24 Hours in Zadar: Stroll the Streets with Us

By 23 September 2017

Take a walk with me through one of the coolest and most beautiful cities in the world, even if I do say so myself...

Ah, Zadar! One of the oldest and most beautiful cities in Croatia. It is definitely my favourite city on the Croatian coast and my second hometown. Of course, when I say it’s the most beautiful, I’m being completely subjective here, but, having been recently crowned with the title of the Best European Destination 2016 by the European Best Destination website proves that there is some truth behind my (over)statement. It has also been named the "perfect city break in Croatia" by the Times and "Croatia's new capital of cool" by the Guardian.

Croatia boasts a fair share of beautiful cities and charming coastal towns, but none with the waterfront as beautiful and unique as the Zadar Riva. It is not close to traffic, although it does get pretty crowded during summer, it is perfect for a romantic stroll under the starry night and full moon (there is even a great event dedicated to the full moon taking place here called ‘Noć punog miseca’). It has a lovely view of the nearby Ugljan island and the town of Preko, you can sit on a bench in the shade and observe people passing by, there are lovely cafes and restaurants, not to mention the unique Sea Organ, where you can enjoy the hypnotizing and hauntingly beautiful sounds of the sea.



When it gets dark, you can take a look at another unusual modern sight nearby - The Greeting to the Sun (Pozdrav Suncu), an art installation in the shape of a disc made by solar-powered cells that light up in all the colours of the rainbow as the sun sets. But our day is just beginning, so for now, let’s move away from the crowd and head in the opposite direction which will bring us to the oldest University in Croatia - the Zadar University. It would be wonderful to take classes there as it has a stunning view overlooking the islands and sea; though I must admit, I’d probably be caught staring outside rather than paying attention to the lecture.

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Credit: Romulić & Stojčić

Just a few steps from the university, there is a small port called Foša and one of the best fish restaurants in the Adriatic, bearing the same name. Head upstairs from Foša, you’ll end up by the Zadar's "Kopnena vrata" (Land Gate) that bears the Lion of Saint Mark, a symbol of the Republic of Venice, which is why they are sometimes also called “Lavlja vrata” or “Lion Gate”. The gates are part of the Zadar’s fortification system, which has this year been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and which was designed by Michele Sanmicheli, a famous Venetian architect and urban planner of Mannerist-style, among the greatest of his era. The gate was once the main entrance to the city.

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Credit: TB Zadar

After passing through the Land Gate, turn right up the narrow stairway and you’ll end up at the famous Five Wells Square, which is exactly what its name suggests - a square with five wells lined up. The square also features Captain’s Tower (Kapetanova kula), also one of the rare remains of the old fortification system. By now, you might be a bit tired, so I would recommend taking a respite in one of the oldest parks in Croatia - Queen Jelena Madijevka Park, which was built within the city walls as a beautiful garden. You can take a stroll and enjoy a bird’s eye view of the Foša port and Land Gate. Opposite this park is another even bigger park called Vladimir Nazor Park, which is a lush green oasis in the middle of the city, popular with local joggers.



Credit: TB Zadar

Nearby is the Petar Zoranić Square, where the newly renovated Rector’s Palace is located, an exhibition space which this year hosted a Marc Chagall exhibition. This is one of my favourite places in Zadar. The square is like something out of an old postcard or a movie with the lovely hustle-and-bustle of people (never too many, though); if you want to soak in the ambiance there are a couple of konobas and restaurants where you can enjoy some fine Dalmatian cuisine. In the middle of the square, there are some ancient ruins, which were recently uncovered and are now visible behind glass.


From another square nearby - People’s Square (Narodni trg), which is the centre of public life in Zadar from the Renaissance until today, we march on through the most famous street in Zadar - Kalelarga. The name literally means, wide street and that is actually its official name - Široka ulica, but the locals still call it Kalelarga. If I am being honest, there is nothing so special about this street, it is often overcrowded with tourists, so I would rather recommend getting lost in the weaving cobbled streets nearby, which are scattered with charming shops, restaurants and cafes. Almost at the end of Kalelarga, you’ll see a tall belltower of the Cathedral of St Anastasia. Climb up the belltower and enjoy a gorgeous view over Zadar and the nearby Ugljan island. Also, don’t miss the nearby Forum Square and St. Donatus Church, which is the symbol of Zadar.




After all that strolling around, you’ll probably be starving. Zadar has many affordable restaurants and konobas, where you can enjoy delicious Dalmatian dishes. I would recommend Foša, Kornat Restaurant or Pet Bunara for fine dining, Restaurant Groppo and Bruschetta for (slightly) more affordable dishes, or if you’re a pizza fan, there are many pizzerias, including an incredible pizza-cut place called Crazy Pizza, where you can enjoy a tasty and huge pizza slice for around 12 kunas. If you’re up for something completely different, try amazing raw food and great cocktails at the Garden, which is sadly only open during late spring-summer (until September 30).

Zadar also boasts plenty of interesting museums. The must-see museums are the Museum of Ancient Glass, probably my favourite, the Archeological Museum for history buffs and the Museum of Illusions - the cool, new museum for those seeking something more unusual (and a whole lot of fun). Also don’t miss, the Gold and Silver of Zadar, a permanent exhibition of religious art at the church (monastery) of St. Mary. You can also check out the Zadar Memories exhibition at Arsenal, once a port warehouse, now an exhibition space and venue for various events, including live music.

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Credit: TB Zadar

If you care for some shopping, there are many stands and small cute shops all over the town, where you can buy great souvenirs - from handmade trinkets and small sculptures of St Donatus Church, replicas of ancient glass and jewellery to local delicacies such as fine wines, olive oil, Maraschino liqueur, cosmetics etc.

Finally, after what has been a busy day, you can sit by the waterfront and enjoy ‘the most beautiful sunset in the world’; even Alfred Hitchcock, who spent several days here in 1964 said so himself!


Now that the sun has set, you can go about town and enjoy a drink or two in one of many cool bars. The flourishing bar scene is in the part of the town called Varoš and near the university building. You also might often find people just sitting on the waterfront by the university, downing a beer while someone is jamming on the guitar. One of the most popular bars in town is Cafe Bar 72, locally called ‘sedamdesetduja’ or just ‘duja’ (meaning two in local dialect). ‘Duja’ is the oldest bar with a cult status among the locals. If you can’t find a seat there, there are plenty of other cool bars nearby, such as another Factory Bar, Kult, Lotus Bar or Cafe Gallery Gina (in Varoš), an art gallery and a cafe bar all in one, where you can also listen to live music. There is also Ledana Lounge & Bar, located in the Queen Jelena Park, or Q Bar on the other side of town, near The Garden Lounge, which is also very lively at night.

And there you go, 24 hours well spent in one of the best cities on the Croatian coast!