The quake hit a few minutes before 2:00 pm (1300 GMT), with the epicentre underwater some eight kilometers (five miles) west of Split, the country's seismological service said.
It was felt along the central coast and on nearby islands.
No one was injured in the quake while only minor damage, such as cracked walls or broken windows, was reported, Split mayor Ivo Baldasar said.
"Split had no major tremors in its history so we hope it will remain so," Baldasar told reporters.
"The tremor was felt rather strongly, in our apartment all things fell from the shelves," one Split resident told online portal Index.
The most recent devastating quake in the Balkans hit the Macedonian capital Skopje in 1963. It killed around a thousand people.
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