Zadar, the Croatian city located in northern Dalmatia; was a place that I knew very little about before I arrived in its industrial heartlands, but this was one I was keen to visit on my trip in the summer of 2013, around this beautiful Balkan country. I really had no idea what to expect from Zadar, but something about the place was just brilliant! Granted…Zadar is not the most beautiful place I have ever visited, nor does it have many stellar attractions, but the city had a real positive impact on me. This is not a rarefied, daintily preserved museum-filled city like Dubrovnik; more a living, breathing city filled with Croatians going about their daily business. And, I think I enjoyed this place more for that.
Most of the action takes place in the Romanesque Old Town; and, here is where you will find, what I think are, Zadar’s two best attractions: The Sea Organ and The Sun Salutation. These two art installations both designed by local architect Nikola Basic, act as a popular focal point for tourists and lounging Zadranis. Found to the north-west of the Old Town, the Sea Organ is a series of marble steps that lead into the sea, under which a series of 35 tubes have been installed to allow the motion of the waves to create an instrument that plays music all day long. It is such a great concept and just like the adjacent Sun Salutation, difficult to tear yourself away from. The Sun Salutation itself comes to life at night; after a day absorbing the bright Croatian sunlight into its photo-voltaic cells; what follows come darkness is what can only be described as a multi-coloured dance floor that would not look out of place in the movie ‘Saturday Night Fever’! It is just fantastic!
Other must sees are a peek inside St Donat’s Church, an ancient Roman building with a distinctive high roof. Next to which you will find the Cathedral of St. Anastasia, attached to which is a bell tower that rewards the hardy climber with some amazing views over the city and out to the islands of Ugljan and Pasman.
For beach lovers, you could take a trip to Kolovare, which though not the most glamorous place to take a dip, it does have a real local feel about it and has some lovely views from the cafes found above the pebbles. My recommendation would be to throw caution to the wind and hurl yourself off the promenade near the Sun Salutation or down the steps of the Sea Organ for a much needed cooling dip in the beautiful clear waters of the Adriatic, followed by my favourite Croatian treat…sladoled (creamy Croatian ice cream). Now, people will say, “you must try Italian gelato; it’s the best in the world!” Do not believe a word these people say. They have clearly not tried sladoled and enjoyed the silky delights of a scoop of the finest ice cream the world truly has to offer. If that is not enough to tempt you to Zadar, I do not know what is! And, while we are on the subject of food. Some of the best food I have eaten in Croatia…yup, you guessed it…was in Zadar! The Trattoria Canzona restaurant (http://www.canzona.hr/canzona_zd/indexZD.html) was so good, I went back the following night! And, from staring at the plates of diners as I chose where to eat, I can say with some authority, that this city has some mighty fine food on offer! All this can be rounded off by spending time strolling the ancient squares, listening to the street performers and enjoying the chilled vibe on offer at what must be Zadar’s most laid back bar – The Garden (http://www.watchthegardengrow.eu/the-garden-zadar).
The sunsets in Zadar deserve a post of their own! British film director, Alfred Hitchcock, once wrote, “Zadar has the most beautiful sunsets in the world”. I will let my photos do the talking…
Aside from the wonders that Zadar itself has to offer; outside of the city, you have easy access by boat to the Kornati Islands National Park (http://www.kornati.hr/index.php/en). The absolutely stunning lakes and waterfalls at Plitvice (http://www.np-plitvicka-jezera.hr/) are a 2 hour car journey north from Zadar. Even closer (about an hour’s drive) is the beautiful Krka National Park (http://www.npkrka.hr/) where you will find the incredible, thundering Skradinski Buk waterfall, which you can swim in front of…along with many hundreds of other visitors! Nevertheless, it is an amazing place to be and a great experience! And, finally for the party animals, the island of Pag with its internationally renowned dance/house music scene at Zrce Beach, are within a short distance of Zadar. You can see an updated calendar of events at Zrce here —> http://zrce.eu/en/eventcalendar/.
All in all, Zadar is one of the places you might not have heard of, or if you have, one of those cities you really do not know much about. I say now is the time to get there and enjoy this Dalmatian jewel and all of its historical, gourmet, musical and light-fantastic pleasures.