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Begin your tour of Zadar by admiring the defensive walls that protect the city on three sides. They were built first by the Venetians in the 16th century as a defense against the Turks, then reinforced at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. The oldest part of the walls is on the eastern side where a footbridge connects the old town with the newer parts. Opposite the footbridge there are four medieval gates. Notice the 16th century Port Gate where the Venetian lion, the symbol of Venice, still guards the entrance.
Head back in the opposite direction and you'll come to the Trg 5 Bunara (Square of the 5 Wells) which once furnished Zadar with water.
Continuing on along the quay, you'll arrive at the beautifully ornamented Town Gate with another Venetian lion and various coats of arms.
Now take a walk along obala Kresimira IV, or Riva the southwestern quay. The tree lined waterfront promenade is a popular hangout for locals and visitors. By day it's perfect for sunbathing, picnicking or even taking a quick dip in the water all to the tune of the Sea Organ, designed by local architect Nikola Basic. This unusual organ is powered by the wind and the sea. When the sea pushes air through the whistles, a series of melancholy chords are played, with the sound emerging through the perforated stone stairs. You have to hear it to believe it!
But it's when the sun dims that Riva is the only place to be. It was here that Alfred Hitchcock once remarked that Zadar's sunsets were among the world's finest. Enhancing the experience is the remarkable Greeting to the Sun also designed by Nikola Basic. This circle of glass collects the sun's rays by day, stores the energy, and emits it as a magical light show after dark.
Here are some other sights to see in Zadar:
Church of Saint Donat
This round pre-Romanesque church dates from around the 9th century and has become a sort of symbol of Zadar. First mentioned by Emperor Constantine in the 10th century, the church was named after the bishop who allegedly instigated its construction. With a round, central building and three semi-circular apses, its features are most unusual. Now de-consecrated, it's largely empty inside but the excellent acoustics have made it Zadar's premier concert hall.
Right in front of the Church of Saint Donat is the remains of the Roman forum begun in the 1st century BC. Notice the pillar on the north-western side called the "Pillar of Shame". It's where evildoers were chained and humiliated in the Middle Ages.
Museum of Church Art
Located in the Benedictine monastery just opposite Saint Donat, this museum is devoted to all sorts of religious art including reliquaries, paintings, sculpture and embroidery. The collection is truly impressive.
Saint Anastasia's Cathedral (Katedrala Sv. Stosije)
It's the biggest cathedral in Dalmatia, dating mostly from the 12th century and built on the site of an early Christian church. The facade is adorned with rows of blind arcades which stress the three-aisle structure. The large rose-window is Romanesque and the smaller one above it is in the Gothic style. The relics of St Anastasia lie in a marble sarcophagus on the altar in the left apse. Bishop Donat commissioned the repository in the 9th century.
Church of Saint Simeon (Crkva Sv. Sime)
The church was mentioned for the first time in 1190 but most of it dates from the 16th and 17th centuries. The facade was finished in 1632 and the bell tower dates from 1707. Inside is the sarcophagus of St Simeon, a masterpiece of medieval craftsmanship. The tomb was commissioned in 1377 and built by a local goldsmith and his assistants. The coffin is made from cedar and gilded inside and out with pure silver. The scenes depict the legends and miracles of the saint.
Most interesting is the model of Zadar under Roman rule but the prehistoric pottery fragments and remnants of Illyrian Zadar are also worthwhile.
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