New York Post


Sun and fun in a medieval Croatian oasis straight out of ‘Game of Thrones’


WITH its spectacula­r Roman ruins, sun-splashed beaches and “Game of Thrones” bona fides, Split is fast becoming the hottest destinatio­n on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast. (It’s even rivaling the country’s other tourist lure along the Adriatic: Dubrovnik.) At its heart is Emperor Diocletian’s palace, a sprawling 4th-century fortress compound crafted of gleaming white stone and marble, whose ancient buildings and labyrinthi­ne cobbleston­e streets form much of the Old Town. Some 3,000 people live within the walls of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, a vibrant, buzzing living museum packed with bars, cafés, shops and boutique hotels. Croatia — which uses its own currency, the kuna — isn’t as much of a bargain as it used to be, but it still appeals: Expedia and Kayak report flight searches for summer dates jumped over last year’s. Here’s how to discover the best of the city. DO

You can visit the Old Town’s Roman-era remnants free of charge, but the basement halls of Diocle

tian’s residence require a ticket. Wandering through this vast undergroun­d complex of vaulted chambers, stone-lined corridors and mosaic-tiled courtyards is like stepping back into the ancients’ world. This is the fantastica­l setting that made an appearance in “Game of Thrones”: Its empty halls were where Daenerys Targaryen kept her chained dragons.

Head outside the palace boundaries to the famed coast, whose beaches beckon with calm, impossibly blue waters. Most of them are connected by a concrete pedestrian path, so it’s an easy stroll to find your ideal stretch of sand. Closest to the Old Town (just 10 minutes southeast by foot) is

Bačvice Beach, a popular strand bounded by eateries and nightlife spots. To the west of the city is a quieter, more secluded shoreline that flanks the forested Marjan Park — a favorite is Jezi

nac Beach, which sits in the shadow of pine trees. EAT

Venice ruled Dalmatia from the 15th to the 18th centuries, so it’s no surprise that the local cuisine has a strong Italian influence. That’s especially true at Bokeria Kitchen & Wine (

BokeriaSpl­it), where pasta and risotto feature heavily on the small menu. Simple preparatio­ns allow the locally sourced ingredient­s to shine: Particular­ly good is the smoked risotto with asparagus and prawns, and the pillowy homemade gnocchi with spinach and pistachio pesto. The airy, two-level space is large by Split standards, but tables fill up fast, so secure a reservatio­n (+385-21-355-577;

Numerous restaurant­s line the Riva, Split’s touristthr­onged seafront promenade. And as you might expect, most are rather mediocre. Brasserie on

Seven ( BrasserieO­n7.

com) is an exception, offering excellent contempora­ry Croatian cuisine with a French twist. For a light lunch, order a salad niçoise with seared yellowfin tuna, or a sous-vide chicken breast accompanie­d by zucchini noodles. Dinner skews upscale; dishes are artfully plated with lots of

dots, swirls and foams. The in-house patisserie whips up stellar desserts.

The dimly lit, vaguely medieval setting — in the stone-lined cellar of a century-old building — is only part of the appeal of

ma:Toni ( Its location outside the Old Town means a largely tourist-free dining experience. Start with the sirevi (cheese plate), which features a trio of regional offerings, including a hard sheep’s milk option from nearby Brač island. Seasonal entrees include stingray cooked in white wine or crispy gnocchi with sautéed spinach, arugula and almonds.


The starkly contempora­ry interior of Zinfandel Food and Wine Bar( Zinfan del Food And Wine Bar.

com) stands out among the typical rustic décor of most Split establishm­ents. Among the 100-plus bottles and 30 by-the-glass wines are types you’d be hardpresse­d to find outside the region; many come from boutique winemakers. A great way to dive into the unfamiliar world of Croatian wine is via one of Zinfandel’s four tasting flights. Try the Heritage of Dalmatia (around $22), which includes a selection of four native varieties like the fresh, slightly bitter Bogdanuša, grown on the area’s Hvar island.

Along the east wall of the palace, you’ll find the aptly named Diocletian’s Wine House (

ocletiansW­ineHouseSp­lit), a cavernous space beautifull­y decorated with reclaimed wood furnishing­s, Chesterfie­ld leather sofas and candlelit chandelier­s. The deep Croatian wine selection lists 101 bottles, including area varietals like Crljenak Kaštelansk­i (also known as Tribidrag — the original Zinfandel grape) and Pošip, a robust, golden-colored white from Korčula. Don’t be intimidate­d by the complex names: the staff is both savvy and friendly.

Let owner and bartender Tin Bojanić regale you with stories of the “Game of Thrones” cast members who hung out until the wee hours in his cozy, booklined Marvlvs Library Jazz Bar ( Marvlvs). (One scene from Season 4 was filmed just outside the door.) Set in the birthplace of Marcus Marulus, a 15th-century author, the intimate two-room pub is a comfortabl­e spot to hunker down and listen to jazz while sipping a local craft beer or Croatian wine.


Just outside the Old Town and steps from Bačvice Beach is the venerable Ho

tel Park, a five-star property that dates back to 1921. Renovated in 2015, the 72-room hotel now features elegant interiors and an updated spa. Enjoy the buffet breakfast on its terrace overlookin­g the sea (from around $250;

 ??  ?? Ivo Biocina/Croatian National Tourist Board; Ali Relata/Hotel Park
Ivo Biocina/Croatian National Tourist Board; Ali Relata/Hotel Park
 ??  ?? Zinfandel Food and Wine Bar (above) offers a great introducti­on to the local tipple, while chef Toni Arnerić (near right) serves up seasonal fare (far right) at ma:Toni.
Zinfandel Food and Wine Bar (above) offers a great introducti­on to the local tipple, while chef Toni Arnerić (near right) serves up seasonal fare (far right) at ma:Toni.
 ??  ?? The Hotel Park’s pool overlooks the Adriatic Sea.
The Hotel Park’s pool overlooks the Adriatic Sea.
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