Top Zadar Attractions: Best Things to Do and See in & around the City
Zadar attractions are just one of the reasons why this city has been nominated, 2016 best European destination by Best European Destinations. I’m convinced this award has been acquired primarily due to the city’s ideal harmony of the past and modern period.
Through the turbulent city’s history, destroyed several times, Zadar always raised from the ashes like a phoenix, each time more and more beautiful.
Looking for things to do in Zadar, the city’s advantage is its position on relatively small peninsula, surrounded by sea on three sides. In fact, in Zadar’s old town, everything is ‘within the reach’.
Exploring the city layout you can not help but notice, how Zadar is extremely easy city to walk around. Everything turns around the main street called ‘Široka ulica (Calle Larga – Kalelarga)’, the most popular Zadar street (considered older than the city itself); it stretches in the direction east-west, from People’s Square (Narodni trg) to the Roman Forum.
Sometimes because of its compactness where the numerous sights are packed in a relative small space, may cause to skip out some things to see. The best way is to start from some historic sites, city’s landmarks, religious sites (churches), to combine the vists to same most important museums.
Zadar attractions – Historical sites
Actually Zadar is proud of two historical sites by which this city is renowned not only in Croatia, but also in Europe.
It’s a trademark of Zadar. The main square of the Roman Iadera (one of many names through Zadar history) is the center of public life of the city located in front of St. Donat church and the Archbishop’s Palace.
Zadar Forum, according its measures is one of the largest in the Adriatic. Its width is 45 m, a length 90 m. It was a very developed example of the forum complex, one of the most important among the ancient cities on the Adriatic sea.
The inscription with the name of Augustus , still visible , on the cornice of the well inside the Forum, testifies that the construction of the complex began back in the twenties of the first century BC.
Not much has remained of the original Roman Forum as capitol, a temple dedicated to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, two triumphal pillars of which today is the only one remained, used in the Middle Ages as a ‘pillar of shame’.
St. Donat (Donatus) church
The church of St. Donat (Donatus) is a symbol of the city of Zadar and the most famous monumental construction in Croatia from the early Middle Ages (9th century).
The church of St. Donat is a ring-shaped prior-Romanesque church, which until the 15th century, was called the Church of St. Trinity, changing the name to St. Donat, by the bishop who built it.
Because of the distinguishing cylindrical shape and its massiveness, this church, one of the most recognized Zadar attractions, belongs to the most famous and most important European prior Romanesque churches along the Adriatic sea.
The church actually was built directly on the remains of the Roman forum, making with forum a unique and inseparable unit. The most of architectural decorations, as well as monolithic columns in the church, are of ancient origin and come mostly from the destroyed Roman Forum.
Ticket prices and opening hours:
- From January to March is closed (only upon request)
- From April to May from Monday to Sunday from 09 AM to 05 PM
- In June from Monday to Sunday from 09 AM to 09 PM
- From July to August from Monday to Sunday from 09 AM to 10 PM
- From September to October from Monday- Sunday from 09 AP to 05 PM
- From November to December is closed (only upon request)
- For adults and children up to 10 – 20 Kuna
- Students – 15 Kuna
- Special arrangements for groups
Zadar attractions – Landmarks
As all the major cities along the Adriatic coast, Zadar has some important landmarks you should visit walking around.
City Walls and Gates
At one time, Zadar was one of the most powerful walled cities. All these walls were part of city defense, some built by the Romans, others were built by the Venetians and used against the Turks during their the incessant attacks in Middle Ages.
Today, the only part of these walls remained and four gates. The most impressive of these is the Land Gate on Fosa harbor, built by the Venetians in 1543 and ornamented with sculptures that include the winged lion of St. Mark and the city’s coat of arms.
The Sea Gate is behind the Church of St. Chrysogonus – Crkva sv. Krševana) between the ferry port and the market. It contains part of a Roman arch, but it was reconstruct by the Venetians in 1573 to celebrate a Christian victory over the Turks. The gate is ornamented with a relief of St. Mark’s lion on the side facing the sea and is consecrated to Pope Alexander III, who visited Zadar in 1171.
The Bridge Gate is the third gate excavated by the Italians in the 1930s connecting Narodni trg (People’s square) and Kalelarga street . The last and smallest gate is St. Rocco Gate. It connects Three Wells Square with the harbor.
On the other side of the Land Gate (Kopnena vrata) was the Citadel (Citadela), the fortress from the 16th century, which defended the town from the land side. Along the port of Fosa leads a paved path by the monumental town walls one of Zadar attractions, and ends on Obala Kralja Petra Kresimira IV, which is a park-promenade, about 1 km long, along the western side of the peninsula.
Five Wells Square (Trg 5 Bunara)
In order to survive the Turkish siege of the town in the 16th century, there were built five huge water tank and five wells, providing the water supply for the defenders inside the walls.
After the Turks retreated, the city built a park over the fortifications, creating a square with five wells. Today the wells no longer provide drinking water but usually serve for skateboarders, who like to practice their skill.
Next to the wells, stands Captain´s Tower (one of Zadar attractions often ignored) named after the nearby residence of the city captain, built by the Venetians to strengthen the city against Turkish attacks. Today, the Tower houses the exhibition or climbing the tower you can enjoy a beautiful view over the city.
On the northern side of the Roman Forum, stands Sv. Stosija (St. Anastasia), the biggest Romanesque cathedral in Dalmatia that dates back to the 12th century.
This extremely monumental three nave cathedral is one of the top Zadar attractions. The facade holds three doors and two central rose windows, while inside, a 9th-century stone casket is said to contain the remains of St. Anastasia, after whom the cathedral is named.
Next to the cathedral rises the bell tower built in two stages. The ground floor and first floor were built in 1452 during the reign of Archbishop Vallaresso, while the upper floors dating from 1890 to 1894 under design by the English architect and art historian Thomas Graham Jackson.
If you really want to enjoy the Zadar panorama than climb some 180 steps to reach the top of the bell tower for amazing views over the city and out to sea.
From the height of 62 meters from the bell tower of St. Anastasia, you can admire the beautiful view of Zadar and the channel. Entrance fee is 15 Kuna and the bell tower is open from 10:00 AM to 17:00 PM.
In most Croatian towns that face the sea, for example like Split or Opatija, Zadar’s Riva is one of the most beautiful Zadar attractions.
During summer evenings Zadar’s Riva is a popular strolling venue , while by day, the Riva turns in a beach where people aren’t shy about stripping down and taking a bath.
This promenade is also the best place to watch some particularities related to the sea and sun, two symbols of Zadar town. In May 1964 the famous Alfred Hitchcock said: ‘Zadar has the most beautiful sunset in the world, more beautiful than the one in Key West, in Florida’.
In a sign of worship of the sea and sun, Zadar has constructed two art installation structures which make an integral part of Riva promenade, that have soon become the top Zadar attractions landmarks :
Zadar’s sea organ
Zadar organ is a musical instrument played by sea, seventy meters long with thirty-five organ pipes built under the concrete situated a few steps from the Ancona-Zadar ferry dock.
This remarkable piece of urban architecture built in 2005 by architect Nikola Basic, has become one of the most visited monuments in Zadar. This instrument shows the tense connection between the sea and inhabitants of Zadar.
The white marble steps lead down to the sea where there is a system of polyethylene tubes and a resonating cavity that turns this site into a huge musical instrument, played by the wind and the sea.
In combination with stunning Zadar sunset just from here and this unique sea melody makes this place a “must to see and listen”.
Greeting to the Sun – Top of Zadar attractions
At the very end of the Zadar peninsula, next to the famous Sea Organ, stands the the latest of Zadar attractions, a Greeting to the Sun sculpture, made by the same architect Nikola Basic.
The Greeting to the Sun consists of three hundred multi-layered glass plates placed on the same level with the stone-paved waterfront in the shape of a 22-meter diameter circle.
Under the glass conduction plates there are photo-voltage solar modules through which symbolic communication with nature is made, with the aim to communicate with light, just like the Sea Organs do with sound. This a solar-powered structure collects solar energy during the day and releases it in the form of dancing light beams at night.
Zadar churches are one of the Zadar attractions that best show exactly how long the city has been standing, and how rich that life has bee. Here is the map with some of main churches in Zadar:
Zadar attractions – Museums
You have noticed that all the most important city’s attractions are concentrated on the Zadar’s peninsula. This fact also applies to museums in Zadar. There are several of them that deserve to be visited.
Considering the Zadar’s turbulent history through the centuries, there are several museums that are closely related to a certain period and to the historical remains from that period. One of the most significant is the Roman period and remains such as the Roman Forum.
Museum of Ancient Glass
This museum houses a unique collection of about 2.000 various glass objects from ancient times, originating from the first century BC to the fifth century AD. The most of these unique items were found in localities in Zadar and across the Zadar county.
A special peculiarity of this museum, beside its permanent exhibition, is the museum workshops led by young glass blower Marko Stefanec specialized in method of blowing handmade replicas of ancient glass.
In the museum workshop you can find also a glass jewelry method of work, led by talented Zadar artist Antonija Gospic. With modern and very rich gift shop, visiting this museum you can buy a number of publications and various souvenirs made in the museum workshop. Read more on museum website!
Museum is open from Monday to Saturday (09:00 AM to 04:00 PM – low season October to 14th June) and from 09:00 AM to 09:00 PM – high season (June to September). Entrance fee for adults 30 Kuna, children and students 10 Kuna.
Archaeological Museum of Zadar, as one of the main Zadar attractions is located in a newly constructed building in the center of the historic center of the Roman Iadera, near the Roman Forum and Capitol, and the main street of Zadar peninsula, Kalelarga.
This museum houses objects from the Roman era and prehistoric archaeological material from the Paleolithic, Neolithic and Metal Age, as well as archaeological remains from the 7th to the 12th century. More detail you can find on their website!
One of the most prominent details of this museum is a group of imperial statues (Tiberius, August and an unknown emperor). This unidentified statue is believed that belongs to Julius Caesar and because of its size, it’s exposed at the ground floor at the entrance.
Opening hours of this museum varies of the season. During the high season July to August is open from 09:00 AM to 10:00 PM and ticket prices goes from 12 to 30 Kuna. Museum organizes also a guided tours for groups (more than ten persons) in different languages.
Zadar Museum of illusions – Zadar attractions
New trends of the museum such this one, have become the most popular among Zadar attractions. Zadar museum of illusion is a spacial place to visit.
Enter the fascinating world of illusions that will undermine confidence in the senses, but while you thrill in the world that will completely confuse you, at same time will teach you a lot.
Visit this unusual museum and you will be amazed, because nothing is as it seems, especially not at the Museum of illusion!
Are you ready for an even bigger, even better, even more fascinating adventure? Visit Zadar Museum of illusion. They offer an intriguing visual, sensory and educational experience with a handful of new, yet unseen illusion!
Come, explore the world of illusion and experience the impossible!. Just do not forget to bring your camera with you, the cell phone will do!
Museum is opened every day from 10:00 AM to 08:00. Entrance fee ranges from 60 Kuna for adults to 40 Kuna for children 5-15 years. There is also a special family ticket for 150 Kuna.