Zadar is the biggest city in Dalmatia, but it’s most known for its historic Old Town. The historic centre of Zadar is populated with well preserved Roman and Venetian ruins, surrounded by thick stone walls, with four gates to enter through. As well as the stone walls separating the old town from the new, the river also separates the two areas of the city.
The Old Town of Zadar is a vibrant hub of live events, music, bars and shops, yet it has retained its culture and history, making it one of the best destinations to visit in Croatia. There's so many Amazing things to see and do in and around Zadar, but here are 10 of the best to inspire your trip!
10 Amazing things to see and do in Zadar, Croatia
1. Soak up the atmosphere in 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.
2. Stroll along the The Riva
The Riva is a pedestrianised promenade along Zadar’s waterfront and is one of the most popular places in the town. The Riva 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. One of the best things to do in Zadar is to sit on the steps of the Riva, watching the sunset over the water.
Watching the sunset at the Riva is a must!
3. Visit the Sea Organ
The sea organ is a musical installation, located on the Riva. The organ is made from 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.
4. Watch the Sun Salutation light show
Located next to the Sea Organ, also on the Riva, is the Sun Salutation. The 22m circular plate is composed of 10,000 solar panels, which come to life at night, creating a colourful light show. After you've watch the light show, hang around for a bit to watch the many street performers here. The Riva really is a great place to be on an evening in Zadar.
5. Wander around Zadar's historic centre
The historic centre of 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. Climb up the bell tower for great 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 stalls! Sitting with an ice cream in the Old Town square, watching the world go by is one of the best (and most delicious!) things to do in Zadar.
The church of St. Donat in the Historic centre of Zadar
6. Walk to Five Wells Square and Queen Jelena Madijevka Park
On the edge of the old city walls, is Five wells square, which, you guessed it, houses 5 stone wells! The ornate wells date back to the 16th century and its a really pretty square surrounded by old buildings. 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 and to cool off.
7. Visit Zadar's Marinas
The main marina in Zadar is located outside of the Old Town, in the Bay. It's a relatively small Marina, but nice for a little stroll along the waterfront. In the Old town, at the end of the Riva and near the Queen Jelena Park, is a tiny marina for small fishing boats. This is a lovely peaceful spot and another place to stop at on your way to the park.
Strolling around Zadar Marina early evening is lovely and peaceful
8. Enjoy Zadar's beaches
Whilst Zadar is not well known as being a beach holiday destination, there are still some gorgeous beaches to enjoy in and around the city. Here's a few of Zadar's best beaches:
Borik beach is the most popular beach in Zadar, and with 1.5 km of shoreline, there's plenty of room to enjoy it. As with most Croatian beaches, it is a pebble beach, but the water is a beautiful blue and safe for swimming.
Kolovare beach is another popular spot, just south of the Old Town. It's one of the best bays in Zadar and popular with both tourists and locals. The beach is a mix of fine pebble and sand and there's also some concrete bathing spots too. You can rent sun loungers here and there's a couple of small cafes and kiosks for drinks and ice creams.
Riva beach is not a typical beach as such, however many people do sunbathe along Zadar's famous promenade and there are ladders along the waterfront where you can get in and out of the water for a swim.
Punta Bajlo Beach is a quiet, tranquil beach, just 3 km from Zadar. The beach is a mix of pebble and larger rocks, and there's also a concrete bathing spot. Surrounding the beach is a wooded area, so you won't have a problem finding a shady spot under the trees.
Tip: For some of the best beaches in Croatia, head to the Makarska Riviera!
9. Bathe in medicinal mud at Nin’s famous Queens beach
Just 20 minutes drive from Zadar is the small town of Nin. Nin is the oldest Croatian royal town and is famous for its salt production and medicinal mud. (The Zadar health institution even supervised the testing of the mud at Queens beach for its medicinal properties!) The best place to bathe in the medicinal mud is near Queens beach. To get the most out of the process, you cover yourself 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 beach is sandy and the shallow warm water makes it great for families. A trip to Nin's beaches is a great day out from Zadar.
10. Take a day trip to Krka National Park
Croatia has many beautiful National Parks, but one of the most popular, and also the closest park to Zadar, is Krka National Park. From Zadar, it is only a 50 minute drive to Krka park. If you don't have your own car, then you can take the local bus from Zadar to Skradin, at the entrance of Krka National Park. The bus journey is about 1 hour. There are also many organised trips that you can join if you'd prefer not to have to do the planning. You can purchase tickets on the day at the ticket office, however in the busy summer months, there is often a large queue, so i'd recommend buying them beforehand. Tickets vary, depending on the time of year you are visiting. It will cost you 200 kunas (£23) per adult in the high season of July & August, 110 kunas (£12.50) in the shoulder season of April - June and September & October, and just 30 kunas (£3.50) in the winter months of November to March.
Unfortunately, as of 2021, swimming is no longer allowed in the waterfalls, however it is still a beautiful park to visit and one of the best places for a day trip from Zadar.
Beautiful scenery in Krka National Park
More ideas for day trips from Zadar...
If you’re using Zadar as a base in Croatia and staying for longer, there are plenty of other great 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, make sure you take a trip to Pag as this is where they produce some of Croatia’s best, award-winning sheep cheese! 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 more of Croatia's National Parks
I've already mentioned Zadar National Park, but another popular 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.
Another option is Paklenica National Park, which is just over an hour's drive from Zadar and is popular for the more adventurous, with climbing, bouldering, kayaking, rafting and mountain biking on offer.
Plitvice Lakes National Park is Croatia's most well known park
Where to stay in Zadar?
This depends on your budget and also whether you want to be in the centre of the action. Accommodation inside the Old Town walls is more expensive. For lower cost options, look for accommodation just the other side of the bay, on the edge of the new town. We stayed in an apartment just 11 minutes walk outside of the Old Town and as we had our own car, this meant we had free parking too. Depending on where you stay outside the old town, there's a handy footbridge which crosses over the bay. The City Bridge leads directly to Bridge Gate, one of the four main entrances into the old town.
How long do you need in Zadar?
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 continuing onto Zadar, arriving in the town early evening. With the two days we had in Zadar, we spent one full day exploring the old town of Zadar, and the second full day spent at Queens Beach in Nin.
Because we visited Krka National park as a stop on the way to Zadar, and then drove to Plitvice National Park for the night after Zadar, I felt that three nights in Zadar was *just* long enough. However, if we had more time in Croatia, then we could have easily spent 5 or 6 nights in Zadar, using it as abase to exploring the surrounding area.
However long you decide to stay, I would highly recommend a visit to Zadar!
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