After spending a little over 2 weeks in Croatia, I can easily say that Zadar was my favourite spot that I visited. It didn’t have the crowds of Split, the costs of Hvar, or the unfriendliness of Dubrovnik. To me, it felt more local than touristic and had more than enough to keep me busy for a few days. Plus, as a solo traveller in Croatia, I loved how safe I felt in Zadar. In fact, I ended up returning to Zadar for my final days in Croatia because I loved it so much. So, if you find yourself visiting this coastal Croatian city, here are my top recommendations for things to do in Zadar.
Zadar isn’t as well-known as other Croatian cities. It still gets visitors for sure, but, in my opinion, it wasn’t quite as geared towards tourists as other places. As in not as many guided tours, museums, etc. Of course, there are still some of these things but not to the same extent. Personally, I loved this as it let me focus more on wandering around and finding my own places and things to see. Here are some of my favourite things to do in Zadar.
The Best Things to do in Zadar: Main Attractions
Despite the fact that Zadar isn’t as known as Split of Dubrovnik, it still has some pretty well-known attractions and things to see.
Greeting to the Sun
Greeting to the Sun is, at first glance, very random. Especially if you visit during the day when it just looks like a bunch of panels on the shore. The best time to come here is after the sunset as it is a solar-powered artwork that blazes in different colours as you walk over it. It’s busiest in the early evening, but if you come back later at night you will have more space to play!
The Sea Organ
The Sea Organ is another huge draw in Zadar and one of the coolest installations I’ve ever seen, or rather heard. It’s located on the Riva promenade overlooking the Sea. As you stand here, you will hear music that appears to come from nowhere. It’s actually from the waves that push air through 35 underwater pipes set across the waterfront. The music is random, after all, it’s made by nature, but it’s quite beautiful to hear. Listening to the Sea Organ is definitely one of my favourite things to do in Zadar.
Zadar’s Famous Sunsets
Zadar’s sunsets are actually quite famous as they were declared by Alfred Hitchcock as the most beautiful sunsets in the world. To be honest, I may agree with him. The sunsets in Zadar are spectacular. The best-known place to watch the sunset in Zadar is from the waterfront by the Sea Organ. Of course, this also means it’s the most crowded place as well. But trust me, it’s worth it!
The Best Things to do in Zadar: Swim Spots and Beaches
Croatia can get pretty hot, so you’ll probably want some beach time. Zadar isn’t a huge beach destination but there are some beaches and swim spots nearby.
This is Zadar city’s public beach and the easiest one to access if you are staying in town. It’s clean, has all the facilities (toilets, lounge chairs, etc) and is easy walking distance to town and restaurants.
Not a beach, but you can swim by the Sea Organ and the Sun Salutation. There are steps from the promenade into the sea allowing you easy access in and out of the water. It’s probably not somewhere you would want to spend an entire day swimming and sunbathing since it is basically in the city and quite crowded. But it is an option!
This is where I spent most of my beach time. It’s very clean, wasn’t too crowded when I visited since it’s further from the city centre. It is quite pebbly but the water is beautiful and I liked that it was more locals than tourists who came here. No facilities here though!
Another beach a bit outside the city centre (you can take a bus), this one is very family-friendly. It’s actually part of the Falkensteiner Resort so it has all the facilities as well.
The Best Things to do in Zadar: History, Ruins & City Stops
Like many other cities in Croatia (and Europe!) Zadar has some old ruins and buildings that are definitely worth checking out. Especially if you are a history lover. You can take a guided history tour (like this one) or explore on your own. Make sure to check out these spots.
Fosa Land Gate
This was my favourite structure in Zadar and I loved walking through this gate every day to get from my hostel to town. Also called the Land Gate, it’s located beside the port. It dates back to 1543 and was built by the Venetians.
Built from the 1st-3rd century AD, the Forum is where you will find Zadar’s Roman ruins. It’s located in the heart of the city so chances are you will come upon it easily on your own while exploring the city.
St. Anastasia’s Cathedral
A picturesque church on its own, but most visitors come here to climb the tower and take in the views. The steps are steep but only cost a few euro. Please note that the tower is closed to visitors on Sundays and during holidays.
St. Donat’s Church
Located by the Forum, this is probably the best-known church in Zadar. It’s considered to be one of the best examples of Byzantine church architecture.
This is the People’s Square which, as you probably guessed, makes it a popular meeting place and therefore perfect for some people watching. There are tons of little cafes in the area and it is surrounded by some beautiful buildings.
This is Zadar’s market which has been operating for centuries. You’ll find lots of fresh local ingredients here including fruits, vegetables, and cheese. It’s a great place to visit, especially if you are staying somewhere with a kitchen.
The Best Things to do in Zadar: Day Bars
I didn’t really party much in Zadar. I did go to a couple of clubs one night but they weren’t anything spectacular. I did, however, find two day-bar type spots that I loved and highly recommend you visit.
The Garden Bar
A local friend told me about this bar which quickly became a favourite spot. To start with, The Garden is pretty cute with nice views. They also have delicious drinks and some food. The best part though is they have actual beds for guests to relax and enjoy their drinks on. Did I have a sneaky nap here one afternoon? Yes, yes I did. A visit to the Garden Bar is a must-do when it comes to the best things to do in Zadar.
PS: It is also open at night, but I only experienced it during the day.
Tequila Sunrise Beach Bar
Tequila Sunrise is located about a 30-minute walk from the town of Zadar, not too far from Beach Karma. I was staying in this area which is how I found it, and it turned out to be a pretty chill spot. They had drinks, food (AMAZING sandwiches) and a really cool vibe. Plus, it’s located overlooking the sea which means great views and, if you are adventurous, some cliff jumping!
The Best Day Trips From Zadar
Zadar has enough to keep you busy for a couple of days, but part of why I loved this city so much is its proximity to some other great attractions. Zadar is a great place to use as a base from which to explore Croatia. Here are some ideas for day trips from Zadar.
Plitvice National Park
The oldest and best-known national park in Croatia, Plitvice is famous for its stunning lakes joined by waterfalls. You can’t swim here, but there are plenty of paths and trails to explore from.
You can book a guided tour of Plitvice here.
Krka National Park is also known for its waterfalls. There are plenty of walking trails around the park which you can enjoy. Unfortunately, as of January 2021, you can no longer swim in these waterfalls. However, don’t let that stop you. Krka is stunning.
Kornati National Park
Kornati National Park is an archipelago that includes over 100 mostly uninhabited islands. It’s often referred to as the ‘nautical paradise’ and is a popular day trip from Zadar. You can book a sailing tour to Kornati National park here.
Where to Stay in Zadar
Wondering where to stay in Zadar? Here are some recommendations for various travel styles and budgets:
Final Tips for Zadar
As I said, I loved my time in Zadar so much that I went twice in the same trip. It felt safe, friendly, and more local than my other stops in Croatia. Plus, there are so many great things to do in Zadar that it’s easy to stay busy and entertained.
Zadar does have its own bus stop with buses that travel throughout the country, and an airport as well making it a smart place to start or end your trip to Croatia.
I hope you love your time here as much as I did!
A Note on Travel Insurance in Croatia
Please, do NOT travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to rely on mine multiple times. While the cost may seem annoying and better spent elsewhere, trust me when I say you’ll be sorry if you don’t have it. For just a couple bucks a day, you can save yourself a whole lot of stress and money. I like to recommend SafetyWing for travel medical insurance as they are one of the most affordable options I’ve found, plus, they are who I use and I have had great experiences with them. Learn more about the importance of travel insurance here.