Among all the seaside cities, towns and villages in Croatia, one seems to stand out as a perfect place for a holiday base….
Close to an airport, friendly, clean, with a lively cafe & restaurant scene, good shopping experience and some really interesting historic monuments, Zadar is suitably sized and located for a base in Croatia.
The first thing that catches the visitor’s eye are all Roman ruins lying about in the old town… they are especially well displayed in The Forum area, a municipal square from the Roman era.
It appears, over the course of the history Zadar, as well as other parts of Croatia, had lots of Roman and Venetian influence , which is clearly evident from the architecture in the peninsula old town.
You don’t have to be an expert in archaeology to see layers of history in this 9th century pre-Romanesque church of St. Donatus, which seems to have been built, at least partly, from Roman ruin remains (look at the bottom of the church wall).
A lovely and somewhat chaotic mixture of architecture from various periods of history is dotted all around the old town, giving a taste of history’s unexpected twists and turns as well as more modern developments.
Zadar Archaeological Museum in the centre of the town is really interesting and offers a very well presented story of Dalmatia with an excellent and detailed display of historical and archaeological artefacts.
Normally, visiting a museum, would not be something on my ‘to-do’ list while travelling to a warm destination, but I found museums are really worth considering on those unexpectedly rainy and cold days (that’s how I ended up in this museum in the first place) or maybe terribly hot days as well…
If you love strolling around…
…there’s a lovely marina called Riva along the seaside with some fascinating artistic installations: Sea Organ, where some very ordinary-looking stairs descend into the sea and produce some quite unusual chime-like sounds as the stairs touch the water… we’ve been told, you can never hear the same sound twice, since the sea is in a constant shift.
The other installation is called Greeting to the Sun and is located next to the Sea Organ at the end of Zadar Peninsula. This installation lights up as the sun is going down and starts releasing light to the rhythm of the waves and Sea Organ music.
Every evening scores of tourists and locals descend on these installations, so you might have to subtly elbow your way through so as to experience the best of this artistic corner in Zadar.
If visiting at the right time, one can also come across some fairs on the marina, showcasing some traditional arts and crafts as well as traditional cooking techniques such as the making of this savoury pastry on hot coal.
Try it, if you are brave enough!
Most refreshingly, Zadar seems to have struck a really nice balance between local life and tourism – yes, tourists are on every corner, but so are the locals going about their daily lives.
Zadar does not seem to be overpriced (apart from some places right in front of historic monuments) and it seems to offer the visitor a more authentic experience than some other seaside towns, which can be a bit too polished and purely tourist oriented (Dubrovnik comes to mind first…).
Day trips from Zadar
If you are interested in exploring Croatia’s numerous National Parks, Zadar is perfectly positioned for day trips to inland national parks such as Plitvice Lakes or boat trips to off the coast national parks such as Kornati Islands.
A good thing is that there are a number of agents in town selling these and other trips so you can shop around for the best price. Read more about National Park experience in Croatia HERE.
Another interesting day trip from the town can be to a historic town of Nin, with a fascinating Medieval history, the smallest cathedral in the world and some beautiful sandy beaches.
So whether you are a traveller who enjoys roaming the streets of cities and exploring their architectural gems, or one who prefers the wonders of nature, Zadar is that place which offers easy access to both.