You may have noticed that we’ve flown to both Split and Valencia before, but this summer we will be launching these fantastic destinations from Birmingham. It’s always handy to be able to fly from your local airport and new routes mean you can mix it up a bit and try a holiday you might not have thought of before.
Fly to Split to enjoy a bustling city that perfectly incorporates the old with the new. The second largest city in Croatia, its coastal location adds an extra dimension to a destination that has centuries of history. With a thriving food and drink scene, as well as some wonderful shopping, it’s a place you’ll wonder why you had never visited before.
Where in the world is Split?
Split can be found on the Dalmatian Coast, on the eastern shores of the Adriatic Sea and occupying a peninsula all its own. The airport lies just 24 kilometres from the city centre and there are a number of interesting attractions and islands close by. Dubrovnik lies some 230 kilometres away, making it possible to visit the famed walled city in the same holiday.
It’s impossible to go to Split and not see something of Diocletian’s Palace, as the remains of its 200 buildings are interspersed throughout the old town mingling with modern-day shops, houses and the cathedral. Constructed in the 4th century, it covered a vast area and contained everything from the emperor’s apartments to temples and ornate gates. Meander around the Old Town to discover what is left of the palace and be sure to visit the Peristyle, which was the complex’s central courtyard. Here some of the most impressive decorations and columns can be seen.
Cathedral of St Domnius
From all over the city, you can see the 57-metre high tower of St Domnius Cathedral in all its magnificent glory. Octagonal in shape, the cathedral was constructed as a mausoleum to Diocletian, but his sarcophagus was later destroyed and the building turned into a church, because the emperor was a known persecutor of the Christians. The tower is a later addition and well worth climbing for stunning views over the city. The cathedral itself has a domed interior, good examples of Corinthian columns and a well-preserved frieze.
Split has several beaches, but the main stretch of sand is Bacvice and its well-known for more than just sunbathing. A traditional Croatian game, called picigin, which is played with a small ball in the shallow water, and you can watch the locals in order to understand the rules. Lined with bars, restaurants and cafes, Bacvice Beach is a great place to spend the day.
When it comes to the food of Split, you’ll have plenty of delicious dishes to sample, but if there’s one you can’t go home without trying, it’s pasticada. Known as the queen of Dalmatian cuisine, it is made with beef fillet that is marinated in wine vinegar for a number of days before cooking and served with homemade gnocci. Every household and restaurant has its own recipe that is closely guarded. As Croatian wine is particularly good, be sure to wash your pasticada down with a local vintage.
UNESCO World Heritage List
Diocletian’s Palace is widely recognised as one of the most important Roman structures still in existence to this day. As a result, it was inscribed on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Heritage List in 1979 and remains there to this day.
Valencia is a destination with so much to offer, whether you consider yourself a culture vulture, foodie or admirer of modern architecture. It is home to a number of exciting festivals throughout the year, which attract the crowds and a fantastic atmosphere.
Where in the world is Valencia?
The port city of Valencia lies on the south-eastern coast of Spain, some 350 kilometres from Barcelona, but with an equally enviable position on the Mediterranean. Valencia’s airport is located less than ten kilometres from the city centre and the likes of Alicante and Murcia are within easy reach.
Top three sights
The historic Old Town of Valencia has many fantastic sights, but be sure to see the Central Market, which still serves as a thriving commercial hub, with more than 1,000 stalls inside. It has been restored to its former glory, allowing the beautiful architecture to shine, complete with colourful tiles and a weather vane that hints at the produce on sale within.
City of Arts and Sciences
Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences is an impressive purpose-built complex that is home to a wide number of exhibition and cultural spaces. Its ultramodern design makes it instantly recognisable and the white curves, combined with the light blue pools that have been incorporated into the overall look, give it a level of tranquillity hard to beat. Be sure to wander around the area, even if you’re not attending one of the events taking place inside.
Turia River Bed Gardens
A very pleasant way to get between Valencia’s Old Town and the City of Arts and Sciences is to walk along the Turia River Bed Gardens. Among the biggest urban parks in Spain, it follows the former route of a river, which has been planted with aromatic plants and orange trees for shade. Bridges still cross over the park, there are ponds, fountains and many pleasant corners to find. Over the course of nine kilometres, you’ll go past several of Valencia’s neighbourhoods and get a snapshot of life in the city.
Food and drink
As the home of paella, it would be a shame not to try this wonderful sharing dish while you’re in Valencia. As a general rule of thumb, it is a good idea to order your paella in advance, as it takes a while to cook properly. Alternatively, do as the Valencians and arrive hungry so you can order a few small dishes to pick at while you wait and enjoy the company.
Valencia is home to a burgeoning craft ale scene, with several great little bars specialising in this type of beer cropping up all over the city. If you’d prefer something more traditional, the sweet, milky nectar at Horchateria Santa Catalina, which is made from tiger nuts, has been quenching the thirst of locals since 1836.
Valencia has been awarded the title of the World’s Food Capital 2017 by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation). It pays tribute to the huerta, a 10,000-hectare market garden that surrounds the city and makes an incredible contribution to local produce. Last year, Valencia was declared the City of Silk 2016, honouring a trade that has been flourishing since the 8th century, when mulberry bushes were introduced to the city.
This year’s Fallas Festival, which is the most important annual event in Valencia, will also have added significance after being awarded Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity status by UNESCO in November. See the streets filled with papier mache creations, before they are burned at midnight on the final day of celebrations.
Where else can you fly from Birmingham?
As well as Split and Valencia, there are two other destinations being added to the flight schedule from Birmingham as of June. Departures to Naples will be available twice a week, allowing you to take in historic architecture and stunning frescoes, towering Mount Vesuvius close by and, of course, authentic Italian pizza. Alternatively, opt for the Greek island of Rhodes, found in the Dodecanese archipelago. Discover the medieval Street of the Knights in Rhodes Old Town, as well as miles of relaxing beaches.