Why Zadar is worth a (short) visit

Why Zadar is worth a (short) visit

We liked Zadar and are happy we saw it. Were we blown away? No. I’ll explain why.

Zadar was the first stop in our 2 week trek north and it didn’t get off on good start. The bus station is slightly outside the center and requires taking a taxi into the old town.  The taxi driver quoted us 90 Kunas “50 for you and 40 for your bags” which seemed a bit high (although we did have a lot of bags). I didn’t like it. Would he charge us more of we were fat or less if we were skinny? He came down to 80, then 70 (about $12 CAD). He  wouldn’t go lower. I said ok. We got in the car, navigated a few streets, and literally 5 minutes later stopped in front of one of the gates to the Old town. “You have to walk, cannot take taxi into old town”. Spanky, usually the quiet one, piped up “That’s a rip off, how can you charge that much for such a short ride. And you can’t even bring us to the apartment?!?”.  Sometimes it’s better when the woman talks. His shoulders dropped and he had a shamed look on his face. I felt a bit of satisfaction that at least we had called him on his fuckery.


Some bloggers have vaunted Zadar as a ‘must see’ destination on the north Dalmatian coast. They’ll tell you the highlights are the Sea Organ and the Greeting to the Sun. These are a couple of modern installations created by a local architect which, although kind of cool, is hardly reason to visit Zadar. The real attraction of Zadar is a history dating back over 3000 years. You’ll see Roman artifacts  and a whole bunch of churches and historic buildings, some  dating back to the 9th century. There is a beautiful main street that reminded us of the Stradun in Dubrovnik. Add to that a picturesque location at the end of a peninsula with nice views over the Adriatic, especially at sunset. There are good reasons to like Zadar. Some photos below.

Church of St. Donat (St. Donatus) in Zadar, Croatia

Above: St. Donat Cathedral (St. Donatus). Built in 9th century, now used as a concert hall. In the background is the bell tower of St. Anastasia.

St. Anastasia Cathedral and Bell Tower, Zadar

Above: St. Anastasia Cathedral and bell tower.

sunset views from Bell Tower of St. Anastasia, Zadar, Croatia

Above: Sunset views from the bell tower.

Greeting to the Sun, Zadar, Croatia

Above: The ‘Greeting to the Sun’, a solar powered light show. The most popular tourists attraction in Zadar and especially popular with the kids.

photos of Zadar, Croatia

Above: Squares, Roman columns, wells, cafes and churches.

The negatives? Like Split, Zadar is a ‘living’ city. Locals live within the old town walls. But unlike Split, they haven’t done a good job integrating the modern with the old. Within feet of the Roman Forum you’ll see ugly 1950s style apartment buildings. You can walk around the old town and suddenly find yourself at a dead end in front of a crappy looking apartment complex. You might think yourself lost. But nope, just another ugly building within steps of a church built over a thousand years ago. Climb the towers and you might be disappointed by the collage of old and not-so-new. It just makes you wonder: What were they thinking when they allowed some of this development?

We spent 2 full days in Zadar. 2 days is plenty when visiting as a tourist* (Zadar is a pretty small place)

* Lissette and I both agreed that Zadar would be a nice place to use as a base for a slow traveller. It has a fruit/vegetable market within the old town walls as well as grocery stores. The location is peaceful and the riva long and ideal for long strolls. I’ve often said it – some places are great to visit as a tourist (for a few days) but make for lousy places to live. Dubrovnik is the perfect example of that. Zadar might not be as ‘sexy’ as other Croatian destinations but it is a place where the slow traveller could settle down for a while.

Below: A few more photos around Zadar.

collage of Zadar, Croatia


Practical Information

– Zadar is a 3 ½ hour bus ride from Split (only because Croatian buses stop everywhere). The bus station is about 5 minutes by taxi from the old town. Taxi to old town should cost 40 Kuna according to the owner of the Airbnb apartment we stayed.
– We stayed in one of the nicest Airbnb apartments that we’ve encountered to date. Recommend highly.

Have you been to Zadar? What did you think of it?


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  1. Thanks for putting Zadar for me on the map. Great tip.
    Laura recently posted…5 Places You Must Visit in North DakotaMy Profile

  2. I’d never even heard of it! First thing l thought was “sounds like a place on Star Trek”.. Hah hah! The view from the top is lovely though. There are so many places that look like this.. I will stick with Split on my bucket list :-). Good for Spanky for speaking up. I usually check cab prices before l go places so as not to get ripped off. I waited at the airport in Istanbul for like 15 minutes because l wouldn’t agree to the price and kept passing it on to the next sucker..till l got my price. I usually overpay , but some little things like this bug me.
    Kemkem recently posted…Seville Cathedral and La Giralda – stunning ode to excess in AndalusiaMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Ha! I’m a big hockey fan. Many years ago the Montreal Canadiens had a player called Sergei Zoltok. At the same time the Ottawa Senators had a player called Radek Bonk. Zoltok and Bonk! Can you imagine. I always remember them for some reason and they popped in my head when I first heard ‘Zadar’.
      Yes, I was told 40 Kuna but that’s without the ‘luggage surcharge’. Little things like that can really turn us off to a place eh? And it’s usually taxi drivers – had another story in Zagreb and even here in Montreal when we got back.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment Kemkem.

  3. No uber? Yeah taxi drivers are a special breed, no! Nice write up guys, thank you 😉

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      I had to google what you meant. No, no Uber…I have no idea how that works. I guess I need to get tech-savvy 🙁

  4. This is the first time I heard about Zadar but I would love to go there someday, maybe next year!

  5. I love the solar powered light shows, not sure if it is because I sometimes behave like a little kid still… eheheh! There is so much more of Croatia I still have to see, we only went to Dubrovnik and Zagreb and clearly only scratched the surface.
    Franca recently posted…What Is Slow Travel? and Why We’ll Never Travel Another WayMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks Franca. Our highlight is still Split where we stayed 2 months. I know you guys are slow travelers, you should consider it as a base in the region. Loved our time there and are sorry to have left.

  6. Zadar was mostly demolished during the World War 2 by US aviation, and that is why it has more modern look than any other town on the coast.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks – yes, I read about that. The place has been on the bad side of a lot of history.
      Unfortunately they could have done a slightly better job in planning after the war so just to keep the style more consistent.
      It is still a pretty place 🙂

  7. As a planner in a former life this breaks my heart. The sensitivity of new developments can make or break a place, and it sounds like unfortunately here it’s the latter. Still, perhaps it’s a good thing that it’s still a town for the locals to ‘live’ in rather than just another holiday hot spot. You certainly haven’t sold it to me (but then you weren’t trying to!), and as a ‘fast’ traveller I think I’d give it a miss. But maybe in my old age when I’ve slowed down we could take a peek! And thumbs up to Lissette for speaking up in the taxi, these dudes sometimes just need to be told.
    Heather Cole recently posted…A spectacular walk in the Vintgar GorgeMy Profile

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