Croatia is known for its coasts and beaches. As summer arrives they are thronged by tourists to enjoy the water activities like swimming, sailing, diving or just sunbathing. But there is much more to Croatia than beaches and sunbathing. Zadar is one such town on the Dalmatian coast which engages you with its history and a few unique things. There are 7 interesting places to see in Zadar which you should include in your travel plans.
It was a good sunny day with the cool breeze blowing when we started for Zadar after our engrossing stay at Plitvice Lakes. On the way, we saw vast green, fertile land with cattle grazing every few miles, plains dotted with small mountains. Throughout the whole stretch from Plitvice Lakes to Zadar, we could see alluring landscapes and there was but no moment of lassitude.
It took us 2 hours to reach Zadar where we were taken immediately for a sailing tour by our tour guide. As the weather next day would not be suitable for sailing, it made sense to enjoy it when the sun shone.
So there we were sailing in the Jadransko More (Adriatic Sea) experiencing cool zephyr. You go sailing for two and a half hours where you can dive, swim or snorkel in the sea or else just enjoy the views from the sailboat. We basked in the sun, cool breeze and the fascinating view from our sailboat as chilly waters are not for us – tropical selves. The clear blue and green waters will take your breath away and all at once I realized how extremely blessed we were to witness this celestial reality.
When the sun got scorching hot, we decided to get off the sailboat, transferred to a speed boat and explored the village, Kukljica, located on island Ugljan. We could see many sailboats and Yachts at the village port which would get very busy in the peak season of June, July, and August. It is sparsely populated with very few shops and restaurants. We found an ice cream parlor and spent the next hour having ice cream with a charming view.
We came back to the boat to find our unattended lunch bag ripped open, bread and cheese took away by a colony of seagulls who were now hovering over other boats. Now, this was unexpected!!
We hurried back to Zadar city in time to view the beautiful sunset. Zadar has many enchanting sunset points but this one, right outside gate 6 of the wall is the most beautiful one, I feel. If you are in Zadar for not more than a day than make sure to see it the first evening.
The sunset along with the soft music coming from the sea organ and the illuminated greetings from the Sun makes for an exhilarating experience.
2. Greetings from the Sun
Small solar chips are embedded in this giant 22- meter disc by the waterfront in front of gate 6 of the wall. All during the day, the energy accumulated by the solar chips is utilized in illuminating the same disc in the night. When you walk over the disc, you get a feel as though walking on an illuminated dance floor.
Wherever you step it gets lighted, the kids are sure to enjoy this, I guess. The artist behind this concept is Nikola Basic.
3. Sea Organ(Morske Orgulje)
Sea organ was developed by award-winning architect Nikola basic, the same person who developed the Greetings from the Sun, in 2005. The unique concept to make music with the help of waves and breeze is one of its kind in the world. There are about 35 metal pipes fitted below the perforated marble stairs. Thus whenever waves clash against the pipes they make a sound which is heard through the perforations in the floor.
Thus tourists who visit Zadar flock to the riverfront where they can enjoy music with fascinating sunset and the Greetings from the Sun. For me, the best part to enjoy music is evenings or at sunrise.
This is just opposite Gate 6 along the wall of Zadar.
4. Zadar’s Wall
Zadar’s Wall was constructed in the 16th century to defend Zadar from Ottoman. It has 8 gates out of which a few were built by Venetians and the rest in the medieval period.
The most impressive gate of all, is the main gate to the old town, the Land gate. It is by the little harbor Fosa, built by a Venetian architect Michele San Michelle in 1543. Above the gate, you will find a winged lion of St Mark, Venice’s symbol, along with Zadar’s protector, St Chrysogonus.
The other gates are Bridge Gate, St Rocco Gate situated by the city market, Sea gate or St Chrysogonus gate is between the ferry point and the church of St Chrysogonus, St Demetrius Gate and the Chain gate.
5. Church of St Donatus
Church of St Donatus is symbolic to Zadar. Founded in the 9th century, the present name has been given 600 years after it was founded, in memory of a famous bishop. Previously, it was known as the Church of Holy Trinity. Now, though no religious services are held, it is used for musical concerts due to its excellent acoustics. The circular church stands in the Roman forum where you will find the ruins still displayed for the tourists.
6. Zadar Cathedral
The Cathedral of St Anastasia is the biggest in Dalmatia and one of the top attractions to visit in Zadar. It has a bell tower which can be accessed by a small fee. You can get a view of the city and the stunning sea view ahead. If you have enough time in hand, this should be added in your to-do list. It is not that difficult a climb as there are three landings where you can rest and then continue your climb.
7. City Market
To get to the core of food culture in any country, the best place to start is a visit to the city market. The same holds true to Zadar and with its availability of vast space, the fruits and vegetable market is a must do a tour.
We were there early in the morning to witness a spectrum of colors that was refreshing to the soul. We were more than happy to fill our bags with vegetables like tomatoes and salad leaves along with fruits, peaches, and cherries. You will also find homemade olive oil and cheese being sold here.
Since our tour guide had no idea we were vegetarians, she took us to the fish market too. Well, we could not make out which fish was what, but the excitement in her voice while naming the fishes was good enough for us to understand that they sold freshly caught ones and also a few rare ones. No doubt tourists from neighboring countries visit to enjoy seafood in this coastal paradise.
On way to market, we also came across a flea market where we can buy knick-knacks like a beach bag, sun hat or flip flops or many more things. So if you feel like you have forgotten any of these, you know where to head first thing in the morning.
8. Five Wells Square
The five wells square is located between the bastion Grimani and the medieval city wall. While walking towards the square, we came across a park named after queen Jelena Madije on the bastion which is the first and the oldest park of Croatia.
The wells were constructed for storage of water during the 16th century. It was during this time that the Turks attacked Zadar and to avoid any shortage of water during the siege, these five wells were made. The wells have visually appealing wellheads and the whole area gives you a vintage feel.
Somehow I could connect the concept with something back home in India where the fort of Jadhavgadh had a kund or a place for water storage which was used for droughts or during Mughal attacks.
Nowadays, the square is used for events and concerts.
9. People’s Square (Narodni Trg)
As in any other European city square, the People’s Square has been the center of public and social life for centuries. In the northern section, one can find the town hall, along with the Ghirardini Palace, a Romanesque palace with a 15th-century balcony. The square is lined with bustling cafes full of people sipping on hot caffeine while enjoying the aura of commotion that characterizes the square.
The People’s Square is the perfect location to sip on some late on a lazy afternoon.
There are a few one-day trips that you can do from Zadar. They are
A day trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park. Read about it
Paklenica National Park.
A day trip to KRK National Park.
A Day trip to the island Pag
So, there are many beautiful places in and around Zadar.