Zadar is a small town on the Dalmatian coast, but nevertheless, it is known for its rich and tumultuous history. It is a monument on its own offering an amazing opportunity to its visitors to dive into the remains of ancient settlements, old churches, and ruins. Zadar won the title for The Best European Destination in 2016 and as it can be assumed it is a popular touristic spot. It is also a magical place to enjoy one of the most beautiful and scenic sunsets in Europe. Alfred Hitchcock during his stay in Zadar in 1964 said: “Zadar has the most beautiful sunset in the world, more beautiful than the one in Key West, Florida, applauded at every evening”.
What to visit
Sea Organ and the Greeting to the Sun – If you heard of Zadar, you must have heard of the Sea Organ as well. Situated on the western end of town’s Riva, Sea Organ is an art installation made of series of pipes cut into the promenade and the “music” is produced by the sea and the waves, so it can go from soft, meditative sounds to strong, almost aggressive cacophony of sounds as the waves grow bigger. Next to it you can find The Greeting to the Sun, made by the same architect that designed the organ (Nikola Basic). The installation consists of three hundred multi-layered glass plates placed on the same level with the stone-paved waterfront in the shape of a circle. Under the plates, there are solar modules that turn on with the sunset and produce an impressive light show.
Saint Donat Church – the church was built in the 9th century on the Roman forum and it is the largest and one of the most important buildings in Croatia from early Medieval times. Interesting fact about the church as it was used as a warehouse during the Venetian, French and Austrian rule. Today it is used for musical events. The Forum was a municipal square founded by the Roman Emperor Augustus (built from 1st to 3rd century). There was built a 2-meter high capitol with nearby a temple dedicated to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, many columns and stone carvings. There is also a monumental Roman pillar used as “the Pillar of Shame” in the Middle Ages, where people who committed some crime were chained and pilloried.
Bell tower – located next to St. Anastasia Cathedral, the Bell Tower is the best place to admire the unusual bird’s-eye view on the historical sites, the whole city, mountains and the sea. It is 55 meters high with more than 180 stairs that lead to a view definitely worth climbing.
Five wells square – another interesting site to visit is Five Wells Square, located between the medieval City Walls and the bastion Grimani, near the Captain’s Tower which dominates the square. As its name says, it is a square consisting of five wells in a row, that were built back in the 16th century. The wells are no longer in use, but the place became a popular spot for events and concerts and it is the ideal place for a romantic and chill evening. There is also a square named Three wells square near the small church of Our Lady of Health with a beautiful painting of Virgin Mary.
The Land Gate – this fascinating Reinessance masterpiece is located near the port of Foša, an old port surrounded by monumental city walls. Land Gate was built in the 16th century by the Venetians as the main entrance to the once walled and fortified city of Zadar. On the other side of the gate, there is a fortress Citadel from the 16th century built as a part of city’s harbor defenses.
Kalelarga – is the main and the most popular street in the city. Through the history, it had several names (Via Magna, Strada Grande…) until the Venetians called it Calle Larga or the Wide street, which became Kalelarga. The street connects Forum (cluster of Roman ruins) and the People’s Square (City Hall and City Lodge). It was built by the Liburnians, before the city became a Roman colony and evolved, so many say that Kalelarga is older than the city itself. The street and the buildings around it were heavily destroyed in the WWII, after which were renovated, but in the Modern style, not leaving many traces of its rich past.
For the museums’ lovers, Zadar has an excellent Archaeological Museum, Museum of Illusions and Museum of Ancient Glass that has the greatest collection of ancient glass in this part of Europe.
Sport and Recreation
Zadar is the host of the worldwide running event “Wings for life” and every May thousands and thousands of people come to take part in the event. But, even during the other months, the sports scene in the town is pretty alive. You can try kayaking and rafting on rivers Zrmanja and Krupa, go trekking and explore the vast choice of marked trails of the region, challenge yourself at free climbing, tandem skydiving or Bungee Jumping or take part in popular Škraping which is a combination of climbing, running and walking on rocks.
Due to its geographical position, people in Zadar adapted mainly Mediterranean diet which has a reputation for being among the healthiest in the world. It involves lots of fish, vegetables, olive oil etc. Some of the dishes you may try out in Zadar are grilled fish, black risotto, Dalmatian prosciutto, Paški sir (cheese from the island of Pag), Octopus under peka (octopus and potatoes prepared in special way in a fireplace) and Pašticada (traditional Dalmatian dish with beef, usually served with gnocchi).
A good idea for a souvenir from Zadar might be a bottle of Maraschino, which is the original and noble liqueur originating from this town, the replicas of ancient glass and jewelry that can be found in the shop of Museum of Ancient Glass or a tiny bottle of essential oil made of local lavender (Zadarska budrovka).
Krka National Park is a must-see if you happen to be in the area. They say that its waterfalls are the most beautiful travertine waterfalls in Europe. Take a stroll along the river or, if it’s warm enough, you can even enjoy a refreshing bath. There’s also a small museum and an old mill.
Kornati National Park consists of 150 uninhabited islands, islets and reefs. You can take a full day excursion, sailing by boat from one island to another, immersing your senses in their extraordinary beauty. It has been declared a national park in 1980 because of the diversity of the coastline, the beauty of its landscape and above all – because of the rich biocoenoses of the marine ecosystem.
Paklenica National Park is a dreamland for those who like climbing, hiking, mountains and all that goes with that! It is a national park on the southern side of Velebit, which is the largest mountain massif in Croatia. There are signed trails and you can safely explore the mountain by yourself or take a guided trip.
Zadar is known for its wild summer beachside festivals, but there are many bars and some clubs opened during other seasons as well. As in all of Dalmatia, on warm evenings everyone is outside, walking on the Riva, sitting on benches or in open-air bars and enjoying each other’s company.