During my trip to Europe, the second stop my sister and I made on our trek through Croatia was the coastal city of Zadar.
One of the main reasons I love Zadar is that their Old Town retains some truly beautiful architecture and is a very relaxing place to stay in. Compared to other tourist hot spots like Split, Zadar is an ideal city to add to your itinerary if you want to unwind and take it easy.
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So if you’ve got a few days to stop and slow things down, here are my top 10 things to do in Zadar.
What to do in zadar
1. JUMP INTO THE ADRIATIC
At the risk of stating the obvious, hear me out. The first thing I did after making a stop at the Tequila Bar Hostel was find one of the many piers along the cobblestone path along the coast and enjoy a nice swim in the Adriatic. The simple spot was a great place to meet some locals, cool off from the hustle and bustle of traveling, and enjoy a gorgeous sunset. Plus, heading over to the coastal walk put me in prime position to find a nice café, where I enjoyed a delicious Croatian beer or two.
2. LISTEN TO THE SEA ORGAN
Yes, you heard me right. As one of the most popular attractions in Zadar, the Sea Organ isn’t like anything you’ve experienced before. Croatian architect Nikola Basicis designed and built the sea organ right where Old Town meets the water. The marble steps were cut to create music whenever the waves hit the cliff and water rushed into the pipes below. Get there early, grab a seat, and enjoy the eerie music as you watch the sunset with a glass of wine (or beer if that’s your preference).
3. VISIT THE GREETING TO THE SUN
Another creation by Nikola Basicis, the Greeting to the Sun is a crowd favorite! People come from all over to bust a move on the dance floor that lights up when you step on the solar panels. These panels are designed to come to life as soon as the sun sets over the Adriatic, providing you with a killer light show, a fun place to dance, and an ideal location to make some new friends.
4. EXPLORE THE CHURCH OF ST. DONATUS
The Church of St. Donatus is famous for its circular shape and architecture that dates back to the Byzantine empire. Built in the 19th century, the attraction is one of the few surviving pieces of history that wasn’t destroyed from the various wars that have struck Zadar. Although the structure isn’t entirely original, most of the materials that were used to rebuild the stonework it were taken from the Roman Forum.
5. ENJOY A DAY AT KOLOVARE BEACH
This beautiful beach is an ideal place to visit if you want to soak up some rays along the Adriatic. Not only is it a mere 20 minutes walking distance form Old Town, it has entertainment, changing rooms, food, showers and more!
6. TAKE A STROLL THROUGH THE ROMAN FORUM
Much like the Church of St. Donatus, the Roman Forum is one of the most visited attractions in Zadar. The square was built between the 1st century BCE until the 3rd century CE. To get the most out of your visit, be sure to find a local guide who can walk you through all parts of the site and explain the different sections and buildings to you in detail.
7. VISIT THE ZADAR CATHEDRAL
Often called the Cathedral of Saint Anastasia, the Zadar Cathedral is a unique mix of architectural styles. Although it was initially built during the 9th century, it was later rebuilt during the 12th and 13th centuries, which accounts for why the top half of the cathedral exhibits a gothic style while the lower half is Romanesque. The inside of the cathedral contains beautiful stained-glass windows, stone altars, a wood carved choir, and an incredible view of the surrounding city once you’ve climbed to the top of the bell tower.
8. PLAN A DAY TRIP TO KORNATI NATIONAL PARK
If you need a nature fix, then you definitely need to add the Kornati National Park to your itinerary. The collection of islands and reefs is ideal for a day of swimming, sailing and exploring. You can also visit the Telascica Nature Park, which is famous for its snorkeling and cliff jumping. There’s even a donkey reserve that also has some incredible views of the surrounding archipelago.
9. VISIT PLITVICE LAKES NATIONAL PARK
If you’re wanting to visit the famous Plitvice Lakes National Park, Zadar is one of the best cities to plan your day trip from. Situated between the Mala Kapela and the Lička Plješivica mountain ranges, the park contains sixteen terraced lakes that are all joined together by a series of waterfalls. As the first ever proclaimed national park in Croatia, this exceptionally beautiful location has been attracting nature lovers for over 50 years.
10. DO SOME SHOPPING AT THE ZADAR PIJACA
The Zadar Pijaca (market) is a must if you want to take in the local food, smells and ingredients that are staple to Dalmatian dishes. The Zadar market has existed since the Middle Ages, and is considered one of the largest markets in the country. If you want to try your hand at cooking your own Dalmatian dishes, or even learn how to make them from locals, be sure to add this stop to your itinerary!