Zadar is a small jewel on the Dalmatian coast, a city that is over 3,000 years old. The Croatian city reveals a formidable historical heritage, a long and surprising seaside promenade, nearby beaches and its gastronomy invite to spend time on a terrace in the sun. Around the city, you will discover a beautiful nature with rivers, islands of the archipelago and national parks that will delight the lovers of outdoor activities. Without a doubt, Zadar is one of the seaside towns in Croatia that has all the ingredients for a memorable stay in the southeastern part of Europe.
Strolling through the old town
Zadar invites visitors to stroll through the numerous pedestrian streets of its historic part, located on a peninsula surrounded by fortifications. These walls, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are part of the Venetian defensive works that were built in the 16th and 17th centuries in Croatia. You only have to go to the Kopnena Vrata gate, the historical entrance and main gate of the city, to judge the beauty of this precious heritage. In the historical center of Zadar, one is immediately struck by the abundance of religious monuments. The circular church of St. Donatus dates from the 9th century and is the largest pre-Romanesque building in the country. The building, a unique architectural example of the Carolingian Renaissance, is now a prime venue for cultural events, including concerts of medieval and Renaissance music. Just a stone's throw away is the Romanesque Sveta Stošija-Santa Anastasia Cathedral. It has magnificent period furnishings and you should not miss the chance to climb to the top of the tower and enjoy a magnificent view of the orange roofs of the city and the sea. You will immediately notice how much the city looks like Croatian Venice. In this part of Zadar, it is in fact a real episcopal complex that we observe, with the presence also of a palace, a Benedictine monastery and a Roman forum perfectly integrated into the architectural whole
At another moment, we must reach the Five Wells square, where there are 5 perfectly aligned masonry wells that were built during the Ottoman siege in the 16th century. These wells provided the city with water. To vary the pleasures, there is also nearby one of the oldest parks in Croatia. A peaceful and green place to rest and regain strength. The next part of the walk in the old town will be rich with the route of Kalalarga, a long commercial street that is always very animated at any time of the day
We continue with a visit to the Palace of Prince Kneževa palača, one of the most popular monuments in Zadar with its museum, temporary exhibition halls, shows or multimedia. For those who are interested in cultural events, there is a museum of ancient glass, where one is amazed that so many fragile objects have been able to survive the ages and retain their splendor. The permanent exhibition The Gold and Silver of Zadar, which takes place in the Church of St. Mary, reveals writings, tapestries, sculptures, embroidery, reliefs and testimonies dating from the 8th to the 18th century. These works allow us to dive into the rich history of the city and more than 10 centuries of Sacred Art. Just like the rectangular sarcophagus made of cedar wood and shaped like a chest that can be seen in the church of Saint-Simeon. This masterpiece of medieval art contains the posthumous remains of St. Simeon.
If it is quite common in a coastal city to have a promenade where you can enjoy the seaside, the one in Zadar is exceptional in the sense that it is located between the old town and the Zadar archipelago. The small parks and shaded terraces offer the possibility to rest and enjoy the beautiful views. But along the way, the walk also reveals several sights not to be missed, starting with the Marine Organ. While discovering several steps that descend to the waves, one must take the time to listen to hear a strange and sweet melody produced by the sea. The Marine Organ, an architectural and musical curiosity, fascinates locals and visitors alike to the point of having become the emblem of the city. Nearby, another experience awaits the curious at sunset: the "Sun Salutation"
This other creation of the artist Nikola Bašić, composed of 300 photovoltaic panels, offers impressive plays of light at the end of the day. A perfect place to contemplate and take pictures.
Gastronomy and pleasure of the senses
A stay in Zadar would not be complete without strolling through its markets, always important moments in Croatia. From the food market in the old town to the flea market, strolls are always an opportunity to stock up on good products with Mediterranean accents, to discover the local crafts and to enjoy the human effervescence
The old town of Zadar is also rich in bars where one settles in the early morning to have coffee, a ritual! In the evening, the places that you can find along the streets offer tasting of regional wines, to relax in a friendly atmosphere. And then, there are the many culinary addresses where you can stop for lunch and dinner, and where you can taste some local specialties such as sardines, fish soup and Paški sir, a cheese from the island of Pag. Those who prefer meat also have a choice, and there is no better way to end a gourmet moment than with a glass of Maraschino liqueur, made from autochthonous Marasca cherries and whose recipe is ancestral.
After a meal, there's nothing like a stroll along the seaside promenade to digest, with a view! The shoreline, as well as the marina, are particularly beautiful places at sunset, for the light and the setting offered. Alfred Hitchcock himself said that the sunset in Zadar is the most beautiful in the world.
Zadar is also a city where all the senses are awakened, especially during the major cultural events of the year. Tuna, Sushi and Wine Festival, musical evenings in St. Donat, the Fig Festival and the Zadar Advent are all opportunities to taste, listen, sing, dance and simply enjoy moments that brighten up the city and make locals and visitors happy.
Zadar, a city open to nature
Zadar is located on the Adriatic Sea and is a delight for those who love the sea. Offshore, the archipelago of Zadar is ideal for kayaking. They lead to deserted islands with little known coves and small villages. The islands of Silba and Molat are very popular with walkers who want to be in direct contact with nature, while the islands of Rava and Ist are popular with divers. In the archipelago, the fauna and flora are rich and varied. And then, how to miss the island of Pag? Between sea and mountains, cities and desert, the territory is peaceful during the first eight months of the year, before coming to life in the summer and welcoming those who wish to have fun and enjoy the fresh air in a dreamy and exotic setting.
Also in the summer, swimming takes place in beaches near the city center, and for this purpose we make a stop at the beaches Kolovare and Borik. For those who love outdoor activities, you can also go down the Zrmanja River by canoe
Other national parks with exceptional landscapes, those of a Mediterranean mountain full of surprises, are also in the vicinity of the Zadar region. Paklenica is a paradise for walkers, hikers or mountaineers. Lake Vrana is a paradise for cyclists and nature and bird lovers, but you can also admire the impressive cliffs falling straight into the turquoise blue sea of the Telašćica Park.
Croatia welcomes many travelers during the summer season, for its mild weather and beaches. Choose spring and autumn, outside of school vacations, for a quieter atmosphere with pleasant temperatures.
A weekend citytrip is enough to explore Zadar and its old town. But to enjoy the archipelago and discover the national parks and other natural sites around, it is advisable to leave for a longer period, from one week to 15 days.
The standard of living is lower in Croatia than in France. Count on 60 € for a cheap hotel in Zadar, 70-80 € for a mid-range hotel and up to 150 € per night for a high-end hotel. A night at a local's house costs around 50 €. You can eat a very decent meal in a restaurant with a budget of 14 €
Zadar is a delight for lovers of architecture and historical cities thanks to its heritage which reflects several eras and which remains well preserved. It is also an ideal city for a family vacation by the sea. Finally, it is very easy to get to beautiful natural areas to enjoy the fresh air: rivers, lakes, mountains and deserted and preserved islands.
A multi-faceted destination: history, clear sea, mountains, outdoor activities, gastronomy.
A city that remains accessible to many travelers when planned in advance
The mild temperatures.
A good command of English and therefore the possibility to communicate with Croatians.
Zadar can be very crowded in July and August by tourists. The rest of the year is ideal for visiting.
How to get there
By car. Zadar can be reached by car through Italy and Slovenia
By plane. It takes about 2 hours to reach Zadar airport from Paris. Flights are also available from Bordeaux and Marseille.
ZADAR REGION TOURIST OFFICE - More information on the website
Tel: +385 (0)23 315 316
You can find 3 and 4 star hotels at very good prices through the main booking sites. You can also stay in a home stay for a more authentic experience.