We had three nights and two full days in Zadar as part of our two week holiday in Croatia. After spending a few nights in Split, we picked up a hire car and drove from Split to Krka National Park, spending a day here, before driving onto the Zadar, arriving early evening.
Zadar is the biggest city in Dalmatia, but it’s most known for its Old Town, populated with Roman and Venetian ruins, accessed through one of the four Venetian gates in the city walls. The Old Town is a vibrant hub of live events, music, bars and shops, yet has retained its culture and history, making it a popular place to visit.
We stayed in an apartment just 11 minutes walk outside of the Old Town, crossing over the city bridge into the Old Town via Bridge Gate, which was really convenient and saved us the cost of a more expensive hotel or apartment within the city walls.
Strolling around Zadar Marina early evening is lovely and peaceful
Here are my top things to do in Zadar…
People's Square (Narodni Trg)
After crossing over the bridge from Zadar to the Old Town and via the Bridge Gate, the street will lead you to People’s square. This ancient square is surrounded by historic buildings housing restaurants and cafes, as well as an 11th century church. This is a great place for a mid morning coffee.
Zadar’s waterfront is a great place for a stroll or even a quick dip in the sea, but it really comes to life here in the evening. The sunset here is gorgeous and is one of Zadar’s most popular attractions.
Watching the sunset at the Riva is a must!
The Sea Organ
A musical installation on the Riva - the sea organ is a series of tubing built into the stone steps, which reacts to the sea waves and the wind by making a series of haunting sounds. The best time to visit is at sunset, as you enjoy the views whilst listening to the organ.
Sun Salutation light show
Located next to the Sea Organ is a 22m circular plate composed of 10,000 solar panels, which come to life at night, creating a light show. There are also street artists who perform here, making the whole Riva (waterfront) area around the Sea Organ and light show a great place to visit at night.
The historic centre
The centre of old town Zadar revolves around the Old Town Square. Sitting on one side of the square is the Cathedral of St Anastasia - a large Roman cathedral with a bell tower, which can be climbed for views over the city and waterfront. On the other side of the square is the Roman St Donat church, which now plays host to many classical concerts. Surrounding the square are numerous cafes and takeaways, including some of the best ice cream!
The church of St. Donat in the Historic centre of Zadar
Five Wells Square and Queen Jelena Madijevka Park
On the edge of the city walls, the square houses 5 ornate 16th century stone wells. From here you can access the Queen Jelena Madijevka Park. The park was built in the 1800’s on top of Zadar’s old fortifications. There are several shady spots within the park, making it a nice way to spend an hour or so away from the city.
Nin is the oldest Croatian royal town and is famous for its salt production and medicinal mud. The mud has been tested for its medicinal properties by thousands of people and supervised by the Zadar health institution. The best place to bathe in the medicinal mud is near Queens beach, where people cover themselves in the mud, then let it dry by sunbathing on the beach, before washing it off in the warm sea water. There are many other beaches in Nin, but Queens beach is known for being the most attractive. The shallow warm water makes it great for families too.
If you’re using Zadar as a base and staying for longer, there are several places you can visit for a day trip.
These islands consist of 140 islands, most of which form part of the Kornati National Park. You can book onto a boat excursion from Zadar exploring some of these islands.
If you’re a cheese lover, you might want to visit Pag as this is where they produce some of Croatia’s best, award-winning sheep cheese. You can book onto a dairy tour and sample some of the produce. As well as cheese, it has also made a name for itself as a party island! Novalja, to the north of the island has many open air nightclubs that you can visit day and night.
Visit the National Parks
The most famous National Park in Croatia is Plitvice National park, famous for stunning blue lakes and waterfalls. It’s a 90 minute drive from Zadar and can be reached either by booking onto a day excursion or hiring your own car.
The closest park to Zadar is Krka National Park, which is just a 50 minute drive away. This is a very popular tourist attraction and it does get very busy. Especially around the base of the waterfall, where you can swim. Here there are lockers to store your belongings while you take a dip, as well as several food stalls.
Another option is Paklenica National Park, which is just over an hour;s drive from Zadar and is popular for the adventurous, with climbing, bouldering, kayaking, rafting and mountain biking on offer.
Plitvice Lakes and Krka National Parks
We stayed in Zadar for three nights, and had one full day exploring the old town of Zadar, with the second full day spent at Queens Beach in Nin.
Because we visited Krka National park as a stop on the way to Zadar from Split, and then drove to Plitvice National Park for the night after Zadar, I felt that three nights in Zadar was long enough. However if you prefer to stay in one place for longer, rather than do a road trip style holiday as we did, then I would suggest staying in Zadar for longer and using it as a base to explore the surrounding area.
However long you decide to stay, I would highly recommend a visit to Zadar!
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