Zadar Croatia

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Given that I have lived in Croatia my entire life, believe me when I say that this summer you should visit Zadar. In this Mediterranean city, you can enjoy a beautiful sunset while the crystal-clear Adriatic Sea will play the organ for you. Confused? Don’t worry; keep reading.

If you don’t believe me, maybe you will believe the New York Times that included Zadar on their list of the best cities in the world for walking, claiming that a walk through Zadar is like a journey through history. Also, Alfred Hitchcock said that Zadar has the most beautiful sunsets in the whole world. Amazing, right?

Croatia is a perfect summer destination in Europe, bordering Italy, Hungary, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro. Summers are hot and fun is guaranteed.

Beautiful Zadar Croatia.
Beautiful Zadar Croatia. Image from Canva

The country’s capital is Zagreb, the official language is Croatian (but English will be perfectly fine) and the official currency is the Euro.

The main star of this travel guide, Zadar, is on the Dalmatian Coast and close to other cool summer destinations, such as Split, Šibenik and Nin.

So, let’s talk about what to see and things to do in Zadar, Croatia the city with the most beautiful sunsets in the world.

Listen to the Adriatic Sea Playing the World’s First Sea Organ

Zadar's unique Sea Organ
Zadar’s unique Sea Organ. Image from Canva

Yes, you read it correctly. What kind of music would be created if the Adriatic Sea could play? You don’t need to guess; simply sit on Zadar’s Riva and enjoy the sounds of the world’s first sea organ.

This unusual musical instrument spans approximately 70 meters and is made up of 35 pipes of varying lengths, with the music created by the waves of the Adriatic Sea. Oh, and there is a bonus: a stunning view of the island of Ugljan.

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This art installation is a combination of architecture, music and nature, created by Croatian architect Nikola Bašić.

I’ve been to Zadar three times, and always on my to-do list is to sit next to the organ, close my eyes for a few minutes and relax. You just can’t miss it. You’ll understand why when you experience it for yourself.

Enjoy Zadar’s Sunset at Greeting to the Sun

Greeting to the Sun
Greeting to the Sun. Image from Canva

Did you know that Alfred Hitchcock said our Zadar sunset was the most beautiful in the world? That’s why enjoying the sunset in Zadar is an absolute must.

The Greeting to the Sun is located right next to the sea organ. Don’t worry, you won’t be able to miss it, even if you try.

It is a 22-meter-diameter solar-glass-light art installation designed by Nikola Bašić. While the Adriatic Sea creates unique music for you that will never be repeated, the Greeting to the Sun will produce unique light effects.

I promise that it will be one of the most unique sunsets you will experience in your life.

Visit the Church of St. Donatus

Church of St. Donatus
Church of St. Donatus. Photo from Canva

If you’ve ever searched for Zadar on Google, you will have seen the iconic church of St. Donatus. It is the city’s symbol and the most common motif on Zadar postcards.

If you enjoy architecture, “Donat” will especially appeal to you. It stands 27 meters tall and 22 meters in diameter and has a cylindrical shape. This was very unusual in the 9th century when it was created.

You will not be able to attend mass at the church because masses have not been held there for 250 years. But here is a pro tip: if you want to fully experience the church of St. Donatus attend one of the summer concerts held there.

Visit the Zadar Cathedral of St. Anastasia and the Bell Tower

Cathedral of St. Anastasia in Zadar Croatia
Cathedral of St. Anastasia. Photo from Canva

Another must-see attraction is the Zadar Cathedral of St. Anastasia (Stošija). This Romanesque Basilica is among the oldest in Croatia.

While you’re there, don’t miss the Bell Tower (Clock Tower), from which you can enjoy a view of Zadar.

Of course, you will pay for this with a few euros (last year it was three euros) and a few heavy sighs if you are not in good shape. But it will be worthwhile, I promise. 

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Museum of Illusions and More: Have Fun in Zadar’s Museums

If you are one of those who like to include education and art in their vacation, visit the Archaeological Museum. It is located near the church of St. Donatus and will introduce you to Croatian history.

Among the other museums that I recommend is the Museum of Ancient Glass. It contains many glass artifacts, some of which date back to the 1st century.

There, you can see glassmaking and bead-making demonstrations. All the information on the cards is also in English, so a guided tour is not necessary.

If the previous two museums are not your cup of tea, don’t worry; I have got something for you: the Museum of Illusions. But I’m warning you, it will show you that nothing is as it appears and that the impossible can become possible. And if you are brave enough, try didactic puzzles that will put your brain to the test.

I mean, what is reality anyway? 

Visit the Roman Forum

Roman Ruins
Roman Ruins Photo from Canva

The New York Times declared a walk through Zadar a walk through history for a reason.

Walking near the church of St. Donatus, you will come across Roman ruins dating from the 1st century BC to the 1st century AD. That doesn’t happen every day, does it?

The Roman Forum was founded by Emperor Augustus. You can walk among the Roman ruins while also enjoying the view of Zadar’s old town at the same time. And you know what’s the best part? Kolovare Beach is not far away.

Admire the Zadar City Walls

old city walls
Like Dubrovnik, Zadar also has old city walls. Image from Canva

We Croats are proud of the famous walls of Dubrovnik, but also of the city walls of Zadar. 

They were built in the 12th and 13th centuries to defend Zadar from invaders. In 2017, UNESCO listed them as a World Heritage Site. That, I believe, is sufficient proof that Zadar’s city walls are a must on your Zadar to-do list. 

Enjoy Sightseeing in Zadar’s Old Town

Zadar Old Town streets
Old Town streets. Photo from Canva

The old town is an unavoidable stop in any Croatian seaside town. Stone streets and houses, recognizable architecture and a Mediterranean vibe are what make them so appealing.

Whichever street you choose, you won’t be disappointed. It will undoubtedly take you to some historical sites or the Adriatic Sea. However, if you prefer, book one of the many walking tours.

Enjoy the Venetian charm of Zadar’s old town with a walk through Five Wells Square (a public square built in the 16th century) and take a photo by the Land Gate. Then, take some time to enjoy the city’s heart, People’s Square (Narodni trg), which dates back to the Middle Ages. Relax there, drink coffee in cute cafes, watch the passersby and soak up the Mediterranean vibe. It is exactly as the name implies: a place for people.

Walking Along Kalelarga: Zadar’s Most Famous Street

Kalelarga Street at night
Kalelarga Street at night. Image from Canva

“Kalelarga, Kalelarga; my happiness, I spent the most beautiful days of my youth there…” is a well-known line from a Croatian song. The lyrics talk about one of the most famous Croatian streets, Zadar’s Kalelarga.

So, take a walk along this famous street and soak in all of its history and beauty. There is plenty of it there.

Enjoy Kolovare Beach

When you get tired of walking (trust me, Croatian summers are really hot), here is the best part: there is a beach near the Zadar old town called Kolovare Beach. Also, a fun fact: our Adriatic Sea is so clean that even this city beach has earned the Blue Flag for cleanliness.

Kolovare Beach is equipped with numerous entertainment and sports facilities, so if you have children or teenagers, you will surely find something to entertain them. Although the Adriatic Sea is the best refreshment, yes, there is also shade on this beach.

And if you are more adrenaline-oriented, I have something for you too: kayaking and rafting on the Zrmanja River. Zrmanja is a wild ride; you will love it.

Hvar, Pag and Ugljan: Enjoy Island-Hopping

Hvar Croatia
Take a trip to the stunning island of Hvar. Image from Canva

When visiting the Adriatic coast, there are numerous options for day trips, tours, boat rides, and excursions to nearby islands. I recommend tours of Dugi Otok, Kornati Islands (ideal for snorkeling), Ugljan and Pag.

If you enjoy luxury, don’t miss Hvar, which is currently probably our most luxurious destination. It is even more luxurious than Dubrovnik, which, by the way, I visited a few days ago and am still amazed by, so consider our Adriatic pearl too.

Another luxurious option is to sail around the Zadar Archipelago. It’s absolutely wonderful, too. 

Enjoy Natural Beauty at Kornati, Paklenica and Plitvice Lake National Park

KRKA Falls
KRKA Falls Image from Canva

Wherever you are on the Croatian coast, there is always plenty of natural beauty to explore during your day trips.  National and nature parks cover nearly ten percent of Croatia’s land surface.

I suggest considering Kornati National Park, Krka National Park and its waterfalls, Telašćica Nature Park or Paklenica. If you have more time, take a day trip to the famous Plitvice Lakes National Park. It is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful things to see in Croatia.

Enjoy Croatian Food and Wine

 Grilled octopus
Grilled octopus is one of the many seafood specialties in Zadar. Image from Canva

I simply refuse to believe that anyone will not enjoy Croatian food.

Seafood specialties fresh from the Adriatic Sea are the star of any menu. These include delights like octopus salads, grilled octopus with various vegetables and fried squid. But if you’re not a seafood fan don’t worry there will also be dishes like homemade pasta with sauces and black risotto (oh!).

If you add the sunset, the terrace by the Adriatic Sea, and the smell of the Mediterranean in the air… oh, summer, how nice to see you again.

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Katarina Marjanović

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