Escaping to Marjan Hill, the ‘Lungs of Split’ Croatia
Known as the “lungs of Split” because of its pine-forest fresh air and positioning away from the city of Split, Croatia’s second-largest city, Marjan Forest Park has been a popular recreation spot since the 3rd century, when Roman Emperor Diocletian had sections of it reserved as park space. We were drawn to the lush park area because of its magnificent views of the Adriatic Sea and neighboring Croatian islands, jogging and walking trails, and fascinating churches, some of which were built into the cliffs centuries ago.
Whenever we felt the need to escape our home away from home in Split’s bustling Old Town within Diocletian’s Palace walls, we made a pilgrimage to Marjan. On a few occasions we did a bit of foraging for wild asparagus. Other times, we enjoyed a picnic among the agave plants. On most afternoons we’d see residents walking their beloved dogs or biking. Often, we’d also spot ferries bound for the islands of Hvar, Brač, Šolta, or Vis. And sometimes we’d even glimpse a string of tiny sailboats being piloted by sailing students out on the twinkling Adriatic Sea. The latter two sightings tempted us to embark on an island escape ourselves.
Shawn walks a crushed limestone path framed by agave plants, wild fennel and wild asparagus.
Agricultural plots of land, and island Čiovo off in the distance. On the right, a sculpture of St. John the Evangelist adorns one of Marjan’s churches.
A plaque at the entrance to Marjan Park.
The Church of St. Jerome (Sv. Jere). It dates back to the 15th Century.
The Croatian flag blows in the late-afternoon breeze.
The islands of Čiovo (foreground) and Šolta (background).
Sailing lessons on the Adriatic Sea.
Marjan’s churches are mostly tucked into caves and cliffs on the southern side of Marjan. Here is a 15th Century hermitage.
A bird’s eye view of the Ivan Meštrović Gallery. Meštrović is Croatia’s most famous modern sculptor, and he created the Gregory of Nin sculpture at the entrance to Diocletian’s Palace. This stunning seaside villa was built in the 1930s. We visited it during Split’s annual Night of the Museums event, when the grounds were aglow with candlelight and the air was filled with music.
St. Nicholas Church, which dates back to the 13th Century. St. Nicholas is the patron saint to fishermen, merchants and sailors.
Where in the World?
- The Marjan Forest Park (Marjan park šuma, in Croatian) is a 10-15 minute walk from Diocletian’s Palace. There’s a café there, but the extensive greenspace also makes a wonderful spot to enjoy a picnic you’ve packed yourself.
- Shawn and I have spent two winters in Split, finding accommodation in apartments that would be packed during the summer months, but are practically empty during winter. During our first 2.5 months there, we stayed at the lovely Kaleta Apartments (affiliate link), which are located within Diocletian’s Palace. Our studio apartment (called the ‘Diocletian’s Suite’) featured much character, including Roman brickwork embedded into our wall, and overhead views of Split’s Old Town streets. Owners Novica and Negri were thoughtful citizen ambassadors too. Two years later, we returned to Split, staying in the charming Varoš neighborhood, which is known for its quirky stone homes sporting hunter-green shutters and flower boxes. For those 2 months, we stayed in quaint studio apartments at the Guesthouse F (affiliate link). We especially enjoyed our tiny terrace and the kindness of our hosts, Anja and Miro. One of Guesthouse F’s apartments was originally a horseshoe maker’s workshop, which previously belonged to Anja’s grandfather. Shawn and I dubbed it the ‘horseshoe cottage’.
- If you’ll be staying in Split for a few days, you might be interested in the Split Card, which gives you free entry to certain museums and galleries, and reduced rates to others. Back in 2014, people staying in Split for 3 days or more could pick up the Split Card for free, but as of 2016, there is a fee to purchase the card. The link above details the current cost, as well as the participating museums and businesses.
- Would you like more ideas to help plan your Croatian holiday? This link contains an index of all my posts from Croatia.
Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.