wine and a movie on my phone. We woke up 8 hours later outside of Split and in time to watch the sun rise out of our train window. It was very inexpensive and Tango was half price of my ticket. I highly recommend this trip.
Long distance buses – Getting on the bus with a small dog (sorry, big dogs) is a crap shoot. Arrive at the bus station, find your desired bus and approach the bus driver. It is up to the bus driver to allow or deny your dog’s boarding. You will have a better chance if your dog is in a bag. If the bus driver gives his ok, proceed to the ticket counter and purchase your ticket. congratulations, you are on your way! I tried this and did not succeed. I thought the fact that it was midnight, I was standing outside in a snow storm and I had native speaking friends pleading for us, would help. But it didn’t. I was turned away and had to find a hotel.