A Place Like Zadar, Croatia

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There’s a place in Croatia that I love even more than the old city of Dubrovnik, the saltwater lakes of Mljet, the architecture of Korčula, the colors of Rovinj, the beaches of Pučišća, and the waterfalls at Krka.

My favorite place in Croatia is Zadar, a small city on the Dalmatian coast.

I first visited this city, the gateway to Dalmatia, two years ago. It was just a quick visit, en route from the Plitvice Lakes to Split, but I really enjoyed what I saw.

The second time around, I had traveled throughout the Balkans and had a much better sense of what was out there and what I liked. As I grew to love destinations like Kotor and Ohrid, and felt more lukewarm about places like Hvar and Split, I realized that I hadn’t known how good I had it in Zadar.

On my second trip to Zadar, I couldn’t help but fall in love.


What is it about Zadar?

It’s a beautiful city, to start. The colors are gentle pastels mixed in with some bolder shades. The streets are made of burnished marble, so smooth that you could almost ice skate across the cobblestones.

It’s the perfect size. The old city is small and easily walkable, though the city of Zadar is one of the larger places in the region.

And it’s low-key. I feel truly relaxed when walking around this town. I don’t feel overwhelmed with different things to see and do — Zadar is a place for wandering. And wandering is my favorite thing to do, anywhere in the world.

But beyond that, Zadar has a certain je ne sais quoi that I find difficult to articulate. I hope my photos make it more clear to you.

Zadar Waterfront

Also, I think Zadar hits the sweet spot in terms of tourism. While there are plenty of tourists here, it’s nowhere on the level of Dubrovnik, where you need to fight and punch your way through the Old City during the day. Still, there are hotels, and apartments, and nice restaurants and bars. Zadar has its own (albeit tiny) airport, and it’s super-easy to travel here overland from Zagreb or Split.

I think one thing that might keep tourists away is the fact that Zadar doesn’t have a beach. It does have easy access to the island of Pag and other nearby beaches, though, especially if you have a car.

If you do make it to Zadar, here are a few things that I recommend you include in your itinerary:


Zadar has a wonderful waterfront, which culminates with the Sea Organ and Sun Salutation. The Sea Organ is a musical instrument powered by the waves — the higher the waves are, the louder and more intense the music is.

That blue disc is the Sun Salutation, a solar-powered light display that lights up at night.


Zadar is home to Roman ruins and beautiful churches. Some UNESCO insiders think that Zadar will become Croatia’s newest World Heritage Site. It’s on the tentative list (as are many places in the country) but Zadar seems the most likely.


Zadar’s Archaeological Museum is worth a visit as well and has incredible well preserved ruins. My recommendation? Go during the hottest part of the day. The AC is a blessing.


Watching the swimmers try to climb the pier on a windy day is definitely a form of entertainment.


You can do it, boys!

Squid Ink Gnocchi

The food is great in Zadar, as it is throughout Croatia. I brought my friends back to the restaurant I went to and loved on my first visit: Restaurant Bruschetta. The food was just as delicious, beautifully plated and surprisingly well priced as it was two years ago!

Above is squid ink gnocchi. You see a lot of squid ink risotto in Croatia, but Bruschetta was the one place where I saw squid ink gnocchi.


The restaurant’s namesake dish is a perfect way to start a meal. Also try a local wine or two.

Zadar Vitlov Chocolate

Don’t miss a visit to Vitlov Chocolate, either. It’s a Zadar institution with fantastic chocolates and a really kind and interesting owner. Most famous are their maraschino truffles.

Zadar Sunset

And then there are the sunsets.

Alfred Hitchcock once stated that Zadar was home to the world’s best sunsets (or at least better sunsets than Key West). While I personally think that Boracay and Koh Lanta have the edge on sunsets overall, Zadar is definitely on my list of favorite sunset spots in Europe!

Zadar Sunset
Zadar Sunset
Zadar Sunset

And then there’s Zadar after dark.

Zadar sunset

Zadar completely changes as the sun goes down. The colors are richer; the light is more beautiful. The city is much quieter. (I also felt very safe walking around the Old City at night.)

Zadar at night

In the future, I’d love to come to Zadar for a month or so and rent an apartment in the old city. Walking those smooth marble streets, sitting in cafes every day, walking along the seafront, and doing day trips to places like Šibenik, Krka National Park, Pag island, Paklenica National Park, and even the Plitvice Lakes? Summery perfection.

As far a summer destinations go, you can’t beat Croatia. And as far as Croatian destinations go, for me, there’s no place like Zadar.

Planning a Trip to Croatia:

Croatian Islands and the Dalmatian Coast:

Istria and the North:

This campaign was created and sponsored by the Croatian National Tourist Board in partnership with iambassador. All opinions, as always, are my own.

Is Zadar your kind of destination?

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58 thoughts on “A Place Like Zadar, Croatia”

  1. Thanks for the inspiration, Zadar seems beautiful! Have you been to Volosko, Opatija? It’s also really charming and without crowds – my fav place in Croatia 🙂

  2. It is absolutely my kind of destination. Your photos remind me of Malaga in Spain, which I loved for the same reasons you described you love Zadar — not as touristy as the larger cities, walkable, and those beautiful tiled streets!

  3. I found a cheap flight to Zadar and didn’t even know where it was. It was the best introduction to Croatia I could have asked for, and thanks to meeting with Couchsurfers, I really got a good taste of Dalmatia. Thanks for taking me back!

  4. Zadar definitely sounds like my kind of a destination. It looks so carefree, colorful and vibrant. I love your photos, especially the sunset shots! Renting an apartment and staying there for a month would be a great idea! Is Zadar cost-effective too?

    1. From what a few locals told us it would cost to rent an apartment in old town Zadar for a month (basically, only 15% of what I pay for my place in London), it’s VERY cost-effective for Europe!

  5. Great to see one of Croatia’s less visited coastal cities getting some recognition! We added it to our line-up of destinations for our multi-city tours of Croatia for this season and already several groups of our guests have enjoyed their time there. I know what you mean by the je ne sais quoi aspect from my own research visit last September. There is a good beach not too far from the old town – Borik beach (which is very close to a perfect honeymoon type hotel, the Adriana).

      1. As the beaches go, just outside the old town of Zadar there is the Kolovare city beach (as close to a sandy beach you can get in Croatia) and above mentioned Borik, a 10min bus ride from the downtown Zadar. One little known and for me the most amazing beach possibility is the tiny island of Osljak just opposite the seafront promenade of Zadar, easily reached by a 15min ferry ride, (the same ferry that connects Zadar with the island suburb of Preko on Uglian island runs hour on the hour, and a couple of times a day it stops on Osljak). One can walk the perimeter of the island in 40min max, and pick the spot to dip in the crystal clear sea. There is also a tiny restaurant serving good no nonsense local food. There are only a few families living year around on the island which makes it a perfect summer island spot just a stone throw away from the bustling city. And yes, Kate, there is white water rafting possibility on Zrmanja river, but in the summer months, depending on the rainy season, the water level may not be high enough to enjoy it fully, yet the Zrmanja canyon is well worth the hiking trip. In general, the Zadar county offers the most diverse possibilities for holidays which should keep you busy exploring for a month. Enjoy it!

  6. Fantastic review of a wonderful city. I’ve seen Matt’s and Rob’s reports – only Rachel to go and I’m pretty sure she’ll have been enamoured with Zadar as the rest of you.
    I was there in May this year.
    Initially, I chose it for it’s position – the airport makes it an ideal arrival / departure point for exploring central and north Dalmatia, which was the plan. But, like you, I was completely blown away with the city. Partly, perhaps, due to the lack of expectation. When you go to Dubrovnik, for example, most people have seen pictures, film, postcards etc so they kind of know what to expect. Zadar is still (for how long though?) still relatively unknown – and all the better for it.
    Agree with you Kate, that it would make a great base for a prolonged stay. From there, national parks like Kornati, Paklenica and Telašćica are all easily accessible, as are the islands of Ugljan, Olib, Silba, Dugi Otok etc.
    Zrmanja Gorge is close by, for anyone after white water rafting thrills.
    The people are friendly, food excellent, gelato totally divine – and in a million different flavours, and, just like you, I fell in love with the place in no time at all. <3
    (P.S. sorry to waffle on, but felt I should respond to your excellent trip report.)

  7. Thank you for fantastic rewiev of my beautiful Zadar.
    I live in Zadar 40 years and still discavery all his beauty.
    VIlla Vanilla Zadar

  8. Zadar looks beautiful. That bruschetta looks delicious. I’ve seen some other bloggers raving about it lately, and it’s really making me consider Croatia more and more!

  9. I think after my visit I was the other way around: more lukewarm towards Zadar but in love with Split! But I think that may have been coloured by terrible transport/accommodation situations, and we were only there 24 hours: you’ve made me want to return to explore some more! I did LOVE the sunsets.

    And you are totally right, Croatia is the most amazing summer destination. I recommend it to everyone. Great post Kate 🙂

  10. But why you says that Zadar doesn’t have beaches??? I live in Zadar and we have many beaches in all part of town!

      1. Once upon a time the whole Old Town was fortified, surrounded by high walls, and then in – I believe iz was 1840 – the fortification wall facing the island was torn down, and the waterfrant was made, in white stone. This waterfront is called “riva” (ree-vah).
        Ergo, there is not a typical beach in the Old Town, but we still swim near riva and jump from it “Google: Zadar Millenium Jump” 🙂

  11. I grow up in this city and one thing is not correct in this article, that Zadar do not have beach, it is not true.
    Zadar have many beautiful natural beaches!

  12. Thnx for the beautiful description of our city <3. Did you know that Zadar's sea is crystal clear and not polluted in any way? Locals take a dip right by the sea organs :)) Our millennium jump is held there every year….

  13. Hi Kate,

    Congrats! You have amazing posts. You really rock with your site and your travels. Amazing.
    I get here searching for posts about Croatia, country where I live for 4 years now. We have a small guesthouse in Brela, in the Riviera Makarska. Brela it’s a tiny village, but it’s beautiful and the beaches were considered by Forbes the #1 in Europe. So if anytime you come here again, don’t forget to visit!!
    Anyway, as I was telling before, I was searching for posts about Croatia, and I loved yours so I will delight my guests showing them your tips. 😉

    See you!
    Best Regards,

  14. I found a cheap flight to Zadar and didn’t even know where it was. It was the best introduction to Croatia I could have asked for, and thanks to meeting with Couchsurfers, I really got a good taste of Dalmatia. Thanks for taking me back!

  15. Hi Kate. My girlfriend and I are visiting next week. We have flights booked to Zadar and are currently looking at a few different accommodations. We are late 20’s in age. Is there anywhere that you would recommend staying? What is it like at night? Any good bars and restaurants you recommend visiting? Also any other recommendations on things to see and visit would be great. Thanks in advance.

    1. Ha, did you read the post? It’s full of things to see, restaurant recommendations, and information on what it’s like at night! I can’t recommend a place to stay there because I’ve never stayed in town. But have a great trip!

  16. Hi Kate…I just stumbled across your blog and am really enjoying it! Hoping you can comment on my planned itinerary for an upcoming trip – anything you would change? Is this too ambitious? Thanks in advance!

    Day 1 – depart Dubrovnik for Vis or Hvar

    Day 2 – Vis or Hvar

    Day 3 – Vis or Hvar

    Day 4 – travel to Split, afternoon/evening in Split

    Day 5 – rent car and drive to Plitvice, spend day and night in Plitvice

    Day 6 – drive to Zadar, spend day and night in Zadar (or afternoon at kraljicina plaza?)

    Day 7 – drive to Split, ferry to Bol for the day?

    Day 8 – travel to Dubrovnik, afternoon/evening in Dubrovnik

    Day 9 – day and evening in Dubrovnik

    Day 10 – fly home

    1. I would just visit Plitvice on a day trip from Zadar if I were you. The lakes are beautiful but the area surrounding them is depressing and I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

      Otherwise, I think you can make this work. Just be wary about cutting it close with day trips by ferry.

  17. Nice pictures form Zadar! Since I fell in love with Zadar I moved here some month ago and I am still discovering places I´ve never seen before. Zadar is really a beautiful place to be! =)

    Very kind regards from Patricia

  18. I agree with everything you say about Zadar, Kate, including renting an apartment for a month! Fab sunsets, safe, colours of the buildings, great cafes. And it’s a perfect base in which to discover the surrounding national parks. What amazed me is the clarity and cleanliness of the harbour and the fact that people go swimming there. Perfect urban living.

  19. My boyfriend and I stayed in Zadar in 2018 for a week – we had already decided on Croatia but this post turned us on to Zadar specifically. We loved it and are heading back this year for a second time! One of my favourite places in Europe.

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