Zadar, historically known as Zara, is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Croatia, situated on the Adriatic Sea. Serving as the seat of Zadar County and the wider northern Dalmatian region, the city covers an area of 25 km² with a population of 75,082 as of 2011.
Zadar is a historical center of Dalmatia and serves as a principal hub for politics, culture, commerce, industry, education, and transportation. Its rich heritage has made it one of Croatia’s most popular tourist destinations, even being named the “entertainment center of the Adriatic” by The Times and “Croatia’s new capital of cool” by The Guardian.
UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list included the fortified city of Zadar as part of Venetian Works of Defence between the 15th and 17th centuries.
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Attractions & Things to do in Zadar
1. Church of St. Donatus
The Church of St. Donatus is a pre-Romanesque church from the 9th century, named after the bishop Donatus who mediated in disputes during the early 9th century. Its unique circular shape and historical significance make it a must-visit landmark in Zadar.
Travel Tip: Don’t miss the opportunity to attend a musical performance inside the church, as its acoustics are renowned.
2. Monument to the Sun
The Monument to the Sun is a modern installation located near the sea organ on Zadar’s waterfront. It consists of 300 multi-layered glass plates that create a visual spectacle as they absorb solar energy during the day and produce a mesmerizing light show at night.
Travel Tip: Visit the monument at sunset to experience the full effect of the light show, and enjoy the nearby sea organ’s soothing sounds.
3. Zadar’s Roman Forum
The Roman Forum in Zadar is a testament to the city’s rich Roman heritage. Built between the 1st century BC and the 3rd century AD, the forum’s remains include columns, altars, and other architectural elements that provide a glimpse into ancient Roman life.
Travel Tip: Take a guided tour to learn about the historical significance of the site and discover hidden details that might be missed on a self-guided visit.
4. Kolovare Beach
Kolovare Beach is a popular spot in Zadar, known for its clear waters and beautiful views of the nearby islands. It’s a great place to relax, swim, and enjoy the Mediterranean sun.
Travel Tip: Arrive early during the summer months to secure a good spot, and consider renting a sunbed for added comfort.
5. Venetian Works of Defence
Zadar’s defensive system, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Venetian Works of Defence between 15th and 17th centuries,” showcases the city’s strategic importance during the Venetian rule. The well-preserved fortifications offer a fascinating insight into military architecture of the time.
Travel Tip: Explore the Landward Gate and other parts of the defensive system on foot, and consider hiring a local guide to understand the historical context.
6. Zadar Archipelago
Facing the islands of Ugljan and Pašman, Zadar’s archipelago offers stunning natural beauty and opportunities for exploration. From sailing to hiking, the islands provide a perfect escape from the city.
Travel Tip: Consider taking a boat tour to explore multiple islands, and don’t forget to pack sunscreen and water for a day of adventure.
Unique Activities in Zadar
1. Virtual Reality Guided History Walking Tour
Step back in time with this virtual reality guided history walking tour in Zadar. Experience the city’s rich history and heritage in an immersive way, bringing the past to life. This unique tour offers a blend of technology and storytelling, making history more accessible and engaging.
2. Sunset boat tour with champagne
Indulge in a luxurious sunset boat tour in Zadar. As the sun sets, the sky paints a mesmerizing canvas of colors, making it a perfect backdrop for a romantic evening. Sip on champagne and enjoy the tranquil waters, making it an unforgettable experience.
3. Sherlock Holmes Murder Mystery Game
Dive into a world of mystery and intrigue with the Sherlock Holmes Murder Mystery Game in Zadar. Put on your detective hat, gather clues, and solve the mystery before time runs out. This interactive game offers a blend of fun, challenge, and excitement, making it a must-try for mystery enthusiasts.
4. Market Tour and Cooking Class
Discover the culinary delights of Zadar with this market tour and cooking class. Explore the local market, pick fresh ingredients, and learn to cook traditional Croatian dishes. This hands-on experience offers a deep dive into the country’s rich culinary heritage, making it a treat for food lovers.
Day Trips from Zadar
1. Plitvice Lakes National Park
Discover the breathtaking beauty of Plitvice Lakes National Park, where crystal-clear turquoise lakes cascade into one another through lush forests.
Travel Tip: Arrive early to avoid crowds and make the most of your day exploring the network of trails and wooden pathways.
Explore the charming coastal town of Šibenik with its stunning Renaissance architecture, including the UNESCO-listed St. James Cathedral.
Travel Tip: Climb up to the St. Michael’s Fortress for panoramic views of the town and Adriatic Sea.
3. Krka National Park
Immerse yourself in the natural wonders of Krka National Park, known for its magnificent waterfalls and vibrant flora.
Travel Tip: Bring your swimsuit for a refreshing dip in the designated swimming areas near the waterfalls.
Where to stay in Zadar
Zadar, a city located on the Adriatic Sea in Croatia, is a haven for travelers seeking a blend of ancient history and modern luxury. With its Romanesque architecture, medieval churches, and vibrant nightlife, Zadar offers a unique experience for every visitor. The city is home to a plethora of hotels that cater to various needs, from luxury seekers to budget travelers. Whether you’re looking for a beachfront resort or a cozy boutique hotel, Zadar has something to offer.
1. Best Reviewed Hotel
Hotel Donat – All Inclusive (★★★)
- Description: Hotel Donat enjoys a prime location next to the crystal-clear sea and a beautiful beach. It offers a wide range of sports, recreation, and activity possibilities.
- Price: €95 per night
- Rating: 7.7 (Good)
2. Most Luxurious Hotel
Falkensteiner Hotel & Spa Iadera (★★★★★)
- Description: Located on the private Peninsula Punta Skala, this hotel offers an intimate and stylish atmosphere, ensuring a luxurious stay.
- Price: €310 per night
- Rating: 8.8 (Fabulous)
3. Budget Hotel
Hotel Mediteran (★★★)
- Description: Located a 10-minute walk from the beach and 4 km from Zadar’s historic center, Hotel Mediteran offers rooms with free WiFi and a balcony with sea or garden views.
- Price: €74.78 per night
- Rating: 8.9 (Fabulous)
4. Hotel for Family
Falkensteiner Club Funimation Borik (★★★★)
- Description: Featuring both outdoor and indoor pools, this hotel is located in Zadar and boasts a 2500 m² award-winning wellness center with massage, sauna, hot tub, and solarium.
- Price: €188 per night
- Rating: 8.3 (Very good)
5. Hotel for Couples
Teatro Verdi Boutique Hotel (★★★★)
- Description: Set in Zadar Old Town, this hotel is next to historical monuments and museums. It provides concierge service, a tour desk, and a 24-hour front desk.
- Price: €230 per night
- Rating: 9.0 (Superb)
6. Hotel for Solo Travelers
Hotel Porto (★★★)
- Description: Located at the entrance to Zadar, Hotel Porto is just a 10-minute drive from the airport, making it the nearest city hotel to the airport.
- Price: €75 per night
- Rating: 7.5 (Good)
Did you know? Facts about Zadar
- Zadar is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Croatia, located on the Adriatic Sea.
- The city covers an area of 25 km2 and had a population of 75,082 in 2011, making it the second-largest city in the Dalmatian region.
- Zadar is known as the “entertainment center of the Adriatic” and has been dubbed “Croatia’s new capital of cool” by The Guardian.
- The UNESCO World Heritage Site list included Zadar for its Venetian Works of Defence between the 15th and 17th centuries.
- The name of Zadar has evolved over time, with historical names including Iadera, Iader, and Zara.
- The city faces the islands of Ugljan and Pašman, separated by the narrow Zadar Strait.
- Zadar’s climate is a mix of humid subtropical and Mediterranean, with mild winters and very warm summers.
- The city has a rich history dating back to the Roman Empire, with remnants of a Roman forum still present.
- Zadar became a significant center for trade and naval activities during the time of the Liburnians, an ancient Illyrian tribe.
- The iconic Church of St. Donatus in Zadar dates back to the 9th century.
FAQ about Zadar
What is Zadar historically known as?
Zadar, historically known as Zara, is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Croatia.
Where is Zadar located in Croatia?
Zadar is situated on the Adriatic Sea, at the northwestern part of the Ravni Kotari region.
What is the significance of Zadar in Croatian tourism?
Zadar is one of the most popular Croatian tourist destinations, named the “entertainment center of the Adriatic” by The Times and “Croatia’s new capital of cool” by The Guardian.
Which UNESCO World Heritage Site is Zadar a part of?
Zadar is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site list as the fortified city included in the Venetian Works of Defence between the 15th and 17th centuries.
What are some of the ancient names associated with Zadar?
The city of Zadar emerged as Iadera and Iader in ancient times and was also known as Zara during the Venetian rule.
Which sea does Zadar overlook?
Zadar overlooks the Adriatic Sea and faces the islands of Ugljan and Pašman.
What are some of the notable landmarks in Zadar?
Notable landmarks in Zadar include the Monument to the Sun, Church of St. Donatus, and the Ancient Roman Forum.
How did Zadar gain its Roman urban character?
Under Roman rule, Zadar was organized according to the typical Roman street system with a rectangular street plan, a forum, thermae, and other civic amenities, making it a flourishing center on the eastern Adriatic coast.