Zadar Travel Guide

Zadar is a beautiful coastal city in Croatia that is known for its stunning sunsets. It is the second largest city in the Dalmatian region and was first settled in the 4th century. The city walls, gates, and ruins are popular tourist attractions. There are many restaurants and cafes for tourists to enjoy, and the…

Town History

Zadar is a city with a long and complex history, having been the capital of Dalmatia for many centuries. The first settlers are thought to have arrived during the Neolithic era, with the Illyrians settling in the 8th century, Slavs in the 7th, and Romans in the Middle Ages. The Romans introduced many modern advancements to the city, including an aqueduct and central heating.

The city of Zadar’s advantageous location and closeness to Italy made it an appealing target for the Venetians, particularly as it became a key trading hub between the Romans and the Greeks. Zadar’s residents have always been fiercely dedicated to their city; although Venice did conquer it many times throughout history, locals always managed to overthrow them eventually. Venice was so desperate to maintain control over Zadar that they resorted to bribing Crusaders at one point. However, even that didn’t work in the long run; 40 years later, Zadar’s residents rose up and successfully defeated Venetians again.

A couple of hundred years after the Venetians, Zadar found themselves presented with a new problem in the form of the Turkish. The city’s defensive walls, which are still standing today, were built in response to the Ottoman Empire. The 20th century brought different, modern challenges: at the end of WWI, Italy occupied Zadar and German troops destroyed a portion of their peninsula. Zadar was besieged by the Yugoslavian army for 3 months.

Best way to get to Zadar

There are a variety of convenient methods to reach the city of Zadar! All modes of transportation can get you there, so it just depends on what will be most suitable for your needs. Zadar Airport is situated only 8 kilometres from the city centre and has good connections not only to other Croatian cities but also to European cities. To get from the airport to the Old Town, you can take the Airport Shuttle bus that operates 30 minutes after every arrival.

Zadar can be easily accessed by bus and has a wide range of bus lines that will take you to the city; there are even direct routes from neighbouring European cities! The bus stop is located 10 minutes away from the centre. You can also reach Zadar by train however, they aren’t the most efficient form of transport in this region.

You can browse our selection of Cruises in Croatia to find the one which offers Zadar in the itinerary.

What to do while I am in Zadar?

Visit the Old Town

Zadar is a city that is rich in Venetian design, with many features dating back some 450 years. The city’s success as a lively and vibrant place is due in part to its well-fortified walls and gates, which have protected the Old Town from harm over the centuries. The city is laid out in typical Roman fashion, with a square shape and streets leading off in all directions. It is worth taking the time to explore all the hidden corners of the Old Town, including Five Wells Square. From one gate to another, there is much to see and do within the city walls. Eventually, you will come to Foša’s Land Gate, which leads into Zadar’s Roman centre. From there you can make your way to the Sea Gate at the end of the peninsula.

Explore The City Walls

The success of Zadar is owed in part to its magnificent city walls, which have been made a UNESCO World Heritage Site! These awe-inspiring limestone walls were constructed in the 16th century as a response to attacks from the Ottoman Turks. Today, the original Sea and Land gates are still standing; despite some damage to the facade, exploring the perimeter is still worth it to see these amazing fortifications. Even though they were built for protection, the walls are also decorated with beautiful designs. See how many times you can spot the Winged Lion—the symbol of Venice—or St. Chrysogonus riding his horse; he’s known as Zadar’s protector.

Experiance Sea Organ

You’ll find one of Zadar’s most cherished attractions hidden in the marble steps of the seafront promenade – the Sea Organ. As you stroll through Old Town, you may hear delicate notes in the distance. Getting closer to the edge of the promenade, you will be greeted by chords created by nature itself. Formed in 2005, this is the world’s first 35-pipe organ cleverly cut into 4 marble steps leading to the water on Zadar’s waterfront promenade. The waves enter and exit, much like a harmonica, producing a unique soundtrack that can only be heard in Zadar!

When the waves are gentle and calm, the sound is a soothing melody coming from the soft sway of the water. However, when the sea is ruffled by nearby boats and vessels, the organ’s music completely transforms into a loud and vibrant symphony. It truly is an amazing installation that you have to see and hear for yourself!

Watch the lightshow at the Sun Salutation

The “Greeting to the Sun” installation, located at the southernmost point of the sea promenade quay, uses solar power to create a spectacular light show as the sun sets. The installation, which is 22 meters in diameter and consists of 10,000 solar panels, absorbs the sun’s energy during the day and uses it to create a colourful display at night. The names of saints who are associated with churches in Zadar are engraved on the edges of the installation.

Krka Natioanl Park

If you’re seeking a wonderful place to explore waterfalls, Krka National Park is an excellent choice. There are many tall waterfalls, as well as countless small waterfalls that are ideal for a brief hike. In addition to being the habitat of a diversity of plants and animals, the park is also a terrific place to unwind and appreciate the natural scenery.

Plitvice Lakes

The most famous, oldest and largest of Croatia’s 8 national parks is Plitvice Lakes. This park is known for its 16 turquoise lakes that cascade one into the next. It is located a 1.5-hour drive north-east of Zadar and there are many hours of beautiful green trails to explore in the warmer months. If you visit in winter, the park becomes a winter wonderland covered in blankets of snow and ice.

Kornati National Park

Zadar is the perfect starting point to explore this group of 89 islands located just offshore that comprise this National Park. The best way to enjoy these mostly uninhabited islands is to book a day boat tour, where you can dive into isolated turquoise bays, and soak up the sun on virtually untouched beaches.

What about accommodation in Zadar?

Zadar has several accommodation options which include both luxurious hotels and budget-friendly choices. You can choose to stay in the city centre or on the outskirts, depending on what you prefer. Either way, you will have plenty of options to choose from.

Popular Destinations nearby Zadar

Dugi Otok

Dugi Otok is a must-see island located near Zadar. It is the longest island in Croatia and is surrounded by beautiful orchards and vineyards. A daily ferry can take you from Zadar to Dugi Otok in around 1 hour and 20 minutes. The island is a popular summer destination for travellers, with activities such as sea kayaking and scuba diving. The south part of the island features Saharun Beach and Telašćica Nature Park. For thrill-seekers, there is even a 56-meter bungee jump from the nearby Maslinica Bridge!

Sali

Situated on the southeasternmost point of Dugi Otok, Sali is a town deserving of special mention. It is the largest town on the island and its cultural centre. This humble harbour town got its name from the salt works that used to be in the area. Unlike most of the island’s settlements, which have a more traditional way of life, Sali is a mini-metropolis. If you visit during August, don’t miss Sali Fiesta, which takes place the weekend before Assumption Day and attracts people from all over the region.

Nin

Nin, a small town with a big history, is over 3000 years old. It is most well-known for being the royal city where the seven kings of the Kingdom were crowned, making it the oldest royal city in Croatia. Just a short 14 kilometres northwest of Zadar, Nin has many attractions to offer visitors, such as the 1500-year-old Nin Salt Pans and natural attractions like healing mud peloids and Queen’s beach. Nin is also home to the smallest cathedral in the world!