Croatia Guide: Zadar
Vibe – Chilled out, Local, Easy
Zadar (pronounced Zad-er) was the last stop on our trip and something we added to the itinerary as a bit of an afterthought since it was a short drive after visiting the Plitvice Lakes. In retrospect, I’m very glad we found it and highly recommend Zadar. It is a smaller city which is both less overwhelming and less of a tourist attraction.
Pro-Tip: Do your souvenir shopping here. Everywhere in Croatia has pretty much the same souvenirs, lavender soaps and oils, maraschino liquor, magnets, etc. In Zadar though they are priced less than Split or Dubrovnik.
Things to see & do
Sea Organ – The most famous thing in Zadar is the Sea Organ. The Sea Organ is a man made structure which sits on the ocean and makes musical sounds as waves wash over it. The whole area around the sea organ is a very enjoyable place to sit and watch the ocean. The best time to go is sunset where you can both watch a gorgeous Croatian sunset and be serenaded by the waves. The site is so popular in the summer you will see almost the whole town wandering towards this corner of the city on a nice summer night.
Nin Beach – Nin is a town about 30 minutes outside of Zadar. What makes Nin unique is that it is the only sand beach in Croatia. Most of the Croatian beaches are stone beaches which make lounging on the shore less popular. On Nin beach you will find many water sports including Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) and kiteboarding. The beach is actually more of a lagoon so there are not many waves making the spot idea for these water sports or for kids to play. You’ll also find some food vendors and small shops set up for lunch. We rented Paddle Board from Kiteboarding Croatia and had a blast paddling around the lagoon with an amazing European hills in the back round.
Jump in the Ocean – Another popular and unique activity to try in Zadar is jumping in the ocean from the edge of a city. All of Zadar is within a few blocks of the ocean and unlike some of the bigger cities in Croatia there are plenty of open areas of just boardwalk along the water with no vendors crowding in. At any point on a warm summer day people will make the jump from the sidewalk about 6 feet down to the ocean. This is common and there are ladders and ropes at a regular interval along the way to help you back up to the sidewalk.
Where to stay
Zadar is quite small and walkable so anywhere you stay on the peninsula area of the city is walking distance to everything. Walking from one end to the other is probably a 20 minute walk at the most. The center streets of the city are pedestrian only while metered street parking can be found on the roads along the edge of the city.
We stayed at a “hotel” called Unique Luxury Rooms. It ended up being the most luxurious and least expensive accommodation we had on the trip. They have an interesting setup, which didn’t seem too uncommon in Zadar. It seems the owner has actually bought a condo in an apartment building and transformed it into three private hotel rooms. The downside is there is no reception desk so we had to call the owner if we needed anything. But the recent renovation was much appreciated as most accommodations in Croatia are definitely in need of updating.
Corte Vino – is a must go place for a cocktail before dinner. Inside offers a very chic and hip vibe and the cocktails are a must try. My favorite drink of the trip (and of the year!) was the Aviation martini they make here. It is a gin based martini shaken with the local maraschino liqueur and lavender. Outstanding! They only offer a few small bites to eat however so you’ll want to go elsewhere for dinner.
Be Wok – There is not a ton of quick grab and go food in Croatia in general. What we did find in all of the cities were wok places. They offer custom bowls with either noodles or rice, a protein and a sauce of your choosing. The dishes come out very tasty and it is pleasant change of pace from the Dalmation food at every other restaurant. The only draw back was every location I visited were extremely slow and had poor service. Not exactly “grab and go.”
Overall I highly recommend adding a couple of nights in Zadar to your Croatian itinerary.