Zadar Travel Guide
Zadar sits at the northern end of Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. As such, this city is the first/last place visited by travellers to the region. With impressive churches, Roman ruins, and a Venetian city gate, it won’t disappoint you!
Come check out our Zadar travel guide as we cover the best things to do in Zadar, Croatia.
Begin your trip to Zadar by checking out its Roman Forum. Like many cities along Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, Zadar had a sizable Roman presence during the days of the empire. While it is in a complete state of ruin today, this city once had a Forum.
It was here where all the affairs of the day were debated upon and resolved. As you walk amidst its former location, you’ll notice the foundation of what used to be temples and columns. Experts say medieval authorities used a column, which exists today in a half-broken state, to administer corporal punishment.
After you’ve finished checking out the bones of this ancient site, stop and catch your breath for a second. This spot is a popular place for not just tourists, but locals. As such, the people-watching opportunities here are top-notch.
You’ll find many other Roman ruins randomly as you wander around Zadar. Excavators uncovered numerous artifacts when they discovered these remains. To view them, pay a visit to the Archaeological Museum of Zadar.
Founded in 1832, it is the second oldest museum in all of Croatia. Its collection contains over 100,000 different items. Of the ones on display, you’ll find objects from the Stone Age to medieval times. These include fine sculptures, pottery, trinkets, and so much more.
Best of all, admission is cheap, and all displays have captions in English. If the weather isn’t cooperating, or if the summer heat is too much, check this place out.
Zadar is home to two Christian churches of note. The first of these is Zadar Cathedral, which had its foundation laid in the 4th century AD. However, builders erected much of this Romanesque structure during a renovation in the 12th or 13th centuries.
This structure was fortunate to survive multiple wars over the ages. Because of this, you’ll get to enjoy its amazing windows, not to mention its intricately carved altars. However, its highlight is the stone sarcophagus that contains the remains of St Anastacia. Photographers: pay the 2 EUR charge to climb the bell tower – the views of Zadar are world-class!
After you have had your fill of the Zadar Cathedral, move on to the Church of St Donatus. Unlike the earlier church, this one has architecture that predates the Romanesque period. Its rounded shape sets it apart from others in the area – be ready to take pictures!
It is, in a way, the antithesis to its cathedral cousin. Its exterior and interior are simple yet powerful in its design. It didn’t always serve as a church – under the Venetians, they used it as a warehouse.
While its walls no longer exist, the Gates of Zadar still mark the former entrance to this ancient city. Dating to when Zadar was a possession of the Venetian Empire, this impressive edifice stood tall against the Ottoman Turks.
Its builders carved some magnificent reliefs into its front. These include the Shield of St. Mark (the symbol of Venice) and the likeness of St. Chrysogonus. If you’re looking for a distinctive selfie to mark your time in Zadar, take it here!
Have time for another museum in your itinerary? If so, add the Museum of Ancient Glass to your list of things to see. Within, you’ll find one of the best collections of Roman glassware outside of Italy. Here, you’ll find plates, vases, and beads.
However, this institution is known for its ancient bottles. People in that era used these beautifully-crafted glass bottles for many functions. These included storing essential oils, perfumes, and skin cream.
Exhibits don’t just show off recovered glassware – they also get into how Roman created them. By the end, you’ll see how many processes we take for granted today were also performed back then.
Travelling with kids? Make time for a trip to the Museum of Illusions. As you might imagine, this attraction is a typical tourist trap, with optical illusions galore. However, if you have impatient kids in need of a distraction, places like this do the trick.
As the day winds down in Zadar, head down to the Sea Organ. Up until 2005, much of Zadar’s waterfront was marred by an ugly concrete retaining wall. A renewal project brought in an artist, who, among other things, cut holes in its sea-facing portion.
The result? Whenever waves crash, water rushes in, forcing air out of the top of the holes. The sounds it generates creates a random melody. because of its installation, Zadar’s waterfront is now a place to be.