Omis, Cetina
© Omiš Tourist Board

The top 10 things to do in Omiš

The seaside town also sits on the Cetina river and offers a stellar holiday setting filled with great things to do

Written by
Marc Rowlands
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SSo many curses have been aired at the town of Omiš over the years it's a wonder the air hasn't turned as blue as its turquoise waters and cloudless skies. Before the motorway eased pressure from the coastal road, the magistrala, Omiš was a regular point of congestion. Going back even further, the pirates who once used the town as their base provoked the ire of many regimes that controlled the surrounding seas. The town has come into its own as a tourist destination later than much of the Dalmatian coast, its countless kilometres of uncramped beaches and unique options afforded by its position on the Cetina river helping to do so. Here are the best things to do in Omiš. 

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The top 10 things to do in Omiš

Hit the beach
© Omiš Tourist Board

Hit the beach

In most places, you can't blame others for wanting to soak up the summertime sun at the same time as you. You never need to worry about the proximity of many neighbours on the beaches around Omiš though - there are simply too many options. In the town itself, the central beach and the campsite are constantly popular, great for an early dip or in the late afternoon to cool off after the heat of the day. There are multiple small beaches located in villages like Brzet, Nemira, Stanići, Lokva Rogoznica, Medići, Marušić and Pisak, which form the 20 km-long Omiš riviera running south of town. If you head north instead, the whole stretch of coast between Omiš and Split is almost one huge beach, much of it without a soul to be seen. Simply park up or get off the bus at a spot you like (the nearest stretch, accessible on foot, runs between Dugi Rat, Duće and Sumpetar) and take advantage of the small pebbled floor as it gently slopes into the sea.

Eat local, eat well
© Kaštil Slanica

Eat local, eat well

You won’t be short on either fast food or sit-down meal options in Omiš. If you want to stay central, Bastion has the best reputation in town for seafood. They have sharing platter options which vary depending on the catch of the day. Sitting outdoors is nice but bear in mind the at-times busy road lies between you and your view of the sea. Around a kilometre south of the bridge and with a less interrupted vista, Brzi Gonzalez offers a very mildly spiced approximation of what European eateries serve as Mexican cuisine. What they lack in authenticity, they more than make up for with massive portions and effort. Located just over 2 kilometres inland, on the banks of the Cetina, Kaštil Slanica was once a safe haven for fleeing pirates. Today, the restaurant now situated there offers a unique riverside ambience and a menu that takes in traditional Dalmatian favourites like peka (meat and vegetables cooked under the bell) but also the much more rare cuisine of the Dalmatian hinterland, including dishes made with frogs, eels and river fish. Be specific when booking in advance, should you wish to sit in one of the limited spaces directly overlooking the river. Around a kilometre further along the river, Radman Mills (Radmanove Mlinice) is a less formal dining experience but equally picturesque, making the most of the old mill setting - its wheels are on display by a calming, curated poo and there are places to enjoy a picnic, too.

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Explore by kayak
© Omiš Tourist Board

Explore by kayak

Exploring the Dalmatian coast by kayak opens up near-inaccessible beaches and small coves to you. But, nowhere is the pastime better experienced than in Omiš, the Cetina river providing limitless options which you simply won't find elsewhere. There are several routes you can take and wonderful, serene views on each. This is the best perspective from which to experience the river and its banks. One of the most thrilling routes will see you kayak around Zadvarje, some 25 km inland, where the tranquillity of the river run is broken up spectacularly by two large waterfalls.

Check out the old town of Omiš
© martinh76

Check out the old town of Omiš

For exploring ancient alleyways, the nearby city of Split is tough to beat. But, though on a much smaller scale, an evening stroll around Omiš is not without charm and intrigue. In the centre, the Renaissance building known as ‘the House of a Happy Man' is named after the Latin inscription above the entrance: 'I thank thee, Lord, for having lived in this world' (Gratias ago tibi dne quia fui in hoc mondo). Check out the traces of the medieval wall on the riverbed, built by pirates to stop their pursuers entering the Cetina; there was a secret passage that allowed the pirates' smaller ships through. The well-preserved, 10th-century church of St Peter on the western bank of the river is considered one of the most important examples of pre-Romanesque sacral architecture in Croatia. The town's old gates were built under Venetian rule in the 15th century. If you start at Porta Terraferma on the eastern side of Omiš, you can walk Pjaca, the town's historic main thoroughfare, all the way to the western gates on the river. You're sure to find a bar that suits you along the route; many hold a charming ambiance, especially those around Franjo Tuđman square and St Michael's square, the latter named after the 17th-century church which stands there. You'll not miss its decorative portal, window rosetta, statue of St. Michael or the Omiš coat of arms on the side. Franjo Tuđman square once held a large fresco by renowned local artist Ivan Joko Knežević, but the proud depiction of Partisan soldiers prompted its short-sighted destruction under a wave of nationalist sentiment which followed the country's independence.

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Catch a concert under the stars
© Omiš Guitar Festival

Catch a concert under the stars

For a small town, Omiš punches way above its weight with its cultural programme. If visiting a destination restaurant, such as one of those along the river, check out if there are any folk music nights taking place; these can add a wonderful dimension to your evening out. In the town itself, July's Festival of Dalmatian Klapa fills the old town's streets and squares with wonderfully atmospheric acapella singing over many nights. It's unmissable. The more recently founded Omiš Guitar Festival (mid-June) offers a week of competition from prodigious young classical music players including many international guests. Its success over the last decade has prompted the even more recent Summer Nights programme, which occurs sporadically throughout the summer. You can catch everything from gypsy jazz bands to more contemporary sounds here.

Try Croatia's tastiest vegetarian treat
© Domagoj Miletic

Try Croatia's tastiest vegetarian treat

Although Croats grow and eat lots of vegetables, they're not well known for vegetarian meals. No repute of an unforgettable vegetarian meal ever travels outside Croatia simply because very few visitors ever experience the country's greatest. It is called soparnik. Unlike the excessive amounts of pastry that surround or base almost everything you can buy in a Croatian bakery, soparnik has just two very thin layers of pastry sitting atop and below it garlic, onions, parsley and chard filling. It looks quite dainty and delicate when cut into traditional diamond-shaped portions but it packs a powerful punch of flavour. It's rarely tried by visitors because it's tough to make and the experts at doing so only come from Omiš, nearby Poljica and surrounding villages.

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Hop on a boat to the islands
© Szabolcs Emich

Hop on a boat to the islands

Lying almost equidistant between the recognised ports of Split and Makarska, access to the islands you can see from shore couldn't be easier. But, if you don't fancy the crush alongside backpackers from Split, nor the wait for the Makarska ferry to fill with cars, a variety of small boats set out for Brač and Hvar each morning from Omiš during the summer. Brač is famous for its distinctly shaped Zlatni Rat beach (pictured) and traditional organic farming which supplies the island's taverns and restaurants. Just beyond, the island of Hvar has a reputation for glamour. This is where you'll find the superyachts moored and the paparazzi hiding in pine trees, ready to snap visiting celebs. The island is famous for its partying, which is known to extend late into the night, and for its premium restaurants.

Get an adrenaline rush on the Cetina
© Zipline Croatia

Get an adrenaline rush on the Cetina

The Cetina river winds its way through some 100 kilometres of the Dalmatian hinterland before reaching the sea at Omiš. Along the river, you can take part in activities such as canyoning, free climbing and rock climbing. The Cetina is also one of the most thrilling places in Croatia to do white-water rafting. For the truly fearless, there's a zipline running 150 metres over the river; it’s a bit of a trek, but worth it for the incredible journey, its setting and views. You'd be hard pushed to find a better zipline in the entire region, let alone Croatia. Also available along the river, and nearby along the coast, are several scuba diving options.

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Check the view from a medieval fortress
© Anna Lurye

Check the view from a medieval fortress

Settled on a cliff above the old town, on the east side of the river, the 13th-century Mirabella fortress offers views of Omiš and Brač bay. For a small entry fee, you can climb this old pirate's hangout to the top and take full advantage. Located a little further back on the same side of the river, the view from the 500-year-old Fortica fortress is even better. Magnificent views of Brač, Hvar and Šolta reward after an uphill walk that takes about an hour.

 

Take a day trip you'll never forget
© Split Tourist Board

Take a day trip you'll never forget

Lying 25 km to the north, Omiš could almost be considered a suburb of Croatia's second city, Split (pictured). Only 30 minutes away by car, its excellent restaurants and its nightlife are accessible to anyone staying in Omiš. Though the biggest reasons to visit - the sights and architecture - are not dependent on car hire or taxi (local buses are cheap and run regularly). Roman emperor Diocletian's Palace is Split’s centrepiece. Much more than a remnant, it is still a focal point of city life to this day and its stone-paved alleyways and squares deserve to be explored at least once. The surrounding old town and its spectacular monuments and the palm tree-lined promenade are also unforgettable. Even if your holiday priority is rest and relaxation, this visit is worth doing, as all of Split's highlights can easily be done in a day (although bear in mind it gets swarmed by tourists in the peak season - booking a restaurant table in advance is highly advisable).

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