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I visited Zadar as part of a Croatia trip which was a group tour but then I finished it off my spending 2 days in Zadar alone.
I loved my time in Croatia as it’s such a beautiful country and was really surprised at how nice Zadar was to explore as I hadn’t really heard much about Zadar until I was planning my trip to Croatia.
If I visited Zadar in the height of summer, I would love to spend more time relaxing and eating and drinking in the old town as it had such a wonderful atmosphere.
Zadar is definitely worth visiting if you like exploring old towns and enjoying food and drinking is outdoor squares watching the locals and tourists.
Zadar is a beautiful coastal town in Croatia with stunning views of the Adriatic sea.
It is slowly becoming a popular destination to visit in Europe especially from the UK as budget airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair do cheap flights.
Since Zadar has its own airport it makes it a great place to start or end your trip in Croatia or just visit Zadar for a short break.
I finished my vacation in Croatia in Zadar as it was the cheapest flight I could find back to the UK and I love a bargain flight.
I have visited Dubrovnik and Split before, two more coastal towns in Croatia and I couldn’t wait to explore more of the European country.
This Croatian trip I decided to do it as a boat tour which was also a first for me but since I love cruising and bring on the sea it was brilliant and such a great way to explore Croatia.
However I would recommend a different boat tour company as I did a budget tour and although I had a great time I think im too old for tours like that now. But I would jump at the chance to do another boat tour around Croatia.
Another reason I planned to add Zadar to my Croatia tour was to cross off a bucket list item of visiting Plitvice lakes which are absolutely stunning and I would highly recommend.
There are many ATMs in Zadar and a couple of currency exchange places. The local currency is Kuna but some places were excepting Euros.
When is the best time to visit Zadar
Zadar weather has a lot of sunshine as it has a Mediterranean climate, so it is hot in the summer (July and August) but can be very cold in the winter.
I visited end of September and the weather was started to turn, it was not as hot but still t shirt weather. It was cloudy and windy and it even rained.
Actually it rained very hard like it tends to in the Mediterranean when it rains it rains as they say. I was told rain was very common in Zadar in September.
As it was a little cooler when I visited I didnt spend any time on Zadar beach but did walk along the sea front and it definately blew away a few cobwebs as it was windy but this is great for listening to the Zadar sea organ which I will talk about later.
I would suggest that May June and beginning of September would be the best times to visit Zadar as should be warm but less crowded and a little cooler than July. However if you visit July and Agusut make sure you stay somewhere with air condioning as it can be very hot and still hot at night time.
How to get to Zadar
Zadar has its own airport and there is also a port with a lot of boats that were docked. There is a large bus station that had buses to a lot of cities in Croatia.
You can read more about my experience at Zadar Airport here. I flew back to the UK from Zadar with Ryanair being the major airline and it was also quite cheap which would make Zadar a great place to visit for a long weekend from the UK.
I got a bus from Split to Zadar which was easy to purchase a ticket online or at the bus station in Split. There were several daily buses from Split to Zadar but be prepared to get to the bus station in plenty of time.
I got on the bus 15 minutes before it was due to leave and there were not many seats left. They oversold the seats and people had to stand or sit in the aisle until the first stop which was about 1 hour. The bus was medium comfort it was OK for a couple of hours travel it took about 2.45 hours to get from Split to Zadar.
I did have a bad experience using the disabled toilet at the bus station in Zadar which you can read more about here but apart from that I was quite impressed with the transport in Zadar.
Learning about the history of Zadar
I ended up doing a free walking tour as I was wandering around Zadar old town and came across the tour which was just about to start and I am glad I did as it was actually really interesting.
Since I did not know anything about Zadar it was nice to learn more about the old town and the buildings I was seeing. I had walked around Zadar Old Town earlier on my own and it was pretty but I didn’t really know what I was looking at.
You can read more about the History of Zadar in one of the guide books. The Romans came in 1st century BC and then Zadar used to be part of Venice as well as some other nations.
However the Romans and Venitian are the most important in Zadar history as these left the most influence in the town. The Venetians built the wall going around the peninsular and the town still has a lot of Roman architecture, the Roman column at end of main street is from the 18th century and was to mark the entrance to the city
Hitler and Mousilini were mentioned a lot during the tour. Unfortunately 80% of the city was destroyed in the second world war which is why some of the buildings in Zadar are concrete and quite ugly as they had to erect buildings quickly and cheaply so people could move back into the city. People who lived in the city in 1915 to 1995 had to change their passports 5 times due to being ruled by different countries.
If you want to find out more about the history of Zadar there is a war walking tour as it was all a little bit too much for me to take in the short space of time I had in Zadar.
How accessible is Zadar
I found Zadar quite accessible for my needs, Zadar is mainly flat and easy to walk around. There are broken flags on the ground as some of these are original so you have to be careful where you are walking so you dont trip and they can also get a bit slippy when wet.
One of the things I loved about walking around Zadar was the number of places to sit and rest. This really helps when you have mobility limitations. Along the promenade there were plenty of benches and places to sit and even in the old town.
I noticed a few public toilets which you have to pay 3 kuna to use, but there are so many cafes so for the price of a coffee you can stop and use their bathroom. Some places you have to ask for a key though so they must get a lot of people just going in to use the toilet and not buying anything.
What to do in Zadar
Zadar is quite small but there are plenty of things to do making it a great destination for a short break or a summer holiday as a solo traveller or couple or families, Zadar caters for all.
Zadar Free Walking Tour
There are many things to do in Zadar one of the highlights is walking around the old town. It wasn’t until I did a free walking tour that I realised how much history and interesting things there was to see in Zadar as I mentioned earlier I would recommend this Zadar free walking tour.
There were a few different free walking tours as well as paid tours of the old town.
But if you want to explore Zadar independently at your own pace. Travel Bloggers Jetsettingfools have put together a cool self guided walking tour of Zadar which I was going to do before I stumbled across the free walking tour.
It is illegal in Croatia to give free walking tours so our guide had to charge us all 1 Kuna to take part and give 1 receipt which was a little strange.
We didn’t give her any money at this point, but she said she would take it from the tips at the end. Even though it is called a free walking tour the guide is relying on tips, so you pay how much you think the tour was worth.
Visit the unique Zadar sea organ
The main attraction in Zadar is the sea organ. I wasn’t aware of the sea organ until I was on my previous tour and someone on my boat tour in Croatia, said it was the main thing to see in Croatia. I then googled it as I still wasnt sure what it was but was excited I was planning on visiting Zadar later in my Croatian trip as I would get to see it for myself.
The sea organ is a series of pipes in marble steps by the sea which makes musical sounds when the waves flow through. It was a lot louder than I was expecting mainly because the weather had changed, and the sea was rough.
You can sometimes hear the sea organ at the very edge of the old town as it gets loud especially if there is a storm. It is not liked by all locals due to this. It was quite busy and in the summer periods people swim in the sea by the organ, but the water was too rough during my visit.
To be honest it is not amazing, it is interesting and worth seeing if you are in Zadar, but I would not say you have to travel specifically to Zadar to see it.
It was created by architect Nikola Bašić who also designed the Greeting to the Sun which is next to the sea organ at the northern point of the Zadar peninsular a couple of minutes walk from Zadar Old Town.
The Greeting to the Sun is a series of solar panels which represents the sun and the planets. The size of the sun and planets are to scale but the distance is not as if it were some of the planets would be at the other end of Croatia.
It is best to see the Greeting of the Sun after dark when the solar panels show different lights. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see it at night as a storm came to town and it was too wet to go out.
During my visit the main solar panel which represents the sun had a barrier around it due to recently being vandalised by a local, luckily none of the mechanics were damaged.
If you visit these you will walk along Paseo Maritimo which is the promenade along the sea.
There were options along here to go on a boat tour or on the semi submarine which I saw in most ports when travelling in Croatia.
People are sat along here watching the boats and the waves, there were a few stalls selling local produce, a children’s play area and a public toilet (for 3 kunas). I saw a little land train along here which looked fun.
Seek out the Roman ruins in Zadar
The forum is a municipal square from the Roman era, built from the 1st century BC to the 3rd century AD, 45 by 90 metres in size.
It is a interesting place to see, it gives you an insight into how the Romans built the town. After doing the walking tour I found out so much more.
There are still some of the original flags on the ground and one of the original columns dating back 2000 years. The other column was destroyed.
The columns were used for decoration and in the middle ages it was used as column of shame. People who had committed crimes would be tied to the column and people could do whatever they wanted to them, kick, punch, throw fruit etc.
The duration of being tied to the column would depend on what crime had been committed. If someone had killed, they would probably not survive being tied to the column.
It was said that a demon used to live inside the column and a plaque with a cross was erected onto the column and then the demon escaped.
Animals were sacrificed at the alter which is no longer there but you can still see a drain for the blood in the original flags and that would be used for blood to flow away.
Visit the various Zadar churches and cathedrals
The St Donatus Church was built from forum ruins in the 9th century. You can go inside for a fee . Many of the locals don’t like it as its very simple. However it is supposed to be great to visit after sunset where there is a mini light show inside the church.
It also has great acoustics and there are regular musical performance inside the church.
There were 4 main prophets of Zadar and it is actually quite a interesting story. St Anastasia who had an arranged marriage to a rich man. However Anasatia said she wanted to remain a virgin for life and he didn’t like this so he locked her up. Sometimes she was allowed out and this is when she met the 2nd Prophet St Chrysogonus. He gave her books to read. She died and donated all her money to the church but she was classed as a martyer so the cathlocis didn’t want her money.
St Anastasia Cathedral is the Biggest catholic cathedral in Dalmatian which can be visited inside during the day but not during a service. This was built in the 13th century and you must cover shoulders and knees to go inside.
The 2nd saint Chrysogonus is always seen on his horse and you can see him in Zadar old town. However he is not the statue outside the St Chrysogonus Church. The statue outside the church is a famous writer who wrote the first novel in croatian language majority of people don’t know his name but he is called superman due to cape and muscles, if it wasn’t for him people would not speak Croatian so he is well liked.
St Chrysogonus was a roman and again not liked by the Catholics. He had his head cut off and was thrown into the sea. The St Chrysongonus Church is not often open sometimes in July and August they hold concerts.
Now the 3rd prophet St Zoilus saw St Chrysogonus in a dream and he told Zolius where to find his body and his head so off he went and found them and reunited the body parts.
St Simone is the 4th prophet, he was told he would not die until he recognised the messiah. He lived a long time and then Joseph and Jess came into his church, he recognised Jesus and then died peacefully. You can go inside St Simone Church but it is very strict and covered shoulders and knees need to be convered, need to be silent and no photos allowed.
Walk through Zadar city gates
The Land City Gates were built by the Venetians and it has a Italian look to it, you could easily think you were somewhere in Italy when you see it. This is the first thing I saw when I entered the old town as I came from the direction of the Bus station.
(please note this is what I learnt from my time in Zadar if you want accuracy or to find out more I would suggest a book on the history of Zadar)
When the French came to Zadar, they brought the guillotine, but the locals were so shocked by the brutality of it after it was used to kill one woman, they destroyed it as fire wood. By the Our Lady of Kurhal Church there used to be a fortress and the road was a moat to protect the city. Here you will find some Statues of people that were famous for fighting for the Croatian languages.
For such a little old town there were a lot of churches St. Roko Church still has regular masses taking place it is easy to miss as it is a lot smaller than the other churches in Zadar.
The Main street goes through all the old town and it known as long street.
Read about The best day trips from Zadar
The City hall was built by Italians in the 1930s. The locals don’t like it because it is too big for the square plus it is part of fascism due to being built in muslini times.
Food and Drink in Zadar
Narodni trg u Zadru is the Main square known as People’s Square is where the locals go for coffee, they will sit for a couple of hours chatting.
If you go inside Cafe lovre you will discover an old church, you don’t have to purchase anything in the café, but the building has been erected around the church to protect it. This is one of the oldest buildings in Zadar
Trznica Zadar is a Green market open 7 to 2 or 3 fish market open until 10.30 locals shop here so come here for the life of the city. Cheese shop Gligora Cheese nearby to try the most famous cheese in Croatia Pag .
There are lots of restaurants cafes and bakeries in Zadar making it a real delight for any foodie. I had some delicious pastries and a fellow blogger said the best burgers were at Baz Burgers in my best burgers around the world article I wish I had longer in Zadar so I could have tried one.
If you want a coffee and some cake then go to Art Kavana a coffee shop just outside the main gate to Zadar and the cakes were delicious. It was reasonably priced and if I had longer in Zadar I would have made this my go to café. It has seating outside as well as inside and so many cakes to choose from.
Read about Traditional Croatian Foods
Where to stay in Zadar
When I was looking at places to staying Zadar a hostel kept coming up in my search and it had good reviews, I liked the look of it as I was on a tight budget, so I decided to stay in a hostel.
I have never shared a room in a hostel before I have stayed in single rooms but after staying in space pod in Singapore, I have decided to try a few more hostels to save money so I can travel more.
I didn’t get any pictures of the room as there were people sleeping but it did look like the pictures on website.
The reviews for the Downtown Boutique hostel are good and it is a nice place to stay I would highly recommend.
The location is great in the middle of the old town with lots of eateries, shops and walking distance to all the attractions. It was about a 15-minute leisurely walk from the bus station and a 5-minute walk to the airport bus.
I was drawn to this hostel as the beds had curtains giving you some extra privacy and the beds were comfortable. I had one pillow and a sheet. I was asked if I needed a towel, but I had my own.
There was a light, a plug socket, USB port and a little drop-down table in the bed cubicle. I had a large storage space which was lockable. I had the top bunk, but it was easy to get into with proper steps rather than a ladder.
The bathrooms were so clean, and the communal space was nice. There was a large fridge to store food, a kettle and a microwave but no cooker.
There is a restaurant in the hostel which was very popular with other tourists that were not staying at the hostel. I got a 15% discount and it was tasty food.
The staff were friendly, it is not really a sociable hostel I said hello to other guests and spoke to someone in the communal lounge but everyone seemed to keep themselves to themselves but it was a really nice experience and I will try more hostels in the future. It was also a quiet hostel even though there was one large group of men staying at the hostel it didn’t have a party feel.
Click here to find the latest prices and availability for Downtown Boutique Hostel if you dont want to stay in a hostel use the search box below for latest prices on hotels in Zadar.
Have you been to Zadar? Tell me in the comments what you thought
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