History of Zadar
Zadar is the oldest continuously inhabited Croatian city.
In fact, Zadar traces its earliest evidence of human life from the late Stone Age, while numerous settlements have been dated from the Neolithic period.
Before the Illyrians, the area was inhabited by an ancient Mediterranean people of a pre-Indo-European culture.
Zadar traces its origin to its 9th-century BC founding as a settlement of the Illyrian tribe of Liburnians known as Iader.
Situated on the Adriatic Sea, at the north-western part of the Ravni Kotari region, Zadar’s beauty and location make it clear why its inhabitants settled there and decided never to leave.
The Romans chose it to be a municipal, and so Zadar got its Roman features that can be seen today. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the town took on a more Byzantine character.
Zadar continued for hundreds of years to be passed around between the Venetians, Croats, Hungarians, Austrians, and the Francs, each leaving their mark on the town.
Zadar was inflicted with horrendous boming raids by the allies in world war two, leaving huge areas in need of redevelopment by post-war planners.
As such, Zadar has a complex meeting of different cultures and styles, as well as the old and new.
Zadar has more going on for it than just being a tourist centre.
Its industries now include distilling of liqueurs, canning and processing of fish, and the production of rope, cotton, and synthetic textiles, cigarettes, plastics, leather, and household appliances.
Zadar was named “entertainment centre of the Adriatic” by The Times and “Croatia’s new capital of cool” by The Guardian.
Indeed, the party is still going on, as the town hosted a massive homecoming party for the Croatian Football Team players, after they reached the 2018 World Cup Final in Russia.
Many of the players, such as, Lovre Kalinic, Ante Rebic, Ivan Perisic, Filip Bradaric, and Ivan Strinic hail from the Dalmatian Coast.
Golden Ball winner Luka Modric, and penalty hero Danijel Subasic come from Zadar itself. “Come and greet our ‘Vatreni’ how Split and Dalmatia only know,” they said.
On how a country of only four million reached the World Cup final Dejan Lovren so eloquently explained “Our mothers and fathers must have been great at making love!”.
It certainly seems that there is something in the Dalmatian waters.
If you want the history and beauty of Dubrovnik without the crowds, then Zadar is the place for you. Many have escribed Zadar this way as “Croatia without the crowds”, but I describe it as Croatia without Game of Thrones.
Things to see in Zadar
A Hitchcockian perspective – the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock called the Zadar sunset “the most beautiful sunset in the world”.
Nicola Basic’s “Monument to the Sun” on the edge of the Zadar waterfront is an all-day 22-metre disc which soaks up the solar rays and dazzles spectators with patterns of lights emanating from beneath you, acting as a giant solar-powered public dancefloor.
Zadar’s other organic attraction is its Sea Organ.
This is essentially a giant harmonica, played by the sea.
To achieve this, the steps on the waterfront promenade have been expertly cut and had underwater pipes installed in them that give off musical notes when filled with water.
Hopefully the sun monuments lights correspond to the sounds made by the organ. Zadar in ultimate harmony.
If you like sightseeing and architecture then take a stroll down to Zadar’s Cathederal – The Cathederal of St. Anastasia, to be precise.
Originally constructed in the ninth century by the Byzantines, it was later rebuilt during the 12th and 13th centuries in Romanesque style, with further alterations being undertaken since.
St. Anastasia’s remains rest within the cathederal and the catheeral boasts an excellent bell tower, three entrances and two beautiful Gothic and Romanesque rose windows.
Staying on the religious and historical theme, the Church of St.
Donatus can’t be missed. This is your Byzantine flavour to your sightseeing.
If you want to get to the nitty gritty centre of Zadar, then The People’s Square is where you’ll head.
The old City Guardhouse and the renaissance City Loggia sit here and this is where the important public announcements have and are still made.
But perhaps the most famous taunt of the place in the City Walls and Gates.
If you could only see one thing in Zadar, it would have to be its impressive old city walls.
Both the Romans and the Venetians contributed to the spectacle over the years and they are now officially a world heritge site.
While the former Venetian fortress was originally designed to keep people out, it’s now the main attraction for getting people to come inside.
If you have the taste for the Romans, then your best bet will be Zadar’s Roman Forum.
Constructed between the first century BC and the third century AD, the forum contains the remains of the foundations of several Roman public buildings, and a Corinthian column.
Marvel and enjoy, just don’t misbehave or you could end up attached to the Pole of Shame!
Things to do in Zadar
Zadar has something for everyone regarding things to do (well, except winter sports, obviously).
If you want to further dive into the realm of history then Zadar’s Archaeological Musuem has your covered.
One great benefit of being as old as Zadar is, is that you have a lot of history to share to the world, and this is exactly what the museum brings to life.
Other museums include the Gold and Silver museum, as well as the museum of glass, for those magpies amongst us.
If you fancy an excursion then just off the coast of Zadar lies Kornati National Park.
This wonder is made up of 147 islands in the Zadar Archiplego and was established in 1980 to protect marine life and natural habitats.
Kornati National Park is filled with caves, cliffs, islands, fresh water, and many other adventures waiting to be explored.
As such it is no wonder the place has become popular hive for yachters, scuba divers and sightseers.
Alternatively, the Paklenica National Park is a UNESCO biological reserve that offers the chance for numerous outdoor activities such as hiking and climbing.
As well as calmer activities such a bird, bear, and wolf watching. Depending on how brave you’re feeling.
The third nature park is Krka National Park, there are similar wonders to see here, but Krka also boasts a uniquely beautiful feature – The Krka Waterfalls.
Where to eat
Fosa – Fosa is ranked in Croatia’s top 20. This restaurant boasts an unrivalled wine list and fresh seafood as its speciality, the place is a real treat set against the backdrop of the old walls.
Fosa may be the flashy Premier League of Zadar, but Kornat is the locals favourite.
Enjoy your food next to the waterside.
Location, Location, Location: How to get to Zadar
Zadar, location-wise, is a logistical dream.
The town boasts both an international airport and ferry connections to the islands – Dugi Otok, Pag, Silba, Losinj and the Kornati.
By plane: Zadar Airport it well connected to other Croatian and European cities.
During the summer months flights can be quite cheap since low budget airlines such as Ryanair fly routinely to Zadar.
By Bus: Zadar is also well connected to other European taunts by bus.
For example, there are direct bus lines from Vienna and Munich to Zadar, and if your city doesn’t have a direct line, you can always travel to Split or Zagreb first, and bus it over.
The town is perfectly easy to get around by foot, which makes it a perfect destination for a city break anytime of the year.
Start in one of the cafes in the Old Town for a warm up drink or two, before heading down to the Garden or Arsenal, which are transformed into nightclubs in the evenings.
This is perhaps the best way to get to know the amazing locals of the city, who are more than welcoming.
This one is for those beach bums out there! There is an arsenal of great beaches in this Rivera, but here are our top five.
First up – Saharun Beach – This paradise lies on the north-western point of the Dugi Otok Island.
The beach rests in a gorgeous cove with crystal blue water and white sand.
Take a long walk to the Veli lighthouse while you’re there. Rest here by day, and party by night.
Second place goes to Nin’s Lagoon – get clean in the warm shallow water, and get dirty in the healing mud nearby.
Bronze goes to Kolovare Beach – The convenience of this beach is what sells it.
You don’t even have to leave the city centre, as it’s just a few minutes’ walk away.
Fourth place – Zrce Beach – This one is for the party animals – head over to Pag Island and get your dancing shoes on.
Last but not least – Zaton Beach – awarded the blue flag status for its water quality and environmental management, this just had to be on the list, for those who put such effort into making it what it is – simply fantastic.
Emergency contact information
Fingers crossed you don’t need it, but just in case, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Hospital: The ambulance in located about 1,5 km from the city centre, and the number to call in case of emergency is: 194.
Dentist: Unfortunately, there is no emergency dentist in Zadar.
If your condition does not allow you to wait for a dentist appointment, you should go to the ambulance instead.
Pharmacy / 24 hour pharmacy: There are two 24 hour pharmacies in Zadar. One is called Donat, and the other one is Zadar.
One week Donat is open non-stop, and the alternative week Zadar is the place to go in case of an emergency. Both pharmacies are located in the city center, close to the People’s Square.
Police (Numbers to call, police stations): The police station is located about 2 km from the main bus terminal in Zadar. The number to call in case of emergency is 192.
So there you have it. Zadar has it all: history, beaches, excursions, friendly locals, and more.
All that’s left to do is to go see it for yourself.
It’s even better in the flesh. Whether you’re star-crossed lovers, a group of friends, a family, or a lone-ranger, Zadar has something for you.
Zadar is truly a great spot in its own right, but if you travel to the popular cities of Zagreb, Split, and Dubrovnik, you would be a fool to miss Zadar out of your travel plans in Croatia.
The cities complement each other so well that they are a perfect combination for a summer getaway city break.