Europe - and the world - tempt with many amazing travel destinations, but Croatia in some ways is in a class by itself. Known for its stunning coastline, mouthwatering cuisine, and intriguing culture, Croatia should be one of the countries for your bucket list. If you love the beach, you will have plenty to lovely options along the Dalmatian coast, from laid back to amped up. It's also popular because it offers a raft of amenities both upscale and budget-friendly, and has become even more so in recent years with visitors intrigued by its many Game of Thrones filming locations along the coast north and south of its main cities, Dubrovnik and Split.
Speaking of Split, while Dubrovnik may steal much of the Croatian tourism limelight, this city roughly three hours up the coast may be the country's most underrated. After capital Zagreb, Split is Croatia's second largest city, and while parts of it are industrial, in general it's a bit more laid back than Zagreb, with a more atmospheric old town, its cobbled streets converging on the center of it all: the grand palace of an ancient Roman emperor that was subsequently taken over by myriad homes and businesses - the world's only major cultural monument in which people still live and work.
Diocletian's Palace (above) was built in 332 AD, and even today will take your breath away with its marble and granite columns and majestic buildings. In some ways it may feel like a time machine, but it's also alive with contemporary activity day and night - home, for example, to a good part of the local restaurant and club/bar scenes.
The culture of Split is quite distinctive, as is has survived the reign of many empires from the Roman empire to the Venetian Republic to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and all of those influences can see reflected in local architecture (especially Baroque and neoclassical) and culture. Top places to stroll include Pjaca Square, Marmont Street, the waterfront Riva, the Marjan Forest Park, and a number of lovely nearby beaches. And though the city has become an increasingly popular tourist destination, it still doesn't feel overcrowded with visitors - as for example Dubrovnik can be, at least in the summer.
Furthermore, if you're a foodie, then Split is the town for you, serving up fresh year-round seafood and a smorgasbord of cuisine influences from Slavic to Italian (polenta is a popular dish here) to international. One prized local specialty is black and white truffles, in season from September through January; you can even book a truffle hunting expedition.
I guarantee you'll be enchanted by this singular city by the sea, and it's also easy to get to - not just with ample train and road connections, but also with an international airport (with easy taxi transfers into town). A must when visiting this spectacular Adriatic Sea coast!