20 Reasons to visit Zadar
Updated: Jul 18
1. Sea Organ
The Sea Organ is exactly what the name suggests; an organ played by the sea. Often, people wonder: "How does it work?". It is beautiful in its simplicity - every wave that passes by enters the organ and pushes sound through 35 polyethylene pipes that give you an incredible performance by nature itself. Every gust of wind, every ferry and small boat passing by will create different waves, which in turn, will create a different sound. They say you can never hear the same tune twice. Sit down by the steps and unwind as nature gives you a concert of a lifetime.
2. Greeting to the Sun solar panel
The same brilliant mind that gave us the Sea Organ, also gave Zadar the Greeting to the Sun solar panel- Mr Nikola Bašić. The Solar panel collects energy during day time and then gives you a light show throughout the entire night. Additionally, around the metal rim of the solar panel there is info about the churches that existed (or still exist) in Zadar, various dates and how many hours of sunlight we get on that day. It is an astrological calendar, historical book and a light-show all in one.
3. St. Donatus Church
The most popular church in the city and the first image that comes to mind when you ask the locals about a monument that best represents Zadar. It is one of the 12 pre-Romanesque rotundas on the planet, another one being Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, for instance.
4. Riva - the water promenade
If you are in Zadar, be sure to take a stroll along the waterfront promenade called Riva. Starting from the Sea Organ and the Greeting to the Sun, continue south. On your right is the island of Preko and you will see ferries going back and forth. In the evening, the promenade will often have local fishermen trying their luck. Towards the end of the promenade you will see the university building and if you wrap around it a gorgeous, tiny marina, where the locals proudly exhibit their little boats.
5. Maraschino & Hitchcock
If you are looking for what to buy in Zadar, then look no further. Maraschino is a must-try in Zadar. Initially, enjoyed by the French nobility, this liqueur is now a household brand. It is made from the Maraska cherry that is found all around Zadar region and it was the go-to drink for the famous director Alfred Hitchcock. He claimed that he loved three things about Zadar: the girls, the maraschino and the sunsets. Three isn't enough Mr. Hitchcock, we need at least 20!
6. Best sunsets in the world
We will agree with Mr. Hitchcock on this one. The best sunsets you can find in Croatia are in Zadar. We would recommend the Greeting to the Sun monument ;sitting next to the Sea Organ and watching those last rays of sunlight shine upon the city as the sun slowly sinks into the Adriatic. If you cannot see the beauty of it, have one more Maraschino!
7. Communist tour of Zadar
Who has not heard of Tito, the lifelong dictator of Yugoslavia? Well, regardless of your answer, we would recommend taking this brand new tour which has become quite a sensation in Zadar. Tackle difficult and complex topics in an easy-to-understand and humorous way. Find out more here.
8. Mediterranean lifestyle
In Zadar, you will notice that the town has all of the charms of the Mediterranean as it used to be: passionate locals, outdoor lifestyle, restaurants, cafes and most importantly a very soothing climate. We would recommend going to Varos neighborhood, hiding in the shade of the houses, sipping that cup of coffee (or Maraschino), doing a bit of people watching, gossiping (we all do it and never feel guilty) and maybe even engaging in a conversation with a local (the university mostly focuses on foreign languages, meaning most locals are multilingual). Who knows, you might even pick up some Croatian.
9. Beach destination
Who doesn't like going to the beach? Good news, Zadar has plenty of them! If you are staying in the north-western part of town we would recommend Borik. If you want to enjoy something really cool, try Kolovare and its salty pool- a swimming pool in which the Adriatic freely flows in and out. Our choice: Sakarun, the most beautiful beach in Zadar region. We recommend taking a boat excursion and spending the day snorkeling, swimming and lounging away at Sakarun.
While we are on the topic of islands; Zadar gives you a lot to choose from. In summer time, it is an absolute must to visit at least one Croatian island. How great are the islands? Well, let's just say that even most Croats go to the Croatian islands on vacation...so do as the locals do! The ferry connections are great and you can easily get to and from the islands. The local ferry line schedule is here.
11. Sport center
You like staying in shape or are you more of a spectator?- it doesn't matter, Zadar offers activities for both groups. We would recommend a jog through the parks just beyond the Land Gate, along Kolovare waterfront or even a bicycle ride from the Old Town, up towards Borik. Additionally, there are two main sport centers: Franka Lisce and Višnjik. Football, basketball, indoor rock-climbing, track and field and many more. If you prefer spectating, we would advise you to check if there are any games during your stay, maybe that friendly local you met from our reason no.8 (Mediterranean lifestyle) can give you a few tips. Go to Jazine or Višnjik for a game of basketball, handball or football. Even though Zadar is a city of basketball, it has produced the best football player of the 2018 world cup- Luka Modrić!
12. National parks
Zadar is a great city for nature lovers. North of Zadar we have the most famous national park of Croatia - Plitvice Lakes. Enjoy pristine nature and breathtaking viewpoints while exploring 16 lakes. Or head down south to Krka national park and relax in the trinity of senses: the smell of fresh air, the gorgeous scenery all around and the soothing sound of water crashing against the rocks. Remember those islands we mentioned a couple of reasons ago?- Kornati national park is exactly that; a series of islands around which you can take a boat ride and even stop for a swim. And if you want a private tour of Krka- click here.
13. Live like a local
Zadar is great because it is a hidden gem. It has not been spoiled by tourism (let's hope this never happens). People have not conformed to the standards of same-old, same-old type of tourism you see everywhere nowadays. The people are authentic, the souvenirs are different and most importantly you can get a good sense of how people actually live as the Old Town is full of locals.
14. Well connected
How to get to Zadar? In any way you want! Zadar has an airport, a ferry port, bus station and it is connected with the coastal road and the toll road. You can even take a train, although this is not something we recommend. The train is not fast, comfortable or cheap. You know what, don't take the train, you have so many other options.
15. Kalelarga street
The address lists this one as Široka ulica, yet none of the locals call it that. This is the street that locals go to when they want to see their friends and be seen by them; a type of a local catwalk. Locals like to dress well and take a stroll along the Kalelarga street, secretly hoping that the local online newspaper will take a shot of them and list their outfit in their daily hall of fame. Take a stroll along the street, you might just catch the photographer's eye.
17. Good value for money
Remember how we said that Zadar is still not spoiled by tourism? Well, that can only mean one thing- reasonable prices! Whether we are talking about bars, cafes, restaurants or shops, you will find that Zadar is more than affordable.
18. Safety first
We often get the question "is Zadar safe?". Yes, yes and most definitely yes. This question comes as a bit of a surprise for us, but I suppose if you do not know a place it is a perfectly normal question. We feel like Zadar is one of the safest places to visit. There is no such thing as a rough neighborhood, no gangs and the locals only resort to murder in the sense that they occasionally kill you with kindness.
19. A city for everyone
Whether you are looking for a romantic city to surprise your partner, or a holiday destination for your family, or a holiday destination to get away from your family, Zadar is the place to go. From cultural landmarks, museums, local galleries and artists, great cuisine, unique experiences and tours to thriving nightlife, Zadar has it all. Many of these elements do not overlap, but not to worry, they are found in different parts of the town so that you do not have to worry about not sleeping properly because of a loud rave going on next door. Everything is apart, yet at the same time conveniently close.
20. A city to remember
With the increase of tourism on a global scale, everything has become accessible to us, and perhaps, because of this, it is even more difficult to cherish the thrill of travelling. Zadar will most certainly not be "just another" city. We are certain that you will fall in love with it, and think of it with the fondest of memories, time and time again, until you decide that you absolutely must come back.
See you soon!