The small city of Zadar lies on Croatia’s stunning Dalmatian Coast, not far from its more famous neighbour of Split. The ancient walls of this beautiful port are made from gleaming white marble and at every turn you’ll come across historic churches, Roman ruins and some rather creative art installations - the popular Sea Organ is a great example. Zadar is also famous for its sunsets. We recommend heading down to the waters to find a cosy seafood restaurant where you can enjoy the vivid colours reflecting off the white marble city over a delicious local wine. After dinner, hit the city’s lively bars for some enjoyably affordable drinks.
Zadar itself offers plenty to see and do, but the surrounding area is also well worth exploring. Head out of the city to discover the forests and mountains of the nearby national park, journey along the coast to find your favourite secluded bay or take to the waves for some island-hopping.
Travel an hour and a half south of Zadar to the medieval town of Trogir. Located on a little island, you need to travel across a bridge to reach it. And it’s well worth the crossing with its beautiful marble streets and well-preserved historic building. The attractive waterfront is lined with traditional Croatian restaurants and friendly bars.
Croatia’s vibrant second city, Split, has plenty for history buffs and night owls alike. Explore the historic old town, enclosed within the ancient Roman walls of Diocletian’s Palace. Laze on lively urban beaches and try your hand at some watersports. And when night falls, join the revellers in Split’s buzzing bars and clubs. If you head down to the sea, you might even catch one of the city’s unforgettable beach parties.
If you love getting out into nature on your holiday, the former fishing village of Baska Voda is a beautiful place to do it. Nestled at the foot of the looming Mount Biokovo, this modern beach resort is surrounded by forests and mountains. There’s also the river Markarska and some stunning beaches on hand.
Listen to the Sea Organ
One of Zadar’s most popular – and unusual – sights is the Sea Organ. This inventive musical instrument, which looks like a large set of stairs leading down to the sea, harnesses the power of the wind and the waves to produce some memorable sounds. The site is also home to ‘The Greeting to the Sun’ – an installation created by the same architect, Nikola Basic. It uses hundreds of glass plates to capture the sunlight, producing stunning light shows in harmony with the sounds of the Sea Organ. It’s a special place to relax and watch those gorgeous Zadar sunsets.
Tour the churches
Zadar has no fewer than 30 historic churches. The Romanesque cathedral of St. Anastasia is one of the most impressive with its tall tower and warm red roof. St Donat’s church is one of the most well-preserved pre-Romanesque buildings in the world, while the ornate St Elias church has the best of the bling.
Hike in Paklenica National Park
Get out of the city and into nature. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely amble or a challenging hike, this spectacular national park has it all going on. There are even some fantastic climbing routes for the serious mountain lovers. The scenery ranges from dramatic canyons where waterfalls tumble down steep cliffs to gentle streams winding their way through wildflower meadows.
Not only does the city of Zadar have some brilliant beaches but the wider area, referred to as the Zadar Riviera, has even more. Zadar’s main city beach is Kolovar Beach, a long Blue Flag stretch of pebbly beach. Pine trees border the beach, providing shade on hot summer days. The beach is well equipped and has a great choice of watersports on offer. It’s especially popular with families thanks to the playground and the clean waters. To the north, you’ll find Boric Beach – a sandy bay with some small pebbly sections.
Venture into the Zadar Riviera and you’ll come across some stunning, tranquil beaches. Zlatna Luka Beach is made up of lots of little bays, which gives it a peaceful and secluded feel. The clear waters here are popular with snorkelers and divers. Or for long sandy beaches, head to Nin for sand dunes, mud baths and shallow Blue Flag waters.
The gorgeous Dalmatian coast means seafood features highly on menus in this region, whether you’re dining on five-star lobster or humble fish stew. Croatian food is often rustic (they love a good soup here), with Italian influences brought across by the Venetians. The strong, salty winds of this area are credited with creating the delicious local cheeses and cured meats. Another speciality is Maraschino cherry liquor, which is often used in some decadently delicious desserts.
Zadar has a fantastic selection of restaurants from the upmarket to the down-to-earth. There are some trendy eateries leading Zadar’s gastronomic scene, some serving innovative vegan dishes. There are plenty of places where you can try authentic Croatian food in lovely relaxed surroundings and there’s also a thriving Italian food scene with some fantastic pizzerias.
Holidays to Zadar are an intriguing mix of the traditional and the cosmopolitan. This ancient city’s photogenic marble streets and historic buildings are made for exploring. If you’re feeling in the mood for relaxation, there are some fabulous beaches and restaurants. If you want to get active, Zadar is surrounded by a beautiful national park and remote islands. We don’t think you’ll be bored!
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Zadar not top of your list? Check out our other fantastic Croatia holidays for more inspiration.