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Zadar Travel Blog: What To Do In Zadar In 2020
Zadar isn’t as well known as its coastal neighbors like Split, the famed walled city of Dubrovnik or even the capital Zagreb. In the past, it has been overlooked as a destination by many people traveling to Croatia, but that’s now changing. And, let me tell you that this ancient seaside city is jam-packed with incredible sights. I know; it’s my new hometown!
Zadar is the second-largest city in Dalmatia, and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Europe. I’m ashamed to admit, but after living in Zadar for so many years, I have overlooked Croatia’s fifth-biggest city on our travel blog myself. *Slaps forehead*.
What was I thinking?
I was too busy exploring the rest of Croatia and paid no attention to one of the best Croatian cities to visit. Well, enough is enough. It’s time to share with you my hometown of Zadar and give her a moment to shine on Chasing the Donkey. This is our guide on the things to do in Zadar in 2020, what to see in Zadar, including all the major Zadar sights, and suggestions on where to lay your head after all of the sightseeing.
Warning: this Zadar Croatia travel guide is long, very long..
Things To Do In Zadar Croatia
The Sea Organ
One of the best things to see in Zadar is the Sea Organ. The magic that is the Sea Organ, known as the Morske orgulje in Croatian, is mesmerizing. Okay, it’s not magic. The music actually comes from the waves. The waves push air through 35 underwater pipes stretching across 70 meters, and the sound pops up all along the waterfront promenade known as the Riva.
Now, I know I said it was an organ, and it is, just don’t think you can make a song request or even expect to hear anything you’ll recognize. Because it’s nature, the notes played are a touch haunting, very enchanting but always relaxing.
The Sea Organ, created by Croatian architect Nikola Bašićis, is a harmonious mix of modern design and nature. It’s an area you can enjoy all year round. Take a seat on the broad marble steps that flank the water or along the long rows of bench seating.
We always love taking our friends to see the Sea Organ, which never ceases to amaze our visitors. On a hot summer day, we pack towels because inevitably this happens.
Being one of the major Zadar attractions, the Sea Organ is busiest at sunset, with hordes of photographers and sun gazers waiting to see one of the famous sunsets. This is definitely one of the top 5 things to in Zadar.
Local Tips: Head to the Sea Organ at least a half-hour before the sun is scheduled to vanish behind the horizon to claim your front-row seat or, even better, come to Zadar in autumn and spring when there are fewer tourists.
And, we recommend you get an ice-cream from Slasticarna Donat. It’s the best ice cream in town. Now, I can’t recommend you a flavor as there are far too many to choose from. I can only suggest you close your eyes and point and take what you get. Once you have your ice cream, you can sit along the steps and enjoy the show.
Greeting To The Sun
After you’ve watched the sunset, turn to your right, and just next door is a solar-powered work of art that explodes with an array of brightly colored lights – The Greeting to the Sun. Tap dance, tip-toe or waltz across its glass surface as it changes hues.
The Greeting to the Sun consists of 300 multi-layer glass plates in the shape of a circle 22 meters in diameter. It is conceived as a spatial installation in the form of an amphitheater surrounded by stone blocks with a presentation of all Solar System planets and their orbits.
This light display is one of many great family activities when traveling with children in Croatia. The same artist who created the Sea Organ created the Greeting to the Sun as well, and once again created something uber-cool.
Gold & Silver Museum
There are quite a few museums in Zadar, and this is one of our favorites. Head to the church of St Mary’s, and then turn left. There, you’ll see a small door selling tickets. This museum with priceless treasures has Ebeen preserved by the Benedictine nuns and has been since WWII.
The priceless treasures are so well maintained for items that are centuries old. Of particular note are fabrics embroidered with golden threads made by local nuns, crowns, and a set of hands of several saints enclosed in gold.
Museum Of Ancient Glass
One of our other favorite museums in Zadar is this one. This Museum is home to numerous glass artifacts, some of them dating as far back as the 1st century and others that were created far more recently.
Demonstrations of various glass-working techniques, including bead making and glass blowing, are also held at this spot. Visitors can easily stroll the halls where additional exhibits touch on such topics as the origins and history of glass.
A visit to the Ancient Museum of Glass in Zadar is an absolute must-do when you visit Zadar. Moreover, because the museum continuously organizes new events and houses temporary exhibitions, even if you have been once, you can always go back for round two or three.
St. Anastasia’s Cathedral
Open mainly for worship rather than for tours, parts of this historic church building were constructed as early as the 3rd century. However, most travelers visit for the magnificent views from the bell tower. Climbing this structure is a feat not for the faint of heart or the mobility impaired because the steps are very steep. Admission to the bell tower costs about USD 2.50 (€2 or 15 Kuna). Travelers should note that this portion of the site remains closed on Sundays and holidays.
St Anastasia Zadar was built in the 12th and 13th centuries, in the Romanesque style. Contained within the church is the sarcophagus of St. Anastasia. Head up high to the viewing area. Once there, you’ll have magnificent panoramic views across the St. Donat’s Church and Roman Forum as well as to the Velebit Mountains.
St. Donat’s Church
Those who are interested in architecture will want to make their way over to this church because it is widely considered to be among the finest examples of Byzantine church architecture.
The rounded interior is designed so that the light that falls into the sanctuary creates varied patterns at different times of the day. However, because the inside of the building is somewhat plainly decorated compared to the exterior, those of you who are not architecture enthusiasts may only want to view the building from the outside rather than venturing in.
Once night falls during the summer, you can enjoy the sounds of the Musical Nights Festival. This classical music festival runs from July to August each year, bringing the 9th-century St. Donat’s Church and Roman Forum to life.
Found across the street from St. Donat’s Church, this museum provides travelers with some background information on Croatia’s history, from prehistoric times to around the Middle Ages. The museum is very well organized, and excellent English translations accompany most of the displays.
You will want to allow several hours for your visit. Museum admission typically costs around USD 5 (€4 or 30 Kuna) for adult visitors.
The first time I visited the forum was when I was six years old. I remember skidding along the polished stone street, Kalelarga, and turning the corner at the Archeological Museum and seeing the Forum for the first time. I was awestruck by the ancient ruins. Being a kid from Sydney, I had never seen anything like it before. It really got me thinking about the world, its many ancient sites. This is where I got my inspiration to travel.
The Forum in Zadar is located in the heart of Old Town Zadar, where passersby can walk among the remains of the Romans.
Why not relax at one of the cafe’s in the Forum and take in the history and gorgeous architecture of the area. The Forum was built from the 1st century BC to the 3rd century AD and is located beside St. Donat’s Church.
Local Tip: Look at the foundations of St. Donat’s church, and you will see the remains of Roman structures that were reused.
Narodni Trg (Peoples Square)
This square has been at the center of public life in Zadar for generations. Even today, people use it as a meeting point. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a coffee at one of the many cafes. Sit down, relax and watch the world go by, or discover Zadar with this fun, interactive new game – Jadera Secrets – that starts in the Peoples Square and literally walks you through the Old Town’s history.
Foša Land Gate Zadar
People often ask me about things to see in Zadar. To me, no visit to Zadar is complete without taking a look at (and a photo of) the Land Gate located next to the port of Foša. Built by the Venetians in 1543, this massive Zadar city gate served as the main entry into the city. There is an excellent example of the Venetian Republic Lion at the top of the gate.
Local Tip: Foša seafood restaurant, which is located in the Foša port, is a highly recommended seafood restaurant.
The Zadar Pijaca (market) has been operating since the Middle Ages and is quite large by Dalmatian standards. It’s your typical market with fresh food and vegetables. Pick up some famous Pag cheese (Paski Sir) from one of the local producers or try out the award-winning Gligora cheese.
If you do get to the Pijaca, be sure not to miss the Peskarija (fish market). This place has a wide variety of fish available and changes daily. If you’re staying in Zadar and have a kitchen at your disposal, the Pijaca and Peskarija are where you can pick up everything you need to try and cook some Croatian recipes.
The Museum Of Illusions Zadar
This fascinating museum is where you can have a mind-blowing adventure where nothing is like it seems. At the museum, your senses will be tested, your brain challenged, and most importantly, you will have an absolute blast.
You may have already heard about the one in Zagreb, but the one in Zadar is different. The Zadar Museum of Illusions brings many new exhibits, including a bamboozling vortex tunnel, the first of this type in the region, a room of mirrors that distort everything providing a unique perspective on reality, a room with a chair that changes the perception of the size of people and will have you scratching your head wondering what is going on.
As if that was not already enough fun, in the museum, you can defy gravity and walk on the wall of a room. Just like Spiderman! And, for anyone wanting to test their brain, there are several didactic puzzles that will challenge even the sharpest of sharp minds.
Yes, you read it right, there is a sphinx in Zadar. This sphinx, however, was not built by the Ancient Egyptians but made by a local artist named Giovani Smirich.
He had the Sphinx built in 1918 after the death of his wife, as a memorial to her. Interestingly, this sphinx is distinctly different from its Egyptian relatives in that it’s made of concrete and it has fingers instead of paws. You’ll find the Sphinx in the garden of Villa Attilia located in the bay of Maestral, which is in Brodarica.
It’s quite a walk to get there, so make sure you wear some comfy travel shoes.
Places To Visit Near Zadar – Day Trips From Zadar
Paklenica National Park
Paklenica National Park is about a 40-minute drive from Zadar. All you need to do is follow the signs to Starigrad Paklenica, which is the location of the entrance to the park. We strongly recommend this as one of your day trips from Zadar. Paklenica National Park is utterly beautiful and really popular with climbers and hikers.
The park was established in 1949 and is Croatia’s second-oldest national park behind Plitvice Lakes National Park in Northern Dalmatia.
Paklenica National Park is 95 km2 and consists of two dolomite limestone canyons called Velika (big) Paklenica & Mala (Small) Paklenica in the Velebit Mountains, which is Croatia’s largest mountain range. Mrs. CtD is always saying that the Velebit often looks like a Hollywood backdrop on a clear day.
The park has around 150km of hiking trails, which, if you have the legs for it, will ultimately take you up to the highest peak of Vaganski Vrh at 1,757 meters. The mountains rise sharply from the sea, and while the park initially looks very rocky, you’ll be surprised to find out that 75% of the national park is, in fact, primarily beech and black pine forest.
For another one of the many great day trips from Zadar, add the first capital of Croatia, Nin, to your list. It’s only 15 km from Zadar, so the drive is conveniently short. Alternatively, you can easily catch a bus as well.
The town of Nin has a long history, 3,000 years, in fact, which is evident when you walk through the town. Nin town center is located on a small island in the middle of a shallow lagoon and is connected to the mainland by two stone bridges. Make sure you check out the Roman ruins, including the mosaic tiles that were discovered, rub Gregory of Nin’s (ninski Grgur) toe for good luck, visit Solana Nin to learn how salt has been produced for centuries, and don’t forget to get a photo at the church of Saint Nicholas.
Benkovac Farmers Market
The Benkovac Farmers Market is held on the 10th of every month, and many locals make day trips from Zadar to get to this massive market. Benkovac market is all about locals picking up monthly supplies for rock bottom prices.
You can buy almost anything in this market, from livestock and food to clothes and tractors. In fact, a year or so ago, Mrs. CtD tried to convince me to buy her a donkey. This market has basic facilities, so don’t expect pretty cafes and soy caramel cappuccinos to be available.
Don’t leave without eating some spit-roasted lamb, though. It’s mouthwateringly delicious!
Kornati National Park
Stretching along the central part of the Croatian Adriatic are the Kornati Islands. If you’re in Zadar, you absolutely have to go and see the Kornati Islands for yourself.
The Kornati Islands were designated a national park in 1980. The park consists of 89 islands, islets, and reefs and is perfect for sailing or cruising. The islands are very barren and rocky with little vegetation on them.
The Adriatic Sea is at her glorious best in the park, crystal-clear and perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. Also, there are some cool remote restaurants scattered throughout the Kornati Islands that can only be reached by boat. One of the best restaurants is Konoba Opat.
Explore The Islands Of Zadar
The Zadar archipelago has hundreds of islands, most of which are not inhabited. The islands, sea, and coastline in this region are absolutely stunning and best seen by boat. We have previously spent a week sailing through the Zadar archipelago and had an incredible time.
One of the highlights was stopping at an islet between Molat and Silba and swimming in the crystal-clear waters of the Adriatic with no-one in sight. The Adriatic was ours for that moment in time, definitely a unique experience.
If however, you don’t have a boat, it’s easy to take a ferry to the family-friendly islands near Zadar. There are numerous ferries leaving daily. They make going on day trips from Zadar a piece of cake. The islands I would suggest are Dugi Otok (for Telašćica Nature Park, see below), Ugljan, Pašman, Molat, Iz, and Ist.
Pag Island is perfect for Zadar day trips because it’s connected to the mainland by a bridge, so it’s easy to reach. Pag island is famous for clubbing in Zrce, Pag Cheese (Paski sir), sheep and lace.
If you’re young and into partying all night long, Zrce is undoubtedly the place for you. Through summer, they have clubs that operate 24/7. Aquarius and Papaya are the two big clubs, and throughout summer there are numerous events with the world’s biggest DJ’s playing.
We love the Hideout festival and even run Hideout Transfers from our other business.
An absolute must-try – Pag cheese (Paski Sir).
It’s a sheep’s milk cheese and what makes it so good is the milk that comes from the Pag ewe’s. They live on a diet of wild grass and herbs, and this imparts a unique flavor to the milk and, in turn, the cheese.
You can try the cheese at roadside stalls from local producers or go to Kolan for a factory tour at the award-winning Gligora Dairy like we did. Afterward, head to the tasting room and try the wide variety of cheeses they have on offer.
Telašćica Nature Park
Telašćica Nature Park is located on Dugi Otok and consists of thirteen islands, islets, and reefs and is a popular destination for boat enthusiasts and day trips from Zadar. Telašćica Nature Park is known for its massive cliffs that plunge into the Adriatic and the unique Salt Lake Mir, which is said to have curative properties.
We have been to Telašćica many times, and it’s a great day trip. We love swimming and snorkeling in the crystal clear bay. Oh, and I have to give a special mention to the local donkeys that wander the park who are extremely friendly!
A few kilometers from Benkovac are the remains of the ancient town of Asseria.
The Liburnians built this town, then later taken over by the Romans and was an important position on the route between present-day Zadar and Split, as well as other municipalities in the region. The remains are 600 by 150 meters, and much of the site is yet to be excavated. However, there is still plenty to see with the three-meter-thick ramparts and cippi (Liburnian carved tombstones).
Rafting / Kayaking The Zrmanja And Krupa Rivers
We always recommend rafting or kayaking along Croatia’s most beautiful rivers in crystal-clear waters.
They’re surrounded by a karst canyon that makes it easy on the eyes as well as fun! Almost anyone can do this activity because it requires no experience whatsoever. This is definitely a great activity if you’re visiting Croatia with kids. Rafting will get you up close and personal with nature, and you can even go swimming under the Krupa waterfalls.
Other Zadar Day Trips
Zadar is booming with day trip options, including biking trips, skydiving, and kayaking, to name a few. Here are just a few more ideas.
Best Beaches In Zadar Town
Zadar County is blessed with
Kolovare is a public beach in Zadar city. This Zadar beach is clean (Blue Flag status to be exact!) and has all the facilities you’ll need, including showers, toilets, changing stalls, lounge chairs and beautiful pine woods that provide excellent shade when the sun gets toasty.
For families with children or teens, this beach is ideal as the water sports options and other activities are endless. Get your kiddos excited with a game of beach volleyball or ping pong, a chance to parasail or ride water bikes, or even take a short cruise on a yacht or catamaran. Plus, given its proximity to the Old Town, you have all the restaurants, bars, and shopping still at your fingertips.
Borik Beach lies four kilometers from the Old Town of Zadar and buses are a convenient transportation method to and from its sandy/pebble shores. It’s part of the Falkensteiner Resort, which really has a family holiday vibe and is a favorite Zadar beach.
They have geared the beach so that there’s loads of entertainment for the children. The beach itself is shallow with a sandy bottom. Borik Beach Zadar also has all the facilities you’ll need for a day out, such as food and drinks, toilets, changing stalls and showers in case you want to wash the sandy sea from your skin before dinner in the Zadar city center.
Further west from Borik, you will find Diklo. Diklo has a few beaches that are all pebbly. Scattered along the way, visitors will find cafes, restaurants, and various vendors selling food and drink. This area of the seashore is less touristy than Borik and visitors love the relaxed, quiet vibe of the area.
The waterfront is clean, making it great for families on holiday. The area is also known for hosting many sporting events in the Zadar region, an excellent place for those looking to participate in a few water sports activities while in Croatia.
Best Zadar Beaches – Zadar Region
Zadar County is blessed with numerous, stunning beaches. Here are a few of our faves.
Petrćane is a beautiful village located between Nin and Zadar. The village has a stunning harbor and boasts many pebble and concrete beaches for visitors to enjoy. Once in the water, sandy floors make these great beaches for families. The waterfronts along this village are also perfect for those seeking recreational sports on holiday.
Complete with restaurants, hotels, and ways to easily travel to Zadar for additional cultural sightseeing, the village of Petrćane itself has become a tourist destination that visitors choose as their home base when exploring the Zadar region. This is one of my favorite Zadar beaches.
Queens Beach Nin
We can’t leave the famous sandy Queens Beach of Nin off our list. This three-kilometer stretch of sand near the town of Nin runs along the Privlaka peninsula and is known as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It is an excellent beach for families with small children as the beach has been awarded Blue Flag status for its cleanliness. The waters are shallow, while the sand is ready for castle building.
If you are looking for something a bit more unique to do while visiting Queens Beach, go kite-surfing or find the peloids of Nin to apply to your skin, a healthy mud that is known the world over for its great benefits for skin and other ailments. In summer, lots of people use this Zadar beach, so get in early and grab your spot.
Zaton Beach is quite possibly one of the largest beaches in the Zadar region and another with the desired Blue Flag status. You will find these sandy/pebble shores just west of Zadar. Beach day equipment is available for rent, including scooters, and both bar and food choices are closeby for those in need of refreshment.
This beach is part of the famous Zaton Holiday Resort, which has received excellent reviews from families with children. Additionally, the use of the resorts nearby pools and slides are available as well. This Zadar beach is definitely one for the family.
Pisak And Kulin Riviera
Pisak and Kulin are beautiful natural pebble beaches located on the Starigrad Paklenica Riviera shore, just northwest of Zadar.
If your holiday plans include visiting Paklenica National Park for a few days, a stop at these beaches is worth considering. The beaches are known for being family-friendly. Kulin is one of the top ten beaches of the Adriatic, while Pisak is known for its crystal-clear waters.
The area along the Riviera, at the foot of the Velebit mountains, provides stunning natural beauty along with shade from pine and beech trees. If you’re in Paklenica, this you should be your go-to beach.
Leave the city behind with a day at Sakarun Beach. About thirty kilometers west of Sali on Dugi Otok, this pebble/sand beach is one of the most beautiful in the region and arguably even Croatia. Shallow waters bring warmer sea temperatures along with the opportunity to walk far out into the bay. Grab your snorkel gear and a towel to spend the day here.
Cocktails and bites to eat are available at two locations along the shore, and a train also makes a stop here should you need public transport. This Zadar beach is just stunning.
If you’re looking for a hotel in Zadar or any other Zadar accommodation, we have selected the best in each category for you to choose from.
The Drunken Monkey
This fun hostel near the Kolovare promenade has received TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence, and it’s easy to see why. Offering a bar and lounge, sun terrace, splash pool, free Wi-Fi, close beach access, and the option of tours to area hotspots, you will feel right at home. Dorm and private rooms are available.
Design Hostel Mr. Charles
If you love the jazz, blues, and art style of the 60s, this unique design hostel is calling you. Stay in one of the eclectically designed rooms, each named after a famous artist of the time. Free Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, city maps, and bike and car parking are available on site. Located within walking distance from the new sporting center and Zadar town, the location is perfect for Zadar cultural explorers and sporting enthusiasts.
Tequila Bar Hostel
If nightlife, good music, and local events are your thing, Tequila Bar Hostel is right where the action is. Found in the town center, enjoy nearby bars or socialize at the on-site bar. Stroll to the Sea Organ and the Greeting to the Sun before your night’s activities. Bike rental, free Wi-Fi, kitchen access, a shuttle bus, and more are available.
Add apartments to your list of where to stay in Zadar. Apartments are hit and miss, so do your research. Find vacation rentals through places like Booking.com, or you can take a more personal route and use an Airbnb host. Hosts are helpful and will give you local info, such as where to eat. Use this link to get a credit when you join Airbnb.
You can also find other cheap Zadar apartments for rent when you arrive. There are just that many!
Luxurious 5-Star Zadar Hotels
Hotel Falkensteiner Iadera
If you love luxury and opulence along with the lure of the gorgeous dark-blue waters of the Adriatic Sea and a sparkling plunge pool, Hotel Falkensteiner Iadera is just what you need. The Zadar region got a whole lot sexier with the addition of the Falkensteiner Hotel & Spa Iadera a few years ago when it opened on the private peninsula of Punta Skala in Petrčane. Enjoy dramatic views of islands across the sea and the grand Velebit mountain range standing tall from behind while staying in the hotel’s various rooms and suites.
Each room comes decked out with a mini-bar, bathrobe and slippers, and flat-screen TV. Enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner at some excellent restaurants serving up Adriatic cuisine and Dalmatian specialties, or order room service to enjoy from the comfort of your bed. For extra indulgence, book some time in the spa, which has an intimate feel. The massages will make you want to stay for hours.
Local Tip: We suggest a Junior Sea Side Suite: you won’t regret the extra expense. If you enjoy spa time, the Hamam Treatment is top-notch. Read about our experience here.
For a touch of luxury and something, a little left of center, spend your vacation in a converted Lighthouse on the island of Vir.
4-Star Zadar Hotels
Falkensteiner Family Hotel Diadora
Located in Petrčane, Family Hotel Diadora offers a truly unique lodging experience for families. If you are traveling with little ones (even babies), keep reading! Diadora excels in combining resort-style options that allow adults to relax to the fullest and children to play to their heart’s content.
Kids can explore Falky-Land, an indoor and outdoor children’s world, along with splashing around in the children’s water-world and Falky-Spa, which includes a baby paddling pool. Childcare/babysitting and entertainment are available as well as baby equipment and tons of fun TV, disco, teenager and theater rooms to explore.
After dropping your little swimmers off at swim lessons, adults can indulge in a treatment at the Acquapura Spa on-site or take a steam bath and a dip in one of the four on-site pools. Restaurant and bar service are available on-site, and food can be enjoyed from the comfort of your modern designed room should that be more your style. You will not get a better family-friendly hotel in Zadar than this.
Built on the remains of the medieval fortress “Kastela,” Hotel Bastion is a boutique hotel of style and culture. As a TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice and Certificate of Excellence winner, this Zadar hotel stands out among others in the area. Stay in one of the 28 luxurious rooms, each equipped with smart-room technology. Use free Wi-Fi in the hotel’s aperitif bar, restaurant, or on the terraces or just disconnect for a while and take in the magnificent views of the city.
Cocktails, tea, and coffee along with Mediterranean cuisine, can be enjoyed on-site after spending an afternoon in the hotel’s spa, sauna, and relaxation zones. Guests also will benefit from the convenience of location and the opportunity to catch one of Zadar’s stunning sunsets by walking just a few steps to find the beautiful Sea Organ and the Greeting to the Sun.
Art Hotel Kalelarga
As the name suggests, Art Hotel Kalelarga is a modern, chic, art design hotel located on the most famous street in Zadar – Kalelarga. You will feel pampered in luxury while staying in one of the hotel’s ten rooms, each designed with the idea that functionality, color, shape, and stone can all co-exist. The stone found in the rooms is meant to resemble that of Kalelarga street, bringing harmony to the atmosphere of your stay in Zadar.
Enjoy room service of fresh pastries and coffee on the days you want to relax in bed or opt for packed lunches while exploring nearby Five Wells Square, the Sea Organ or Cathedral of St. Anastasia. Unwind with hand-selected wines in the evening, while enjoying conversation on the hotel’s restaurant terrace. A perfect combination of artsy charm in the heart of the old city.
3-Star Zadar Hotels
Rog Dogg Rooms
Most 3-star Zadar hotels are found outside the city center, but that’s not the case with Rog Dogg Rooms. Conveniently located near the St. Donatus Church, and near various restaurants and bars, visitors wishing to visit the major Zadar tourist attractions while on a budget will find this to be an excellent accommodation. Rooms are clean, cozy, and have modern, private bathrooms with great showers. An airport shuttle runs to the hotel, and shuttle services to other locations can be arranged.
Hotel Villa Niko
Charming Hotel Niko has all the European style you could ask for on holiday. This small, family-run Zadar hotel, is known for incredible hospitality and guests have called it a hidden gem of the city. Located in the picturesque area of Zadar called Puntamika, Hotel Niko is part of Restaurant Niko, which serves up some world-class traditional Dalmatian cuisine.
Choose from a small selection of rooms and enjoy a few moments of peace and tranquility. With a beach nearby, sea breezes coming through your window and quiet evenings, the location is perfect for a holiday getaway. With such a stellar restaurant, bar, and room service on-site, you may never even leave! Parking and Wi-Fi are both free for guests of the hotel, and airport shuttles are available for a surcharge. Also, good to note, pets are welcome upon request.
Local Tip: Be sure to try the house specialty – scampi fish – which are caught fresh and can be hand-selected by you.
Many visitors stay in Zadar because of its proximity to gorgeous national parks. Approximately 50 km from Zadar you will find the small, family-run, Hotel Vicko. This gem is just a few kilometers from Paklenica National Park and within reach of no fewer than four other national parks. If you’re looking for an active holiday full of cycling, hiking and/or climbing, while being treated like you’re at your best friends house, you need Hotel Vicko.
Hotel Vicko’s specialty is active holidays, and they can customize an itinerary for you in any configuration you like, including transfers and guides. Rooms are clean and comfortable and come with private bathrooms, air-conditioning, and satellite TV. One of the best features of the hotel is the traditional Croatian breakfast served at on-site Restaurant 4 Ferela: a delicious selection of cheeses, meats, olives, eggs, and bread baked on-site.
Local Tip: Be sure to save room for a Knedle. Typical food from the Zagorie region in northern Croatia and one reason I need to go back to the hotel to try it again! Read about our experience here.
You’ve made the journey to Zadar and now need to know where to eat. Given this is our hometown, we have some great tips for you. These are the restaurants in Zadar that we recommend.
If you are looking for something a bit more upmarket, Foša is the restaurant for you. Serving traditional Dalmatian food with a bit of a modern twist, this place specializes in fish and has a tremendous Croatian wine list to go with it. More than 120 varieties! Located in the little Foša harbor of Old Town, after which this restaurant is named, enjoy breathtaking Adriatic Sea views from the terrace. Perfect for a romantic dinner or a big night out. This is one of my favorite Zadar restaurants.
Known for its beautiful plates of hearty Mediterranean and Dalmatian cuisine, enjoy lunch or dinner at this establishment. The menu is full of excellent options for all palates, from pizza to octopus salad, and the prices are reasonable. House wines are delicious and come highly recommended. Enjoy dining indoors or take a seat on the charming patio. Free Wi-Fi is available in case you need to catch up on a few emails or post some holiday shots online. This is the Zadar restaurant we love for pasta dishes.
Local Tip: Start off with ordering the Bruschetta…you’re dining at Restaurant Bruschetta after all!
You’re in for a real treat when dining at Pet Bunara. Serving up a fusion of contemporary dishes alongside Mediterranean meals, stop in for lunch, dinner, or simply a glass of the delicious house wine. Whether you are in the mood for a romantic evening or a family dinner, this charming and the cozy restaurant does it right. The prices are reasonable, the staff are knowledgeable, and the service is fantastic.
Located in the heart of the Zadar Old Town, Nostalgie Restaurant is a well-rated restaurant in a relatively quiet area. People appreciate the service, decor, ambiance, and location. Its menu features a variety of dishes, but there is a main focus on fish and seafood. Order a seafood platter, fish soup, ravioli with crab filling or tuna steak, sit back and enjoy an evening in a typically Dalmatian restaurant.
As one of the best konobas in the region, this gem sits on a hilltop in the little hamlet of Vinjerec, just north of Zadar. The interior may seem a bit plain, but don’t let that fool you. The food that is served here is unlike anything you’ve tried before. Fish are caught fresh daily, and the dishes prepared with them are delightful and full of flavor. If you love seafood, this konoba is an absolute must!
Local Tip: Book in advance and ask for a table on the terrace because the view is absolutely breathtaking.
A relatively recent addition to the Zadar restaurant scene, Bon Appetit has already made a name for itself as one of the “must-try eateries” in the city. This popular and well-rated restaurant serves modern Mediterranean and Dalmatian food, including fresh fish, pork ribs, and excellent wines. You can dine in the cozy atmosphere of its interior or sit outside overlooking the waterfront at sunset.
Restaurant/pizzeria 4 Kantuna lies in the very heart of the Old town of Zadar and is a beautiful place for a hearty dinner after a long day of exploring. Featuring a modern interior design, the restaurant’s menu is almost overwhelmingly extensive. There’s everything from portions of pasta, risottos, bruschettas, and salads to fish and seafood, steaks and lamb chops. The star of the menu, however, is the pizzas.
Not technically in the restaurant in the strictest sense of the word, ART Kavana is a superb pastry, dessert, and cake shop. If you didn’t order dessert with dinner and suddenly find yourself craving something sweet, there’s no better place to go in Zadar than this one.
Zadar Food And Wine Tour
If you really want something unique and interactive, a food and wine tour + cooking class might be just what your taste buds need. We loved this tour so much we devoted a particular post to our experience. Check it out for an overview of foods and wines you can expect to sample from the Zadar region.
Additionally, for more culinary delights, joining a cooking class in Zadar is an unforgettable experience as well.
Coffee In Zadar
Get ideas on where to get a cup of joe & cake in Zadar.
Coffee and Cake
This well-rated and ever-so-popular establishment features a warm and cozy space, where the coffee is tasty, and cakes are homemade. Situated in the middle of the Old Town, it’s the perfect place to rest your legs during a long exploratory walk in the afternoon. Take a seat inside, or choose a table on the terrace for some world-class people-watching. Follow the page here.
Caffe Bar Guam
Start your morning off with one a great cups of hot coffee, while watching the glorious sunrise over the sea. Nothing beats starting your day off by reconnecting with nature. Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, and outdoor seating options are available.
A favorite meeting place for locals, this cafe is perfect for grabbing an afternoon coffee. Enjoy seating on the terrace and prices that won’t break the bank.
Things to do in Zadar. Photo Credit: Davor Strenja
Even if you don’t stay at the hotel adjoined to this cafe, do stop in to sample the amazing pastries and coffee from the bakery. Located on the main street of Kalelarga, it won’t be hard to find. We recommended trying the cake made from authentic maraška sour cherry, but if that’s not your style, there are plenty of other delectable treats to be found.
Another great option in Old Town is Cafe Danica. Enjoy fresh, hot coffee as you peruse the fantastic selection of pastries. If you are looking for ice cream, this is your place. Order yourself a generous scoop (or two!) of fresh, homemade ice cream made using an original Italian recipe. The variety of flavors might have you stopping back each night for an after-dinner treat!
Bars In Zadar
Here are a few bars in Zadar for you to enjoy a cold drink!
After wandering about Zadar’s Old Town, why not pop into Deja Brew, a bar in Zadar that has live music, and a killer selection of drinks. All cocktails are made from scratch; no premise sugar mixes here like lost of other bars. At Deja Brew, you can choose from 9 beers on tap, 57 beers, 76 whiskeys, 15 gins, 13 vodkas, 9 Tequilas, 17 rums and kick back and enjoy the low-key, laid back vibe.
Lounge & Bar Ledana
The live music, outdoor seating, and chilled vibe of this bar make it a favorite in the city. Found in the garden of Queen Jelena Park, it boasts multiple terraces for watching performances while sipping a refreshing beverage. The neon lighting gives it a funky atmosphere at night, and sun lovers will enjoy soaking up the rays during the afternoon hours.
Lounge on sofas atop the old city walls at The Garden while listening to all forms of jazz, dub, electronica, and Latin music. Gaze over the harbor while enjoying a pre-dinner drink or spend the evening in the open air, watching the sun drop to the chill tunes.
For something a little different in the city, this intimate, cozy bar fits the bill. With a 1920s feel and seating for just a few, you will find yourself transported to another time and place. Enjoy island wines, homemade rakija, beers, cocktails, and coffee while listening to lounge, blues, jazz, and soul music. We suggest you reserve a seat if you’d like to drink here!
Tequila Sunrise Beach Bar
Described as a hidden gem of Croatia by a fellow blogger, this unpretentious bar has a prime waterfront location about 30 minutes on foot from Old Town Zadar. Skip the crowds, and grab a bite and a cold beverage at this local hangout while catching one of Zadar’s beautiful sunsets.
Top Wineries In Zadar
If wine is your scene, then there are two wineries not to be missed. We dedicated an entire post on these top wineries of the region and what to drink once there.
Zadar Events And Festivals
One of the unique Zadar events, Škraping is an international trekking race on sharp island rocks. It takes place in March every year, and its name comes from the local term for the sharp rocks. Climbing, jumping, walking, open-space orienteering, and adventure tourism are the main characteristics of this international event. Over 1,000 competitors from all over Europe join in the challenge, and media and guests can watch.
Musical Evening In St. Donat
During the months of July and August, a series of concerts performed by outstanding Croatian and international ensembles (both in the orchestral and soloist categories) can be enjoyed. Tickets for each evening’s performance can be purchased by visitors and locals alike for this cultural experience.
Avvantura Film Festival
This international film festival is the first in Croatia to focus on Co-Productions (artistic + economic) and also gather the cinema audience with the professionals participating. The goal is to bring Zadar to the forefront of the film scene, and why not, with a city so beautiful!? The festival is typically held during the last week in August. If you’re into films, you can’t afford to miss this Zadar festival.
Kalelargart Street Art Festival
Street art and entertainment unite with music and theater performances, street acrobatics, magicians, jugglers, and more. Watch the streets of Old Town Zadar turn into a stage. This Zadar festival occurs over the course of two days towards the end of July and is a highlight and celebration of the arts for both locals and visitors.
Zrce Beach, Novalja
All through the summer months, Zrce Beach comes to life with numerous electronic music festivals drawing tens of thousands of party-goers from across the globe to see the best international DJs. Some of the biggest festivals worth attending are the Hideout Festival, Sonus Festival, Black Sheep Festival, and Spring Break Europe. If you need an airport transfer to one of these festivals, we can get you there with our new Airport Transfer Business.
Fruit And Vegetable Fair
A funfair dedicated to the local produce of the area is held for three days in the month of July in the town’s square. Area farmers and growers showcase their colorful, tasty fruit and vegetables along with other herbal products. The slogan for this event is “Living Well,” and you are sure to find an authentic souvenir there as well.
Traveling To Zadar
- Air. Zadar has its own airport, so book flights directly to Zadar if traveling by plane. Plenty of international flight options are available to Zadar from starting locations all over Europe. You can also use Croatia Airlines to book short flights to Zadar from other Croatia airports. The airport is located approximately 8 kilometers from town, so further transit (via car, bus, private transfer or taxi) is necessary upon arrival.
- Bus. Transport via bus is available from Croatia’s main towns – Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Split, Rijeka and more. If you fly into another of Croatia’s airports to start your holiday elsewhere, use the Zadar Bus Website to locate the bus line and timetable that fit your needs.
- Ferry. Not only can you hop on a ferry to Zadar from nearby islands (Dugi Otok, Silba, Mali Losinj, Rava, and Ugljan), but you also can take an overnight ferry service from Italy to reach Croatian shores. Local tip: The ferry from Italy only stops in Zadar during the summer months of June to September. So, if visiting during other months, opt for the year-round ferry to Split and then travel by bus or car to Zadar.
- Train. Croatian Railways runs services from Zagreb and Split to Zadar if trains are your thing, but the journey will take upwards of seven hours, so not quite as convenient as other available forms of transport.
- Car. If you enjoy taking in the countryside at your own pace and enjoy the adventure of driving new roads while on holiday, renting a car is always an attractive option. No need to wait for public transport time schedules. A drive from Split will average just shy of two hours, while a trip from Zagreb will take around three hours. Stop along the way when the fancy strikes you and have transportation at your beck and call all holiday! Not to mention, you can drive the quick 90 minutes to Plitvice Lakes National Park once you’ve arrived
Traveling To Further Destinations
Traveling on after a visit to Zadar is as easy as catching any of the ferries, buses, trains or planes that initially got you to the city. Daily buses are leaving Zadar to Dubrovnik, Zadar to Split and Zadar to Zagreb.
Zadar is a fabulous home base for visiting the beautiful Dalmatian coast islands, easily accessible by ferry or boat hire. Some of our favorites include Pag, Kornati Islands (Local Tip. Eat at Konoba Opat), and Dugi Otok. Dugi Otok is where we spotted our first donkeys, inspiring the name of this blog.
Zadar is also an excellent starting point for exploring Plitvice Lakes and then traveling on to other cities afterward. Plitvice lies roughly midway between Zadar and Zagreb. Buses are available from the central bus station from either town. From Zadar, it takes two hours, and from Zagreb, it takes two hours and 20 minutes. We suggest that if you’re coming from elsewhere in Croatia, you take the bus to one of these towns first.
If you’re planning to drive to Plitvice, the route is easy to find and is approx 155 kilometers from Zadar, 130 kilometers from Zagreb, 280 kilometers from Split, and around 465 kilometers from Dubrovnik.
I know that was a massive post of Zadar tourist information, such as things to do in Zadar in 2020, where to go, what to eat and places to sleep, but that’s not ALL Zadar has to offer. So, if I’ve missed one of your favorite Zadar highlights, let me know below!
More Croatia Travel Tips & Ideas
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- 19 Places In Croatia That Never Make The Big Lists
- Absolute Best Things To Do In Croatia