Welcome to Zadar, the city with the most beautiful sunset in the world! Explore its centuries-old streets with the help of our detailed guide in which a local lets you in on all the tips, places to see and things to explore. And when you’re done with sightseeing, just set up a boat transfer to one of the islands around here or rent a boat if you want to hop from one place to another. Finally, you can also book a tour and enjoy the stunning natural beauty of the archipelago. Read on and prepare to be amazed.
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE FOR ZADAR TOWN
(written by a local)
Zadar is the city of incredible sunsets, great food, and wonderful beaches, surrounded by numerous picturesque islands and beautiful little towns. In other words, it’s ideal for your summer vacation.
I suspect the crew of The Grand Tour knew that too, which is why they came here to shoot an episode of their world-famous car show. But Clarkson, Hammond, and May were more interested in their cars than in exploring the city and everything it has to offer, a mistake I will be rectifying in this article. In the text, we will go through the main sights in Zadar, the best places to sit down and eat, the best places to go for a swim, and we’ll mention the islands too, of course.
I’ll also be sharing with you some tips only locals would know, so you will get all the info you need for a perfect vacation in Zadar.
So, let’s get started. Allow me to show you what makes this Croatian city so special and why Lonely Planet declared it to be one of the best destinations is the world for 2019.
Best time to visit Zadar
In terms of weather, Zadar is your typical Mediterranean city. Its summers are hot and full of sunshine, ideal for hitting the beach, with July and August being the warmest months. It doesn’t get too hot, though, as average summer temperatures never go very much over 30ºC. Still, heat waves are known to happen sometimes during this period, and this is when you need to be prepared – carry some water with you and try to stick to the shade if you need to go out.
But you know, Zadar has a lot to offer in spring too, especially in April and May. Sure, you won’t see many people on the beaches, but because there will be a lot of sun and because the temperature will be relatively high (somewhere between 15-20ºC), you’ll be able to take lovely walks. Us locals love this because it gives us a chance to sit down for a cup of coffee in the open, hang out with our friends and just soak the sun in. You can do that too and just relax and get away from it all a bit, plus you can see all the main sights with much fewer tourists getting in your way.
Autumn is by far the wettest season here, and the temperatures drop significantly after September, which is something to keep in mind if you’re planning on coming to Zadar after summer. Winters are cold compared to the rest of the year, but that’s still way above the freezing point. As a matter of fact, spending a winter in Zadar can be a surprisingly pleasant experience – the tourists are gone, you are always near the sea, and with a little bit of luck, you will catch a streak of good weather and be able to do everything you can do in spring, although in slightly warmer clothes.
What to do in Zadar?
Zadar and its surroundings have absolutely everything you need for a great vacation and much more than that. First of all, the city can trace its origins all the way back to the 9th century BC, and there are still remains of Roman architecture present in the city. Of course, there are some more modern places you should visit in Zadar too, but we will be discussing the major sights shortly. For now, it’s enough to say that you can do a lot of sightseeing if that’s what interests you.
But what really makes visiting this city interesting and unique is the vicinity of a large number of islands. Ugljan is right there in front of you, but you can also choose between so many other wonderful places – Iž, Silba, Olib, a stunning national park Kornati, and many others can all be reached by boat fairly quickly. Each and every one of those trips is incredibly beautiful, and you can easily book them with us right here on this website. No matter if you want a full tour or just transfer to a certain place, we’ll make sure you get a truly unforgettable experience.
Apart from that, there are plenty of exciting things to do in Zadar itself during summer, too. For example, Zadar has become well known in Croatia for its Millenium Jump event, usually held at the end of July Hundreds of people meet up on the city’s Riva and then proceed to jump together from there into the sea. It’s loads of fun, and you get to mingle with the locals a bit.
If you happen to have a car with you, get outside of the city and enjoy the nature. Alternatively, you can just sit on a bus and take off. Adrenaline junkies will love the fact that they can go bungee jumping from Maslenica Bridge, but there’s the option of rafting down Zrmanja River. Should you want an active vacation but more on the soothing side of things, you can go climb rocks in Paklenica (another national park), or mountain biking on one of the trails in Zadar’s vicinity.
A unique activity people around here have developed is called škraping (škrapa meaning a groove in a rock in Croatian). It’s a form of trekking across jagged rocks which abound in this part of the world. A big škraping race is organized every year around Zadar, and given that you have to traverse several kilometers to the finish line (depending on the category you choose), this is an excellent way to explore the more remote parts of Zadar County. If you feel adventurous, apply for the race and good luck!
So that’s it for the things to do in Zadar. As you can see, there is plenty to choose from. Let’s now turn to Zadar sights which really do deserve a place of their own in this article. Prepare to be amazed!
What to see in Zadar?
As mentioned earlier, Zadar has a long and intricate history, and its story is full of different cultures influencing the area. All of this has left quite a mark on the city, so there are plenty of things to explore. Here are some of the best things to see in Zadar.
Zadar’s Forum is the largest Roman Forum on this side of the Adriatic. Dating back all the way to 1st century AD, it was the main square of ancient Iadera (the Roman name for Zadar), and it still fulfills that purpose to this very day. The locals love to meet up here, and you can walk around fascinating remains that pop up in front of you every few steps. Another thing to explore here is the Church of St. Donatus, one of Zadar’s main symbols and the biggest building of the pre-Romanesque period in the country. You will be transported back centuries here in a blink of an eye!
Source: Ivana Zoric
Cathedral of St. Anastasia (Katedrala svete Stošije in Croatian) is right next to St. Donatus, so you really shouldn’t miss the opportunity to check it out, especially if historical architecture interests you. It dates back to the 4th century AD, and it went through significant reconstruction during the Romanesque period, so in terms of heritage, it’s absolutely massive. It’s massive in terms of sheer size too because it is the largest church in Dalmatia (the southern part of Croatia). You can go in and climb the bell tower for just 15 kunas (2 euro), which is indeed very much worth your money.
Greeting to the Sun and the Sea Organ
In 1964, after visiting the city, Alfred Hitchcock said: “Zadar has the most beautiful sunset in the world, more beautiful than the one in Key West, Florida”. High praise by this great director, no doubt about that, and we are indeed very much aware of how lucky we are to witness such beauty every evening. In fact, there’s even an installation called Greeting to the Sun (sometimes Monument to the Sun, i.e. Pozdrav Suncu in Croatian), which is one of the main things to see in Zadar. It absorbs sunshine during the day, only to release it in spectacular fashion after the sun sets. And given that it’s just a short walk north-west from the Forum, you won’t have to travel far. Ideal for an evening stroll!
Right next to it is the Sea Organ, another of Zadar’s most important sights. Created by the same person as Greeting to the Sun (architect Nikola Bašić), it uses the surrounding sea to produce intriguing sounds. Quite literally, the waves and the wind play this unique instrument hidden below white stone steps. You can therefore just sit down and relax completely, with all your senses experiencing Zadar to the fullest. Many will say that these two are the best things to see in Zadar.
Gold and Silver of Zadar
Another great way to experience Zadar and to get a vivid image of its rich (and I do mean RICH), cultural history is to go and check out “Gold and Silver of Zadar”, a permanent exhibit in the Benedictine monastery of St. Mary (also close to the Forum). There you will encounter priceless items of ecclesiastic art that span over a period of more than one thousand years. Paintings, sculptures, reliquaries, even pieces of clothing with pure gold and silver weaved into them, all these items were expertly crafted through the centuries and speak volumes about the abundance of culture the city has always had. And with the admission price being just 30 kunas (4 euro) or less, it’s another great place to visit at minimal expense.
City walls and gates
If you take a walk around the peninsula which is also the heart of Zadar, you will see that much of the city walls still stand. This was actually a heavily fortified city once, and the fortifications were gradually expanded upon as the centuries progressed. During the time Venice reigned over this part of the Adriatic, Zadar was vital in defense against the Ottoman Empire, which is why Venice invested a lot into its walls. You can see that on numerous gates which connect the town on the peninsula with the rest of the city, especially on the famous Land Gate (Kopnena vrata), which was once the main entrance to Zadar. These gates are considered to be one of the most beautiful examples of Renaissance architecture, adorned with various interesting motifs.
Where to eat in Zadar?
Trust me when I say that Zadar is the perfect place for Mediterranean cuisine! The food is excellent, there is plenty of delicious stuff you can try, but if there’s one thing you MUST taste while here, it’s the black risotto. Made with cuttlefish and its ink, it is a local delicacy and a perfect way to get in the vacation mood, along with a glass of white wine, of course.
But, like I said, there are plenty of places where you can eat in Zadar, so here’s a short overview of what to look out for.
Restaurant Niko, Obala kneza Domagoja 9, 23000 Zadar
If you want to taste excellent seafood, this is the place you have to visit because Restaurant Niko is well known around the city for just that type of food. The restaurant is on the higher end of the price spectrum, but the interior, the food, and the service are well worth it.
Go there for dinner because the restaurant is located right on the coast, so if you can grab yourself an outside table, you will enjoy a magical evening.
Konoba Rafaelo, Obala kneza Trpimira 50, 23000 Zadar
You’re more of a meat lover? Worry not, we love a good barbecue around here, too! As a matter of fact, Konoba Rafaelo (“konoba” is a term for more traditional restaurants in Dalmatia) is quite close to the previous entry on this list. And not only is the meat fantastic (the platter is to die for and their home-made fries even better!), but the portions are absolutely huge. You can sure bet that you will get your money’s worth.
Mamma Mia, Put Dikla 54, 23000 Zadar
Arguably the most famous restaurant in the city, Mamma Mia offers excellent food with an emphasis on Italian and generally Mediterranean dishes. They also have their own wine which is really good, so I’d encourage you to try it. The menu is quite extensive and covers everything from things like pizza, gnocchi and spaghetti carbonara (my favorite here!) to grilled meat. Bon appetit!
Restaurant Šime, Ulica Matije Gupca 15, 23000 Zadar
But if you want a really good pizza, come to Restaurant Šime, my favorite pizza place in the whole world! They make their pizzas in brick ovens here, so the end result is something absolutely sublime. The dough is baked to perfection, and the toppings are numerous, so if you love pizzas you’re gonna have a field day. It’s also a great place for a meal with your kids, plus you can order a whole bunch of other things, although pizzas are the stars of the show.
Want a crazy night out? Zadar can oblige! There are loads of clubs and bars in and around the city, which makes the hot summer nights exciting and entertaining. No matter if you want to sit with a drink by the sea or paint the town red, there is something for everyone in the city.
First and foremost, Zadar nightlife cannot be imagined without Arsenal. The club has a cult status among the locals, and because it is located in a warehouse dating back to the 16th century you’ll get a very unique vibe when you first enter. Not to mention that it has a huge cultural significance.
You can do a whole lot of things here, from listening to local and foreign artists to viewing exhibitions. There’s even a restaurant here, so you can grab a bite to eat if you’re hungry. In any case, if you’re planning a night out in Zadar, make sure to check what Arsenal has to offer.
However, if you’re like me and you want to just chill in the open with a good cocktail in hand and lovely scenery surrounding you, may I recommend Ledana Lounge Bar? It’s right next to Kopnena vrata (the main entrance to the old town, remember?) and has a wonderful garden setting.
The cocktails they make here are awesome and go perfectly with the whole vibe of the place – it’s kind of electrifying because of all the parties, but at the same time relaxed because of the greenery around you. In short, the place looks amazing and is a great choice for a night out.
But if you want to experience Zadar nightlife in the old town, there’s only one place where you can go – Svarog Bar. Surrounded by the city walls, the place is both a bar and a nightclub at the same time and focuses on R’n’B music mostly. Here too you can get some great cocktails, and the place is extremely popular both among tourists and locals. You can’t go wrong with this.
Last but certainly not the least on this list, it’s The Garden Lounge. This awesome place is right on the city walls, so you get a lovely view from it in the evening. As the name suggests, there is plenty of greenery all over the place, and you can even lie down and enjoy the night sky above Zadar with a great cocktail in hand. They also serve some very good food here, and with the chilled-out vibe this place offers, you will enjoy a very relaxing and pleasant evening.
Zadar public transport
The public transport in Zadar is completely based on buses. You see the map of the routes of all city buses here, and an individual ticket will cost you 10 kuna, which is slightly less than 1.5 euro. Now, you can buy the tickets at newspaper stands and from the bus driver, but a much more convenient method, if you ask me, is to simply download Smartica, an app that deals with this sort of thing.
Buses can also take you outside of the city, to places like Biograd na Moru, Maslenica, Pakoštane, etc., so if you don’t have a car with you, you can always hop on a bus for a day of exploring Zadar county.
Speaking of cars, Uber is also available in Zadar, and you can use that if you prefer cars to public transport, but Bolt is an option, too. However, local taxi companies like Taxi Cammeo also have their apps, so there are certainly plenty of options in the city.
What are the best beaches in and around Zadar?
Zadar county is well known for its beaches. However, if at all possible, I sincerely recommend you get out of town. The islands around it have so many beautiful places to offer, and you can get a boat transfer to any one of them with us easily. Even better, we can organize whole tours of the best places in the Zadar archipelago for you.
However, if that’s not an option for you, the best beach within Zadar city limits is Kolovare. This sandy beach is really a great place to come and enjoy yourself, plus it’s very close to the old town and the city center. Therefore, you can always easily freshen up after a bit of sightseeing, although do expect crowds in peak season. If you like jumping in from great heights, you’ll love the fact that there’s a 10m (30 feet) diving platform here, too. Not a single Zadar native has missed out on jumping from it.
Sakarun, on the other hand, is quite possibly the best beach in the Zadar archipelago and a great reason to rent out a boat and head straight to Dugi otok. Its white sand and crystal-clear sea will make you feel you’ve come to some exquisite tropical resort, and the numerous pine trees will provide you with much-needed shade during the day. On top of all that, the waters here are very shallow, which makes the beach great for families with small children.
But the competition for the title of the best beach around here is extremely tough – another great place in the Zadar archipelago is the beach called Lojena. What makes this place so special is the fact that it is located inside Kornati National Park. That can immediately give you an idea of what kind of surroundings expect you here. Sand and tiny white gravel are mixed on a beach that is surrounded by incredibly picturesque hills and pristine nature. One look at this magical place and you’ll know this is where you want to spend your vacation.
If possible, you should also go and visit the beach in Nin. It’s famous around the world for its medicinal mud, but that’s only a small part of this lagoon. The rest of the beach is great for more standard activities, and there’s also the option of going windsurfing. Also, this is another place with shallow waters and another fantastic thing to do with kids in Zadar.
Finally for this list, we can’t skip another world-famous destination, Zrće Beach. Nicknamed “Croatian Ibiza”, it is probably the best place for parties on the whole Adriatic, and there’s even the option to get there by boat. The ride is phenomenal and very exciting and definitely something that will get your blood flowing before the party starts. And if you come here during the day, you can enjoy a nice swim or relax with a cocktail in one of the beach bars.
Keep in mind that these are just some of the beaches in Zadar county. Almost every island has something beautiful and unique to offer you, so do check our other Zadar-related pages on our website to find more wonderful spots.
Finally, let’s talk about some general Zadar tips to help you feel more at ease in the city and maybe even save you a kuna or two. First of all, since we’re on the subject of kunas (the local currency), remember that one euro will usually get you a bit less than 7.5 kunas. That’s the standard exchange rate. Officially, euros are not accepted in the country (you can’t, for example, buy things in a supermarket with them), but the locals may accept them if they run their own business.
If you’re aiming to enjoy the sunset to the fullest near Greeting to the Sun, make sure to come a little bit early. 20 minutes before sundown should be enough for you to find the perfect spot, but keep in mind that many people will come to the same place with the same idea in mind.
And if you’re looking for a place to sit down and maybe order a drink, it may be a good idea to get slightly away from the old town as the prices there are MUCH higher than in the rest of the city. Essentially, you’re paying for the location there, not for a better cup of coffee. That’s why I tend to drink coffee in my own neighborhood.
Speaking of low prices, every 10th day of the month there’s a huge farmers market in Benkovac, a small town about 40 kilometers east of Zadar. You can buy pretty much everything there, and for very low prices, so if that’s something that interests you, plan accordingly. Don’t expect and high-class restaurants or cafes over there, but there is still some excellent food to taste.
Finally, when it comes to tipping in restaurants, of course it’s very much appreciated. However, it’s not like in the United States here and people working in bars and restaurants don’t rely on tips to make a living – they have their own fair salaries. If you do want to leave a tip, about 10% in restaurants will be just fine, and in bars and cafes you can round the tab to the nearest ten if you’ve had just a coffee or two, or you can also add 10% to the total if the total was bigger. The same can be applied for taxis and other stuff where you’d usually tip.