Looking for the best things to do in Zadar, Croatia? You’ve come to the right place!
With so many things to see and do, it can be overwhelming to decide where to start. But don’t worry, I’ve got you covered!
In this post, I’ll be sharing what to do in Zadar, from must-visit attractions to hidden gems that you won’t find in your typical travel guide.
During my recent road trip around Croatia, I stumbled upon one of the most charming cities in the country – Zadar.
I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting much when I first arrived in Zadar, but it quickly won me over with its breathtaking beauty and lively atmosphere.
I fell in love with this coastal gem and I’m thrilled to share my experience with you!
⭐ Make the most of Zadar with this amazing walking tour of the city and its history! (Includes a tasting of local maraschino liquor and cheese from the island of Pag)
If you want to explore all that this fantastic destination has to offer, Olivia, an American with Croatian roots, who has been living in Croatia for 10 years and runs the travel site Inspired by Croatia, will show you some of her favorite things to do in Zadar to make you fall in love with the city as much as I did.
From admiring the breathtaking Sea Organ and enjoying stunning sunsets to exploring the city’s rich history and tasting delicious local cuisine, here’s everything you can’t miss in this charming coastal gem.
Índice / Contents
- Where to stay in Zadar (with recommended hotels)
- Zadar Travel Guide
- Best time to visit Zadar
- Best Things to Do in Zadar, Croatia
- 1. City Walls & Gates
- 2. Roman Forum, one of the best things to do in Zadar
- 3. St. Donat Church
- 4. Sip coffee on Narodni Trg
- 5. Sea Organ
- 6. Greeting to the Sun
- 7. Eat some delicious local seafood
- 8. Lounge on the beaches in Zadar
- 9. Try Maraschino in Zadar
- 10. Explore the best islands near Zadar
- 11. Zadar Archaeological Museum
- 12. Day Trips from Zadar
- Final Thoughts: Best Things to Do in Zadar
- FAQ about the top things to do in Zadar
- Is Zadar worth visiting?
- Is Zadar a good holiday destination?
- How many days do you need in Zadar?
- Does Zadar have a beach?
- Are there sandy beaches in Zadar?
- Can you swim in Zadar?
- Does Zadar have an airport?
- How do I get from Zadar Airport to Old Town?
- How much is a taxi from Zadar Airport to Zadar?
- Is Zadar a party place?
- What is Zadar famous for?
- What is the Zadar Sea Organ made out of?
- How do you get from Zadar to Italy?
- How do I get from Zadar to Split?
- What is Zadar known for?
- Is Zadar near Dubrovnik?
- How do I get from Dubrovnik to Zadar?
- Which is better Split or Zadar?
- Is there a boat from Split to Zadar?
- How do I get from Zadar to Plitvice Lakes?
- Does Zadar have snow?
- What language is spoken in Zadar?
Where to stay in Zadar (with recommended hotels)
For those exploring Zadar for the first time, nothing compares to staying in the Old Town.
Imagine opening your door and discovering ancient Roman ruins, majestic Byzantine churches, and lively bars and restaurants all just steps away – it is a truly magical experience.
If your ideal holiday is spent lounging on the beach, Zadar New Town is just what you need.
From here it’s a short journey to Old Town and some of the most popular beaches.
Families will enjoy staying at Diklo Beach, while friends and couples in search of nightlife will love Kolovare for its buzzing nightlife and restaurants.
- Best Hotel in Zadar Old Town: Almayer Art & Heritage Hotel and Dépendance
- Best Hotel for Families: Falkensteiner Family Hotel Diadora
- Best Luxury Hotel: Falkensteiner Hotel Adriana – Adults Only
- Best Mid-Range Hotel: Hotel Kolovare
- Best Budget Hotel: Hotel Delfin
Zadar Travel Guide
Welcome to Zadar, a small coastal town in Croatia with a big heart!
Nestled about halfway down the Dalmatian Coast, Zadar has been inspiring visitors since the 4th century BC. The city is home to 75,000 people but has that authentic, small-town vibe that immediately draws you in.
Croatia has become one of the most sought-after European summer destinations, yet a visit to Zadar needs to be noticed.
By choosing Zadar over more popular tourist spots, you will be welcomed by peace and tranquility away from the crowds while still enjoying all Croatia has to offer!
Even Alfred Hitchcock said “Zadar has the most beautiful sunset in the world” – so you know this town is unique.
Whether it’s meandering down the cobblestone streets of the Old Town, sunbathing on rare sandy beaches, or admiring ancient Roman architecture – there are plenty of amazing things to do in Zadar.
The city boasts an incredible wealth of culture and history which we’ll dive into in this guide so that you can plan the best visit.
From things to do in Zadar Old Town to the best islands near Zadar, let’s get into all the best places to visit in Zadar!
How to Get Around Zadar
Zadar is highly walkable, making getting around on foot the best way to discover all the city has to offer!
The Old Town is pedestrian-friendly, so you won’t have to worry about busy roads and traffic.
Another popular way to get around is to rent a bike. This is especially ideal when staying in the neighborhoods surrounding Zadar, making it a convenient mode of transportation for getting to and from the town.
Zadar Travel Tips
How many days to spend in Zadar
The Old Town itself is relatively small and all of the top Zadar attractions can be easily seen in one or two days.
However, if you’re spending 10 days in Croatia (or more), Zadar makes a fantastic base for exploring the surrounding Croatian islands and national parks.
What is the currency in Croatia?
At the beginning of 2023, Croatia switched from the Kuna to the Euro (which is used in most countries in the European Union).
Drinking water in Croatia
Croatian tap water is considered safe for human consumption.
The taste may seem different, but don’t worry, you can drink tap water during your trip in Croatia.
The best airport to fly into
The Zadar Airport is closest to town and serves mostly domestic flights and flights from other European destinations.
For international flights, it is best to fly into Split Airport or Zagreb Airport.
Best time to visit Zadar
Depending on what type of holiday you’re after, Zadar can be visited all year round.
- For swimming and lazy days on the beach, the months of June, July, and August are best.
- If history and sightseeing are more your thing, then the perfect time to visit is spring or fall when the weather is mild and there are fewer tourists.
Best Things to Do in Zadar, Croatia
1. City Walls & Gates
The city of Zadar has a unique system of walls and gates that have been standing for centuries!
Dating back to the 9th century, these walls served as protection from invaders, earning them a place on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.
The most impressive is the Land Gate, adorned with carvings including the Lion of St Mark (a symbol of the Republic of Venice).
The Sea Gate is also a must-see, with its beautiful facade and ornate decorations. Both the Land and Sea Gates once served as the official entrances to the city.
2. Roman Forum, one of the best things to do in Zadar
Situated in the heart of town, the Roman Forum can be found right between St. Donat Church and St. Mary’s Church, and Monastery.
This incredible archeological site is made up of ancient ruins from the 1st century BC and 3rd century AD and was used as a place of worship, markets, and public gatherings during its time.
You can even see some of the remains of former shops and baths once open here.
If you look closely, you may even notice the one looming column that was used as a “pillar of shame”. It is said that citizens found guilty of an offense would be chained to the column to be mocked and humiliated by the public.
This column blends in well with the surrounding architecture, so whether you’re a history buff or simply curious about the Roman Forum, you will want to seek it out.
3. St. Donat Church
The church of St. Donatus is a symbol of Zadar’s history and culture and a must-see for anyone visiting the city.
It stands in the center of the Roman Forum, surrounded by ancient ruins from centuries past. This impressive religious site features a round Byzantine-style church, as well as intricate stone and marble carvings.
This impressive church is attached to the Zadar Cathedral (Cathedral of St. Anastasia), considered the largest church in all of Dalmatia.
This is one of the most iconic sites of Zadar and often graces the front of postcards from the city!
4. Sip coffee on Narodni Trg
Narodni Trg (People’s Square) is the beating heart of Zadar.
Located in the center of town, it has been at the core of public life in Zadar since the Renaissance and continues to be a vibrant hub today.
From strolling around and admiring its stunning architecture to enjoying an afternoon coffee in one of the many cafes, Narodni Trg is the perfect place for people-watching and taking a break.
5. Sea Organ
The Sea Organ is one of the most unique attractions you’ll find not only in Zadar but anywhere in Croatia!
This amazing architectural sound art object plays music by way of sea waves and tubes located underneath a set of large marble steps. As the waves push air through the tubes, it produces eerily beautiful sounds that echo across the harbor.
This immersive musical experience is one of the top things to do in Zadar, a favorite among visitors to the city, and one of the free things to do in Croatia!
6. Greeting to the Sun
Right next to the Sea Organ, you’ll find a stunning modern installation called Greeting to the Sun.
This awe-inspiring attraction is made up of 300 solar panels and glass plates that light up at night, creating an incredible show of colors and movements.
The best time to visit is at night when the light show is in full effect.
Children especially love running around and dancing on top of the Greeting to the Sun, making it a great place for families and one of the top things to see in Zadar.
7. Eat some delicious local seafood
A visit to Zadar is not complete without sampling some of the local seafood!
The region is known for its fresh fish, as well as for classic Dalmatian dishes such as Brudet (a seafood stew), grilled fish, and Scampi Buzara (shrimp cooked with garlic and white wine).
Don’t forget to try some of the local wines while you’re here too, as these pair perfectly with the seafood delicacies of Zadar.
Here is a list of typical dishes to eat in Zadar:
- Octopus salad (Salata od hobotnice) – a refreshing salad with tender pieces of cooked octopus, onions, and olive oil.
- Pag cheese (Paški sir) – a hard sheep cheese with a unique flavor due to the island’s vegetation.
- Maraschino liqueur (Maraskino) – a sweet liqueur made from marasca cherries and produced only in Zadar.
- Peka – a meat or seafood dish slow-cooked under a bell-shaped lid, usually served with potatoes.
- Lamb under the bell (Janjetina ispod peke) – a tender and juicy lamb dish cooked under a bell-shaped lid with vegetables and herbs.
- Black risotto (Crni rižot) – a seafood risotto made with squid ink, giving it a distinctive black color and unique flavor.
- Fritule – a type of small fried doughnut, usually sprinkled with powdered sugar or served with chocolate or fruit syrup.
- Brodetto (Brudet) – a fish stew made with various types of fish and served with polenta or bread.
- Soparnik – a traditional savory pie filled with Swiss chard, onions, and garlic.
- Roasted bell peppers (Pečeni paprika) – bell peppers roasted and served with olive oil and garlic, a popular appetizer.
🍴 If you’re a foodie and want to try the local food, you’ll love this 3-Hour Zadar Food Tasting Tour!
8. Lounge on the beaches in Zadar
Zadar is blessed with some of the most beautiful beaches in Croatia.
Some of the best beaches Zadar offers include Borik Beach, a pristine bathing area with shallow waters perfect for families.
Another beach worth visiting is Zaton Beach, offering a mix of sand and pebbles that are great for wading, and Kolovare Beach.
If you’re looking for a picture-perfect spot, don’t miss Queen’s Beach – the longest sandy beach in Croatia.
All of the beaches here offer picturesque views of the Adriatic Sea and are known for their cleanliness and excellent amenities.
9. Try Maraschino in Zadar
When in Zadar, enjoy a sip of Maraschino, an iconic aperitif made with marasca cherries that grow along the Dalmatian coast.
Sweet and tart, this delightful spirit is said to have been first crafted by Dominican monks in the 1500s. Ever since then, it has been proudly cherished as a part of Zadar’s cultural heritage.
10. Explore the best islands near Zadar
Just a short boat ride away from Zadar are some of Croatia’s most stunning islands.
Dugi Otok is home to one of the most beautiful sandy beaches in Croatia, Sakarun Beach. This island is truly off the beaten track and is perfect if peace and tranquility are what you need.
⛵ You can book this full-day kayak adventure in Dugi Otok from Zadar, including a local guide (ACA certified), kayaking gear, a dry bag for personal belongings, insurance, and ferry/catamaran tickets.
Pag Island is known for its rugged and moon-like landscape, encouraging visitors to explore its rocky coastline, taste the famous local cheese, and admire traditional lace-making.
Finally, Kornati National Park should not be missed. Made up of 89 islands, islets, and reefs, this unique archipelago wows visitors with its amazing limestone landscape against the sapphire blue Sea.
⛵ Explore the best islands near Zadar and make the most of your time with this amazing Private Half Day Speedboat tour to Zadar’s Nearby Islands!
11. Zadar Archaeological Museum
If you’re a history buff visiting Zadar, the Archaeological Museum is a must-see attraction.
The museum houses an impressive collection of ancient artifacts, including Roman glassware and pottery, as well as prehistoric pottery and tools from the Stone Age. The museum is well-organized and informative, with detailed explanations in English.
You can take a tour of the museum’s permanent exhibition, which includes a range of exhibits from the prehistoric period to the Middle Ages.
The entrance fee is very affordable and includes access to other museums in the city. I recommend visiting during the week to avoid crowds.
12. Day Trips from Zadar
One of the best things to do in Zadar when you have already seen the highlights of the city is to take a day trip, especially if you have extra days on your trip to Croatia.
From awe-inspiring waterfalls and ancient Roman ruins to charming medieval towns and picturesque islands, the region around Zadar is packed with unforgettable day trip destinations.
- Plitvice Lakes National Park: A UNESCO World Heritage site with stunning waterfalls, lakes, and forests.
👉 Book this Plitvice Lakes Day Tour with a panoramic Boat ride with accommodation pickup and drop-off, and ticket included.
- Nin: A charming town known for its historic architecture, salt production, and sandy beaches.
- Kornati Islands National Park: A stunning archipelago of 89 islands with crystal-clear waters for swimming and snorkeling.
👉 Book this Kornati day tour on a small-group boat trip from Zadar including snorkeling, hiking on shore, seeing hidden cliffs, and savoring a taverna lunch.
- Paklenica National Park: A beautiful natural park with hiking trails, rock climbing, and scenic views.
- Sibenik: A picturesque town with a stunning cathedral and a beautiful old town.
- Krka National Park: A park with several waterfalls and a beautiful river perfect for swimming and picnics.
👉 Book this Krka Waterfalls, Food & Wine Tasting tour from Zadar with a boat ride and air-conditioned transport with WIFI.
- Velebit Nature Park: A park with hiking trails, stunning views, and rich flora and fauna.
- Pag Island: An island with beautiful beaches, salt fields, and local cheese and lamb dishes.
- Biograd na Moru: A lovely coastal town with beautiful beaches, historical sights, and a charming marina.
Final Thoughts: Best Things to Do in Zadar
I can say without a doubt that Zadar is one of the most charming and surprising cities I’ve visited in Croatia. From the moment I arrived, I was captivated by the city’s stunning beauty and vibrant energy.
From the captivating Greeting to the Sun installation to the delicious seafood and unique Maraschino liqueur, Zadar is a destination that should not be missed.
With its pristine beaches and nearby islands, there are plenty of activities to keep you busy – whether you want to relax on a beach or explore untouched nature.
However you choose to spend your time in Zadar, one thing is sure: it will be an unforgettable experience.
FAQ about the top things to do in Zadar
Is Zadar worth visiting?
Yes, Zadar is definitely worth visiting! Its combination of Roman ruins, beautiful seafront, charming Zadar’s old town, and laid-back atmosphere makes it a great holiday destination for history, culture, and relaxation seekers.
Plus, it's not as crowded as some other Croatian cities, which makes it even more appealing.
Is Zadar a good holiday destination?
Yes, Zadar is a great holiday destination with a mix of history, culture, beaches, and stunning seafront.
How many days do you need in Zadar?
You can see the main attractions in Zadar in 2-3 days, but you could easily spend more time exploring the surrounding areas and enjoying the beaches.
Does Zadar have a beach?
Yes, Zadar has several beaches along its coastline, mostly with pebble or rocky shores.
Are there sandy beaches in Zadar?
Most of the beaches in Zadar are pebble or rocky, but there are a few beaches with a mix of sand and pebbles, such as Borik Beach and Queen's Beach. However, they are not fully sandy.
Can you swim in Zadar?
Yes, you can swim in Zadar. The sea is generally warm and clean, and there are several beaches and swimming areas along the coast.
Does Zadar have an airport?
Yes, Zadar has an airport called Zadar Airport (ZAD), located around 8 km from the city center.
How do I get from Zadar Airport to Old Town?
You can get from Zadar Airport to the Old Town by taking a taxi, a shuttle bus, or a public bus. Taxis and shuttles are available outside the airport terminal, while the public bus departs from the airport every hour and stops at several locations in the city center, including the Old Town of Zadar.
How much is a taxi from Zadar Airport to Zadar?
The cost of a taxi from Zadar Airport to the center of Zadar may vary depending on the taxi company and the time of day. However, it usually costs around 120-150 HRK (approx. 16-20 EUR) for a one-way trip.
Is Zadar a party place?
While Zadar is not typically known as a party destination like some of the other cities on the Dalmatian coast, there are still some bars and clubs in the city center where you can enjoy a night out. However, it is generally a quieter and more relaxed city.
What is Zadar famous for?
Zadar is famous for its historical and cultural heritage and unique attractions such as the Sea Organ and the Sun Salutation. The city also offers beautiful beaches, excellent seafood, and stunning sunsets.
What is the Zadar Sea Organ made out of?
The Zadar Sea Organ is made out of a system of pipes and whistles that are placed beneath large marble steps leading down to the sea. As the waves and tides flow in and out, they push air through the pipes, creating a series of musical notes that can be heard above the surface.
How do you get from Zadar to Italy?
There are several options for traveling from Zadar to Italy, including by car, bus, train, or ferry. The exact route and mode of transportation will depend on your final destination in Italy.
How do I get from Zadar to Split?
There are several options for getting from Zadar to Split, including by bus, car, or ferry. The most convenient and cost-effective option is usually to take a bus, which runs regularly between the two cities and takes approximately 2 hours.
Another option is to rent a car and drive the coastal road, which offers stunning views of the Adriatic Sea. Finally, there are also several ferry services that operate between Zadar and Split, which can be a scenic way to travel between the two cities.
What is Zadar known for?
Zadar is known for its beautiful old town, stunning sunsets, unique sea organ, and rich history, which includes being ruled by the Romans, Venetians, Austrians, and even the French during Napoleon's time. It is also known for its delicious local food, including fresh seafood and traditional Dalmatian dishes.
Is Zadar near Dubrovnik?
No, Zadar is not near Dubrovnik. They are located in Croatia but are approximately 440 km (273 miles) apart.
How do I get from Dubrovnik to Zadar?
You can get from Dubrovnik to Zadar by bus or car. The bus journey takes around 8-9 hours. Alternatively, you can rent a car and drive along the beautiful coastal road, which takes approximately 5-6 hours, depending on the route and stops along the way.
Which is better Split or Zadar?
Both cities have their own unique charm and appeal. Split is larger, more bustling, and has a more prominent nightlife scene. Zadar is smaller, more laid-back, and has a charming historic old town and scenic waterfront.
Is there a boat from Split to Zadar?
Yes, there are various ferry companies that operate a regular service between Split and Zadar during the summer season, with a travel time of around 2-3 hours.
How do I get from Zadar to Plitvice Lakes?
The most convenient way to get from Zadar to Plitvice Lakes National Park is by car or bus, with a travel time of around 1.5-2 hours. Some tour companies also offer guided day trips from Zadar to the park.
Does Zadar have snow?
No, Zadar doesn’t have snow. Zadar is not known for having snow since it is located in a Mediterranean climate zone with mild winters.
What language is spoken in Zadar?
The official language of Zadar is Croatian.
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