Zadar, Croatia: A Complete Guide To This Medieval Town
Updated: 2 days ago
Zadar is located in western Croatia along the Adriatic Sea. Home to a historic old town of Roman ruins, medieval churches, charming squares, and lots of entertainment, Zadar is an intriguing city. It’s a smaller version of Split and Dubrovnik, with lesser crowds and a more relaxed atmosphere. And while its old town isn’t as picture-perfect, it’s the well-preserved ruins, art installations, and proximity to nearby nature attractions that make this place a must-visit. In this article, we'll highlight the important things to know before going, where to stay, eat and sleep, and 10 amazing things to do in and around Zadar.
Check out our video on Zadar to see this full itinerary through our camera!
Table Of Contents
Important Things To Know
Best time to travel to Zadar
The best time to visit Zadar is between May and October. The weather is great with warm temperatures and not a lot of rain. To avoid the huge masses of tourists we recommend going either in May/June or September/October. It is a bit calmer in these months.
Cost and currency
Generally, everything in Zadar is affordable. However, eating out can be more expensive than usual if you go for restaurants in the heart of the old town. In the summer months, the prices go up for a lot of things. As of January 2023, they use the Euro (€). Credit cards are widely accepted, but make sure to bring cash for small cafés and expenses.
Safety in Zadar
Zadar is a safe place. We didn't encounter any problems nor know anyone personally who did. Even pickpockets are not really a problem here.
Where To Stay In Zadar
Apartment Laurel: this is where we stayed. It's a bit out of the center of Zadar you need a car to get around here. We liked the facilities it offered, such as great internet and a kitchen.
Piazza Rooms: a great hotel in the centre of Zadar
Divinity's Reach - The upper city Zadar: an amazing apartment in the old town
Penthouse with roof terrace with jacuzzi: from a beautiful view over the city to a jacuzzi and a good location, this apartment has it all.
Where To Eat And Drink
Pet Bunara Dine & Wine: great local cuisine
La Famiglia: big variety of food such as pasta, grill, fish, etc.
Deja Brew Pub Zadar: a lot of different beers and cocktais
Best Things To Do In Zadar
Zadar offers something for everyone, from going to the beach to hiking in the mountains or strolling around the old town. It never disappoints. You can find our favorite things to do in Zadar below to find some inspiration when planning your trip.
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10. Explore Zadar’s old town
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Zadar’s old town is probably the first place you’ll visit. Located on a peninsula and encircled with walls, the old town dates back to the 9th century BC when a Liburnian tribe settled here. By the 1st century BC, Zadar had become a small Roman colony. But the Slavs, Venetians, Austrians, and Italians also took over at some point, making Zadar the oldest city to be continuously inhabited in Croatia. Today, you can find architecture and structures from different time periods here. To understand the complex history of Zadar, it’s best to go on a guided walk here.
9. Check out the Roman Forum
One of the most interesting things about Zadar is how Roman ruins seem to blend in with the city’s streets. This is very apparent at the Roman Forum in the heart of town. Built between the 1st century BC and the 3rd century AD, this was once the center of urban life. Today, it’s one of Zadar’s most important landmarks.
8. Climb the Bell Tower Of St. Anastasia
Another fun thing to do in Zadar is climbing the Bell Tower of St. Anastasia. After ascending a few sets of stairs, you get to the top of the tower. Here you have 360 views of the old town, the Adriatic Sea, and the neighboring islands. You can also combine your visit with St. Anastasia’s Cathedral, which was built in the 12th and 13th centuries but unfortunately heavily bombed during WW2.
7. Watch the sunset from Riva
The Zadar seafront, also called Riva, is a great place for a pleasant stroll and a sunset. With views over the islands and the endless open sea to the northwest, the sunset here was labeled as the “most beautiful sunset in the world” by Alfred Hitchcock. So take a seat along the waterfront and enjoy the art of nature.
6. Admire the art installations
At the tip of the Riva, you can find two fascinating modern art installations. The Sea Organ is a musical instrument played by the action of the waves. A series of underwater tubes are set beneath the marble steps and create a soothing tune, which gets louder when the sea is wilder.
The nearby “Greeting to the Sun” is best visited after sunset. This spectacular circular installation contains cells that absorb the sun’s energy during the day and then releases it in a vivid art display when it becomes dark. If you’re lucky, you can catch some live music when you’re there!
5. Relax at the beach
Given Zadar’s location along the Adriatic Sea, it’s no surprise that there are many beautiful beaches around. You could easily spend your entire vacation just lounging around on the shores. While Kolovare Beach can be found near the old town, Puntamika and Borik beach are a bit further from the center but more beautiful in our opinion.
4. Tour the nearby vineyards
Croatia is full of wineries and Croatians are very proud of their wine. In Zadar, you can find a handful of wineries in the hinterland that offer tastings. We went to the Degarra Winery, which is a 20-minute drive from the old town. We tasted their red and white wines, which also included a delicious charcuterie board. It was a perfect spot for lunch time. Other great wineries you can visit include MasVin Winery, Fiolić Winery Tasting Room, and Kraljevski Winery.
3. Plitvice Lakes National Park day trip
Only 1.5 hours north of Zadar, you can find Croatia’s finest natural attraction: the Plitvice Lakes National Park. This world-famous national park is known for its large network of karstic lakes and stunning waterfalls. With amazing colors of the various lakes that cascade down the valley, walking around this park truly offers a fairy-tale-like experience from the beginning to end. We went on a guided day trip from Zadar around mid-October and the beautiful fall colors were visible all around us. It was a great time to visit as the crowds had already subsided. You do need to order your transfer to their and back separately.
2. Hike in Paklenica National Park
Stretching for 145 kilometers or 90 miles, the Velebit mountain range forms the natural barrier between inland and coastal Croatia. Paklenica National Park takes up a small part of this mountain range and boasts some of Croatia’s best hiking and climbing. In fact, with over 500 equipped routes of different lengths and difficulties, it’s known to climbers all over Europe. Most visitors come to see the two spectacular gorges, Velika and Mala, which have sheer cliffs that rise over 700 meters in some places. We hiked through the Velika canyon, which was both peaceful and stunning. You can also hike to Paklarić viewpoint near the entrance.
1. Boat tour to Telašćica Bay & Kornati Islands
Another great thing to do from Zadar is to cruise to the beautiful Telašćica Bay & Kornati Islands. These parks are only accessible by boat tour and provide a great city break. At Telašćica Bay, you can swim in the salt lake or walk to the cliffs. The scenery is beautiful here, especially with views from above the cliffs. Kornati National Park is a chain of 89 islands, islets and reefs scattered across the sea. You can admire them from the boat and swim in the sea during the lunch stop. All tours generally include lunch, but the one we did also offered a small breakfast and lots of wine.
Use These Websites To Save Money On Your Trip To Zadar Croatia
Booking.com for places to stay
Skyscanner for cheap flights
GetYourGuide for local tours
Rentalcars.com for affordable car rentals
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If you're looking for some other suggestions and tips on Zadar, here are some great articles that will help you:
28 Amazing Things To Do in Zadar, Croatia by Where Goes Rose?
22 Things to Do in Zadar by Croatia Traveler
25 Best Things to Do in Zadar Croatia by Collective Travel Guides
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