I ended up in Zadar purely by chance, and if anyone had asked me, before I went, if it was a place I would ever visit, the answer would have been no. I never even really had intentions of visiting Croatia, but when push came to shove it was the cheapest of three destinations chosen by friends and I. Therefore, we booked our flights on Ryan Air, and found a cozy looking hostel to call home.
Zadar is a small coastal city in Croatia, on the east side of the Adriatic Sea. Zagreb and Split are popular tourist destinations in Croatia, but if you want to take a step back in history while enjoying the sea, then Zadar is the place you should go. One can experience many different types of architecture in Zadar including Roman, medieval (Romanesque, Gothic), and Renaissance.
Places to Stay
There are many places to stay in Zadar, but hostels are my preferred method while traveling through Europe. I stayed in the Old Town Hostel, which was a bit difficult to find in the narrow streets and alleys, but it was still a very welcoming spot. When we arrived we had to travel up a questionable staircase with rickety railings, and a long drop down. In the lobby, we had to wake up a girl sleeping on the couch to find out who to check in with. Turns out she was the front desk girl, and she had come to work straight from the previous nights events. May sound sketchy to some, but the Old Town is a very chill location and the employees are very helpful.
There is no shortage of places to find great food. Most of the restaurants offer a variety of sea-foods and other dishes, so finding something to satisfy is no problem. Also, if you find yourself out late at night or looking for a cheap meal, there are many small pizza shops and stands scattered throughout the city. We had a couple of nice sit down meals, but for the most part we cooked in the hostel’s kitchen or ate street stand food. If you enjoy people watching, then one of the many outdoor cafes is a great place to relax and watch the bustling crowds. We ate our fancy final meal at Pet Bunara. The dishes were a little more on the expensive side, but it was well worth the price. Along with the pizzerias and cafes, there is a great market place near the grocery store to get fresh produce and other goods. You have to go in the morning though, because they shut down around mid-day.
There are many bars located on the peninsula of Zadar, but if you go mid-week as we did, there might not be many people out to enjoy the night with. The University of Zadar is also located out on the peninsula, so on a typical weekend there are many people out and about. Some of the better bars recommended to us were Arkada, Caffe Bar Hippy, Brazil, and Zara.
There are many unique things to see in Zadar. There are many spectacular churches to visit, like St. Donatus’ Church. It is located not far from People’s Square and the Roman Forum, where one can walk through the ruins of the past. The Citadel is also a neat place to visit. Built in 1409, it remains the same to this day. There is even a super posh bar located within that has an underground section. There are four gates around the Citadel and the Land Gate was most stunning to me. Outside of the monuments of the past, Zadar also has some intriguing modern sights. One of the main attractions in this category is the Sea Organ. As the waves lap against the sea wall, air is pushed through metal tubes located under marble stairs and exit through holes that play the music of the sea. Right next to the Sea Organ is the Sun Salutation. The Sun Salutation is a circular panel of solar powered lights. At sunset the lights switch on and light up the waterfront. Unfortunately it wasn’t working when we were there, but it looks quite spectacular in pictures.
If you want to travel outside of the city to enjoy other splendid sights, then there are many choices. The best of these are to go for a swim at a beach (if the water is warm enough), go kayaking through the many small islands along the coast, or you can take a trip to Plitvice Lakes. The lakes are located two hours away from Zadar in the mountains. The lakes are extremely clear and look green due to minerals and microbes. Also, there are many waterfalls at the park, and some are quite spectacular. For a nice hike through nature this is the place to go. It offers stunning views of the landscape, and adventurous trails that are sometimes closed due to the water level. That didn’t stop us from venturing out though. We ended up wading at times, and since it was March in the mountains of Croatia, this turned out to be a “chilling” experience. For more pictures check out the photo gallery at the bottom.
If you ever have the chance to travel to Croatia then it is something you should most definitely do. Zagreb and Split offer their own sources of beauty and nightlife, but Zadar holds its own. If flying there, you can take RyanAir, German Wings, and other cheap airlines to Zadar Airport located about 20 minutes outside of the city. Be prepared to exchange money though, because Croatia does not have the Euro. The conversion rate is a little over 5.50 Kuna per American Dollar, or 7.60 per Euro. They speak Croatian (Hrvatski), but most know how to speak English so no problem there. Zadar is a beautiful and wonderful place. I hope to return one day so I can spend more time there, and the decision to travel there was one that I will never regret. Check out the pictures below of my travels in Zadar and Plitvicé!