Zadar is one of the most vibrant and fascinating towns on the Adriatic. Steeped in history but with a dynamic cultural life, it's impossible to be bored in Zadar. And Zadar is a perfect base for a series of exciting day trips. Here are 22 of the best things to do in Zadar.
Watch Sunset from Riva
Zadar's southwestern quay is always a great spot for strolling, picknicking or even jumping into the sea for a quick dip. As the sun lowers in the sky, people drift down to the waterfront to watch one of the Adriatic's best shows. Alfred Hitchcock described the Zadar sunset as "the most beautiful sunset in the world" on his visit in 1964.
Listen to Sea Organ
Also on Zadar's southwestern quay, the celebrated Sea Organ is an urban installation and a musical instrument. Tubing within the stone steps transforms the movement of the waves and the sea breezes into a series of haunting chords. It makes the perfect accompaniment to the sunset. Read more about the Sea Organ.
cc license Friedrich Bohringer
Enjoy the Sun Salutation Light Show
But wait! Don't leave the southwestern quay just yet. After dark, the Sun Salutation continues the light show. 10,000 solar panels release the light they've absorbed during the day to create a spectacular light show after dark. This 22m circular plate is one of Zadar's most beloved attractions. Read more about Zadar's Sun Salutation.
Explore Zadar's Historic Center
Zadar's story began with the Romans, continued with the Venetians and was capped off by the Austrians before Yugoslavia happened. From imagining the grandeur of Roman Zadar to moseying along Venetian walls and gates, sightseeing in Zadar is ceaselessly fascinating. Take a guided walk of Zadar's historic center.
courtesy Tim Ertl
Boat across the Jazine bay in a Barkajol
The boatmen (barkajoli) who row passengers across the bay have been at it for 800 years. Of course you could take a 20-minute walk to the footbridge connecting the Zadar peninsula to the mainland but it's much more pleasant and romantic to spend the €0.50 on a boatman.
Watch Glassmakers at Work
Zadar's Museum of Ancient Glass is a delightful showcase for Roman glassware, displaying the largest collection of Roman vials, goblets, cups and flasks outside Italy. In addition, it's an important centre to maintain and develop glassmaking skills. Visitors can watch the glassmakers and glass blowers at work in their workshops Monday to Saturday from 10am to 2pm.
Enjoy a Romantic Dinner at Fosa
Not only is Fosa the finest restaurant in Zadar, but the setting overlooking Zadar's small harbour (fosa) is guaranteed to set the mood for a dreamy, tranquil evening. The emphasis is on fish but vegetarian options are also available. Try another one of Zadar's best restaurants.
Gawk at the Gold in the Museum of Church Art
Zadar's Museum of Church Art displays a first-rate collection of art and art objects. Zadar's silver and goldsmiths were highly regarded by the Venetians for their fine craftsmanship. There are also several outstanding paintings by Paolo Veneziano, Vittore Carpaccio and others. Read more about the Museum of Church Art.
Take in a concert at St Donat
Zadar's famous 9th-century St Donat church is known for its acoustics. As the church is now de-consecrated, it is the site of frequent classical concerts. The most praised concerts occur during the "St Donat Musical Evenings" running almost nightly in July and August. Check out the program here.
Check out the Contemporary Scene at Arsenal
The building on 5-Wells Square is very much ancient Zadar but the interior is anything but. Arsenal is now the premier showcase for art expos, fashion shows, screenings, concerts and happenings. It's also a popular spot for weddings, banquets and business events. Check out the program here.
Grocery Shop at the City Market
Markets are a great place to check out the life of the city and here's where you'll find the freshest local produce, just-caught fish and meat from the hinterlands. For homemade olive oil, rakija and jams head here, just inside Zadar's northeastern quay.
Celebrate Fridays at the Friday Festice
It's back to the past every Friday evening from June to September when the streets of the old town fill with klapa singing groups, fresh local snacks, cooling traditional drinks and stalls selling all manner of Dalmatian treats. It's fun, free and festive.
Celebrate the Moon at the Full Moon Festival
The nights of the full moon in high summer brings everyone in Zadar and the surrounding region out to celebrate. Lights on Riva are extinguished and replaced by torches and candles. In the flickering yellow light, harbourside boats become floating fish markets while other sellers display their regional wares in a plethora of stalls. Not to be missed.
Soak up the Beachy Ambience at Beach Bar Bamboo
From a mid-morning coffee to an evening cocktaill, Beach Bar Bamboo is a chill place in Diklo where locals relax. Whether it's a chat in the shade or a full stretch on a lounge chair, it's easy to while away a day here. Check out the full range of Zadar beaches.
Groove at The Garden
Right in the town center, The Garden is owned by two former British muscians who brought their excellent taste to the musical programming. In accordance with the tranquil scenery, the sounds are mellow and perfectly attuned to everything from snacks to cocktails to dinner.
Tour the Vineyards
Just outside Zadar in Petrcane, Kraljevski vineyards produce some of the region's most prized wine. A tour of the vineyards in this scenic spot followed by a wine-tasting makes a great day out. Tours are available daily from 11am-4pm.
Tour the Nin Salt Works
The Nin Salt Works (Solana Nin) have been producing salt for 1500 years and it's done the natural way: harvesting it from the sea via salt pans. Open to visitors June to August, there's a museum, souvenir shop and a salt house to visit.
Bike Around Ugljan Island
Ugljan Island is only a 25-minute boatride away from central Zadar but a world away in ambience. Quiet, calm and leafy, Ugljan makes a perfect escape from busy Zadar. Bikes are available to rent near the ferry port in Preko and the scenic coastal bike path runs to Kukljica. More about Ugljan.
Shop for Cheese on Pag Island
Dry, rocky Pag island is perfect terrain for grazing sheep and locals know just what to do with sheep milk. Pag cheese is a prized delicacy throughout Croatia with a rich, pungent flavor that's impossible to forget. The Gligora company produces much Pag cheese and offers daily tours of their production facilities. Tour, taste and buy! Browse my online Pag island guide.
Visit Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice Lakes is a natural wonder that is one of the highlights of Croatia. The sixteen azur lakes linked by dozens of cascades makes for a memorable visit any time of the year and it's only two hours by car from Zadar. Visit Plitvice independently or take an organized tour to Plitvice Lakes. Read up on why you must visit Plitvice Lakes.
Tour the Kornati Islands
The maze of 147 islands scattered over 220 sq km in the Adriatic is one of Croatia's most stunning national parks. The islands were visited by George Bernard Shaw who wrote "On the last day of the Creation God desired to crown his work, and thus created the Kornati Islands out of tears, stars and breath". Either you go in your own boat, or take one of the frequent boat tours of the Kornati Island. Read more about the wondrous Kornati island archipelago.
Visit Krka Waterfalls National Park
Only about an hour from Zadar is this wonderland of waterfalls. Krka national park is full of porous rock through which the Krka river has carved lakes, cascades and caverns. Rich in birds, fish, flowers and wildlife, it's a truly remarkable site. It's possible to visit the park independently or take an organised tour.