Zadar is one of Croatia’s hidden gems, a city steeped in history that is still relatively off the radar of the crowds of tourists that flock to Dubrovnik and Split. Zadar has an old town and new town, the old town located on a small outcrop that is separated from the new town by a deep harbour. Most visitors stay in the atmospheric old town, where many of the landmarks, restaurants and bars are located.
Croatia has a long and complex history of occupation and influence by other nations, and Zadar is no different. In the middle of the city you will find an old Roman Forum and the Church of St Donatus, and the entrance to the city is framed by the Venetian Land Gate. The Square of Five Wells and its Captain’s Tower are other Venetian contributions, and the whole old town is encircled by defensive walls.
Zadar is the closest coastal destination to the Plitvice Lakes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that features stunning lakes and waterfalls. The most amazing thing about Plitvice is its vibrant colours that vary between all shades of green, blue and grey, making it one of Croatia’s most-photographed locations. Alternatively, you can swim in lakes at Krka National Park, or beach hop on a tour of the Kornati Islands.
Zadar’s food is a mix of Mediterranean and Italian, with seafood, beef and rich pasta dishes dominating menus. Eating out is fairly cheap, and portion sizes are more than generous. Zadar doesn’t have much of a club scene, but there are some beautiful open-air bars serving delicious cocktails. Two of the most popular are The Garden, where you can lie on beds under the stars, and Ledana set in a lovely park.