17 Zadar sights worth seeing
The ancient Croatian city of Zadar is literally steeped in history. It is washed by the waters of the Adriatic Sea and is famous for the most beautiful sunsets in the world. This little piece of land is surrounded by stone fortifications, and the numerous old churches of the city are impossible to walk around in one visit.
The city is famous for its unique architecture, and the historical sites in Zadar tell stories of the civilizations that once lived here and fought to the death for their home.
Church of St. Donat
Church of St. Donat.| Photo: Ben Snooks / Flickr.
The Church of St. Donatus is one of the city’s main historical landmarks and a valuable example of Byzantine architecture found in Dalmatia. The church was built in the IX century and was originally called the Church of the Holy Trinity, but later it was renamed in honor of Bishop Donatus.
When examining this architectural masterpiece one should pay attention to its unique rounded form with three apses. The church was built on the site of an old Roman forum and has retained many elements of the original structure, among them two supporting columns. The floor of the church was dismantled to reveal the original masonry and the stones of the Roman forum were used in the construction of the building.
Address: Church of St. Donatus, Trg Svete Stošije, Zadar, Croatia.
Zadar Cathedral (St. Anastasia Cathedral)
Zadar Cathedral (St. Anastasia Cathedral).
Zadar Cathedral, also known as St. Anastasia Cathedral, is a mixture of architectural styles from several generations. The original building was built in the Byzantine style of the IX century, and then, in the XII-XIII centuries, it was rebuilt in the Romanesque style. The greatest interest is the facade of the cathedral, which has three entrances, two beautiful rose windows and is decorated with decorative arches.
The top of the building is in the Gothic style, while the lower part belongs to the Romanesque architecture. The main attractions of the cathedral are the relics of St. Anastasia, the stone altars and the wooden carved choir.
Nearby is a beautiful 15th-century bell tower, the upper levels of which were completed in the late 19th century. From the top of the bell tower there is a wonderful view of the city.
Address: Zadar Cathedral, Trg Svete Stošije, Zadar, Croatia.
Art installations Sea Organ and Salute to the Sun
Art installations Sea Organ and Salute to the Sun. | Photo: wikimedia.
The famous Sea Organ was installed on the Zadar promenade in 2005. This popular landmark is now considered one of the best art installations in the country. The giant musical instrument is powered by waves: it consists of a system of underwater pipes that are located under marble steps going down into the water.
Each pipe emits a particular note, and together they form a beautiful ethereal melody that creates a special atmosphere. There are similar installations in other cities around the world, such as San Francisco. Nearby is the Salutation to the Sun, another place in Zadar, which is recommended for every tourist to see.
It is a spectacular installation in the form of a circle, consisting of 300 multi-layered glass plates with solar cells, which light up when darkness falls. These attractions perfectly complement each other and can be visited in one day.
Address: Morske Orgulje, Obala kralja Petra Krešimira IV, Zadar, Croatia.
Beach Kolovare | Photo: dronepicr / Flickr.
Ten minutes walk along the picturesque road leading from the old town, is the main city beach of Kolovare with clear blue water and a sandy-pebbly shore. In summer, Kolovare gets crowded and if the sun gets too hot, you can move to a shady picnic area next to the beach.
The beach has showers, changing booths and restrooms. There are also stores and restaurants nearby. If you want to swim in a less crowded area, head to the eastern part of the beach closer to the cape.
Address: Kolovare Beach, Kolovare ulica, Zadar, Croatia.
Kornati National Park
Kornati National Park.
The Kornati National Park is located near the coast of Zadar and includes 147 islands of the Zadar Archipelago. It was founded in 1980 in order to protect the marine flora and fauna and to preserve the natural habitat. Most of these islands are uninhabited. The largest of them, Kornat Island, is 25 kilometers long and 2.5 kilometers wide. The islands are riddled with rocks, deep crevices, and caves.
Once there were Roman villas and farms, but due to the lack of fresh water during the Venetian rule, the islands were deserted. On some islands you can still find traces of Roman occupation, ruins of the villas and the remains of walls going under the water, which were used as collection tanks for fresh fish.
Nowadays the beauty of the islands attracts lovers of sailing and scuba divers and there are also boat excursions on touristic and private vessels.
Address: Nacionalni park Kornati, Ul. Butina, Murter, Croatia.
Roman Forum. | Photo: dronepicr / Flickr.
During a walking tour around the city you can see the ancient Roman Forum, built between 1000 B.C. and 3000 A.D. (you can’t miss it – it is located next to the beautiful old churches of Zadar). The majestic ruins of the forum are situated on the Zeleni trg Square and measure 90 meters long and 45 meters wide.
During Roman times, the forum housed a central market and a place for public ceremonies. Its sights include the remains of the foundations of some public buildings, stone slabs, and a Corinthian column.
There is also a disgraceful pole to which criminals were chained from the Middle Ages until the 19th century. It is better to visit the Roman Forum at night, when they turn on the illumination.
Address: Roman Forum, Zadar, Croatia.
Church of Saint Chrysogon
Church of St. Chrysogon. | Photo: wikimedia.
Church of St. Chrysogon (Crkva sv Krševana) is an example of Romanesque architecture built by the Benedictines on the site of the ancient Roman marketplace at the end of the 12th century. Inside this beautiful ancient church with three naves, there is a Baroque main altar from the early 1700s, an apse with well-preserved frescoes from the 13th century, and a Romanesque crucifix.
The rear part of the church is no less attractive; it is an apse with a row of arches in its upper part.
Address: St. Chrysogonus Church, Zadar, Croatia.
The Church of St. Simeon
The Church of St. Simeon.
The Church of St. Simeon was built in the 7th century and houses the relics of St. Simeon, one of the four patron saints of the temples of Zadar. The relics are in a sarcophagus designed by Francesco da Milano at the end of the 14th century.
The cedar coffin is decorated with gilded reliefs depicting the life of Saint Simeon and a reproduction of the Capella del Arena from Padua, Italy. Also worth noting is the magnificent altar of the church, depicting the Virgin Mary and the Saints.
Address: St. Simeon’s Church, Zadar, Croatia.
Zadar Archaeological Museum
Museum of Archeology in Zadar. | Photo: wikimedia.
Zadar Archaeological Museum (Arheološki muzej Zadar) is one of the oldest museums in Croatia. It was founded in 1832 and is dedicated to the rich history of the city. Museum expositions tell how the Dalmatian part of Croatia was formed. On the impressive ground floor of the museum, there are exhibitions devoted to archaeological finds from the 7th to the 12th century, and an outstanding collection of glassware.
The exhibits on the first floor are related to the history of Northern Dalmatia during the Roman period: the most interesting exposition is a model of Zadar, recreating the layout of the city at that time. On the second floor there are exhibitions about the most ancient periods of history: the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods, and also the Copper, Bronze and Iron Ages. The exhibitions are supplemented with weapons, jewelry, pottery and other artifacts from these eras.
Address: Archaeologisches Museum Zadar, Trg opatice Čike, Zadar, Croatia.
St. Mary’s Church and the exhibition “Zadar Gold and Silver
Church of Saint Mary. | Photo: dmytrok / Flickr.
The Church of St. Mary was built in the 11th century and has undergone many changes since then. The current church has a Renaissance facade and a beautiful bell tower, known as the Coloman Tower, built in the 12th century Romanesque style.
Next to the church stands the old monastery, which now houses the Church Art Museum. It presents interesting collections of gold items, paintings and sculptures. In the 11th century church of St. Nedilica there is an exhibition “Gold and Silver of Zadar”. In addition to magnificent gold works of art, the museum houses valuable religious relics such as the remains of saints and important bishops, as well as ancient clothing and textiles.
Address: St. Mary’s Church, Zadar, Madijevaca ulica, Zadar, Croatia.
People’s Square. | Photo: wikimedia.
People’s Square has been the center of social life in Zadar since its founding in the 16th century. The main attraction of the square is the old building of the City Guard (Gradska Straza), built in the mid-16th century. It is located in the western part of the square, and in its high clock tower of the XVIII century is a small ethnographic museum.
Opposite the tower is the building of the Renaissance Town Lodge (Gradska Loza). It was built in 1565 and served as a place for important public appearances and announcements. Today the luxurious old building houses a public gallery that is used for art and other exhibitions. Another attraction in People’s Square is the City Hall, erected in 1930.
Address: People’s Square, Narodni trg, Zadar, Croatia.
Museum of Ancient Glass
Museum of ancient glass.
In the beautiful 19th century Kosmacendi Palace near the Zadar seafront is the magnificent Museum of Ancient Glass. There is the largest collection of ancient glass artefacts in Europe. Among them are rare Roman jugs, cups and bowls found during the many years of archaeological excavations in the Dalmatian region of Croatia.
Also on display in the museum are glass vessels for storing oils and incense, glass chalices used in the first churches during festive services, and small bottles for storing holy water. After a tour of the museum you can take a walk around the palace and enjoy the stunning views of Jazine Bay.
Address: Museum of Ancient Glass, Zadar, Croatia.
The Square of the Five Wells
Square of Five Wells. | Photo: Marco Verch Professional Photographer and Speaker / Flickr.
You may have heard of the city walls built by the Venetians to keep the Ottoman conquerors at bay. But they would have been of little use without a supply of clean fresh water.
It was decided to build a cistern with drinking water, which was connected to five wells in the same square. They are still in the same place by the battlements of the city bastion. The square is best reached late in the evening when the wells and defenses are illuminated from below.
Address: Five Wells Square, Trg pet bunara, Zadar, Croatia.
Paklenica National Park
Paklenica National Park.| Photo: wikimedia.
This park was created to protect the karst formations that emerged on the coast, such as caves, cliffs and high cliffs. Mountain trails Paklenica park 200 kilometers long are very popular among hikers and rock climbers. Most travelers come here to see the two stunning gorges – Big (Velika) and Small (Mala).
Their steep cliffs rise to a height of more than 700 meters. Sections of the Big Gorge are no more than 50 meters wide, and in one of them you can find the source of the stream flowing through the canyon. It is a small lake surrounded by sharp rocks. Water cascading from the lake forms a small stream that flows into the Adriatic Sea in the rainy months of spring and autumn.
Address: Paklenica National Park, Starigrad, Croatia.
Plitvice Lakes National Park.| Photo: Dennis Jarvis / Flickr.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
The Plitvice Lakes are quite far away – an hour and a half drive north of Zadar. Nevertheless, it is one of the most popular nature parks in Europe. The park consists of 14 lakes connected by waterfalls and small ponds, and their waters flow down to the foot of the mountains. The most beautiful of these waterfalls is the Great Waterfall (Veliki Slap) 70 meters high. There are boardwalks between the waterfalls. Walking along them, you can see the whole panorama of the cascades and watch the underwater life of these beautiful lakes.
Address: National park Plitvička jezera, Plitvička jezera, Croatia.
Museum of Illusions
Museum of Illusions.
Museum of Illusions is a suitable option for tourists who are looking for something to see in Zadar with children or in rainy weather. The museum exhibits develop the mind and imagination: there are holograms, optical illusions, riddles, kaleidoscopes, optical mirages and crooked mirrors. The most popular attractions in the museum are the antigravity room and the vortex tunnel. Also here you can arrange a children’s party and invite a magician for children.
Address: Muzej Iluzija, 2, Poljana Zemaljskog odbora, 23000, Poljana, Croatia.
Island of Dugi otok.| Photo: D Smith / Flickr.
Zadar is an ideal place to start a journey along the Dalmatian coast and the beautiful islands of the Zadar Archipelago. One of the most interesting places in the archipelago is Dugi Otok – the largest island with an area of 124 square kilometers. There are many villages on it, which exist mainly due to farming and fishing. Island of Dugi otok is a popular vacation spot since Roman times.
There is the village of Sali, the main communication and port center with Renaissance summer houses and the church of St. Mary, and a fishing village Božava with the church of St. Nicholas from the 10th century. The island is famous for its beautiful rocky landscapes and natural attractions.
Among them are the famous Sakarun Bay and the Telascica Nature Park, where you can bask on the beach or scuba dive. Other islands in the Zadar archipelago, such as Molat, Olib, Pasman, Ugljan and Premuda, are also known for their calm and beautiful beaches.
Zadar (Croatia) – the most detailed information about the city with photos. The main sights of Zadar with descriptions, guides and maps.
City of Zadar (Croatia)
Zadar is a city in Croatia, located in Northern Dalmatia. It is known for its historic center with magnificent medieval churches and Roman ruins. Zadar is the heart of the Adriatic and an open-air museum, where the heritage of Antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance is frozen among the ancient streets. Interestingly, the city is one of the most beautiful and ancient in Croatia, but it is not spoilt for tourists in spite of the abundance of attractions and cultural monuments, as it is slightly away from the popular resorts of southern Dalmatia.
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Geography and Climate
Zadar is located in the north of the historic Dalmatia region in the center of the Croatian Adriatic. The old town is located on a peninsula (promontory) that used to be separated from the mainland by a moat. Zadar is located on the border of the humid subtropical and Mediterranean climate. Summers are warm with an average temperature of 23-25 degrees. Winter is mild and humid with an average temperature of 8-10 degrees. Most precipitation falls from September to December.
The old town of Zadar
Information for tourists
- The population is more than 75 thousand people.
- The area of 25 square kilometers.
- The language is Croatian.
- Currency – kuna.
- Visa – Schengen.
- Time – Central European UTC +1, in summer +2.
The area around Zadar is known for its crystal clear waters, many small islands and beautiful natural sandy beaches.
- Borik is a beautiful beach 4 km from the city, which occupies a bay with a shallow and sandy bottom.
- Kolovare – a traditional town beach, east of the historic center of Zadar.
- Diklo – pebble beaches of the prestigious summer resort, located northwest of the old part of Zadar.
- Vitrenjak – beach near the sailing club Uskok.
Best time to visit
The period from May to September. The high season is July and August. During this period, the temperature during the day is about 30-32 degrees, and the sea warms up to 24-26 degrees.
The settlement at the site of today’s Zadar existed long before the arrival of the Romans. The city has been constantly inhabited for almost three thousand years. In the 9th century BC the Illyrians lived here. In the 1st century BC Dalmatia was conquered by the Roman Empire. In the 5th century after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the city was attacked by the Goths and the Lombards. In the 7th century, the Slavs came to the land. Around the same time, the territory of Dalmatia was conquered by the Byzantines, under whom Zadar became the capital of the province. At the beginning of the 9th century Zadar was briefly conquered by the Franks, and at the beginning of the 11th century – by Venice.
Historical center of Zadar
In 1069 Zadar became a part of the Croatian kingdom. In 1105 the city recognized the power of the Hungarian-Croatian throne, but received a wide autonomy. After that Zadar was involved in the confrontation between Venice and Byzantium for the Adriatic. The Venetians considered the city one of the key points for their trade routes. In the 12th century Venice subjugates Zadar, but citizens’ uprisings and help from the Hungarian-Croatian king freed it from the Venetians. In 1202 the city was taken and sacked by crusaders sent by the Venetian Doge. In 1216 the Hungarian-Croatian state gave up Zadar, which became part of the Venetian Republic.
In the middle of the 14th century Dalmatia was conquered by King Louis the Great of Hungary. But already in 1409 Venice regained control of the region. Vladislav Durazzo sold her all of Dalmatia for 100 thousand ducats. The Venetian Republic owned Zadar for four centuries. In 1396 the university was founded, which is one of the oldest in Europe. In the 16th century Zadar began to play a key role in the fight against the Ottoman Empire. Here began to build strong fortifications.
In 1797 the city was annexed to Austria. The Habsburgs owned Dalmatia until World War I. After the region was occupied by Italy and became part of it. During World War II, 80% of the old city was damaged by bombing. In 1947 Zadar became part of Yugoslavia, and in 1991 it became part of Croatia.
How to get there
Zadar Airport has connections (most flights are seasonal) to London, Oslo, Stockholm, Paris, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Dublin, Brussels and several other cities. There are buses from the airport to the center. The ticket price is 25 kuna (2018).
There is a train station in Zadar, but the number of destinations, as well as their popularity, is low. There are direct buses to Zadar from Zagreb, Split, Dubrovnik, Rijeka, some cities in Italy and Germany.
Major shopping centers in Zadar:
- MAR&VAL Boutique on Don Ive Prodana 3 is a well-known store that sells items by Croatian designers.
- Supernova – a large shopping center with 75 stores. Located at the entrance to the city from the A-1 freeway.
- City Galeria on Polačišće 2 – a modern shopping mall with stores of famous brands.
- Maraschino – the original liquor.
- Replicas of ancient glassware and archaeological artifacts.
- Barkajol – ceramic figurines of famous zadar boats.
- Products made of local lavender.
In the old town there are many excellent inexpensive pizzerias, and in the harbor area you can find many excellent restaurants with delicious Croatian and Mediterranean cuisine.
Sunset over Zadar
- Kroštule – dough products.
- Janjetina na ražnju – roasted lamb, one of the most typical and delicious dishes in Northern Dalmatia.
- ŠALŠA – traditional olive oil sauce.
- KOKOSŠJI TINGULET – chicken with white wine.
- LEŠO Janjetina – lamb with sesame seeds.
- FRIGANI INĆUNI – fried anchovies.
- TUNJ NA KALJSKI – tuna fried in olive oil.
- ČIČVARDA – dish with beans.
- RIBARSKI BRUDET – national dish from several kinds of fish.
In Zadar there is a lot to see and do – it’s a stunning place with interesting ancient sights and cultural monuments. The old town is situated on the tip of a narrow peninsula and is surrounded by city walls with towers and city gates.
The oldest sections of the city walls were built by the Romans and are near the pedestrian bridge along the eastern wall. The rest of the walls were built by the Venetians. The city fortifications of old Zadar are preserved until today four city gates. The most impressive is the Earth Gate. This magnificent structure was built in Renaissance style in 1543 by the Venetians and was the main entrance to the city.
The earth gate was built on the foundations of an ancient Roman arch. The facade is decorated with a bas-relief of a Venetian lion, coats of arms and two commemorative inscriptions. Other gates are located in the square of five wells and in the area of the port.
The port gate was built in the 16th century and served as the northern entrance to the city.
Five Wells Square and the Captain’s Tower
Of the city’s towers, the Captain’s Tower is the oldest and most significant. It was built in the 13th century and sits on the charming Square of Five Wells, which was formerly used to supply the city’s water supply.
The Forum is one of the oldest places in Zadar. This Roman square was built between the first century BC and the third century AD. The Roman heritage has been preserved in the form of the foundations of several public buildings, an ancient road and the remains of Corinthian columns. Zadar forum is one of the largest in the Adriatic. It has dimensions of 90 by 45 meters. On the south side is a monumental basilica, on the west were Roman temples to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. During Late Antiquity, the nucleus of the forum evolved into a developed bishop’s complex with a basilica and annexes. In the Middle Ages, most of the Roman buildings were demolished and a spacious square was formed here. Criminals were chained to the surviving column until the 19th century.
The People’s Square has been the center of social life in Zadar since its establishment in the 16th century. In the western part is the old city guard house (Gradska Straza), built in the mid-1500s. The clock tower was added in the 18th century. Opposite the tower is the City Lodge (Gradska Loza), built in 1565 in late Renaissance style. There is also a well-preserved Romanesque church. And in the eastern part of the square there is a Romanesque building with a 15th century Renaissance balcony.
Kalelarga is the main street of Zadar. It was formed by the Romans and connected the city gate with the forum. Most of the street and the surrounding architecture were damaged during World War II bombing raids.
The promenade is a great place to walk along the Adriatic Sea. It is believed that here you can watch one of the most beautiful sunsets on the Adriatic. The waterfront was built in the 19th century, when most of the city wall was destroyed and numerous palaces and docks were built. Most of the buildings were destroyed in the bombing raids and replaced with green delights.
The sea organ is one of the most popular artistic structures in Croatia, which is essentially a giant musical instrument played by the waves. It consists of a series of underwater tubes under marble steps that just create the sounds. This interesting structure is located at the western end of the promenade. The sea organ was built in 2005.
Greetings to the Sun
Nearby is an impressive circular installation, Greetings to the Sun, consisting of 300 multi-layered glass plates and solar elements that glow at night and create an interesting entourage to the sounds of the sea organ.
Sacral architecture of Zadar
The old town of Zadar is famous for its many magnificent ancient churches.
Church of St. Anastasia
The Zadar Cathedral of St. Anastasia is the largest church in Dalmatia. This ancient temple was built in the ninth century by the Byzantines (or maybe even earlier in the 4th and 5th centuries) and was rebuilt in the 12th and 13th centuries in the Romanesque style. It is a three-nave basilica with three portals and numerous blind arches. The main portal has a beautiful Gothic relief. In the upper part of the facade there are two windows in the rose style. Among the interesting features of the interior are the 9th century relics of St. Anastasia, stone altars and an impressive carved wooden choir. The beautiful bell tower was added in the 15th century. The upper levels were added in the 19th century. You can climb the bell tower and see the beautiful view of Zadar.
Church of St. Donat
The Church of St. Donat is the symbol of Zadar, the most famous monumental building of the town from the Middle Ages and one of the biggest examples of Byzantine architecture in Dalmatia. It was built in the 9th century. The church was originally named in honor of the Holy Trinity, but was later dedicated to Bishop Donatus. Because of its distinctive cylindrical shape and monumentality, it belongs among the best known and most significant European Doromanian churches. Its style ranges from early Christian to Carolingian architecture. The church was built on the ruins of an ancient Roman forum and fragments of ancient buildings were used in its construction. The floors inside the church have been removed to reveal the original masonry of the forum.
Church of St. Chrysogonus
The Church of St. Chrysogon (Krševana) is a Romanesque church built on the site of an old Roman marketplace in the 12th century by Benedictine monks. It is dedicated to St. Krshevan, the patron saint of Zadar. The building was part of the ancient monastery, destroyed during the Second World War. The interior of this magnificent old three-aisled church includes a Baroque main altar, dating from the early 1700s, and an apse containing a number of well-preserved frescoes from the 13th century. The main portal is decorated with a semicircular chandelier and a triangular pediment above it. The side wall has a long series of blind arches resting on twisted pillars. A particularly valuable architectural element is the outer gallery on the main apse. The bell tower was begun in 1485.
Church of St Francis
The Church of St. Frane is the oldest Gothic church in Dalmatia, built in the 13th century. It is part of an ancient Franciscan monastery from the same century. The building has a single-nave structure and Renaissance-style interior. The bell tower was built in the 19th century on the foundations of an earlier structure.
Church of St. Andrew and St. Petar
The Church of St. Andrew and Petar is a small, single-nave church with a simple 17th-century facade and remnants of 12th-century Byzantine frescoes. The south side wall and apse were built in the 5th century.
Church of St. Elijah
The Church of St. Elias is an Orthodox church built in the 16th century on the site of an earlier Christian structure for Greek merchants and sailors.
Church of St. Mary
The Church of Saint Mary is located on the east side of the Roman Forum. This small church was part of an 11th-century Benedictine convent.
Church of St. Schieme
The Church of St. Schieme is an early Christian three-aisled church from the 5th century. Throughout its history, it has been rebuilt several times. The famous silver chest is on the main altar.
Church of St. Michael
The Church of St. Michael is a 12th-century Gothic building with a beautiful Gothic portal. The church houses a collection of works of art.
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