Local Splićani spend much of their lives in bars. By day, they frequent terrace cafés on the Riva seafront promenade and after dark, the alleyways of the Diocletian’s Palace behind it. Many a Split bar will have its entrance on a parallel street, another will have a doorway in a street with no name at all. On any given night, you’ll find at least one you love, but know you’ll never find again. All the more reason to keep hold of our list of the city's best drinking spots...
The best bars in Split
One of the many Old Town bars you really want to find again, this DJ den is set on an unmapped square just behind Iza Lože and the youngsters sinking cheap cocktails at Gaga. Bifora brings a giggly clientele to a dim space whose mural depicts red-spotted mushrooms and grinning pixies. Alternatively, get yourself a table on the quiet, deserted square.
The most bohemian of the bars in the palace, the AGC comprises a front courtyard, a small bar leading to a muralled main room with a vaguely erotic theme ('Welcome to the House of Love'), and an upstairs gallery, open according to event. Arty locals mingle with tourists happy to hear reliably good music. It forms one end of the narrow, stepped Dosud bar run.
The best of the Bačvice bars, this one is a small detached terrace right on the beach whose popularity is due to a slightly more clued-up clientele than the young locals on the pull in the main Bačvice pavilion. The little touches make it, too – the framed old colour photographs of the same Bačvice view you're gawping at, the comical picture of fat blokes playing football on the menu cover. Once it closes, there are later options just beyond the beach in the pavilion.
If it's past the palace closing time of 1am and you're still thirsty, head to this small bar behind the National Theatre near the old football ground – everyone else does. The ‘Third Half’ is handy for post-match relaxation – rock, pop and house sounds keep you out of mischief until dawn. Don’t be surprised to see burly types covered in mud meeting up for coffee during the day – Treće poluvrijeme is the main post-training meeting point for members of the next-door Split rugby club.
No terrace offers a better view than this, the whole of Split laid out before you - and islands beyond - from atop the Marjan peninsula. The bar contains blown-up sepia postcards of pre-war Split scenes but most try to find an outside table, the children kept safe within the stone wall guarding the steep drop. To get here, climb the stepped streets of the evocative Varoš quarter.
Just behind Narodni trg, Gaga is a permanently busy cocktail bar filling a tiny old square (check out the authentically retro barber's signs) with a young, party atmosphere. Cocktails, the only drink served from the counter set up outside, are dangerously cheap. Inside a standard interior, loud mainstream music keeps beer drinkers from too much conversation.
Tiny Po Bota is tucked away to the left of the Milesi Palace on Trg braće Radič with your back to the sea – there's just enough room for a couple of tables, fish motifs on a bare-brick wall, a corner of bar counter and a tap of Stare Brno. An in-the-know crowd does the rest. Hard to believe that such a small place can host art exhibitions, but it does – opening nights can be a riot.
A cute recent addition to the Dosud drinking strip, Split Circus is something of a shrine to rakija, with a mind-boggling list that runs to far more than the usual grappa, plum, herb, honey and pear varieties. And if you've never had blueberry, quince or strawberry brandy, this is the place to try it. Wines and beers are also available, but take up a lot less space on the menu. A newly-opened branch of Split Circus at Jadranska 1 near Bačvice beach (open 8pm-1am daily) has a bit more space for DJ events and gigs.
A seaside strip eastern of Split city port during summer is a string of beaches which are hard to expect in the city of Split size. Sea water is clear, and there are plenty of bars, clubs and restaurants to make summer nights even nicer. After recent renovation, Kavana Ovčice might be one of pleasant discoveries this summer. It's based on a small pebbled beach between two sandy strips Bačvice and Firule, and during the day it's great spot for a coffee sipping, year round. During swimming season it's even better, because you can enjoy your drinks with feet dipped in the sea. Nights are getting more exciting there, with regular weekly live acts, mostly by local rock and blues cover bands, but with some standards to be fulfilled so you can really have a good time listening some of your favourites. There are usually posters announcing concerts or some other events, like literature readings, but you can also check Ovčice's Facebook page, or the most accurate city events guide at www.infozona.hr/calendar/
This is a great find just off the Riva, by Sv Frane church, its first-floor terrace overlooking street life. There are also free Wi-fi, internet, real chips (12kn), tapas and snacks such as buffalo wings (35kn) and whitebait (30kn), plus live TV sports on on two big screens on the terrace. Owner Kristijan Kuko keeps his prices low and his ambitions high.