There seems to be no stopping Zadar, the main city of northern Dalmatia. This once-Italianate seaside town has in the last few years attracted some of Croatia’s most visionary initiatives: the Garden club and its various festival offshoots; landmark public installations such as the Sea Organ and Greeting to the Sun; and the Arsenal, an arts centre in a beautifully restored Venetian armoury.
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There seems to be no stopping Zadar. This formerly rather frumpy seaside town has in the last few years attracted some of Croatia’s most visionary initiatives: the Garden club and its various festival offshoots; landmark public installations such as the ‘Sea Organ’ and ‘Greeting to the Sun’; and the Arsenal, an arts centre in a beautifully-restored Venetian armoury. Despite taking a battering from the recession, Zadar’s nightlife scene shows no sign of letting up, with a rash of new bars filling the gaps left by businesses that didn’t quite make it through the crisis. The world-renowned Garden Festival spent six years at Petrčane just up the coast, and since 2012 has been based at Tisno, just down the coast in the Šibenik direction. In Zadar itself, the excellent Museum of Ancient Glass has bolstered the city’s sightseeing potential. Once the city authorities decide what to do with the notoriously derelict Hotel Zagreb (a promenade-hugging building once patronized by Alfred Hitchcock and other celebs), the city’s transformation will be complete. Zadar was isolated from the mainland for significant chunks of the 20th century. Italian (Zara) between the wars, after severe Allied bombing, Zadar became part of Tito’s Yugoslavia until 1991. Under serious threat by Serbian forces for four years, Zadar was cut off from Zagreb completely for 14 months during the 1991–1995 war. Zadar’s isolation has given it a distinctive local culture. It is perhaps most identified with the cherr
Great things to do in Zadar
There's lots of great things to do in Zadar. On and adjacent to Zeleni trg are Zadar’s four main sights: St Donat’s Church; the Cathedral; the Archaelogical Museum, and St Mary’s Church & Treasury. The distinctive St Donat’s Church, and the Byzantine treats of the Treasury are the absolute don’t miss.
Restaurants in Zadar
Zadar restaurant guide
Kornat heads an increasingly upmarket scene, vying with Foša, Pet Bunara and Hotel Bastion’s Kaštel for top table in town. Some of the key gourmet specialities on offer in the region are Pag cheese, and marvellous home-cured pršut from inland villages like Posedarje. The locals attribute their flavours to the powerful Bura wind, which is ideal for curing ham and instrumental in making Pag grass salty. Look out for cherry-cake dessert using Maraschino liqueur native to Zadar. Made from local Marasca cherries, Maraschino is a key local product and the ideal souvenir to take home.
Bars and nightlife in Zadar
Zadar nightlife guide
In summer, the Garden and Arsenal clubs continue to lead the way as far as good music and good vibes are concerned. But for all Zadar’s new cachet, many youngsters are happy to stick to their local haunts. East of the footbridge on the mainland, or head to the big-name clubs near Primošten, Vodice and at Zrće, Novalja on Pag.
Set in an expansive renovated 18th-century warehouse, Arsenal is unique in Croatia, in terms of size, ambience and the sheer variety of events and attractions. These include a gallery, cocktail bar and a popular à la carte restaurant upstairs. The spacious stage hosts world music, local klapa choral singing, name DJs and local bands. The sound is superb, thanks to installation by the Garden crew, and there’s a show of some kind most evenings. Tables between the stage and the bar allow for lounging, sipping and snacking from the extensive menu – the space is cleared for gigs and dancing.
Where to stay in Zadar
Zadar hotel guide
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.