Surroundings

Zadar is a city monument, surrounded by historical ramparts, a treasury of the archaeological and monumental riches of ancient and medieval times, Renaissance and many contemporary architectural achievements such as the first Sea Organ in the world.

Zadar is the main city in North Dalmatia with over 76,000 inhabitants. Most famous for its Old Town, set in a peninsula that is completely pedestrianised, the town has numerous Roman and other wonderful sights – some rather modern – so is a delight to visit.

The town is also very easy to reach, whether flying in from elsewhere in Europe (it has its own airport) or by bus from other destinations in Croatia. There are also internal flights to the town’s airport from other places in Croatia.

Zadar is perhaps sometimes overlooked as a place to visit in Croatia, possibly because it is slightly out of the way of the delights further south in Dalmatia. However, it really is a charming town and you won’t regret spending some time here. Why not start your holiday here before heading further down the coast? It’s also a very suitable base for day trips to locations such as Plitvice Lakes, the Kornati islands or Krka National Park.

The history of Zadar is as fascinating as it is long! There’s evidence of a settlement in the area from as far back as the 9th century BC, although the town developed rather well under the control of the Romans when they conquered the region in the 2nd century BC – the layout of town, its city walls and gates, and important buildings were all constructed during this period.

From the end of the 9th century, Zadar fell under some sort of control by Croat rulers from the interior, where a Croatian state had emerged. This period saw a migration of Croat citizens to Zadar and the town became reasonably successful in trade. Its emergence caused Venice to see it as a threat, meaning that Zadar was attacked – and liberated – numerous times, before it was finally sold off to Venice by the Hungarian King Ladislas of Naples in 1409.

There’s plenty to see and do in this lovely town – check out our guide to sightseeing in Zadar!

Zadar’s Old Town is located on the tip of a narrow peninsula. Most of the town is surrounded by city walls, with towers and the two city gates being of interest. It is a stunning place to visit!

The Mainland Gate (Kopnena vrata in Croatian), to the east of the Old Town, was built in 1543 and has the city coat of arms engraved on it. Its use was as the main entrance to the Old Town from the…mainland, unsurprisingly!

Close to this is the Captain’s Tower (Kapetanova kula), dating from the 13th century, part of the city’s defences. A much more recent terrace has been built, meaning you can climb up the tower to see the great view. In the same square – Trg pet bunara – are five wells (pet bunara means five wells in Croatia). They were built in 1574 and used to function as the water supply for the city.

The other gate is the Port Gate (Lucka vrata) to the north, built in 1573.

Kalelarga (official name Siroka ulica – meaning Broad Street) is the main ‘street’ that runs through Zadar Old Town, and features a number of cafes, ice cream shops, regular shops and more!

In the centre of the Old Town is St Donatus Church (Crkva Sveti Donata) which was built at the beginning of the 9th century – using some stone from the Forum (see below) – and stands at 27m high. In a city of 30 churches, this one stopped being used as a church in the late 18th century, but is still used today as an excellent concert venue and is something of a Zadar icon.

Nearby is the Church of St. Mary (Crkva Sveta Marija) as well as the Cathedral of St. Anastasia (Katedrala Sveta Stosija) from the 13th century.

The belltower (zvonik) of the Cathedral of St Anastasia – which is actually located almost next to St Donatus Church – can be climbed for gorgeous views over Zadar, out to sea and particularly over the people strolling down below on Kalelarga. The steps up to the top are fairly narrow but not particularly scary, and there’s not much room at the top either – but the views more than make up for this.

The Forum in Zeleni Trg used to be 95m by 45m in size, believed to have been built between 1st century BC and 3rd century AD. Today, very little of it remains apart from the paving stones and some walls. There is also a 14m high column to which, up until 1840, the town’s offenders were chained to suffer public humiliation. Zeleni Trg, however, is still Zadar’s bustling central square.

The sunset in Zadar
Not really a ‘sight’, but we include it here as it is something that the town is so famous for. Even Alfred Hitchcock claimed that “Zadar has the most beautiful sunset in the world”. It really is a stunning sight, and there’s almost no better way to spend an early evening in the town. Join the groups of people on the harbourfront to watch the sun go down. In the background, the Sea Organ makes its soothing sounds. And then, when the sun is finished doing its thing, you can play around on the Greeting to the Sun. A must!

VILLA OLIVA

Žaborić, Croatia

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