5 Reasons Why Zadar Croatia Is One Of My Favorite Cities

Zadar Croatia

If you’ve had the (mis)fortune of listening to me wax poetically about Croatia, then no doubt you will have noticed a slight preoccupation (obsession) I have a particular city – Zadar. Since the first moment I walked through the city gates leading into the Old Town, I knew that I had arrived. There’s just something special about this beautiful coastal city that drew me in and so far has refused to let go. Other than just saying IT’S AWESOME I decided to try to break out some actual concrete reasons why I love the city so much and why I think it should be on everyone’s Croatian travel itinerary.

Zadar Croatia Boardwalk

1. Coastal beauty and THE sea organ

Like most Croatian cities that line the warm waters of the Adriatic, Zadar has a beautiful waterfront area with a long promenade that always seems to be hopping, no matter the time of day or year. What first time visitors may not realize though is that those white steps leading down to the water are much more than they seem. It’s actually a complex set of pipes that when put together create the now somewhat famous sea organ. Completed in 2005 along with repair work after the Croatian War of Independence, the stairs extend for 70 meters and under them are 35 pipes of varying length and height that play 7 chords of 5 tones depending on the tides. Walking along the waterfront, watching kids jump into the breaking waves with the soft melody of the sea organ playing is a quintessential Zadar experience that everyone should enjoy at least once in their lives.

Zadar Croatia
2. Weight of the ages

For a city that I didn’t know existed until a year ago, Zadar has a shockingly long history, much of it still on display around town. The current name of the city, Zadar, has been bastardized over the years and actually dates back to a people living there BEFORE the Greeks arrived. We’re talking 4th century BC here folks, a very long time for a town to be in near permanent existence. While most of the Greek influence has vanished, Roman life is clearly visible everywhere around Zadar. The main street running through the old town is the old Roman road, perfectly straight as are the laneways radiating out in all sectors of town. I always love thinking of the hundreds of generations of people who walked the same route when I visit towns like Zadar, the weight of history so heavy it’s almost debilitating. For a more obvious remnant of Roman life, in the center of town is the old Forum and the 9th century St. Donatus’ Church, built on the remnants of a Roman temple to Juno. A walk through town is a walk through time, from the Greeks to the Middle Ages and the more recent and sad history of the 20th century. The culture of the centuries is imbued on every sandy stone and old growth tree towering overhead. For a more detailed examination of this fascinating history, be sure to check out the new Roman exhibit at the Archaeological Museum next to the Forum. This expertly curated space reassembles parts of Zadar’s past that had been lost to the ages. It tells the story of Roman occupation in Croatia in a way that is both beautiful as well as innovative.


3. Amazing food

This is hardly endemic to just Zadar, all of Croatia suffers from an overabundance of delicious foods. Zadar seems to excel though when it come to cuisine and a good meal or snack is usually just a few feet away. If you have a sweet tooth, be sure to stop by Vitlov Chocolate in the old city. Famous for his Maraschino Pralines using the region’s favorite liqueur, the great master is constantly innovating by introducing flavors like orange blossom and red wine; flavors that reflect the country and its traditional flavors. For something a little more robust, there are innumerable outdoor restaurants and cafes where locals and tourists alike while away the hours, chatting and enjoying the cuisine for which the Dalmatian region is so well known. Fresh seafood is of course always on offer, but so is well-executed Italian food. Much of Croatia’s coastal areas were under Venetian control for centuries, creating a robust tradition of hearty Italian favorites. Look for the squid ink gnocchi at Bruschetta Restaurant for a special treat.


4. Wandering the streets

There is just something so special about the streets of Zadar and I’ve never seen anything quite like it anywhere in the world. Paved with shiny white marble, they look slick but are actually just well worn with age. They introduce a certain element of elegance though; one almost feels guilty walking on them. Start on the main road that runs through the old city and just start wandering. Don’t be afraid about making a wrong turn, there’s no such thing, and just see where you end up. There are hundreds of small shops and cafes occupying small little corners of the city that would be nearly impossible to find more than once even if you tried. Take a break in true Croatian fashion by ordering a coffee and watch as the world walks by.

zadar sunset

5. Sunset

If you spend any amount of time in Zadar, someone will at some point tell you of a famous quote associated with the city. In May 1964, Alfred Hitchcock checked into Room 204 of the classic and now closed Hotel Zagreb on the waterfront in Zadar. The hotel’s location was one of the best in town and it was from there that the famed director opined that “The sunset of Zadar is the world’s most beautiful and incomparably better than in Key West, Florida.” This is a fact that Zadar residents have long known, but which the celebrity mention made world famous. In an effort to determine the truth of this grand statement, I climbed to the top of the St Anastasia Bell Tower in the middle of town for the best view in Zadar. Standing there watching the sun slowly fall into the sea, the colors and effect on the surrounding buildings was nothing sort of magical. Walking down the stairs to the main street that evening I thought to myself that no, Mr. Hitchcock was not embellishing when he named this one of the most amazing sunsets in the world.

Have you been to Zadar? What’s your favorite thing to do there?

 

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By: Mike

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer. Also follow Matt on , and

17 Responses

  1. Jo

    Zadar looks gorgeous. That last photo of the sunset is beautiful.

    So many bloggers have raved about Croatia recently (and there was quite a spike a while back too, if I’m remembering correctly) that I might have to check it out. I have a bad habit of writing off other European countries as being less interesting due to their proximity to me, but that’s so unfair of me.

    Reply
    • Jay Shelton

      Trust me on this one – Croatia is even better than what the bloggers tell you.

      If you have the means, go right now. Thanks to us travel bloggers waxing on and on about Zadar and Losinj and Dubrovnik, Croatia is attracting a ton of tourists. Not all of them are pleasant. Give it 5-6 years, and it’ll be like most tourist-riddled European destinations – pleasant, but not overwhelmingly so.

      So yeah, pack your bags and head out now before the tourists overrun the place!

      Reply
      • Mike

        Um, that’s an odd way to describe it.

  2. Trip

    Lol, indeed an odd way to describe, Jay. The promenade looks fantastic. Would you mind, Matt, tell us more about the prices – food and drink and especially their traditional. As far as we know Croatia is kind of a legend for it is rather an expensive destination. Thx, 10X! Jim.

    Reply
    • Mike

      It does? I’ve never before heard Croatia having a reputation as being expensive and it certainly isn’t. Everything is priced well and it’s pretty easy to find well priced meals and drinks.

      Reply
  3. Jon Dunn

    Great article, Matt, and after visiting this year I share your passion for the city. I loved the fact that – unlike Dubrovnik, for example, which has kind of turned into a ‘game of thrones’ tribute site, Zadar is a living, working, pulsating city.
    I know you’re limited space-wise, but I’d probably have tried to squeeze in a mention of the ‘Salutation to the sun’, the totally amazing green market, under the old city wall, the totally stunning gelato – in a billion different flavours and the outstanding range of excursions and trips which are all comparatively close. Such as Kornati national park, Paklenica national park, the ancient city of Nin, the wonderful Zadar island archipelago, such as Ugljan, Dugi Otok, Silba etc. But hey, it’s your blog not mine 🙂
    Best of all, it has it’s own airport, so getting there from the U.K. is a doddle!
    #Zadartotallyrocks!

    Reply
  4. Michael

    Nice article! I’ve been to Croatia a couple of times with some friends but we’ve never been to Zadar. It seems like a great city to visit though! The pictures are stunning and your tips are great. My next trip to Croatia will definitely be to Zadar:)

    Reply
  5. Charu

    Really beautiful photos, Matt. And that sea organ and sunset..wow! A delicious combination (looks like the weather was lovely too!)

    Reply
  6. Niko

    I live in Zadar my whole life and its so good to hear such a positive experiences from all of you. I adore this city, but like every other great destination it begins to choke by the mass tourism. The main problem is that we do not have a pre season and a post season, it all comes down in July and August while the months before and after remains quite empty and the weather is just as good. The beaches and restaurants are not crowded and the traffic is not jamed all the time, rents are cheaper, basicly everythis is cheaper and just as good. So if you want to explore Zadar the right way take a flight to here in May,June or September. Take a walk trought the 3000 years old city streets, feel its past, eat his food, drink his liquer, listen to his music and you will fall in love with this city I guarantee it!

    Reply
  7. Brad Bernard

    What an awesome place, Matt. You have definitely opened my eyes to the rich travel possibilities in Croatia, and Zadar is definitely now on my list of places I need to visit ASAP!

    Reply
  8. Susie

    I’m interested in going to Zadar (and Croatia) in general but as a female person of color, I wonder how my experience would differ from a Caucasian male. I’ll ask around first. Great post though!

    Reply
    • Nancy Freeman

      My husband and I have a home in Zadar, though being born and raised in the U. S. We have been pleasantly surprised to see many people of color here this summer. (Mostly Asian tour groups, but also black women.) I don’t believe you would have any difficulty traveling here.

      Reply
      • Sophie M

        hi two years after your post I am wondering if you are still living in Zadar. I am trying to find out the fell from an expat point of view ie job opportunities, cost of living vs wages, bureaucracy, legal requirements to settle in. Your input would be appreciated.
        Many thanks
        Soph

  9. Søren Meyer

    Must comment to the travel bloggers: I live in Denmark, but are visiting Croatia nearly every summer. I have worked my way down from Istria – through Dalmatia to Split. And this costal area can beat anything: Pula (Amphiteater, Triumph Arch, Temple of Augustus, NP Paklenica (film: Winnetou), NP Kornati, Zadar, NP Krka waterfalls, Primosten, Trogir, NP Plitvice waterfalls, Split (Diocletian’s Palace and Solin, the Roman ruins), Omis and the Cetina river, and I still have a lot to see: Makarska Riviera, islands by the coast and so on! … You should NOT miss Croatia!

    Reply
  10. Brian Anand Soosay

    Dear Matt,

    Some friends and I will be visiting Zadar at the end of May. I am a real foodie, and am keen on experiencing the true delicacies of the region – however we will only be staying there for two days. Any breakfast and dinner spots, as well as cafes/delis that you would recommend us going to?

    Reply
  11. Anita

    My insidetips.
    1. Watch a basketball game at Visnjik.
    2. Take a trip to Island of Pag, buy the local cheese and eat at restaurant Boskinac.
    3. Visit the fair of village of Benkovac.
    4. Eat at fishrestaurant Fosa.
    5. Eat local lamb prepared under the bell.

    Reply
  12. Marija K

    I have visited Zadar multiple time since I have family in the area, and each time I visit it continues to blow me away every time. It is a beautiful city, I just love the atmosphere and visit the sea organs every time I go.

    Reply

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