A cradle of coastal bliss along the Dalmatian Riviera, Zadar is a Croatian gem. This modest destination is emerging as one of the country’s next big things for those seeking the sanctuary of sunny climes.
But it’s not just the city that’s a stunner. Its surrounding area is enchanting too, with islands, seaside towns and national parks that dazzle in equal measure. Teal-hued waters lap the butter-soft beaches and pebbly patches strewn along the coastline. Diners spill out onto pavements, sipping glasses of local wine and devouring freshly-netted seafood. Like the sound of that?
Satisfy your appetite for adventure and whisk yourself off to this Croatian beauty using our ultimate guide to the best places to eat and top things to do in Zadar…
Top things to do in Zadar
Fill your holiday itinerary with these top things to do in Zadar and the surrounding area:
1. Sea Organ: Seek out the Sea Organ along Zadar’s waterfront. What seems like a set of steps cascading down into the Adriatic is actually an art installation moonlighting as a musical instrument. Listen out for its famous whistling, created by the waves breaking gently against the marble steps.
2. Zadar Old Town: Cross the boundary from new to old in this historic part of the city – it’s the epicentre of life in Zadar. Amble the narrow streets and you’ll find Roman ruins, medieval churches and buzzing squares where you can bask in the sunshine.
3. Sun Salutation: Another nature-powered art installation can be found in Zadar – the Sun Salutation. It’s a circular collection of glass plates that create a colourful light show. Visit it at night when it’s looking it’s finest.
4. Dugi Otok: Experience untouched beauty on the jaw-dropping island of Dugi Otok. Saharun Beach is one of its most mesmerising features, with Caribbean-like waters that are perfect for a refreshing afternoon swim.
5. Kolovare Beach: Craving sunshine? Make your way to this Blue Flag beach in Zadar. Laze on the pebbly shore, swim in the aquamarine sea and enjoy a picnic under the shade of pine forest.
6. Queen Jelena Madijevka Park: Enjoy a ramble through charming Queen Jelena Madijevka Park. This leafy part of Zadar was created in the 19th century and is set upon the city’s fortifications, which mean beautiful sweeping views are in store.
7. Šibenik: Down the coast from Zadar, this coastal city has a frozen-in-time medieval centre to discover. Head up to the top of St Michael’s Fortress, bob into UNESCO-listed St James’ Cathedral and wander the Medieval Monastery Mediterranean Garden.
8. Paklenica National Park: Brooding mountains await in this lush national park. Gaze in awe at the dramatic mish-mash of gorges, peaks and cliffs and keep your eyes peeled for golden eagles soaring above your head.
9. Pag Island: Otherworldly Pag Island is both a party hotspot and producer of cheese, wine and lace. Dabble in a little of all these things during a visit to Pag to get a true feel for the place.
Best places to eat and drink in Zadar
Fancy yourself a bit of a foodie? These are the culinary institutes and local watering holes to try out while in the Zadar area.
- OX: Seek out this meat lover’s paradise among the narrow backstreets of Zadar Old Town. Towering burgers, juicy steaks and creamy pasta dishes form the restaurant’s gastro backbone.
- Konoba Tri Piruna: Tuck into traditional fodder at this standout tavern in Vodice. Take your pick from seafood, steak and risotto and pair it with locally-made wine.
- Proto Food&More: Classic Dalmatian dishes with a modern twist are what you should expect from this eatery in Zadar. We’re talking black gnocchi with cuttlefish, handrolled pasta with prosciutto and slow-cooked baby beef cheeks in red wine. Nom.
- Kaciol: A cosy meal is on the cards when you visit Biograd’s best restaurant. Dine al fresco in the quaint courtyard and feast on grilled seafood.
- Bistro Guloz: Start with a cheese platter or fish-topped bruschetta, then move onto a bowlful of silky pasta.
Day trips from Zadar
Deep in the countryside or out among the dazzling Adriatic, make the most of a holiday here by embarking on a day trip from Zadar to one of the area’s many treasures.
- Plitvice Lakes National Park: Croatia’s trademark good looks are at their finest in this striking national park. UNESCO-listed, its medley of turquoise lakes and gushing waterfalls are a must-see.
- Krka National Park: More breathtaking waterfalls await at Krka National Park, along with dramatic gorges and Byzantine monasteries. Take a boat trip through the park for the full experience.
- Kornati Islands: Discover the 140-island-strong Kornati archipelago. This national park is a stunner, where stark white uninhabited islands are juxtaposed by the sapphire Adriatic. Enjoy a boat tour around Kornati for an up-close view.
- Nin: Step back in time at the gorgeous town of Nin. Nestled among a lagoon, the old town is a photogenic place to spend an afternoon. See the smallest cathedral in the world and soak up the sunshine from Queen’s Beach.
Posted: 22nd Sep 2019.