Zadar was a pleasant surprise. Frankly, it wasn’t on our initial itinerary for Croatia. What brought us to Zadar then?
There were two reasons for adding Zadar to our Croatia itinerary – one, we wanted a break from our road journey from Dubrovnik to Lake Balaton in Hungary and Zadar is well on the way; two, I had read a lot about how Zadar has the most beautiful sunset in the world. Zadar’s sunsets charmed Alfred Hitchcock. And I’m a sucker for sunsets!
Anyway. Zadar surpasses our expectations. You feel good when you visit a place with no expectations, and it turns out to be the best place you’ve ever visited. Don’t you?
Zadar, with a plethora of attractions ranging from cultural, historical, to modern is one of the most charming yet untapped cities of Croatia.
In this post, we’ll dive into the essential and best things to do in Zadar, Croatia.
Now, without further ado let’s get started.
Best Things to do in Zadar
#1 Wander the Old Town
Stroll the marble-paved streets lined with cafes, shops, and impressive architectural heritage of the old town, the core of Zagreb.
From the columns of the City Forum (Roman Forum), City Gates, City Lodge, Venetian Bell Tower, City Sentinel, to Five Wells Square (Trg Pet Bunara) and City Walls – the historic old town is an intriguing mix of Roman, Byzantine, and Venetian architecture.
Byzantine-style 9th-century, St. Donatus’ Church with its rotunda is the symbol of Zadar.
The largest Romanesque cathedral in all of Dalmatia, the 12th-century Zadar Cathedral aka St Anastasia’s Cathedral looks imposing with attractively adorned doorways, and a Venetian belfry (bell-tower).
You can climb the bell-tower for amazing far-reaching views over Zadar.
We did a self-guided walking tour of Zadar though there are free and guided walking tours of Zadar that you can book.
Check out some of the best guided walking tours of Zadar.
Wondering where to stay in Zadar? Check out the best hotels to stay in Zadar, Croatia.
#2 Visit a Museum or Two
Zadar has many interesting museums but there are two of them that tickled our mind and we recommend you to definitely visit them.
They are the Archeological Museum and the Museum of Ancient Glass.
The Archeological Museum is a perfect place to take a ride through Zadar’s rich history. The museum’s gift shop offers unique archeological items and souvenirs for sale.
The Museum of Ancient Glass has over 2000 glass exhibits and you can even make your own glass vase to take back home.
#3 Stroll Along The Riva
The Riva is a beautifully landscaped waterfront promenade on the edge of the Old Town peninsula (Obala Petra Kresimira IV). It serves as a park, a beach, and a social meeting point for locals.
Stop by to admire the stunning Zadar University while strolling along the Riva. Dating back to the 12th-century, it’s the oldest university in Croatia.
#4 Listen to the Sea Organ
Halfway along the Riva, you’ll hear a unique sound. That actually is the sound created by 35 pipes of the Sea Organ (Morske orgulje) with ever-changing sea-waves.
The pipe organ isn’t recognizable at once as it’s installed under the concrete steps by the sea on the Riva.
There are a series of holes in the ground and we saw many tourists especially kids putting their ears close to the holes to listen to the sound of the Sea Organ. Mini-me mimicked them to closely hear the underwater whistles.
#5 Revel in the Beauty of Sunset at Monument to the Sun
Designed by Nikola Basic, Monument to the Sun aka Greetings to the Sun represent the sun and truly celebrates the extraordinary sunsets that Zadar offers.
It’s a solar-powered 22-meter disc that bursts down into colors as the sun goes down.
We spent hours sitting on the bench at the Riva waiting for the sun to go down and witness the magical phenomenon. It was crowded than usual but the experience was absolutely rewarding.
#6 Take a Day Trip to Sakarun Beach
Sakarun Beach aka Saharun Beach on Dugi Atok Island is a beautiful white sand beach. A boat tour from Zadar takes you to the beach. Please note, boat trips to Sakarun Beach operate from June through Septemeber.
You can book a boat tour with a local agent. There are plenty in the Zadar Old Town. Or can book it online.
#7 Get a Scoop of the Best Ice Cream in Zadar
While Zadar has a wealth of ice-cream and gelato shops but there are some quite famous among locals and tourists alike.
I recommend Bob Rock’s Ice Cream Shop and Slasticarna Donat above all. They have a wide array of flavors to choose from. I tried and loved the lemon pie flavor at Bob Rock’s and mango flavor at Slasticarna while mini-me as always picked her favorite chocolate flavor both the time 🙂
They are packed with customers during the season so be prepared to queue up but mind you, their ice-cream is worth an effort.
#8 Sample Local Food
Zadar has some great options to sample Dalmatian cuisine. While in Zadar, try the top-notch restaurants that serve the best local food.
While hubby and mini-me tried Dalmatian fish, I was happy with fries. Zadar has limited options for vegetarians and vegans.
#9 Take a Day Trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park
If you haven’t yet visited Plitvice Lakes, Zadar is the closest city to the most notable attraction in Croatia.
If you plan a day trip on your own, make sure to book ahead in time as buying tickets at the counter is a bad idea. Despite reaching the park at 7:30 am, we got 10:30 am entry timing as they can only allow a fixed number of people at one time.
It’s suggested to have a rented car for a hassle-free and enjoyable day trip to Plitvice Lakes. You can’t deny the joy of freedom that comes with driving on your own. If you haven’t rented a car in Europe before, our guide to renting a car in Europe can come handy.
A pre-booked guided tour is highly recommended especially if you don’t have your transportation sorted plus it saves a lot of time and hassle.
#10 Enjoy Swimming at Krka National Park
Love swimming? Just an hour’s drive away from Zadar, Krka National Park is another amazing national park that allows swimming, unlike Plitvice.
You can swim in the river below the gorgeous seven cascades once you are done hiking.
Zadar Travel Tips
- Book a stay in and around the Old Town to have freedom of getting around effortlessly. We stayed at Guest House Lenny Rooms which was just a few steps away from the Old Town. If you stay outside the Old Town, public buses and uber are the transportation options.
- Uber is freely available in all of Croatia including Zadar. Make sure to download the app on your phone beforehand and add the card details for ease of use.
- Rent a car if you plan to take day trips to Krka and Plitvice Lakes.
Tempted to visit Zadar? You are going to love Zadar!
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More about Croatia travel on our blog
- 7 Best Places to Visit in Croatia
- 5 Coolest Things to do in Dubrovnik, Croatia
- The Blue Cave in Croatia
- The Island of Vis in Croatia
- Best Things to do in Split, Croatia
- Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
- Zagreb, Croatia
Europe travel guides and itineraries on our blog:
- Top 5 Things to do in Montenegro
- Vintgar Gorge, Slovenia
- Lake Bled, Slovenia
- Kranj, Slovenia
- Ljubljana, Slovenia
- Bratislava, Slovakia
- Vienna, Austria
- Wachau Valley, Austria
- Hallstatt, Austria
- Salzburg, Austria
- Driving the Epic Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse
- Undredal – a Fjord Village in Aurland, Norway
- Oslo, Norway
- Finnish Lapland in Summer
- Copenhagen, Denmark
- Dragør, Denmark
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