Zadar is a beautiful coastal city located in the Central Dalmatian region of Croatia. The city is known for its Roman and Venetian ruins, medieval churches, and natural beauty. Visitors to Zadar can enjoy a variety of activities, including swimming, sunbathing, fishing, and exploring the city’s many historical sites. In this article, I will share with you the top 15 attractions and things to do in Zadar that you must not miss out on.
Things To Do In Zadar
1. Wander the Streets of the Old Town
The first thing you’ll notice when exploring the Old Town is the beautiful Roman and Venetian architecture that still stands today. Many of the buildings are dilapidated, but that only adds to the charm, in my opinion.
As you wander the streets, make sure to look up at the buildings and really take in the intricate details. Some of my favorites include the Cathedral of St. Anastasia with its ornate facade and striped columns, as well as the Church of St. Francis with its Gothic portals.
There are also a few museums located within the Old Town that are definitely worth a visit. The Archaeological Museum is housed in a beautiful Renaissance building and contains artifacts from the Roman and medieval periods. And if you’re interested in art, stop by the Gallery of Fine Arts to see works by Croatian artists from the 18th and 19th centuries.
No matter what you do, make sure to simply wander and get lost in the Old Town. It’s one of the best things to do in Zadar and a great way to experience its history and culture.
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2. Check out the Sea Organ and Greeting to the Sun
Two of the most popular tourist attractions in Zadar are the Sea Organ and Greeting to the Sun. In fact, these two attractions are so popular that they have put Zadar on the map as a top destination in Croatia.
The Sea Organ is located on the edge of the Riva, Zadar’s waterfront promenade. The unique instrument is made up of 35 pipes that are played by the waves. As the waves crash against the pipes, they create a haunting and beautiful melody.
The best time to listen to the Sea Organ is at sunset, when the waves are usually the strongest. I also recommend sitting on the nearby stairs so you can really take in the views of the water and the Old Town.
Nearby, you’ll also find the Greeting to the Sun. This solar-powered installation is made up of over 300 multi-colored glass plates that light up at night. It’s a beautiful site to see, especially when combined with the views of the Sea Organ.
Both of these are must-see attractions if you visit Zadar and are completely free to enjoy. I recommend checking out the Sea Organ first and then staying for the Greeting to the Sun.
3. Explore Kornati National Park
Kornati National Park is an archipelago made up of over 140 islands, islets, and reefs. It’s located just off the coast of Zadar and is a popular day trip destination.
There are a few different ways to explore the national park. You can take a boat tour from Zadar, which is a great option if you don’t have your own boat. Or you can stay overnight on one of the islands at a campsite or guesthouse.
If you decide to take a boat tour, I recommend opting for a small group tour to take in the scenery. The national park is absolutely stunning, and there’s nothing like being out on the water surrounded by the islands.
During your time in Kornati National Park, make sure to swim in the crystal-clear waters, go for a hike, and enjoy a meal of fresh seafood. Trust me, this is one of the most famous places in Zadar that’s definitely worth a visit.
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4. City Walls and Gates
Zadar is a historic city with a long and rich history. As such, it’s no surprise that the city is home to a number of well-preserved city walls and gates.
Therefore, one of the most popular things to do in Zadar is to walk along the city walls. The walls date back to the 12th century and offer stunning views of the city. Make sure to start at the Land Gate, the main entrance into the city. This gate was built in the 16th century and is adorned with the city’s coat of arms. As you walk along the walls, you’ll also pass by several other gates, including Port Gate, Gate of St. Rok, and the last one at Square of the Five Wells.
During your walk, you’ll pass some of the top tourist attractions in Zadar, including the Church of St. Chrysogonus and the Cathedral of St. Anastasia. But even if you don’t stop at any of the attractions, simply walking along the city walls is a great way to get an overview of Zadar.
5. Tour St Anastasia’s Cathedral
Another one of the top tourist attractions in Zadar and a must-see for anyone visiting the city is St Anastasia’s Cathedral. The massive cathedral is one of the largest in Croatia and is a beautiful example of Romanesque architecture. The construction of the cathedral dates back to the 9th century and is among the oldest buildings in Zadar.
The exterior of the cathedral is impressive, with its striped columns and ornate facade. The interior is just as beautiful with its wonderful altar and crypt. Be sure to take a look at the fragments of early Christian mosaics that are on display.
After taking a look inside, head to the top of the bell tower for some incredible views of the Old Town and the Adriatic Sea. I enjoyed seeing the city from above and getting a different perspective of all the sights.
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6. Explore the Five Wells Square
One of the best things about Zadar is that it’s a small city, so you can easily walk to all the top attractions. This is definitely the case with Five Wells Square, which is located right in the center of the Old Town.
The Five Wells Square gets its name from the five wells that used to be located here. These wells were built in the 15th century and were used to collect rainwater. Only two of the wells remain today, but they’ve been turned into fountains.
The Five Wells Square is a great place to relax and people-watch. It’s also one of the best spots in Zadar to enjoy a cup of coffee or a meal. There are several restaurants and cafes located around the square, so you’re sure to find something to your taste.
7. Visit the Museum of Illusions
If you’re looking for something a little different to do in Zadar, make sure to visit the Museum of Illusions. This museum is unlike any other I’ve ever been to and is a great activity for both adults and children.
The Museum of Illusions is an interactive museum that features over 80 illusions. As you walk around, you’ll be able to experience optical illusions, holograms, and even virtual reality.
My favorite part of the museum was the infinity room. This exhibit is a completely dark room with mirrors on all the walls and ceiling. When you walk in, it feels like you’re walking into infinite space. It’s a really cool experience and one that I highly recommend.
So if you’re looking for fun things to do in Zadar, make sure to add the Museum of Illusions to your list. It’s a great activity for all ages and will leave you with unforgettable memories.
8. Visit the Church of St. Donatus
The Church of St. Donatus is one of the most iconic landmarks in Zadar and a top attraction not to be missed. The church was built in the 9th century and is one of Croatia’s best examples of pre-Romanesque architecture.
Despite its age, the church is in surprisingly good condition and has been very well-preserved. When you enter, you’ll see that much of the original stonework is still intact. You can also see some of the rubble from the Roman Forum that was used to rebuild the church.
The church’s highlight for me was the view from the top. You can climb to the top of the bell tower for panoramic views of the Old Town and the surrounding area. If you visit at sunset, you’ll be treated to some of the most beautiful views in Zadar.
9. Explore the Roman Forum
The Roman Forum is one of the most well-preserved ruins in Zadar. The ancient site dates back to the 1st century and was once the center of public life in the city. As you explore the ruins, you’ll see the foundations of various temples and public buildings. Highlights of the ruins include the Corinthian columns, paving stones, and several public buildings.
A new addition to the Forum is the Pole of Shame. This controversial pole was used to publicly chain and shame criminals during the medieval period. Today, it serves as a reminder of the city’s dark past but is also an important part of its history.
And being one of the top Zadar tourist attractions, I recommend taking a guided tour so you can learn more about the history and significance of the Roman Forum.
10. Tour the Church of St. Chrysogonus
The Church of St. Chrysogonus is one of Zadar’s most beautiful and historic churches. The church dates back to the 4th century when it was built by the Roman emperor Constantine. It was later destroyed in the 7th century and then rebuilt in the 12th century.
The exterior of the church is decorated with Romanesque sculptures, many of which are original to the 12th-century building. The interior is equally as beautiful with its Baroque altars and Gothic frescoes. Also, be sure to check the three apses, which are each decorated with different frescoes.
Take a guided tour of the church to learn more about its history and significance. You can also visit on your own, but you’ll miss out on all the interesting facts and stories. Either way, the Church of St. Chrysogonus is one of the best places to visit in Zadar and should not be missed.
11. Enjoy the Sun and the Sea at Zadar Beaches
Zadar is located on the Adriatic Sea, so it’s no surprise that there are a few beaches in the city. The two most popular beaches are Kolovare Beach and Borik Beach.
Kolovare Beach is located right in the city center and is the perfect spot to relax and soak up the Sun. The beach is well-maintained, with plenty of sun loungers and umbrellas. There are also a few restaurants and cafes nearby if you need a bite.
Borik Beach is another beach located on the other side of Old Town. This beach is popular with both locals and tourists alike and has a more laid-back vibe. It’s a great spot to relax, swim, or even try your hand at windsurfing.
Lounging on the beach is one of the best things to do in Zadar, especially on a hot summer day. So, depending on what you’re looking for, you can choose the right beach.
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12. Visit the Museum of Ancient Glass
Zadar is home to the only museum of ancient glass in Croatia, making it a must-visit for anyone interested in the history of glassmaking.
The museum is located in a 19th-century Cosmacendi Palace and contains over 5,000 Antique glass artifacts dating back to the 1st century BC. The collection includes goblets, Roman jars, vials, as well as modern Croatian glass. Highlights of the museum include a religious flask used to store holy water, glass cups used during mass, and glass vessels used for perfumes.
After exploring the museum, you can also admire the beautiful architecture of the palace itself. The exterior is decorated with Venetian-style balconies and ornate details, while the interior features a stunning staircase and an impressive glass chandelier. This is definitely one of the best places to visit in Zadar, which combines history, culture, and architecture.
13. Visit the People Square
The People’s Square is one of the top attractions in Zadar you must visit. This square was built in the 16th century and served as a gathering place for the city’s residents. Today, it remains a popular spot to relax, people-watch, and enjoy the lively atmosphere.
There are a few notable features in the square, including the City Hall, which was built in the Venetian Gothic style. There’s also the Old City Guardhouse, which was built in the 16th century and now houses a museum. And lastly, the Renaissance City Loggia, which was once used as a stage for the public announcement but now serves as a gallery.
If you’re visiting Zadar in the summer, make sure to check out People’s Square. It’s a great place to relax and enjoy the city’s vibrant atmosphere. Be sure also to take some time to explore the small side streets that branch off from the square. These streets are lined with quaint cafes, shops, and restaurants.
14. Zadar Archaeological Museum
If you’re interested in history, then one of the most famous places to visit in Zadar is its Archaeological Museum is a must. The museum was founded in 1832 and is one of the oldest museums in Croatia. This is a great place to learn about the history of Zadar and see some amazing Roman artifacts.
The highlights of the museum are the floor displays that were unearthed during excavations in the Old Town, artifacts related to Northern Dalmatia, and glass collections, among others. Guided tours are available if you want to learn more about the exhibits.
The Zadar Archaeological Museum is a great place to spend an afternoon. I really enjoyed my visit to the museum, and I think it’s a great place to learn about the history of Zadar and see some amazing artifacts.
15. Take a day trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Croatia and is located just a few hours from Zadar. The park is home to 16 cascading lakes, waterfalls, and lush forests.
There are a few different ways to explore the park. The most popular way is to hike the many trails that wind through the different areas. If you want to see the lakes up close, you can take a boat ride or opt for a guided kayak tour.
In addition to the natural beauty, the park is also home to a number of wild animals, including birds, wild boar, dormice, voles, shrews, and hedgehogs, among others.
If you’re looking for the best things to do around Zadar, I definitely recommend spending a day at Plitvice Lakes National Park. It’s an amazing place to escape the city and experience some of Croatia’s stunning natural scenery.
As you can see, there are many attractions in Zadar that are definitely worth a visit. All of these attractions are unique and offer a great way to experience the city. But if you had to choose the top three sights in Zadar, I would recommend exploring the Old Town, checking out the Sea Organ and Greeting to the Sun, and touring St Anastasia’s Cathedral. Do you have any other suggestions of top things to do in Zadar? Please share.