Smack in the middle of Zadar's pedestrianised centre, and steps away from the Roman Forum from which it gets its name, this is one of the most talked about of Croatia's new-generation hostels. With an interior by designer Damir Gamulin Gamba (also responsible for the Goli & Bosi hostel in Split), the hostel features the kind of clean surfaces, bold stripes and clear pictograms that seem more suited to an international space station than the centre of an ancient Mediterranean town. Beds in the dorms have a self-contained, almost cubicle-like appearance that lends a little more privacy and peace than usual; while the small but cute private doubles are up to hotel standard. Breakfast is included in the price of a double room; for dormitory customers it's an optional extra. The kitchen is OK for making tea/coffee and knocking up snacks, there's a common room, and great views from the terrace.
Opened in stages over the last few years, and completed in May 2012, this self-contained complex just outside Petrčane, 12km west of Zadar, has quickly established itself as northern Dalmatia's leading resort for family holidays and pamper-yourself wellness breaks. Centrepiece is the five-star Highlights Hotel and Spa Iadera, a sleek, organizing, wishbone-shaped building that houses the largest spa centre in Croatia. There's a choice of indoor and outdoor pools, saunas, Turkish hammams, herb gardens and a full menu of massage and beauty treatments. The spacious rooms go for bold use of colours, and the social areas are really quite groovy - thanks in large part to the modernist instincts of Italian architect Matteo Thun. The four-star Diadora (late Mar-early Nov) is designed to be the last word in family holidays. Its 250 family-suite apartments, most with sea views, accommodate two adults and two kids, entertainment at Falky Land (featuring supervised swimming pools, pirate ship and petting zoo), a full programme of sports and games activities, as well as crèche facilities for toddlers and mini-discos for young teenagers. The resort area is surrounded by grassy lawns and only a few minutes' walk from the beach, where you have a choice between natural rock-slab beaches and shallow coves carpeted with sand. Petrčane village is a short walk along the waterside path.
The big attraction of this four-star family hotel – apart from its year-round availability – is its Acquapura spa complex. This comprises four areas: a spa with thalasso seawater treatments; a steam and dry sauna; indoor and heated outdoor pools, plus one for kids; and a gym. The thalasso area contains 16 treatment rooms alone. All summer, the Funimation puts on kids’ events, and child-minding facilities allow grown-ups to spend at least part of the day doing their own thing. Also included in the price are windsurfing, tennis and games of volleyball – plus three daily buffet meals. You will however have to pay extra for courses in diving and sailing. Club Funimation includes the formerly separate Hotel Adriana (023 206 300). This recently refurbished part of the resort, with its own swimming pool area and easy access to the sea, is ideal for quieter couples.
Opened in 2012, this ten-room boutique hotel occupies the laboriously renovated interior of an old stone house on Široka ulica – the main street popularly known as Kalelarga. Rooms feature exposed stonework, natural wood floors and furnishings, and a palette of soothing ochres and pastels. Moody lighting and smart modern bathrooms provide the requisite aura of cosy luxuriance. The chic top-floor apartment is snug under attic windows. Breakfast offers a broad choice of cold treats and the hotel's cafe-restaurant is already hugely popular on account of its superb range of own-production cakes and sweets.
A modernist classic from the Socialist-era,the recently upgraded Kolovare stands on the edge of the city centre towards the bus station. It is surprisingly large, 203 rooms, a third of them singles for the passing domestic business crowd. A stone’s throw away from the pebbly Kolovare beach, it also has an outdoor swimming pool and a gym, but the rooms themselves are pretty bland.
Overlooking Maestral Bay a ten-minute walk from town, this is by far the best mid-range option for comfort in Zadar. The suites are suitable for two to four guests, six at a push for a nominal extra fee. More like condominiums, they comprise a living room, kitchenette, dining room, bedroom and a modern bathroom with a marble washbasin, all capacious, all immaculately furnished – and all overlooking the sea. The larger ones have a terrace; the largest one has a terrace the size of half a football pitch. The view is stunning, the same line of vision from the outdoor pool with its fierce water jet in the corner. There’s a decent terrace restaurant here too, where non-guests also tuck into good Med fare.
A modest cheapie in a narrow sidestreet of the bar quarter of Stomorica. A dozen small rooms over a travel agents have been renovated to incorporate a little shower and twin beds for simple, clean comfort. Singles pay the double-room rate in the season. Convenient for a barhop, it’s also referred to as the Jović Guesthouse.
The Zadar hotel and accommodation situation in is improving in leaps and bounds, with the recent arrival of a brace of four-star hotels in the centre – the Art Hotel Kalelarga – plus the advent of designer backpacker digs in the shape of Boutique Hostel Forum. Elsewhere, the Villa Hrešć is a commendable apartment hotel. It stands almost halfway out to Borik, the tourist centre five kilometres north-west of town at Puntamika, a simple ride from Zadar on the No.5 bus.