17 Best Things to Do in Zadar

Have you ever been to Zadar? If the answer is yes, you’ll know why it’s one of the best places in Croatia to spend your summer in. However, if you haven’t seen any of the interesting things Zadar has to offer, this guide will help you choose the best way to spend your time there if you decide to go. And trust me, you should. 😉

You might ask yourself: how many days in Zadar is enough? I’d say 3 days in Zadar is just the right amount of time to see all of the main sights while also having enough time to relax. 💆🏼‍♀️

A place where ancient history meets vibrant culture and stunning natural beauty, Zadar is just waiting to be discovered. Now, don’t get me wrong, Zadar is definitely more of a summer destination, but even if you decide to go during another season, most of the things on my list are still more than doable! So let’s check out what I liked the most from my trip to Zadar.

1. Visit the Sea Organ (Morske Orgulje)

Let’s talk about the first thing that comes to my mind when I think about Zadar. You guessed it, it’s the mesmerising experience of visiting the Sea Organ (Morske Orgulje)! 🌊

As a person who has grown up visiting this unique attraction multiple times, I can attest to its enchanting allure.

Designed by the architect Nikola Bašić, this architectural wonder harnesses the power of the Adriatic Sea to create hauntingly beautiful melodies. 🎶 As the waves gently lap against the stone steps, the Sea Organ comes to life and produces an ethereal symphony that echoes through the air.

It’s a serene and almost mystical experience, which I recommend for quiet contemplation or (if you’re there with your significant other) a romantic evening stroll along the waterfront! Whether you’re a music enthusiast or simply seeking a moment of tranquillity, the Sea Organ promises an unforgettable encounter with nature’s harmony.

Now, some people might find themselves wondering: which is better Split or Zadar? What you might notice immediately from this bit about the Sea Organ is that, while both cities are great in their own right, Zadar is recommended more for those looking for a quieter and a bit less lively place.

a photo of the Sea Organ my colleague Morten Smalby took on his trip
a photo of the Sea Organ my colleague Morten Smalby took on his trip

2. Explore the Sun Salutation (Pozdrav Suncu)

There’s nothing quite like the captivating allure of exploring the Sun Salutation (Pozdrav Suncu). 🌞 Nestled on the waterfront near the Sea Organ, this stunning installation also by Nikola Bašić offers a unique way to embrace the beauty of the Adriatic sunset.

Comprising a series of solar panels embedded in the pavement, the Sun Salutation comes to life as dusk approaches, transforming into a truly mesmerizing light show. ✨

How it works is, as the sun dips below the horizon, the panels absorb its energy throughout the day, creating a vibrant display of colours that dance beneath your feet!

Pro-tip: the best time to visit the Sun Salutation is during the evening, shortly before sunset. Arriving early, though, allows you to find a good spot to witness the spectacle and soak in the atmosphere. I also recommend bringing a camera to capture the mesmerising light display!

the Sun Salutation at sunset
the Sun Salutation at sunset

3. Discover the Roman Forum

One of Zadar’s most fascinating historical sites to discover is the Roman Forum. 🏛️ It’s located in the old town, and offers a glimpse into Zadar’s rich past and its significance as a centre of Roman civilisation.

As you wander through the remnants of temples, columns, and arches, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time to the days of emperors and gladiators! 🏟️ 

My time at the Roman Forum was great, but, I made one grave mistake. I wore shoes that I had just bought a couple of days before, so, by the end of my visit, my feet were full of blisters. Not fun. So, as you can probably guess yourself, wear comfortable shoes! The terrain can be uneven in some areas, so, better safe than sorry.

Another tip is don’t forget to bring plenty of water and sunscreen, especially during the warmer months, since there’s not much shade within the forum.

a photo of the Roman Forum in Zadar my colleague Morten Smalby took on his trip
a photo of the Roman Forum in Zadar my colleague Morten Smalby took on his trip

4. Climb the Bell Tower of St. Anastasia’s Cathedral

One experience in Zadar that I highly recommend is climbing the Bell Tower of St. Anastasia’s Cathedral. This is an iconic landmark that offers not only breathtaking panoramic views of the city but also a look into its rich architectural heritage. Prepare to ascend the narrow spiral staircase, where, with each step you take, you get closer to the sky, and the anticipation of the view builds. 🌆 

Because of all the stairs, I highly advise you, dear traveller, to wear comfortable shoes (seems to be a recurring theme in this post 😅). Oh, and be prepared for a bit of a workout as you navigate the stairs.

If you want a good Instagram post, once you reach the top, you’ll get your chance. Up there, you’ll be rewarded with stunning vistas of Zadar’s old town, the shimmering Adriatic Sea, and the surrounding islands.

And if you’re visiting during peak tourist times, consider going early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid crowds and make the most of your experience. Climb the Bell Tower of St. Anastasia’s Cathedral, and you’ll find yourself enchanted by Zadar’s beauty from a whole new perspective.

St. Anastasia's Cathedral
St. Anastasia’s Cathedral, source: ArrivalGuides

5. Visit St. Donatus’ Church

When in Zadar, you simply have to visit St. Donatus’ Church. Why? Well, let me tell you. This ancient Byzantine-style church, dating back to the 9th century, stands as a testament to Zadar’s enduring architectural heritage and spiritual significance. 🏛️

You’ll see, when you enter, I promise you’ll be in awe of the grandeur of its impressive circular design and noteworthy acoustics!

The church also serves as a symbol of early Christianity’s spread and establishment in the area.

One thing I really dislike seeing is when tourists are inappropriately dressed for religious sites. So, please, if you decide to visit, just be mindful of that and wear attire that is respectful.

St. Donatus' Church
St. Donatus’ Church

6. Wander through the Old Town

If you want to get into the very heart of Zadar, you have to take some time wandering its Old Town. The iconic cobblestone streets and narrow alleys will beckon you to embark on a journey through time. On this journey, you’ll encounter centuries-old buildings adorned with intricate facades, hidden courtyards waiting to be discovered, and bustling squares alive with the energy of daily life. 🌟

For an Instagram-worthy picture, go see the Land Gate in the Old Town. Built in the 16th century by the Venetians, it stands as a grand entrance to Zadar’s Old Town. Serving as both a physical entrance and a gateway to the city’s history, the Land Gate is a beloved landmark and popular spot for visitors.

Be sure to wear comfortable shoes for when you go, as some paths may be uneven or hilly.

As a Croat, believe me when I tell you not to hesitate striking up a conversation with locals or stop by one of the many cafes or bakeries along the way to indulge in traditional Croatian delicacies!

Zadar Old Town, photo by my colleague Morten Smalby
Zadar Old Town, photo by my colleague Morten Smalby

7. Take a Sunset Cruise

This one is especially suitable for those who might have something to celebrate while in this beautiful Dalmatian city. It’s someone’s birthday, or perhaps the anniversary of you and your significant other is coming up? You should go ahead and book a sunset cruise! I think it’s a great idea for both a lively and a more romantic celebration.

For my last birthday party, I invited all of my closest friends and went on one of these cruises. Needless to say, they were all amazed!

As the sun dips below the horizon, casting a golden glow over the Adriatic Sea, you’ll sail along the awe-inspiring coastline, passing by historic landmarks and islands. 🌅

When planning your sunset cruise, make sure to book in advance, especially during the peak tourist season.

Don’t forget to bring a camera to capture the breathtaking views and dress warmly, because it can get cooler out on the water (yes, even during the summer months)!

Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or simply looking to unwind, a sunset cruise in Zadar is an excellent choice.

sunset in Zadar
sunset in Zadar

8. Explore the Archaeological Museum

The next one is for history buffs (or for anyone who likes museums, really). The Archaeological Museum in Zadar houses an impressive collection of artefacts spanning thousands of years, from prehistoric times to the Middle Ages. 🏺

Visiting this museum allows you to really gain an insight into the lives of ancient civilizations that once thrived in this area.

In the museum itself, you’ll see many relics and beautifully preserved pottery. What caught my eye the most, though, was the intricate jewellery that was on display. 💎

In short, you’ll see everything from Roman artefacts to Illyrian treasures. In any case, each exhibit shows how diverse and complex the history of Zadar and its surroundings is.

part of the exhibition at the Archaeological Museum in Zadar
part of the exhibition at the Archaeological Museum in Zadar, source: In Your Pocket

9. Relax at Kolovare Beach

Now it’s time to relax! Yes, you heard that right. It’s time to head over to Kolovare Beach and kick up your feet! 🏖️

I was amazed at the way the beach’s clear blue waters contrasted against the sandy shore, and breathless even before I held my breath to dive among the playful fish. 🐟

The waters are also quite shallow and the waves gentle at most, so if you’re with some kiddos, you can let them safely play in the sand or splash around in the shallows.

What I like about this beach is the fact that it’s located near the city centre, so it’s easily accessible. There are also many cafes, restaurants, and parking facilities nearby, so feel free to spend your day at the beach as carelessly as possible. Just don’t forget to bring your sunscreen and sunglasses and get ready to recharge the energy you’ve lost while exploring Zadar! 😎

Kolovare Beach
Kolovare Beach, source: Obala i lučice

10. Visit the Church of St. Simeon

Did you know that St. Simeon is the patron saint of Zadar? At the Church of St. Simeon, you can even see the cherished relic of St. Simeon’s arm! 😯 Might sound a bit spooky at first, but, because of the relic, many believers view the church as a significant religious site.

Let’s go back to the basics for a little bit. The church dates back to the 12th century, and its architecture was made in Byzantine style. Inside, there are many elaborate decorations that reflect Zadar’s long history and also religious significance. ⛪

Unlike the circular layout of St. Donatus’ Church that I previously mentioned, the Church of St. Simeon features a more traditional basilica-style architecture with a rectangular nave and apse.

From the intricacies of its architecture to the beauty of its artistic treasures, every corner of this sacred space is a sight to behold.

the Church of St. Simeon
the Church of St. Simeon, source: Zadar Tourist Board

11. Take a Day Trip to the Kornati Islands

On my visit to Zadar, I took the chance to see what all the fuss is about the Kornati Islands. 🏝️ You see, some of my family had been there last year, and they couldn’t stop talking about how beautiful and relaxing it was for them there. So, I went to see if all of that would be true for me as well.

As I stepped onto the boat, the anticipation of a day exploring the Kornati Islands made me feel pretty excited. My journey began with a cruise through the maze-like channels of the archipelago, passing by rocky cliffs and lush green coastlines. Being there felt like I was in a nature documentary!

I don’t know if you know this, but the flora and fauna of the Kornati Islands are especially unique. When I was there, I saw a dolphin and even some mouflons (a type of wild sheep) that were grazing on the islands’ slopes! 🐬

As I made my way back to Zadar, I couldn’t help but feel grateful for the opportunity to experience the beauty of the Kornati Islands. It was a day filled with adventure, relaxation, and unforgettable memories that I will definitely cherish for years to come!

Kornati Islands
Kornati Islands

12. Sample Local Cuisine at the Market

Everyone who knows me knows that I’m a bit of a foodie. That’s why I deemed it super important for me to give my tastebuds a taste of the local cuisine! 😋

There are a lot of stalls in Zadar where you can get fresh produce, spices, and so much more.

Other than that, I went to a couple of restaurants, and what I liked the most were pašticada and crni rižot! Pašticada is a kind of savoury beef stew and it’s the most delicious thing ever.

On the other hand, crni rižot is a seafood risotto which might surprise you if you’ve never seen it before. This is because it’s all black! Watch out, you might (or, will probably) end up with your tongue and teeth black, too! But not to worry – it’s just natural cuttlefish ink, and it goes away soon. 🦑

Listen to me when I say that exploring Zadar’s food market is an experience not to be missed. So grab a bite, savour the flavours, and discover the many delicacies in Zadar!

crni rižot
crni rižot

13. Explore the Museum of Ancient Glass

Another thing that Zadar is famous for is the Museum of Ancient Glass. It’s actually an archaeological museum but one that’s specialised in ancient glass. Pretty interesting, right? I would say so!

This museum is a whole world where craftsmanship meets history, and where you can see ancient glass artefacts from the Roman to the Hellenistic periods.

The museum was founded in 2009 as a specialised institution dedicated to the preservation, research, and promotion of ancient glass artefacts.

One of the coolest things was seeing the actual techniques ancient artisans used to create these pieces. They have these interactive displays where you can try blowing glass or shaping it with moulds yourself! 🙌🏻 Do not miss that! It also really gave me an appreciation for the skill and artistry that was needed to do this.

part of the exhibition at the Museum of Ancient Glass
part of the exhibition at the Museum of Ancient Glass, source: Muzej antičkog stakla Zadar

14. Enjoy Outdoor Activities in Paklenica National Park

As an adrenaline junkie myself, one of the best things I did in Zadar was go to Paklenica National Park. If you decide to join in on the fun, you’ll discover a playground of towering limestone cliffs, lush forests, and crystal-clear streams, all waiting to be explored.

For those seeking an adrenaline rush, there are world-class rock climbing opportunities in Paklenica that rival some of the best in Europe! With over 400 equipped climbing routes of different difficulty levels, there’s something for climbers of all skill levels. The sheer vertical walls of Anića Kuk and Velika Paklenica Canyon are perfect for exciting climbing, and there are some stunning views of the surrounding landscape along the way. 🧗🏼‍♀️

If hiking is more your speed, Paklenica has an extensive network of trails that wind through the terrain, from gentle forest paths to more challenging options. I went on the Premužić Trail (one of the most popular ones). It’s a 57-kilometre-long path that was constructed so well that I was surprised to see how the pathway stones blended with the natural environment while providing pretty stable footing.

You can also stay on two wheels if that’s what you prefer. The park’s trails cater to all levels of mountain biking enthusiasts as well. 🏍️

Velika Paklenica Canyon
Velika Paklenica Canyon

15. Visit Queen Jelena Madijevka Park

Named after Queen Jelena Madijevka, the beloved wife of King Zvonimir, this beautiful park provides a true retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life, and you can use this to really relax, unwind, and reconnect with nature.

I remember, when I first entered the park, I was greeted by lush greenery, pretty flowers, and tall trees. 🌳

One of the highlights of Queen Jelena Madijevka Park for me was definitely the stunning views of the Adriatic Sea. What I did was find a quiet bench overlooking the water, and bask in the gentle sea breeze while gazing out at the sparkling blue horizon. I wish I could do this every day… 🌊

Now, I used my time here to relax a bit after spending the whole morning walking around, but you can also do a number of recreational activities, such as walking, jogging, and picnicking.

I recommend also checking out the nearby historic landmarks and attractions like the Church of St. Chrysogonus and the Roman Forum that I mentioned. They’re just a short walk away!

Queen Jelena Madijevka Park
Queen Jelena Madijevka Park, source: Travel Croatia Live

16. Visit the University of Zadar

One of the few big universities in Croatia is right here in Zadar. It might be a somewhat unconventional destination to visit but I think it’s worth it.

Founded in distant 1396, the university, along with its courtyards, is pretty captivating. It’s a cool blend of traditional architecture and modern facilities.

I’d say the University Library was pretty neat. 📚 There’s so many interesting pieces of literature there, manuscripts, and archival materials. Some even date back to the Middle Ages!

The University of Zadar undoubtedly plays a vital role in both the cultural and social life of the city. This is due to the many events, lectures, and exhibitions that occur throughout the year. If you get the chance to catch one, definitely go for it. From guest lectures by renowned scholars to performances by local artists, there’s always something happening on campus.

the University of Zadar
the University of Zadar, source: conference.unizd.hr

17. Catch a Movie at Zadar’s Open-Air Cinema

One thing I really love during the summer months are open-air cinemas. In Zadar, I went to Sky Cinema, one of the most popular cinemas there. 🎥 The environment is so atmospheric that it feels like you’re in a movie yourself.

There are many options to choose from when it comes to selecting a movie. From Hollywood blockbusters to independent and international cinema, I think you’ll find something for sure.

The choice of snacks is pretty good, too. I’m a popcorn person myself. 🍿

Sometimes, Sky Cinema hosts special events and themed nights like movie marathons and film festivals.

So, whether you’re a film buff, a casual moviegoer, or simply looking for a unique way to spend an evening in Zadar, Sky Cinema is the place to go. So grab your popcorn, find a cozy spot, and settle in for a night of movie magic under the open sky.

Sky Cinema
Sky Cinema, source: After5

This concludes my list of no less than 17 best things to do in Zadar! I have no doubt that you will find something for yourself, too. ✨

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