Things to do in Zadar, Croatia 2023

Zadar, is a captivating coastal city nestled along the stunning Adriatic coastline of Croatia. With its rich historical and cultural heritage, Zadar offers a blend of ancient wonders, breathtaking beaches, and delicious culinary experiences.

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Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a beach lover, or a food connoisseur, Zadar has something special to offer. Its strategic location makes it an ideal base for exploring nearby islands and national parks, promising an unforgettable journey of discovery. Get ready to immerse yourself in the magic of Zadar, where history meets natural beauty and a vibrant coastal lifestyle. Here’s our list of the best things to do in Zadar, Croatia.

Things to do in Zadar, Croatia Top Tips

Getting to Zadar

By Air: Zadar has its own international airport, Zadar Airport (ZAD), which is well-connected to various European cities. Several airlines operate regular flights to and from Zadar, making it convenient for air travel.

By Bus: Zadar is well-connected to other major cities in Croatia and neighboring countries through an extensive bus network. There are frequent bus services from cities like Zagreb, Split, and Dubrovnik, as well as international routes.

By Ferry: Zadar is also accessible by ferry, with regular connections to nearby islands and coastal towns. Jadrolinija is the main ferry operator in the region, offering routes to destinations like Ancona (Italy), Preko (Ugljan Island), and Mali Lošinj.

Local Transportation

Zadar is a relatively compact city, and many of its attractions can be easily explored on foot. The Old Town, in particular, is pedestrian-friendly with its narrow streets and historic sites. However, if you prefer public transportation, the city offers a reliable bus network that covers most areas. Taxis are also available, and car rentals are an option for those who wish to explore the surrounding region at their own pace.

Accommodation in Zadar

Zadar offers a range of accommodation options to suit different preferences and budgets. In the city center, you’ll find a variety of hotels, guesthouses, and apartments that cater to tourists. For a more local experience, consider staying in one of the traditional stone houses or private rooms within the Old Town. Additionally, there are also beachside resorts and campsites available for those seeking a more relaxed and nature-oriented stay.

The best things to do in Zadar

Historical and Cultural Attractions

Zadar’s rich history and cultural heritage are evident in its well-preserved Roman and Venetian architecture, making it a captivating destination for history enthusiasts and architecture aficionados alike.

Visit the Sea Organ

One of Zadar’s most enchanting attractions is the Sea Organ, an experimental musical instrument unlike anything you’ve ever encountered. Situated along the waterfront promenade, the organ consists of a series of steps that descend into the sea, where pipes are built beneath. As the waves gently lap against the steps, they create harmonious melodies, offering a unique symphony powered by nature itself.

Roman Forum

The Roman Forum stands as a testament to Zadar’s ancient past. Explore the remains of this once-thriving Roman marketplace, where you can wander among ancient columns and imagine the bustling life of the city centuries ago. The site offers a fascinating glimpse into Zadar’s historical significance.

St. Donatus Church

One of Zadar’s most iconic landmarks, St. Donatus Church, showcases Byzantine architecture at its finest. This circular church, dating back to the 9th century, impresses visitors with its unique design and historical importance. Climb to the top for panoramic views of the city and the nearby Adriatic Sea.

Cathedral of St. Anastasia

The Cathedral of St. Anastasia is a magnificent example of Romanesque architecture in Zadar. Dedicated to the city’s patron saint, the cathedral features intricate stone carvings and beautiful stained glass windows. Explore its grand interior, including the crypt and the bell tower, which offers sweeping views of the city.

Explore the Old Town

Zadar’s Old Town is a treasure trove of history and charm, beckoning visitors to wander its narrow cobblestone streets and bask in the beauty of its historic buildings.

Cobblestone Streets and Historic Buildings

As you step into Zadar’s Old Town, you’ll be transported back in time. The labyrinthine streets, adorned with smooth cobblestones, create a romantic atmosphere that invites leisurely exploration. Marvel at the architectural wonders that line these streets, showcasing a fusion of Roman, Venetian, and Byzantine influences.

Go on a walking tour

To truly appreciate the essence of the Old Town, embark on a walking tour that unveils its hidden gems. Knowledgeable guides will lead you through the winding streets, sharing stories of the past and pointing out architectural marvels along the way. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit landmarks like the Five Wells Square, where you can witness the impressive well system that once supplied water to the city. Another must-see is the Land Gate, an imposing stone entrance that welcomes you into the heart of the Old Town.

Explore a local market

To immerse yourself in the local life of Zadar, make sure to explore the vibrant markets found within the Old Town. Visit the People’s Square, a bustling hub where locals gather to socialize and enjoy outdoor cafes. This lively square is a perfect spot to relax, sip a cup of coffee, and soak up the atmosphere. For an authentic taste of local cuisine, head to the Fish Market, where you can witness fishermen unloading their fresh catch and sample the freshest seafood delicacies.

Walk through the famous land gate

As you step through the iconic Land Gate, you are transported back in time to the rich history of Zadar. This magnificent entrance, built in the 16th century, stands as a symbol of the city’s past and welcomes you into the heart of the Old Town.

Enjoy the Sun and Sea

Zadar is blessed with picturesque beaches and crystal-clear waters along the stunning Adriatic coastline, making it a perfect destination for sun-seekers and water enthusiasts.

Relax at the beach

Zadar boasts a range of breathtaking beaches that cater to different preferences. One of the most popular choices is Kolovare Beach, conveniently located near the city center. This sandy and pebbly beach offers a vibrant atmosphere with various amenities, including beach bars, cafes, and watersports facilities. Enjoy the sun, take a refreshing dip in the turquoise waters, and unwind in the beachside loungers.

Another noteworthy option is Borik Beach, located a short distance from the city center. This family-friendly beach features soft sand and shallow waters, making it ideal for children and those seeking a more relaxed beach experience. The nearby pine tree grove provides shade, creating a tranquil setting to enjoy the coastal beauty.

Read our guide to Zadar’s beaches!

Water Sports Activities

Zadar offers a plethora of thrilling water sports activities for adventure enthusiasts. Dive into the depths of the Adriatic Sea and explore the vibrant marine life through scuba diving expeditions. Snorkeling is another fantastic option to discover the underwater wonders, with many spots accessible directly from the beaches.

The Adriatic Sea is a playground for water sports enthusiasts, so make sure to indulge in activities like jet skiing, kayaking, and paddleboarding for an adrenaline-filled experience.

Go on a boat trip in Biograd

Embark on an exciting boat trip from the charming town of Biograd and discover the captivating beauty of the Adriatic coastline. Biograd’s strategic location offers easy access to a multitude of stunning islands, hidden coves, and pristine beaches. Join a boat tour and set sail across the glistening waters, taking in the breathtaking views of the rugged cliffs, turquoise bays, and lush vegetation that characterize this picturesque region.

Take a canoe down Zrmanja River

Embark on an exhilarating adventure by canoeing down the pristine Zrmanja River, nestled amidst the unspoiled natural beauty of Croatia. To reach the starting point in the village of Kastel Zegarski from Zadar, you can either opt for a guided tour that includes transportation or choose to drive yourself. The distance between Zadar and Kastel Zegarski is approximately 75 kilometers, and the journey takes about an hour and a half by car.

Upon reaching Kastel Zegarski, you’ll find canoe rental facilities and experienced guides who will provide you with the necessary equipment and safety instructions. From there, you can embark on your canoeing adventure, paddling down the picturesque Zrmanja River, surrounded by breathtaking landscapes and the thrill of navigating its rapids and serene stretches.

Learn to surf

If you’re seeking an adrenaline-filled water sport experience, Zadar offers the perfect opportunity to learn how to surf. With its stunning coastline and favorable wind conditions, it’s an ideal destination for surf enthusiasts of all levels. Several surf schools in Zadar cater to beginners, providing professional instructors and equipment rental. Whether you’re a complete novice or have some prior experience, the knowledgeable instructors will guide you through the fundamentals of surfing, including paddling techniques, balancing on the board, and catching waves.

Hit up a beach bar

icture yourself lounging on a sunbed, sipping on a refreshing cocktail, and soaking in the panoramic views of the sparkling Adriatic Sea. Zadar boasts a range of beach bars that cater to different tastes and preferences. Whether you prefer a trendy and stylish setting or a relaxed and bohemian vibe, you’re sure to find a beach bar that suits your mood. Enjoy the lively music, mingle with locals and fellow travelers, and embrace the carefree ambiance that beach bars offer.

Kayak around Dugi Otok

Embark on an unforgettable adventure by kayaking around the captivating island of Dugi Otok, just off the coast of Zadar. Known for its pristine beaches, hidden coves, and rugged cliffs, Dugi Otok offers a perfect setting for an exciting kayaking experience. To get to Dugi Otok from Zadar, you can take a ferry from the Zadar ferry port to the town of Brbinj on the island. The ferry ride takes about an hour, allowing you to enjoy scenic views of the Adriatic Sea along the way. Once you arrive in Brbinj, you can rent a kayak from one of the local rental companies or join a guided kayak tour.

Witness Spectacular Sunsets

Zadar is renowned for offering some of the most breathtaking sunsets in the world, creating a magical atmosphere as the day comes to a close.

Zadar’s Legendary Sunsets

Zadar’s reputation for spectacular sunsets is well-deserved. As the sun begins its descent into the horizon, the sky transforms into a vibrant canvas, showcasing hues of orange, pink, and purple. The ethereal glow casts a spell over the city, creating a captivating spectacle that mesmerizes locals and visitors alike. Prepare to be awestruck as nature paints the sky with its palette of colors.

Greeting to the Sun

For a truly unique sunset experience, make sure to visit the Greeting to the Sun. Located along the waterfront promenade, this mesmerizing solar-powered light installation becomes even more enchanting during the sunset hours. As the sun sets, the installation comes to life, emitting a vibrant light show that pulsates in sync with the natural rhythm of the evening sky. This artistic marvel offers a one-of-a-kind sunset experience that combines technology and natural beauty.

Waterfront Promenade (Riva)

To fully immerse yourself in the beauty of Zadar’s sunsets, find a cozy spot along the city’s waterfront promenade, known as the Riva. Grab a seat on one of the benches or settle down at a café overlooking the sea, and allow yourself to be captivated by the vibrant colors of the evening sky. Watch as the sun dips below the horizon, casting a golden glow over the surrounding landscape. The Riva provides the perfect vantage point to witness the magical transformation of the sky and the gentle waves dancing in harmony.

Culinary Delights

Zadar is not only a feast for the eyes but also a paradise for food lovers. The city’s culinary scene is a delightful fusion of traditional Dalmatian dishes and international flavors.

Traditional Dalmatian Cuisine

Zadar is the perfect place to savor traditional Dalmatian cuisine, known for its simplicity and use of fresh, locally sourced ingredients. One iconic dish to try is Peka, a slow-cooked dish of tender meat (often lamb or veal) and seasonal vegetables. Cooked under a bell-shaped lid, Peka is infused with aromatic herbs, resulting in succulent flavors that will leave your taste buds longing for more.

Visit Pag island and shop for cheese

Zadar’s proximity to the island of Pag makes it an ideal place to indulge in one of Croatia’s most famous culinary delights – Pag cheese. Produced from the milk of the island’s autochthonous sheep breed, Pag cheese is known for its distinct flavor and texture. It has a unique blend of saltiness and creaminess, and tastes great paired with local olive oil and homemade bread for an authentic gastronomic experience.

Sip on Maraska liquor

When in Zadar, one cannot miss the opportunity to savor the exquisite Maraska liquor. Maraska is a renowned distillery that has been producing fine liqueurs for over two centuries. Their signature product, Maraschino, is a sweet cherry liqueur with a distinct and delightful flavor. Take a moment to visit one of the local bars or taverns in Zadar that proudly offer Maraska liquor on their menu.

Sample the best ice cream

When it comes to indulging in a sweet treat in Zadar, sampling the city’s renowned ice cream is an absolute must. Zadar offers a delightful array of gelaterias and ice cream parlors that are sure to satisfy any ice cream lover’s cravings. Each gelateria boasts a tempting selection of flavors, ranging from classic favorites like chocolate and vanilla to unique creations inspired by local ingredients.

Have a romantic dinner at Fosa

For a truly enchanting and romantic dining experience in Zadar, head to the renowned restaurant Fosa. Situated within the historic city walls, overlooking the stunning Adriatic Sea, Fosa offers a beautiful setting for an unforgettable evening. The restaurant’s elegant and intimate atmosphere, combined with its exquisite cuisine, creates a perfect ambiance for a special date night. From expertly prepared fish dishes to delectable meat options and vegetarian delights, Fosa’s menu offers a diverse range of choices to satisfy every palate.

Bar hop around Zadar’s hotspots

When the sun sets in Zadar, the city transforms into a vibrant nightlife destination, offering a multitude of bars and hotspots to explore. Embark on a thrilling bar-hopping adventure and immerse yourself in the buzzing atmosphere of Zadar’s nightlife scene. Begin your journey in the Old Town, where you’ll find a plethora of cozy bars nestled within its historic streets. Enjoy craft beers, creative cocktails, or fine wines in stylish bars that blend modern aesthetics with a touch of traditional charm. Move along the vibrant waterfront promenade, known as Riva, where trendy bars and lounges offer stunning views of the sea and a lively ambiance.

Take a food and wine tour

Explore the diverse culinary scene of Zadar with a fascinating food and wine tour. Join an informative guide who will lead you on a culinary journey, introducing you to the city’s top culinary establishments and local specialties. Visit bustling markets where you can sample fresh produce, local cheeses, and pastries. Discover traditional restaurants and taverns that serve authentic Dalmatian dishes, such as octopus salad, black risotto, and lamb prepared under the peka.

Restaurants, Cafes, and Wine Bars

Zadar offers a plethora of dining options that cater to all tastes and preferences. For a taste of traditional Dalmatian cuisine, head to restaurants like Konoba Stomorica, Pet Bunara, or Konoba Skoblar. These establishments serve up a range of seafood delicacies, grilled meats, and hearty stews, allowing you to savor the flavors of the region.

If you’re in the mood for international cuisine, Zadar has plenty to offer. Visit restaurants like Kornat, Bruschetta, or Pasta & Svasta, where you can relish Italian, Mediterranean, and fusion dishes prepared with a modern twist.

Don’t forget to explore Zadar’s vibrant café culture. Sit back and enjoy a cup of coffee or a refreshing drink at establishments like Kavana Arsenal, Kult Caffe Bar, or Cafe Bar Brazil, where you can soak up the city’s relaxed ambiance.

For wine enthusiasts, Zadar boasts charming wine bars such as Wine & Cheese Bar Paradox or Wine Bar Vintage, where you can sample a wide selection of local and international wines, accompanied by artisanal cheeses and tasty appetizers.

Day Trips and Excursions

While Zadar itself offers a wealth of attractions, the surrounding region is also ripe for exploration.

Just off the coast of Zadar lies the remarkable Kornati National Park, an archipelago comprising 89 stunning islands and islets. Known for its rugged beauty, crystal-clear waters, and abundant marine life, the Kornati Islands are a paradise for nature lovers. Embark on a boat tour from Zadar and immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring landscapes. Marvel at the dramatic cliffs, secluded coves, and hidden beaches as you sail through the azure waters. Snorkeling and diving opportunities abound, allowing you to explore the vibrant underwater world. The Kornati National Park promises an unforgettable adventure for those seeking tranquility and natural beauty.

Connect with nature in Paklenica National Park

Escape the hustle and bustle of city life and immerse yourself in the breathtaking natural beauty of Paklenica National Park, located just a short distance from Zadar. This pristine park is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, offering stunning landscapes, rugged mountains, and crystal-clear streams. To reach Paklenica National Park from Zadar, you can take a bus or drive along the scenic coastal road. Once you arrive, you’ll be greeted by a network of hiking trails that wind through lush forests, captivating canyons, and impressive cliffs.

Plitvice Lakes National Park

Located a few hours’ drive from Zadar, the Plitvice Lakes National Park is a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts. This UNESCO World Heritage site is famous for its cascading waterfalls, lush forests, and mesmerizing turquoise lakes. Wander along the wooden walkways that wind through the park, allowing you to get up close to the enchanting waterfalls and experience the park’s ethereal beauty. The park offers several hiking trails of varying lengths and difficulty levels, catering to all visitors. Whether you choose to take a leisurely stroll or embark on a more challenging trek, the Plitvice Lakes National Park promises a truly immersive nature experience.

Events and Festivals

Zadar is not only a city of history and natural beauty but also a vibrant hub of cultural events and festivals. Throughout the year, the city comes alive with celebrations, music festivals, and cultural gatherings.

Zadar Summer Theatre Festival (June – August)

The Zadar Summer Theatre Festival is a prominent cultural event that takes place during the summer months. The festival features a diverse program of theater performances, including classical plays, contemporary works, and experimental productions. It showcases local talent as well as international theater troupes, offering a rich cultural experience for theater enthusiasts.

Zadar Film Festival (July)

Film enthusiasts shouldn’t miss the Zadar Film Festival, an annual event held in July. This festival celebrates the art of filmmaking by showcasing a selection of national and international films, including feature films, documentaries, and short films. It provides a platform for emerging filmmakers and offers a unique cinematic experience against the backdrop of Zadar’s beautiful scenery.

Full Moon Music Festival (July – August)

The Full Moon Music Festival is a series of open-air concerts that take place during the summer months. Set against the backdrop of Zadar’s historic sites, these musical performances encompass various genres, including jazz, classical, rock, and pop. The festival brings together local and international musicians, creating an enchanting ambiance under the moonlit sky.

Zadar Puppet Theatre Festival (September)

The Zadar Puppet Theatre Festival is a celebration of the art of puppetry. Held in September, this festival showcases a variety of puppet shows and performances, including marionettes, hand puppets, and shadow theater. It offers entertainment for both children and adults, creating a magical world of storytelling and imagination.

Zadar Christmas Market (December)

During the holiday season, Zadar transforms into a winter wonderland with its annual Christmas Market. The market features festive stalls selling traditional crafts, gifts, and delicious seasonal treats. Enjoy the enchanting atmosphere, listen to live music, and sip on mulled wine as you soak up the holiday spirit.

Things to do in Zadar, Croatia FAQs

Absolutely! Zadar is definitely worth visiting in Croatia. This vibrant coastal city offers a unique blend of historical charm, natural beauty, and a thriving cultural scene. The city’s rich history is evident in its well-preserved Roman and Venetian architecture, including the impressive Roman Forum and St. Donatus Church. Zadar’s Old Town with its narrow streets and historic buildings is a delight to explore. The city is also known for its stunning sunsets, which are best enjoyed at the famous Sea Organ and Greeting to the Sun installations along the waterfront.

Zadar boasts beautiful beaches along the Adriatic coastline, where you can soak up the sun and enjoy water sports activities. The culinary scene is diverse, offering a range of traditional Dalmatian dishes and international cuisine.

Zadar’s convenient location makes it a great base for day trips to nearby islands and national parks, such as Kornati National Park and Plitvice Lakes National Park. Whether you’re interested in history, nature, culture, or simply relaxing by the sea, Zadar has something to offer every traveler.

The ideal duration to spend in Zadar can vary depending on your preferences and the activities you plan to engage in. However, a typical visit to Zadar usually ranges from 2 to 4 days. This timeframe allows you to explore the city’s historical attractions, enjoy the beautiful beaches, indulge in the local cuisine, and experience the vibrant cultural scene.

The choice between Zadar and Split comes down to personal preferences. Split offers the impressive Diocletian’s Palace and a bustling city atmosphere, while Zadar boasts well-preserved Roman architecture, beautiful beaches, and breathtaking sunsets. If you prefer ancient history and a lively city vibe, Split may be the better option. On the other hand, if you enjoy a more relaxed atmosphere, picturesque waterfronts, and convenient access to national parks, Zadar could be more appealing. Consider your interests and the type of experience you’re looking for to make the decision.

The best time to visit Zadar is during the spring (April to June) and fall (September to October) when the weather is pleasant, and the tourist crowds are smaller. The summer months (July and August) are peak tourist season, with warm weather and a bustling atmosphere. If you plan to visit during this time, be prepared for higher prices and larger crowds. Winter in Zadar is relatively quiet, but the city still has its charm with Christmas markets and festive events.

Whether you’re a history buff, beach lover, food enthusiast, or culture aficionado, Zadar has something to offer you. Immerse yourself in the city’s historical sites, enjoy the sun and sea, savor the flavors of its cuisine, and immerse yourself in its vibrant cultural scene. Discover the hidden gems that await around every corner and create lasting memories in this captivating Croatian city.

Zadar awaits you with open arms, ready to showcase its beauty and charm. Come and experience all that this remarkable city has to offer.

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