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A cosmopolitan seaside city

An ancient-walled city with a cool urban feel, Zadar has all you could want from a city break, and then some. A winning mix of outdoor art installations, Roman ruins and a bustling café culture makes this one of the Adriatic’s greatest treasures. Not to mention its fabled, dramatic sunsets, which film director Alfred Hitchcock once described as the most beautiful in the world. Although Zadar city breaks offer swimming, seafood and sunbathing aplenty, this isn’t your typical Croatian seaside town.

Heavily damaged during World War II, modern-day Zadar is a compelling mishmash of architectural styles and influences. Italianate piazzas and crumbling medieval churches rub up against contemporary buildings and imaginative art installations. Nearby, there are vast expanses of rugged scenery to explore and quaint fishing villages, as well as fine-dining restaurants, meaning everyone – from couples to families – is kept happy. City breaks to Zadar wouldn’t be complete without a day trip to the Krka National Park – a verdant wilderness home to cascading waterfalls. Another must-visit is the surreal Kornati archipelago – a scattering of more than 140 uninhabited islands, many of which are dry and barren, which sit in bright blue translucent waters. The contrast is astonishing. For natural beauty and cultural cool by the Adriatic, Zadar delivers in spades.

All resorts in Zadar

Three tips for a top trip

Hire a car

The many awe-inspiring landscapes and lush national parks close to Zadar need to be seen to be believed. Consider renting a car so you can visit them easily.

Get into café culture

Croatians take their coffee seriously – it’s less about having a hot drink and more about enjoying a treasured ritual. Get involved at one of Zadar’s cute cafés.

Order the daily menu

‘Gableci’ are the bargain daily lunches offered by traditional Croatian restaurants. You’re more likely to find them in the city’s urban part rather than its central promenade.

Best attractions to see in Zadar

The Sea Organ

A sound art installation on Zadar’s seafront, the Sea Organ creates a series of beautiful, melancholic sounds thanks to underground pipes that ‘play’ music powered by the sea waves.

The sunsets

Zadar’s sunsets are extraordinary. Walk to the main harbour at sundown to watch the sky swirl with shades of neon pink, vivid orange and deep purple.

The seafood

Zadar’s central marina bobs with fishing boats, meaning caught-that-day fish and tasty seafood is always on the menu at its restaurants. Enjoy it with some local white wine.

Your Zadar questions, answered

Aside from the next-level sunsets and art installations, Zadar has some of Europe’s finest examples of Byzantine architecture. It’s also famous for its locally produced cherry brandy, Maraska.
Zadar’s city beach, Kolovare, is near the Old Town. A stretch of shingle backed by shaded pines, it’s great for families. More secluded beaches are a short drive away.
The bars spill out onto the streets all year round in Zadar; it's never that cold so it’s a perfect anytime destination. In the height of summer, it can be very hot but you’re only ever 10 minutes’ walk from a beach and the sea for cooling off. Visit during the quieter winter months for a peaceful holiday, or come in the summer to join the wild party.
The nightlife here is all about people mixing together. Young and old drink at the same bars and it’s a fun, friendly atmosphere. The clubs operate all year round but in the summer they’re at their loudest and busiest. And Zadar is known for its concerts and festivals that take place throughout the year.
‘Peka’ is a Dalmatian way of slow cooking. A metal dome is filled with meat, octopus or squid and vegetables, and cooked for several hours over an open fire. Order a day ahead.
To explore Zadar itself doesn’t take more than a few days, but it’s a great base from which to reach some less-visited corners of Croatia. Staying for a week means you could have days sailing around the archipelago, idling on pristine beaches, or heading off into the national parks.
It’ll take about an hour and a half in a hire car to reach Plitvice Lakes, and it’s worth it as a day trip. Exploring the lakes by wandering along the boardwalks and heading down forest trails is a highlight of anyone’s visit to Croatia.
Definitely. Families are at the heart of Croatian life and the bars, restaurants and cafes are used to children doing their own thing while the parents sit back and enjoy dinner. It’s just a 10-minute walk from the old town to a beach that’s perfect for safe swimming. Or find your very own beach by taking a ferry out to one of the islands of Zadar’s archipelago.
Zadar is packed with history, and people have lived in the area since the Stone Age. Although it was heavily bombed in WW2, much of the old town remains. Zadar’s main square was originally a Roman forum and the Archaeological Museum is filled with detailed exhibits. And you can take part in a piece of history; rather than using the modern footbridge, take a rowboat from the waterfront to the mainland. For 800 years small wooden boats have paddled across this route and it’s a good way to step back in time.