There are so many cool cities in Croatia that are worth considering when planning your next vacation, but Zadar should definitely be at the top of your list. This lesser-known historic port is often overlooked for the likes of Dubrovnik or Zagreb, but you’ll be making a huge mistake if you choose not to explore the magnificent southern stretch of Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. The region is rich with natural beauty and a colorful history that is begging to be discovered. You can spend time on the remote beaches, walk the quiet streets, or try some of the freshest seafood you’ll ever come across. We’ve put together a list of all the beautiful things to see and do while you’re there, and we suggest that you check off as many of these as you can.
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Built in 1543, this ornate stone gate was once the main entrance to the city of Zadar. There are several gates such as St. Rocco’s Gate or the Sea Gate that you’ll see along the walls which encompass the city, but if you have a limited time in your itinerary, then this is the one to see. It is an extremely popular attraction to visit and is a fine example of the intricate architecture of its time. The gate was built by Michele Sanmicheli, a Venetian architect who designed the huge triumphal arch as well as the side arches which are decorated with images of the patron saint, Chrysogonus. Be on the lookout for the winged lion of St. Mark over the central arch which serves as a reminder of Venice’s rule over Zadar.
Address: Trg pet bunara 1, 23000, Zadar, Croatia
2.Church of St. Donatus
Situated in the heart of Zadar, the Church of St. Donatus is now named after the man who began its construction, Donatus of Zadar. The church has a rich history which dates back to the 9th century; it was originally known as the Church of the Holy Trinity before it was rededicated in the 15th century. The structure may stand out to you, and rightly so, as it is the largest pre-Romanesque building in all of Croatia. You’ll be able to see several unique details in both its interior and exterior such as the towering bell tower which stands beside it.
Address: Trg Svete Stošije 3, 23000, Zadar, Croatia, Phone: +385-23-31-61-66
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One of the most important remnants from the Adriatic ancient cities, the Forum is a municipal square which was built around the 1st century BC. Today, you’ll find it right in front of the Archbishop’s Palace as well as the Church of Saint Donat. In its prime, the Forum was the city’s main square and is where a majority of the city’s public events occurred. During its history, the square housed a monumental pillar which was used as a “Pillar of Shame” during the Middle Ages, an episcopal complex with a basilica and annexes, and a temple which was dedicated to Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva rises.
4.Five Wells Square
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If you expect to see five wells at Five Wells Square, then you’re in for a treat. The square can be found between the Renaissance bastion Grimani and the medieval city walls, and its main feature is exactly as the name says - five wells lined up in a row. The history of the location goes back to the Middle Ages, when a defensive ditch was built below the old city walls. In the 16th century, the Venetians built a large water cistern there with five ornamental wellheads to help the city withstand Turkey sieges - and that is what you see today. While the wells are no longer in use, the square has become a popular place for people to take an evening stroll and is also a popular location for concerts and other events.
Address: Trg pet bunara 1, 23000, Zadar, Croatia
The Sphinx is an intimate seaside park that is popular in Zadar because of its sculpture garden which has a statue of a sphinx. The park is actually located within the Villa Attilia - an old villa which dates back to the Belle Epoque period. It was there that local artist, painter, and historian Giovanni Smirich lived with his wife and children. After his wife’s death in 1918, Giovanni commissioned the building of the sphinx as a memorial to his wife. There are several unique qualities to the monument, such as it having fingers instead of paws. There is also a hieroglyphic inscription on the sphinx which hasn’t been deciphered to this day.
Address: Obala kneza Trpimira 24A, 23000, Zadar, Croatia
On the western end of Zadar’s Riva, you’ll find what looks like a series of broad steps leading into the water. Extending approximately 70 meters along the coast, the marble stairs descending into the sea are actually an example of some very clever engineering. Below the stairs are 35 pipes of different lengths and diameters, and as the water and air funnel into the resonant chambers, they produce chime-like notes hence the name “Sea Organ”. Because the sea is always shifting, the sounds produced by the sea organ are always unique and are never the same twice. It’s such a unique and interesting sight to both hear and see.
Address: Obala kralja Petra Krešimira IV, 23000, Zadar, Croatia, Phone: +385-23-31-61-66
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Designed by Nikola Basic, the local architect behind the marvelous Sea Organ which is also on our list, Sun Salutation is another wonderful and unique creation to see in Zadar. The monument, which is also sometimes called “Greeting to the Sun”, comprises 300 multi-layered glass plates which are set on a stone-paved waterfront. The plates collect the sun’s energy during the day; the energy is then used to cast a magnificent light show which simulates the solar system during the night. Not only does the monument collect enough energy for the nightly light show, but also enough to power the entire harbor-front lighting system. It is a one-of-a-kind attraction symbolizing communication with light and nature and is sure to be enjoyed by the entire family.
Address: Istarska obala, 23000, Zadar, Croatia
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To really immerse yourself with the people and culture of Zadar, head outdoors to the vibrant Zadar Market. Lined with stalls selling fresh produce, local oils and cheeses, and so much more, you’ll find the vivid colors and energetic atmosphere of your surroundings to truly be unique to Croatia. The Zadar Market is one of the most picturesque in the entire country and has existed since the middle ages. You can purchase some fresh fruit, feast on homemade cheeses, or have a chat with the friendly local vendors as you walk the open-air banks and enjoy the Mediterranean climate.
Address: Ul. pod bedemom, 23000, Zadar, Croatia, Phone: +385-23-25-46-00
9.Sunsets in Zadar
Hands down, Zadar’s sunsets are some of the best in the world. As the bright blue sky is replaced by vibrant shades or orange and red, you’ll feel a sense of calm come over you and you’ll want to stop everything you’re doing to just take in the moment and appreciate your view. There are several wonderful places from which you can enjoy the sunset, but one of the best is the seaside promenade which is also home to the Sea Organ as well as Sun Salutations. Put your legs up and have a beer as the picturesque views of nature take over your visual senses.
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10.Bistro Gourmet Kalelarga
© Bistro Gourmet Kalelarga
Housed within the renowned Art Hotel Kalelarga, the Bistro Gourmet Kalelarga is a popular dining establishment loved by both residents and visitors. The unique Dalmatian atmosphere ensures that patrons have a relaxing and enjoyable experience, no matter if their dining alone, with a loved one, or having a meal with a group of friends or family. You can start your day with some fresh fruit for breakfast, enjoy an energetic and authentic local lunch, or choose a mouthwatering seasonal dish for dinner. Enjoy views of the sun setting from their terrace with a glass of wine or champagne in the evenings.
Address: Široka ul. 2A, 23000, Zadar, Croatia, Phone: +385-23-23-30-12
© Mamma Mia
Mamma Mia is a modern European restaurant which serves an array of regional, national, and international favorites which have been cooked to perfection. Their pizzeria is perfect for family lunches, romantic dinners, and other festive occasions - everything from the atmosphere and decor to the warm terrace and expert staff add to the charm of the place. It’s especially a good choice if you’re dining with a group who has varied palates so that everyone can enjoy their meal. You can choose from their varied menu of pizza, pastas, grilled meats, fresh seafood, and so much more.
Address: Put Dikla 54, 23000, Zadar, Croatia, Phone: +385-23-33-42-46
© Pet Bunara
Since its opening in 1981, Pet Bunara has made a name for itself as one of the finest dining establishments in Zadar. The restaurant has truly made an impact on the local gastronomic scene from the time it opened and continues to offer delicious food that is innovative and full of creativity to this day. They are constantly changing and adapting their menu so that patrons get the freshest seasonal ingredients in their meal. They are one of the few restaurants in Zadar who offer a ton of choices for patrons who prefer gluten-free, vegetarian, or vegan dining options as well.
Address: Stratico ul. 1, 23000, Zadar, Croatia, Phone: +385-23-22-40-10
Restaurant Bruschetta does not just serve delicious Mediterranean and Dalmatian cuisine - they also share their passions, traditions, and lifestyle with each of the people who dine there. From the minute you walk in, you’ll be treated like family by the friendly and professional wait staff who go out of their way to ensure you have a magnificent meal. They have a large selection of dishes to choose from, but some all-time favorites are the bruschetta with truffles and bacon, the octopus salad, beef soup with noodles, the black gnocchi with prawns, stuffed calamari with mozzarella and artichokes, and the baked leg of lamb that’s seasoned with rosemary.
Address: Ul. Mihovila Pavlinovica 12, 23000, Zadar, Croatia, Phone: +385-23-31-29-15
© Restaurant Groppo
Found in the heart of Zadar, Restaurant Groppo is a wonderful dining establishment that excels in Mediterranean cuisine. The restaurant itself is immaculate, with clean-cut decor and pristine table settings. The menu changes seasonally to make the most of the ingredients which are freshly available, but no matter when you visit, you’ll find an array of cold starters, hot starters, soups, salads, bruschetta, fresh fish and seafood specialties, meat specialties, and a designated menu for younger diners. Be sure to have a drink from their extensive wine collection as well - if you’re unsure of what would pair perfectly with your meal, your server would be more than glad to suggest something.
Address: Široka ul. 22, 23000, Zadar, Croatia, Phone: +385-23-77-89-81
© Hotel Bastion Zadar
With the gourmet philosophy that is inspired by traditional Mediterranean cuisine, the food at Restaurant Kastel is sure to be some of the best you eat during your entire visit there. Located within the prestigious four-star Hotel Bastion, Restaurant Kastel is open to both hotel guests as well as the general public. If the weather is nice, opt to sit out on the sunny terrace as you take in all the sights and smells which add to your dining experience. If you’re not sure what to eat, you can’t go wrong with the fresh fish of the day or one of their homemade pastas.
Address: Bedemi zadarskih pobuna 13A, 23000, Zadar, Croatia
© Restaurant Kornat
Offering a food experience in Zadar unlike anything else you’ll come across, Restaurant Kornat offers somewhat of a high-end, home-dining experience. For example, you’ll feast on all of the flavors of a mouthwatering home-cooked meal, while still being able to enjoy the contemporary surroundings and amenities which are provided to you. Though there are a number of delicious appetizers and soups, it’s the main dishes that will really grab your attention. The restaurant’s most popular choices are the pork belly served in a hunter’s sauce with sweet potato cream, beef steak and eggplant tagliata, and the monkfish medallions tossed in a black truffle sauce and served with homemade gnocchi.
Address: Liburnska obala 6, 23000, Zadar, Croatia, Phone: +385-23-25-45-01
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© Restaurant Niko
One of the first private restaurants in Zadar, Restaurant Niko opened its doors in 1963. Operated by the Pavin family, the restaurant encompasses everything that you’ll find in a traditional, homely setting - from the family dining room decor to the love and passion put into the preparation of everything that comes out of the kitchen. You’ll be in awe of the first-class gastronomic experience that’s offered and will want to come back several times during your visit. If you’re traveling with a loved one and want to have a romantic date, nothing will beat the cozy ambiance of Restaurant Niko.
Address: Obala kneza Domagoja 9, 23000, Zadar, Croatia, Phone: +385-23-33-78-80
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Slasticarna Donat is a patisserie and ice cream shop that has become of the representing symbols of the city of Zadar. They have hundreds of different types of ice cream, some of which are there all year long, and some of which are made seasonally to make the most of freshly available ingredients. This famous pastry shop is a treat for the entire family, no matter your age as you’ll love the different traditional pastries and uniquely flavored ice creams which are offered. You’ll not find a single family in Zadar that hasn’t tried the delicious ice creams, with crowd favorites being hazelnut, lemon, and rum.
Address: Trg Svete Stošije, 23000, Zadar, Croatia, Phone: +385-23-25-08-29
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Tinel is a restaurant in Zadar that focuses on serving delicious and authentic Mediterranean cuisine. In addition to offering some of the best food in town, the restaurant is also housed in a hotel with is considered to have some of the most luxurious accommodation you’ll come across - so it’s the perfect place to both stay and eat. The traditional Mediterranean cuisine offered on their menu takes the best of both worlds: tried and tested ingredients and methods as well as modern and creative takes to capture people’s hearts and stomachs. Their menu has everything from pizzas and pastas to fresh fish and seafood dishes as well.
Address: Ul. don Ive Prodana 2, 23000, Zadar, Croatia, Phone: +38-59-89-75-71-30
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19 Best Things to Do in Zadar, Croatia
- Land Gate, Photo: Dawid G/stock.adobe.com
- Church of St. Donatus, Photo: Sanga/stock.adobe.com
- The Forum, Photo: Birute Vijeikiene/stock.adobe.com
- Five Wells Square, Photo: Marina Marr/stock.adobe.com
- The Sphinx, Photo: xbrchx/stock.adobe.com
- Sea Organ, Photo: dreamer4787/stock.adobe.com
- Sun Salutation, Photo: Nino Pavisic/stock.adobe.com
- Zadar Market, Photo: Gregor Cerar/stock.adobe.com
- Sunsets in Zadar, Photo: xbrchx/stock.adobe.com
- Bistro Gourmet Kalelarga, Photo: Bistro Gourmet Kalelarga
- Mamma Mia, Photo: Mamma Mia
- Pet Bunara, Photo: Pet Bunara
- Restaurant Bruschetta, Photo: NORN/stock.adobe.com
- Restaurant Groppo, Photo: Restaurant Groppo
- Restaurant Kastel, Photo: Hotel Bastion Zadar
- Restaurant Kornat, Photo: Restaurant Kornat
- Restaurant Niko, Photo: Restaurant Niko
- Slasticarna Donat, Photo: Maria Brzostowska/stock.adobe.com
- Tinel, Photo: Tinel
- Cover Photo: Viliam/stock.adobe.com