Boasting centuries-old exquisite architecture and impressive modern public art installations, Zadar is a city that is hard to resist, especially for those who adore beauty and art. Situated in the Dalmatian coast of Croatia’s Adriatic archipelago; this port city, which gloriously thrived during the Roman times, has successfully merged the old and new. Thus, it is a favorite port of call for a number of cruise ships like Voyages to Antiquity and Crystal Cruises.
The Old Town of Zadar is where you should begin your exploration of the city and the region. This 100-acre peninsula is linked by a pedestrian bridge to the mainland, where most of the city’s population presently lives. Aside from crossing the bridge, you can reach the Old Town by riding a boat. On top of finding Roman ruins, Romansque churches and public art exhibits in this historic center, there are also plenty of restaurants, bars and pulsating cafés that attract the young and spirited souls of the 21st century.
Zadar’s Old Town can only be travelled on foot. While walking, you can easily notice buildings exhibiting medieval, Renaissance and Baroque architecture. Some of the noteworthy landmarks in this section of the city are 11th-century St. Lawrence Church and the People’s Square or Narodni trg, where folk dancers hold shows in the summer to depict the heritage of the region. However, you will also see a glimmer of modernity in the area as fashion shops, restaurants, and chic cafes populate the area.
One of the reminders of the city’s glorious past is the 9th century Church of St. Donat. This religious structure has become an icon for the city with its unique dome and cylindrical formation. Today, St. Donat no longer functions as a church but is more of a monument and venue, which regularly hosts summer concerts and shows. Another attraction that captures the city’s love for public art is the “Sea Organ”, which is installed below the new pier. This masterpiece absorbs the ocean waves’ energy and generates a distinctive yet soothing sound.
The Forum is another one of the city’s architectural treasures. This public square, which is about the size of a football field, was established in the first century B.C. Other significant structures in the city worth checking out are the 11th century St. Mary’s convent and the 12th century St. Anastasia Cathedral, which is the largest in the Dalmatia region.
Zadar is a major access point to the northern region of the Dalmatian coast, which offers unspoiled natural attractions. Here you will find quaint villages, isolated beaches, waterfalls, and lakes. There are also three major national parks in the area, which are sandwiched between the dramatic coast and the imposing Velebit Mountains. These parks present great opportunities for outdoor fun like hiking, rock climbing and swimming.
If you want to experience more of the region’s natural wonders, proceed to the city marina, where boats are waiting to bring you to the Zadar archipelago. This nearby group of islands is packed with stunning beaches, medieval villages as well as snorkeling sites. The largest among them is called Dugi Otok, whose main attractions include the sandy secluded Saharun beach and the romantic Veli Rat lighthouse.