Wondering what to do in Zadar Old Town? It is an intriguing place to visit and a location to add to any Croatia itinerary. Compared to some of the larger Croatian cities, Zadar is much quieter and has fewer crowds. Follow along with me as I show you the best things to do in Zadar that make for a wonderful weekend getaway!
Dubrovnik and Split might get more of the attention from visitors to Croatia but there are plenty of Zadar attractions to warrant a stay.
Zadar is a great location as it’s just a 2-hour drive to both Split and Plitvice National Park.
Where Is Zadar?
Zadar sits along Croatia’s Adriatic Coast and is in the middle of Croatia’s coastline if looking at a map.
It is an ideal place to spend a few days and use it as a base to reach Sibenik (1 hour), Split (2 hours), Plitvice Lakes (2 hours) and Krka Falls (1 hour).
A Little History Recap
Zadar the town we know today has a rich history going back as far as the 9th century and is the oldest continuously lived in Croatian city. Of course, the Romans invaded much earlier and reigned during the period of Julius Caesar (2nd century BC).
As you are walking around, you will quickly notice the Roman style architecture throughout Zadar. The Venetian influence is so apparent because Zadar was part of the Republic of Venice twice in its history (1202- 1358 and 1409 – 1797).
I stayed 1 night and two full days and thought it was perfect to take in the town and see all the attractions below.
I admit that I had never heard of Zadar before I started researching places to visit in Croatia. But I am so glad I decided to stay a night and discover Zadar for myself.
And if anything, come to enjoy the sunsets on Zadar’s promenade! Zadar is an ideal town to explore on foot as the majority of the Old Town is pedestrian-only. This makes it very quiet and relaxing to wander at your leisure.
Use this guide with your map and get walking! I have put together the best things to do in Zadar in a convenient path to tour.
Wondering where the best place to stay in Zadar is? No question, selecting a location in Zadar’s Old Town is a popular choice. That way, you are just steps in walking distance from everything to see in Zadar’s Old Town.
If you are searching for more places to stay in Zadar, explore this guide that offers options both in the city and the surrounding area.
If you are spending a few days in Zadar and looking for some great tours both in and near Zadar then these are great picks!
Zadar Old Town Walking Tour – Take a guided tour wandering through Zadar’s tranquil Old Town, learning about its fascinating history and stunning waterfront views.
Sea Kayaking Tour – Go on a full-day adventure kayaking around the island of Dugi Otok off the coast of Zadar to see sea caves, secret bays, and turquoise water!
Plitvice Lakes Tour – I highly recommend spending a few days in Plitvice Lakes but if you can’t, then at least visit for the day as the park is home to a land of waterfalls that is breathtaking to see!
What To Do In Zadar, Croatia
1. Narodni Trg (People’s Square)
One of the best things to do in Zadar and the first place to start off your stay is in Narodni Trg or the “People’s Square”.
It is the main square in Zadar and a great spot to get your bearings before wandering the rest of this quaint peninsula. Narodni Trg is a charming center with outdoor cafés, the City Guard, City Loggia, and the Clock Tower.
The City Guard was built in Renaissance style in 1562, although the Clock Tower was built in the 19th century. It houses the Ethnographic Section of the National Museum. Across from the City Guard is the City Loggia.
The City Loggia is where public proclamations and judgements once occurred but is now used for art exhibitions. I even saw a wedding inside on the day I went by!
In the mornings the square is a wonderful spot to get a coffee, sit back and people watch those starting out their day. Narodni Trg is also a great place to grab a cocktail and enjoy some live music in the evenings.
2. St. Simeon’s Church
This baroque-style church was built in the 17th century and has both a simple yet pretty exterior. But the true beauty lies inside the church that one must-see.
At the main altar, you will find an exquisite gold and silver-plated sarcophagus (chest) that was created in the late 1300s. It really is amazing how something like this could be created during that time period.
The masterpiece of artwork is now protected by UNESCO to preserve the medieval treasure. On the chest, scenes of St. Simeon’s life are illustrated in detail.
3. Five Wells Square
From St. Simeon’s, wander over to the Five Wells Square that is located on what used to be a moat. Built in the 16th century, Five Wells Square is exactly as its name implies. There are five separate wells spread out in a row across the square.
The wells supplied the water for the city of Zadar up until 1838. I have seen many wells in the middle of a square but never five of them! It made for a very unique setting.
You can also get an up-close view of Zadar’s city walls that are impressive to see. Next to the Five Wells Square, is a lovely park and if you are in need of a cocktail, head over to Ledana Bar & Lounge. It is a beautiful location to relax with a drink in an outdoor setting.
4. Land Gate
A short distance from Five Wells Square is the Land Gate, which is the most decorative and very beautiful gateway into Zadar.
The Land Gate is the only gate where people can enter via land as Zadar’s Old Town is on a peninsula. What I especially love about this Gate is that it sits right next to a tiny and most charming marina.
I practically felt like I had the entire marina to myself as there was only one other person there. If you are looking on a map, the marina is Port of Fosa. For its quaintness, I found this marina one of my favorite things to see in Zadar.
The Land Gate has a distinct Renaissance style that was built back in 1543 and is still used by cars today.
The star of the gate is the Venetian winged lion that is prominent over the top part of the arched entryway. On each side of the winged lion are Zadar’s coat of arms.
5. Wander The Streets Of Old Town
After enjoying the view of the marina and Land Gate, take some time to wander the adorable streets and alleyways of Zadar. There are so many idyllic places to explore with a surprise around every corner.
All the tiny streets have so much character with local housing, shops, and cafes to explore. It is a great excuse to stumble upon a café for another coffee!
After walking the interior portion of Old Town, take to the outer perimeter and stroll along the promenade at some point in your day. The promenade or riva is a wide-open walkway along the Adriatic Sea that is a treat to see.
It is also a great way to walk off a great meal. Along the promenade, you might even find a café to have a coffee or a glass of wine. The promenade is a wonderful location to watch the sunset if you get the chance.
6. Archaeological Museum
As you make your way towards the center of Old Town, the Archaeological Museum is a great place to visit if you are into history as there are items from the prehistoric, ancient and medieval periods.
Founded in 1832, it is the second oldest museum in Croatia. It gives you an opportunity to learn a lot about Croatia’s history and expect to spend a few hours here.
Note: Another museum that is worth seeing if you have the time is the Museum of Ancient Glass. It is located near New Gate and the footbridge over to Old Town from the mainland. You can even see demonstrations of glassblowing and bead-making there.
7. Roman Forum
As you exit the Archaeological Museum, you will see the Roman Forum. You might be asking yourself, “isn’t the Roman Forum in Rome?” Well yes, but there is also one right in the middle of Zadar’s Old Town.
As previously mentioned, Zadar was once part of the Republic of Venice and is why there is such a strong Roman influence in the architecture.
The Roman Forum is a large square in front of St. Donatus’ Church that has Roman ruins going back as far as the 1st century BC.
It was completely unexpected to see these ruins that looked so well preserved and mixed in with modern times. It is a marvel to see remnants of such a long-ago history still present.
Like walking back in time… The forum was the center of all religious and city life and where you can still see columns and altars from temples.
On the western side of the forum, you will notice a tall column that is referred to as the “Pillar of Shame”.
The pillar was for those that had done wrong and were chained to the pillar in shame. Its purpose was to embarrass them in front of the townspeople.
Make sure you spend some time exploring the Roman ruins as it is one of the top Zadar attractions to see!
8. St. Donatus’ Church
Situated on the edge of the Roman Forum square is St. Donatus’ Church that was built in the 9th century.
It is quite impressive as it is a massive round church that is a beautiful example of Croatia’s surviving history. It was fortunate enough not to be destroyed by the Mongol invasion in the 13th century.
St. Donatus’ Church is no longer in use but it is currently used as a music hall now. As you are exploring inside the church you will notice columns and flooring that are from the Forum outside.
Note: Another beautiful church to take notice of is St. Mary’s Church that is directly across from St. Donatus’. It was built in 1606 and is run by Benedictine Nuns!
9. St. Anastasia’s Cathedral & Bell Tower
St. Anastasia’s Cathedral is nestled next to St. Donatus’ Church and the Roman Forum. The cathedral is interesting for its different styles depending on what period it was built.
Beginning in the 9th century and then rebuilt in the 12th and 13th century, it is quite beautiful to see. Especially with its ornate details on the front facade of the church.
St. Anastasia’s Cathedral is also known as the Zadar Cathedral as it is the city’s cathedral. I found it a little confusing at first as both names are not usually mentioned. Good to know both!
The cathedral is a Roman Catholic Church and is the largest church along the coast of Croatia.
Right next to St. Donatus’ Church is the Bell Tower that can be seen from a distance as it is the tallest structure in Zadar.
You can climb up the 180 steps to take in beautiful views of Zadar but expect to get your heart rate up a little!
10. Sea Organ
Located right along the ocean promenade, you will likely hear the Sea Organ before you come upon it! It is quite unusual as it is a series of steps that music (sounds of an organ) emit.
At first, I couldn’t figure out how the sound was coming out but then saw that there were notches in the steps where the sound can be heard.
How does it make the sound? The sea!
As the waves come crashing into the steps, the water forces air in and creates an organ-like sound that is quite peaceful to hear. So the rougher the sea is, the more sound that will emit!
The Sea Organ is where art meets music, created by Nikola Basicis who also happened to create the Sun Salutation below. It is a spectacular spot to watch the sunset out over the Adriatic Sea.
But keep in mind that it can get crowded so get there early and grab a spot on the steps. It is without question a remarkable way to watch the sunset and one of the most fascinating things to do in Zadar!
11. Sun Salutation
Next to the Sea Organ and on the tip of the promenade or riva is the Sun Salutation. Both of which are by the Croatian architect Nikola Basicis.
The Sun Salutation is a huge circle consisting of solar panels that during the day look blue and at night a spectacular array of colors.
The panels soak up the sun by day and the energy generated is what powers the colorful light display at night. The circular installation is 22 meters wide and is quite the attraction.
If you don’t feel like walking across the bridge into Old Town, you can take a Barkajoli or small rowboat across.
This is an old tradition that has been practiced over many generations as there wasn’t always the bridge to cross over. For 800 years, the tradition has been passed on from father to son.
When To Visit Zadar
Situated on the Adriatic Sea, Croatia experiences a Mediterranean climate much like Italy and Greece. Visiting Zadar is pleasant any time of the year with the best months from April to October.
The winter months are known to have mild temperatures and a lot of rain whereas the summer months can get pretty hot and humid.
To get the best weather and avoid the crowds, the shoulder seasons are ideal, May/June and September/October.
Places To Eat In Zadar
Like many other cities along Croatia’s Adriatic Coast, you will find a plethora of Mediterranean style restaurants. That includes an assortment of seafood fresh from the ocean and excellent pizza that might give Italy a run for its money! Here are some great options on where to dine in Zadar.
Bistro Gourmet Kalelarga – located near Narodni Trg (People’s Square) has Mediterranean and Croatian food.
Pet Bunara – located near Five Wells Square offers Mediterranean food.
Konoba Skoblar – Located between Pet Bunara and Fosa near the Land Gate. It is known for its Seafood, Mediterranean and Croatian meals.
Fosa – Mediterranean and Croatian food can be found right along the water (Fosa Marina) and outside the city wall that has an idyllic setting.
4 Kantuna – right off of an adorable corridor in Old Town that has Pizza, Italian and Croatian cusine.
Tri Bunara – known for their pizza but they also have Italian and Mediterranean food.
Bruschetta – Has a mix of Dalmation and Italian flavors.
Slasticarnica Donat – the best ice cream!
Travel To Zadar
Although Zadar has an airport (Zadar Airport), I would say that it would be more economical to fly into either Split or Zagreb.
Flying into Split or Zagreb would also offer more flights per day. Overall, I think driving is the best way to see Croatia.
Driving is super easy, safe, and with excellent road conditions (even better than many roads in the U.S.)!
If you are driving from Split, expect the drive to take about 1.5 hours from Split Resnik Airport (SPU) and 3 – 4 hours from Zagreb International Airport (ZAG) (the capital of Croatia).
Once parked, you can leave your car during your stay as you can see everything on foot.
If you will not be driving to Zadar, there are frequent buses that you can take from cities such as Split, Trogir, Sibenik, and Zagreb.
Keep in mind that traveling by bus will take longer than drive times I mentioned above. For bus schedules, you can check up to date bus times here.
I hope you find this walking guide helpful while exploring the best things to do in Zadar Old Town!
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