Croatia is indeed one of the most beautiful Mediterranean countries. And while you may have already heard of Dubrovnik or Split, there are hundreds (yes, hundreds) of beautiful coastal cities and towns to explore. Zadar still has an atmosphere of a smaller town, but boasts attractions and rich heritage. It also has the most magical sunset in the World, at least that’s what Alfred Hitchcock once stated. One day may not be enough to see everything this charming Mediterranean city has to offer, but you’ll make to see quite a bit. Definitely a city that shouldn’t be missed on your trip to Croatia!
What’s the best time to visit Zadar?
Like most of the coastal Croatia – the best time to visit is either spring or summer. July and August are the peak season and may be a bit crowded with tourists at that time. However, it’s the time of the year when there are loads of activities along the coast including Zadar. Not to mention it’s the best time for hitting the beach, since the weather is mostly hot and sunny. Early June and early September would be perfect for those who want to skip huge crowds and still enjoy the summer weather and the atmosphere. If possible, skip visiting during the winter.
Few facts about Zadar
Zadar stands for the oldest continuously inhabited city in Croatia. In 4th century BC it was founded as a Illyrain settlement named Iader. Three centuries later it became a Roman municipium and, later, Roman colonia. The Old Town of Zadar still holds the characteristics of an Ancient Roman City. During the history, it used to be under the rule of Byzanth, Franks, Venice Republic, Austria, France, Italy, and finally brought back to Croatia after the World War II. During that War the whole city was heavily destroyed in bombing and more than 60% of the buildings suffered huge damages.
Today, 70 years later, Zadar is fully recovered. During the past few decades, it’s established as one of the greatest Croatian student city, so it’s quite easy to spot many young people living there. Rich heritage, newly open museums and attractions like Sea Organ and the Greeting to the Sun attract more and more visitors each year.
One Day in Zadar Itinerary
Top things to do in Zadar, Croatia
Follow this guide and make the best of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do on your one day in Zadar.
All of the sights from the list are located on the Zadar Peninsula, therefore walking distance from each other.
Check out the Forum and drink coffee on this Ancient quare
Start your day on the Zadar’s Ancient square – Forum. One can describe Forum as an open air museum due to the number of artifacts that can be found on the site. When you look closely, it’s pretty easy to spot where the Roman streets and the square once used to be. There’re also some very important buildings around the square – Cathedral of st. Anastasia, the Iconic Saint Donatus church and the Archaeological museum. The Forum square is the perfect place to capture some amazing photos and people watch. Since there are many cafe bars around the square it’s surely the best spot for your morning coffee.
Visit the church of St. Donatus
While still at the Forum, make sure to visit the St. Donatus church, one of the city’s landmarks. Constructed in the 9th century and dedicated to St. Donatus in the 15th century, the st. Donatus church is the largest Pre-Romanesque building in Croatia.
The materials from the Roman forum were used in its construction. It’s built in a circular shape, with the 3 radially situated apses and circular gallery. Climb that gallery and explore the pretty unique interior and enjoy the peaceful and serene atmosphere of the church.
Visit the Museums
Zadar may not be that big, but still has a variety of amazing museums. Since you only have one day in Zadar, you’ll only have time to properly visit one museum. Archaeological Museum really is an excellent museum for those that enjoy history and arts. It holds a huge (three floors) collection of the historical artifacts, especially those from the Roman time.
Another great museum is the Museum of Ancient Glass. It features some very unusual glass pieces, and traces the history of the region through the prism of the glass treasures. On the top floor you can learn about glass blowing technique by watching a blower’s demonstration.
The last but not least is the Museum of illusions. It’s the interactive museum, full of optical illusions that will be extremely interesting to the kids, but even adults will enjoy it. Bring the camera inside, since many illusions get more exciting with the use of a camera.
Stroll Kalelarga street and visit the People’s square
After you’re done with the Forum, walk the Kalelarga street also known as Siroka street (Wide street). It’s the most famous street among locals and definitely the liveliest one. There are numerous shops, bars, bakeries, ice-cream shops so it’s pretty easy to get distracted. At the end of the street you’ll reach the Narodni trg (People’s square), another picturesque Mediterranean square. There’re many important historical buildings on the square. You’ll easily spot City Guard, City Lodge, City hall building and the pre-Romanesque church of St. Lawrence.
Check out the Five Wells Square and the Park above it
Not far from the People’s square there is another one, but slightly different – the Five Wells Square known as Trg 5 Bunara. The cistern and these five wells, lined up in a row, were built by Venetians during the 16th century, to help the citizens withstand Turkish siege. It’s definitely a great place to capture some amazing photos. Afterwards climb the lush Park above the square for a nice view and some refreshment during the warm months.
Walk the Promenade
Exit throughout the charming City Gate, built in 1543. in the Renaissance style. It has the shape of a triumphal arch with three entrances and was, at the time, the main entrance to the city. Walk the promenade that goes all the way from that point to the top point of the Peninsula. The promenade is the best spot to enjoy the most magical sunset in the World, at least that’s how Alfred Hitchcock described it.
Finally, check out the Sea Organ and the Greeting to the Sun
The most popular Croatian audio-visual attractions are definitely Sea Organ and the Greeting to the Sun. The best thing is – they’re located just next to each other, at the final point of the promenade. Sunset time is the best time to enjoy these artistic installations, especially the Greeting to the Sun, as the light that was absorbed during the day, transforms into a light show at the night. The Sea Organ, on the other side, will make the waves sound more melodic than ever. Overall, it’s extraordinary experience and a great place to relax during an exhausting day!
Dinner at restaurant Kornat
While there are many great Croatian dishes that include meat, while in Zadar you need to try an amazing seafood. The best restaurant, Kornat, is quite close to the sea promenade and really offers a wide selection of fish and seafood. Try the stuffed calamari, octopus salad, fish soup, but even just a grilled fished with some vegetables on a side would be a great pick.
If you crave some burgers or pizza, check out the restaurant 4 Kantuna. They offer super crispy pizza, but also some great risottos or pastas, tasty steaks and delicious seafood. Save some space for their delicious deserts.
Where to stay in Zadar?
Almayer Art & Heritage Hotel
Almayer Art & Heritage Hotel is a modern and stylish hotel in the very city center, located only a block away from the Sean Organ and the Greeting to the Sun. Fine design, passion for detail, bright and modern rooms make it one of the best hotels in the whole city.
Hotel Mediteran is a small family run hotel perfect for those who plan to spend a day at the beach, since it’s located only a 10-minute walk from the beach. For those who prefer pool, the hotel features a beautiful outdoor pool.
Boutique Hostel Forum
Boutique Hostel Forum can’t be more central – it’s actually located right next to the Forum square. The hostel is designed by the famous Croatian architect and one of the most unique hostels in Croatia. The design and the colors in the interior fully reflect Zadar – blue color as the blue sky above and crystal clear sea below and the orange colour of the most beautiful sunset in the world.
Extra tips for visiting Zadar:
– Zadar may be the perfect base if you want to make a day trip to Plitvica Lakes or Krka Falls since it’s located less than an hour from both of the National Parks.
– You should be prepared that the euro is not excepted in Croatia, so you should change your money upon your arrival.
– Even though the tips in the bars and restaurants are never included in the price, it is customary to tip at least 10%.
– Make your trip to Zadar even more exciting! Check out Tripadvisor for the detailed list of all the activities and organized tours in Zadar or around the area.
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