Zadar's Old Town

From which ecclesiastic gems to visit, to where to find black truffles, we’ve got your next trip to Zadar in Croatia covered.

Essential sights

Roman Forum: Stroll Zadar’s arrow-like stone streets and you can guess who built them. All Roman legionnaire sandal smoothed roads lead to the old Roman Forum, which is very much still at the heart of local life. A slew of archaeological treasures are strewn around the square, including an old flogging pillar where miscreants were once publicly punished. The Archaeological Museum here delves deeper into the city’s rich Roman past.

St. Donat’s Church: This striking ecclesiastic gem dates back to the ninth century. It is one of Croatia’s most important churches given its symbolism as a remnant from the first awakening of Croatia as a country. Look out for classical concerts housed in this spectacular building, and pop next door to ascend the Venetian-era bell tower of the city’s cathedral.

Art installations: Two of the city’s main attractions tie into the local love of outdoor living. The surreal Sea Organ, an experimental musical instrument conjured up by Croatian Nicola Basic, uses the power of the waves to create music. Next door on the Riva – the name comes from the Latin word for waterfront boulevard - is the Sun Salutation, another creation by Basic that collects the sun’s rays in multi-layered glass plates during the day before using them to create a spectacular light show at sunset.

Sun Salutation

Pictured: The art installation, Sun Salutation.

Where to Stay

Hotel Bastion: The city’s finest accommodation is the Relais & Chateaux affiliated Hotel Bastion, a historic boutique bolthole in the heart of the old town that boasts an acclaimed restaurant and an excellent spa.

The Hotel Kolovare: Handily located near the bus station for the airport bus, Hotel Kolovare boasts comfortable rooms and easy access to both the old town and Kolovare Beach.

Hotel Niko: The family run Hotel Niko in the Borik beach district features coolly classical rooms, while the restaurant offers arguably the best fresh fish in Zadar.

Food & drink

Given its Adriatic location it comes as no surprise that seafood is the star in Zadar. It is best served simply grilled in the lively restaurants that are snug within the sturdy walls of the old town. A mixed platter (riblji pladanj) serves up a rich bounty of Adriatic fish and shellfish.

The region’s black truffles were officially certified in 2014 and local rumour has it that the autumnal white truffles may soon be awarded official status, so try them before they zoom up in price.

Dalmatian wines are seriously underrated. Look out for the dry white Posip and mighty red Plavac Mali. The local digestif is Maraschino, a delicious clear cherry liqueur.

St Donat's and Cathedral Belltower

Pictured: St Donat's Cathedral and Belltower.

Best for Groups

Krka National Park: Croatia is awash with nature reserves and national parks. One of the most impressive is Krka, a water-strewn green oasis inland from Zadar that can easily be reached on an organised group day trip. Pack your swimming gear as you can jump right in at some of the waterfalls.

A Zadar walking tour: With so much Croatian, Roman and Venetian history worn on its historic sleeve, Zadar is ripe for a walking tour. Guides for private groups can be hired at the local tourist information office.

Explore the islands: Zadar boasts a rich archipelago of surrounding islands. You can hire a boat for exclusive use, but a more characterful experience is joining the locals on a Jadrolinija ferry with foot passenger tickets usually available on the day.

Live Like a Local

Forget taxis or hiring a boat. If you want to cross the city’s harbour like the locals hop on the barkajoli, a unique Zadar anachronism that sees you rowed past the ferries and other shipping in time honoured tradition across to the mainland proper, much in the manner of the Venetian Grand Canal traghetti. A waterfront promenade lies on the other side, which slips west round to the best beaches, and their sprinkling of good value locally geared restaurants, cafés and bars.

Zadar by night

Pictured: Zadar by night.


Currency: Kuna

Flight time: from London to Zadar takes two hours.

Best Time to Go: Spring and Autumn are the best time to go without the searing heat of summer.