On the one hand, Zadar is a famous Croatian city, and on the other hand, it is often overlooked in favour of the more popular cities of Split and Dubrovnik.
And this is a mistake, because Zadar has a lot to offer. What exactly? Have a read!
A bit of geography
Zadar is located in northern Dalmatia and is the fifth largest city in Croatia (about 75,000 inhabitants).
It is also a great starting point for exploring many popular islands such as Dugi Otok, Ugljan, Pag or the Kornati National Park. In Zadar (or rather from the marina near Zadar) yacht cruises often start.
How to get to
Many people from Poland, or countries in the region, commute simply by car. There are also a seasonal coaches.
To Zadar Ryanair flies, from quite many European cities. From Poland, Ryanair flies to Zadar from Poznań, Gdańsk, Kraków, Modlin and Wrocław. Flights from most of the cities are scheduled until the end of October.
You can also reach Zadar from Split – it will take us about 3 hours by bus. You can fly to Split mostly by Wizzair, Easyjet and regular lines.
Warning! Article updated in July 2021. As soon as there are changes and new connections, it will be updated.
It is also worth remembering about the possibility of transport by water, especially in the season. It’s good idea for people who have best connections to Rijeka. There is direct ferry from Rijeka to Zadar, with the company G&V Line ladera. It takes around 4 hours.
I took it when going from Zadar to the island of Krk (Krk is one of the stops). Instead of 5-6 hours bus with a change, I managed to get there in 3 hours, in nice conditions and views, by a direct ferry.
How to get from the airport?
There is a city bus that will take you to the old town, but also to the bus station.
The station is a stop before old town – get off there only if you are changing to another bus going further away. If you are going to the old town – go to the end (stop at the city walls).
The bus costs HRK 25, and the schedule is easiest to be checked on the airport website.
If you choose water transport, it is worth remembering that there are two departure points. Some ferries depart from the quay next to the city walls. Most (especially the larger ferries) from the port of Gaženica, which is reached by bus (both from the airport and the old town).
Where to stay
Usually, I do not recommend accommodation, because I believe that it is a very individual matter and everyone is looking for something different. But it seems to me that I found such a perfect place in Zadar (beautiful, clean, affordable, right in the old town, and with a great owner who is easy to agree with, e.g. to leave luggage) and that’s why I want to share. These are Harvey’s luxury rooms (provided by Booking).
Sea Organ, Greeting to the Sun and a beautiful sunset
The sea organ was created, inter alia, to enliven and make a long stretch of concrete promenade more attractive. And it was just a perfect idea, because it has become the city’s most famous attraction! No wonder, because it is a unique thing, both in Europe and in the world (sea organs are also in San Francisco and Blackpool in England, but their structures are different).
The organ is an instrument that plays under the influence of waves and tides. The installation was created by artist Nikola Bašić in 2005. These are stone steps entering the sea, extending over a length of 70 meters. Beneath them are 35 pipes of different lengths and slopes where the water pushes the sound-producing air (which comes out through the holes in the steps).
So sounds are different and depend on the size of the waves, and in my opinion they sound most beautiful with a small wave. It’s best to visit the organ twice, during the day and during sunset.
‘Zadar has the most beautiful sunset in the world, more beautiful than Key West, Florida’ said Alfred Hitchcock, visiting the city in 1964.
There is something about it. And the sunsets (the place of the setting sun is over the water, which looks beautiful) seen in the sound of the organ have their magic. Immediately after sunset, everyone moves to the next attraction: Greeting to the Sun.
Greeting to the Sun
It is a solar installation by the same artist. It consists of multi-layered 300 panes (glass plates) arranged in the shape of a circle with a diameter of 22 meters. It is a presentation of the Solar System (around there are smaller installations representing planets).
The plates collect solar energy during the day and in the evening they glow in changing colours. This is a big attraction for visitors, especially for children, because you can walk on the wheel.
Interestingly, the system is used as an actual energy source and illuminates half of the Zadar waterfront.
The old town is situated on a peninsula. This makes it even more special, as the walk on each side ends with a view of the water. It is surrounded by the preserved city walls.
If there are walls, there are of course also gates. The most characteristic one is the Land Gate. Built in the 16th century (1543), with Renaissance decorations: a bas-relief of the patron saint of the city (St. Chrysogonus), arches and the Venetian lion of St. Mark.
Another one is called the Sea Gate- St. Rocco, also from the 16th century.
At the Land Gate, there is a small atmospheric port of Foša, occupied mainly by local boats (in the place of a partially buried moat), and next to it, a highly recommended restaurant of the same name.
The gate and the marina are the most beautiful from the Queen Jelena Madijevka Park. It is the oldest public park in Croatia, dating from 1829. Cicadas, Mediterranean greenery, benches plus of course a view – it is worth stopping there for a while.
Five Wells Square
The entrance to the park is from the Five Wells Square. The square with 5 wells and a cistern, built in the 16th century, was to provide drinking water in the event of a Turkish siege. It was used until the 19th century. Next to it is the Captain’s Tower, the only remnant of a 13th-century fort, as well as a Roman column.
The University buildings are located near the Land Gate and the port. In its present form, the university was established in 2002, but its history dates back to 1396, when it was founded by the Dominicans and operated until 1807.
Beautiful views to study.
Next to the university buildings, already on the promenade, there is a monument to Spiridon Brušina, who was born in Zadar. He was primarily concerned with malacology (the science of molluscs) and ornithology.
National Square (Narodni Trg)
We return to the old town, to the most famous square. It houses: the 16th century town guard building with a clock tower added in the 19th century, a renaissance loggia and the newest building (from 1934), serving as the town hall. Apart from that, tenement houses and, of course, cafes.
Built between the 1st century BC and in the third century, the largest forum in Croatia (90x45m). The pavement, stairs and columns have been fully preserved to this day.
Next to the forum is the Church of St. Donatus, one of the most frequently appearing places in the pictures. It comes from the 9th century and is built in the early Romanesque style. Today it does not have a sacred function. Due to the good acoustics, concerts are held there.
The cathedral is right next to the church of St. Donatus. It comes from the 12th-13th centuries, with the older part from the 9th-11th centuries preserved. You can find the sarcophagus of St. Anastasia. It is the main church of the Zadar Archdiocese.
You can also enter the church tower.
Located a bit further, currently under renovation. It comes from the 12th century and is built in the Romanesque style. St. Chrysogonus is the patron saint of Zadar.
Located in the old town, it is divided into two parts: the internal fish market and the external fruit and vegetable market. Fish, seafood, local vegetables and fruit, herbs, olive oil, cheese (e.g. the very famous paški sir, that is cheese from the nearby island of Pag). It is said to be the best market in Croatia and its history dates back to the Middle Ages. Worth to visit😊
The most famous city beaches are Borik and Kolovare.
Borik is the beach by the hotel, about 4 km from the centre.
I recommend Kolovare beach because you can get there by a nice walk (from the Landing Gate).
When the beach begins, in a small bay, you can relax in the shade among the cicadas in a small park. Further on the beach you can find complete infrastructure, toilets, changing cabins, many cafes and a hotel.
There are several museums in Zadar: Archaeological, Illusion, the City of Zadar, the Museum of Ancient Glass, the exhibition ‘Gold and Silver of Zadar’.
I hope that I managed to convince you to visit this city and help to organize the trip!