2 Days in Zadar: Home to the Sea Organ
To be honest I had not heard of Zadar in Croatia until I was trying to book a flight for my Croatia sailing holiday. The tour was starting in Dubrovnik and finishing in Split but I have already visited Split so I was looking at somewhere else to visit in Croatia and it turned out it was a lot cheaper for me to fly back to the UK from Zadar so this was the main reason for my visit. Turns out that Zadar is one of Europes best destinatons to visit so why have I not been there before?
However, I really enjoyed exploring Zadar. It might have been because I had just spent 8 days on a boat tour and now, it was nice to be back to travelling independently around a place and I really liked the old town.
I spent 2 days in Zadar, it had a lovely old town to walk around and it was a great base to explore the Plitvice National Park with many tours available.
If I was visiting earlier in the year I could have spent more time in the old town but the weather had turned as it was getting to the end of the summer and it was raining hard one of the days so it was not really the time to chill.
If the weather is hot and sunny you could spend hours sitting in the old town with a drink people watching. Sunbathing on one of the two beaches or even on a boat trip exploring the surrounding 120 islands 100 of which are uninhabited making it a great place to find an island all for yourself.
Read my practical guide to Zadar if you are planning a visit, if you are not already planning to visit Zadar you may want to add it to your travel plans after reading this.
Where is Zadar
Croatia is made up of three main areas. There is the central part which is where The Capital of Croatia, Zagreb is and there isn’t much going on, but this is where a lot of Croatians live.
Then there are the mountains which separate central Croatia and the coast. If you like mountains then Paklenica mountains are great for hiking.
Zadar is on the North Dalmatian Coast which is one of four historical regions in Croatia and it is supposed to be the most beautiful according to the locals. Zadar also claims to have one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see as both nights I was in Zadar it was cloudy or raining.
And yes I did google if this is where Dalmatians came from after seeing one and it there are a bit of mixed information that they might of oringinated from Croatia or it might just be the name that came from the region so I am still unsure
Near Zadar is Kornati National Park a group of islands you can visit on boats andPlitvice National Park which is home to some stunning lakes. They now regulate how many people can visit Plitvice National Park daily, so it is recommended to purchase tickets at least two days in advance or go visit with a tour agency.
Also another tour you can do from Zadar is Krka Waterfalls which you can go swimming in but it get very busy so try and go early before the crowds get there.
When is the best time to visit Zadar
Zadar has a mediterannean climate so its hot in the summer (July and august) and can be very cold in the winter. I visited end 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 medeterean when it rains it rains as they say.
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 the 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.
Things to see in Zadar
There are many ATMs in Zadar and a couple of currency exchange places. The local currency is Kuna but some places were excepting Euros.
Zadar has a lovely old town to walk around and 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.
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 said it was the main thing to see in Croatia.
It 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.
The walking tour I did started off outside the Archaeological museum which is by the Ruins of The Forum. The forum was destroyed by an earthquake, so not it is just ruins. 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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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 peoples 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
Hostel 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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