The old town of Zadar is a must-see during a trip to Croatia. What are the best things to do in Zadar? Read all about the most beautiful sights.
Why should you visit Zadar?
Zadar is located on the Adriatic Sea and is the fifth largest city in Croatia. It has a beautiful historic city center with, among other things, a Roman Forum, a church from the ninth century, and beautiful city walls that are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The city is largely car-free, which makes it a great place to stroll around.
In addition, Zadar is also a good place for sun lovers. In many places, you can take a dip in the crystal clear water. Zadar is located in central Croatia, so you can visit many other beautiful places in Croatia during a day trip. In conclusion, Zadar is a perfect place for an (extra long) city break.
The best things to do in Zadar
What are the most beautiful sights in Zadar and what do while you’re visiting this city?
Walk the city walls
Around the historic city center, you can still see pieces of the historic city wall in many places. These walls have protected the city for centuries and were seen as impenetrable. They were built in the twelfth and thirteenth century.
The walls have remained largely intact (although they have been extensively renovated in 2020). Now the city walls serve as a park and there are several beautiful hiking trails on and along the walls.
Check out the Land Gate
A number of beautiful gates can still be found in the city walls and the enormous land gate is undoubtedly the most beautiful. This gate was built in 1543 and used to be the main entrance to the city.
In the middle, you see the winged lion of Saint Mark. You can also see this image frequently in Venice because Zadar belonged to the Republic of Venice for a long time.
Climb the bell tower for the best view
Would you like to see Zadar from above? In the middle of the old town, you will find the cathedral of Zadar with a freestanding bell tower. This tower is 56 meters high and you can climb it.
A ticket costs 15 kuna (about €2) and it is absolutely worth it because from the top you have a view of 360 degrees. Which is awesome!
Listen to the sea organ
In Zadar, you will not only see historic buildings, in the northwest of the peninsula you will find two modern artworks. One is the sea organ, Morske orgulje in Croatian. It is an experimental musical instrument, designed in 2005 by the architect Nikola Bašić.
The sea organ is being played by the waves and strangely enough, it sounds quite beautiful! That’s why you see people sitting on the quay all day long, listening to the sounds of the sea organ.
Discover the Saint Donatus Church and the Forum
The bell tower stands next to the circular Saint Donatus Church. This church has been around since the ninth century and is definitely a must-visit. The circular shape makes it really interesting.
The church is next to the forum which you can just walk through (there are no fences around it and you don’t need to buy tickets). Parts of this Roman forum date back to the third century.
Explore the Petar Zoranić square
Petar Zoranić Square (Trg Petra Zoranića) is one of the most beautiful squares in Zadar and is located at the very beginning of the peninsula on where the old town is located. On this square, you can view (under glass) various archaeological finds, because this place used to be connected to the Roman forum.
In addition, there are also many cozy terraces on this square, which makes it a perfect place for a bite and a drink.
Tip Do you like to dance and do you want to go out in a special spot? Just a few steps from Petar Zoranić Square, you will find Ledana Lounge Bar and Club, an open-air nightclub where you can dance the night away.
Visit the market
On the east side of the city, you can visit a lively market daily (between 7 am and 3 pm). There mainly sell local food here, such as fruit and vegetables, fish, cheese, and olive oil. A good place to get culinary souvenirs or to cook a delicious meal yourself.
Check out the beautiful buildings on the People’s Square
In the middle of the old town, you will find the People’s Square (Narodni Trg) and this square is also one of the most beautiful sights in Zadar. This has been the heart of the city since the Middle Ages and the square is surrounded by buildings from the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries.
Tip Do you want to learn more about the history of Zadar? An interesting guided tour also starts on the People’s Square.
Enjoy the lights of the artwork “The Greeting to the Sun”
Right next to the sea organ you will find another famous work of art: “The Greeting to the Sun” (Pozdrav suncu). It is a large circle with a diameter of 22 meters containing solar panels. During the day they charge and as soon as it gets dark the circle changes into an awesome light show. The best thing is that you can hear the sea organ very well here and that gives a very special effect.
Discover the best restaurants
Did you know that the food in Croatia is delicious? In Zadar, you’ll find many great restaurants. These were my favorites:
- Coffee & Cake: for breakfast, coffee and pastries. This is also a great place for digital nomads to work (although the WiFi is very slow).
- Buža: very nice place hidden in an alley. You can go here for a drink and tapas-style snacks. I got a delicious seafood platter and it was also very affordable.
- La Baia Street Food: delicious food (mainly Croatian dishes) in a nice location on the water.
- Restaurant & Grill “La Pegla”: near La Baia and here you can also enjoy a delicious meal (the risotto here is delicious). The service is also very friendly.
- The Garden Lounge: vegan food in a beautiful location. It’s located on the city wall and you get a great harbor view.
Enjoy the sunset at the pier
According to the locals, you can see the most beautiful sunset in Croatia in Zadar. And yes, it is indeed very beautiful! Go to the pier at sunset, grab a drink, enjoy live music (there’s always someone playing), and enjoy this beautiful spectacle.
Fun day trips from Zadar
Zadar is also a good base to discover more beautiful places in Croatia. How about for example:
The island of Ugljan
Opposite Zadar is the island of Ugljan. The crossing takes only 25 minutes and you’ll find yourself in another world. Small fishing villages, beautiful bays, crystal clear water, and there are olive trees everywhere.
Ugljan is a perfect island if you like hiking or cycling since there are many beautiful trails.
Tip: book a self-guided bike tour from Zadar.
Visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park
The Plitvice Lakes are world-famous and an absolute must-see during a vacation in Croatia. Here you will find 16 lakes with bright green-blue colors and countless waterfalls. You can visit the most beautiful places by walking on the wooden boardwalks, which makes a visit to this park even more fun. Various tours to the Plitvice Lakes are offered from Zadar.
The city of Šibenik is only an hour by car (or bus) south of Zadar and this city also has a beautiful medieval city center. In addition to several large fortresses (hello, beautiful view!), you can get lost in all the super narrow streets in the city center. Be sure to take a look at St James’ Cathedral, a beautiful building that was also used as a filming location for Game of Thrones (The Iron Bank).
The Kornati Islands (Nacionalni park Kornati) is a beautiful archipelago off the coast of Central Dalmatia. These (more than 80!) islands have impressive cliffs, are uninhabited and you can visit some of them on a boat tour from Zadar.
Krka National Park
Krka National Park is about an hour’s drive from Zadar and is full of natural beauty. Steep limestone cliffs, waterfalls, and beautiful lakes. The best part is that (unlike the Plitvice Lakes) you are allowed to swim in some places.
.. You can also book a tour to Krka National Park, then you will also stop in beautiful Šibenik on the way back.
Great places to stay in Zadar
Would you like to stay a little longer in Zadar? That’s definitely a good idea! In Zadar, you will find plenty of great accommodations for every budget. How about for example:
- € Sky Hostel: this is one of the best hostels I have ever stayed in. It is spotlessly clean, has good beds, is spacious, and is only a few minutes away from the old town and the beach.
- €€ Sky & Sun Luxury Rooms with private parking in the garage: luxury apartments with parking space, just a few minutes walk from the old town.
- €€€ Almayer Art & Heritage Hotel and Dépendance: beautiful hotel in the middle of the old town.
Rather looking for a nice place to stay overnight? Make sure to check Booking.com.
Tips for a great vacation in Croatia
Would you like to discover Croatia? These websites are very useful if you want to book a trip to Croatia:
- You can find the cheapest airline tickets via Skyscanner.
- Do you prefer to take the train? That’s obviously a more sustainable way of traveling and this is waht I did myself. From The Netherlands, I traveled by train to Salzburg, and then on to Zagreb. You can book train tickets through Rail Europe. In Croatia itself, it is best to continue your journey by bus.
- From my own experience, I know that Flixbus is good and cheap when you’re traveling in Croatia. With this bus company, you can reach almost all (tourist) places.
- Check Booking.com for the best hotels, hostels, and apartments. Are you looking for a place to stay away from the crowd? Then you can find awesome accommodation on the Nature house website.
- Check Rental Cars or Discover Cars for the best deals on rental cars in Croatia.
- You can find great tours and tickets for attractions at Get Your Guide.
And these travel guides are full of tips for more beautiful places in Croatia:
You can also read more about the most beautiful places in Croatia on this website. For example, also read these articles:
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