Zadar travel guide

Read our essential Zadar travel guide for the best things to do, sightseeing, bars, hotels, restaurants and more...

Zadar
V Jednakovic

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.

RECOMMENDED: More great travel destinations in Croatia.

Zadar overview
Things to do

Zadar overview

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
Things to do

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.

10 amazing sunset spots in Zadar
News

10 amazing sunset spots in Zadar

For once, the superlatives are justified: Zadar's sunsets are dazzling. An epic smouldering visage of red and pinks set against the Zadar archipelago, Alfred Hitchcock famously declared it the most beautiful sunset in the world. Zadar's Sea Organ and Greeting to the Sun are galvanising visitors to this city of burning skies, but beyond its iconic sun-saluting sculptures there are a myriad of other beautiful places to watch the sunset. Have a look at this Instagram gallery to see our favourites. Five Wells Square and the Grimani Bastion  A post shared by Sime Modric (@simon_cerulean) on May 8, 2017 at 3:33am PDT Discover this spot at the entrance to the gardens of Queen Jelena Madijevka, at the southern boundary of the Old Town.   Spiridion Brusina A post shared by Mia (@wolandova) on Aug 3, 2017 at 3:50am PDT Ponder the universe with a founding member of the Croatian Society of Natural Sciences outside the beautiful philosophy department of the University of Zadar. The Riva  A post shared by Petra Murić (@pe_tra_.art._ep) on Nov 6, 2015 at 9:40am PST Take a step back of the waterfront and sit in the park lining the Riva promenade to watch the sunset through the trees. Branimir A post shared by Mia (@wolandova) on Oct 17, 2017 at 9:38am PDT

Restaurants in Zadar

Zadar restaurant guide
Restaurants

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.

Zadar café guide
Restaurants

Zadar café guide

Proud of its Mediterranean coffee culture, Zadar is blessed with an excess of cafés sprinkled across its endless rows of terraced streets. Whether you’re after a quick caffeine fix or somewhere to escape the thronging crowds, our local experts have picked out the best very cafés in Zadar. RECOMMENDED: where to eat, sleep and drink in Zadar.

Bars and nightlife in Zadar

Zadar nightlife guide
Bars and pubs

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.  

The Garden
Bars and pubs

The Garden

Superbly located UK-owned outdoor lounge bar features quality live music and name DJs all summer, as weather permits. The Garden centres around a vast panoramic terrace with private cabanas as well as low, comfortable white sofas, amid established trees and great views. By day, locals and tourists relax, play board games, read the papers and watch passing ships. By night there’s a full musical agenda, piped through a state of the art sound system, accompanied, if so required, by a modest menu from the excellent restaurant over the road at the Hotel Bastion. Well chosen local wines and well priced cocktails are the order of the day – Croatian and Belgian beers are equally good value too, considering the quality of venue and musical backdrop. The Garden is one of the most important things to have happened to Zadar in recent years, and the team behind it, UB40 drummer James Brown and music producer Nick Colgan, have not rested on their laurels. From this has grown the major music festival of the same name, Barbarella’s near the festival site, and more than a few other projects in the pipeline.

Time Out says
5 out of 5 stars
Ledana Bar
Bars and pubs

Ledana Bar

Ledana Bar (Icehouse) is named for the original use of the building; ice was brought down from the Velebit mountains and stored here, to be distributed to city cafes. Located in the beautiful gardens of Queen Jelena Madijevka, the first formal public park in Croatia, it hosts many events, parties and performances.

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Arsenal
Nightlife

Arsenal

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
Hotels

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.

Boutique Hostel Forum

Boutique Hostel Forum

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.

Time Out says
5 out of 5 stars
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