Riva and Matejuška port
Its official name is Obala hrvatskog narodnog preporoda, but this broad street is locally most commonly referred to as the Riva (the seafront promenade). It is a broad street on the waterfront that runs the length of the old town and hugs the palace on its south side.
The Riva in the past
Lazarettos (Lazareti) in Split were a complex of buildings designed for receiving and temporary storage of merchandise that came to Split from Bosnia and by sea, and served for the transfer of load and as a quarantine. Lazarettos were built in the late 16th century, and they were located southeast of the Palace, on the eastern coast. They were destroyed after the World War II. Lazarettos are the second oldest buildings of that type on the eastern Adriatic coast, just after Dubrovnik lazarettos. They were the largest and the most organized complex of economic fortification architecture in Dalmatia. They were named after St. Lazarus, the patron saint of patients.
The Riva started to look the way it does today two centuries ago, when the French, in Napoleon’s time, ruled these parts through Marshal Marmont. In the meantime, it has been widened and reconstructed several times, but it was always blessed with the most spectacular set, the south facade of Diocletian’s Palace, with the entrance into the Substructures, and later on with the buildings that were built west of the Palace, also the Franciscan monastery with the church of St. Francis, and the Bajamonti Dešković Palace and last, but not least, the Port Authorities building on the east end.
The Riva today
Today, this promenade is the city’s living room, the most popular and most important public place in Split. It's de facto a gathering spot, day and night, for the people of Split to engage in some of the activities that have been honed to a fine art in Croatia: chatting over a cup of coffee and people-watching. The Riva promenade continues westwards and is as picturesque as ever, perfect for a stroll, coffee, or relaxing on the deck chairs.
The Riva today is a pedestrian heaven, thrusting with cafés and restaurants, an ideal place for having your morning or afternoon coffee, or for an evening out with friends over drinks. It is the stage of the city life of Split, a venue for numerous cultural and entertainment events, boisterous Split carnival, as well as the stage for meeting Split sportsmen after countless successes, such as Goran Ivanišević, Hajduk football club players and Jugoplastika basketball players, Olympic medal winners... The Riva is also a political forum, with decades of political opportunities being depicted through mass rallies. Naturally, the Riva is always at its best in time of Sudamja, a celebration dedicated to St. Domnius, the patron saint of Split. It is also the best place to celebrate New Year, and ideal for spectacular fireworks.
Matejuška has for centuries been a port for small boats owned by the fishermen of Split. The residents of Veli Varoš set sail from there out to the sea to feed their families. Even today there are dozens of boats tied up there, their nets drying, bait being prepared, with a monument dedicated to fishermen biding them farewell as they sail out to sea - a big fish hook (over 1000 years of fishing in Croatia).
Matejuška is also known for socializing among those who appreciate its aromas and sounds, you can always see them gathered in good spirits around a barbeque with the day's catch on it, often also in the company of wine and song. Slow life in conjunction with the sea and fish as it once was, is still alive there today.
It is one of the most popular places today for the youth of Split, but also for their peer tourists, eager to socialize outside bars, sitting casually on sidewalks of Matejuška, usually with a drink bought in the nearby supermarket. This is what makes this old port a place where the contact between the locals and the guests is most easily accomplished, to the enjoyment of either side. If someone should get hungry, many casual restaurants and taverns have opened around Matejuška, the most popular of them is the mythical Fife, attracting for years everyone eager to feel the spirit of the city they have chosen for their holiday.