the best things to do and see

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Zadar, unlike nearby Split or the touristy Dubrovnik, is not yet so well known as a destination. With the passage of time, however, things are changing and, thanks to its historical and cultural sights, Zadar is increasingly becoming part of our travel itineraries and a favourite destination for thousands of travellers. Precisely because of its central position, along the Dalmatian coast of Croatia, Zadar lends itself well to being visited both in transit, and as a strategic point of stay from which to explore the surrounding area, such as visiting national parks.

Are you in Zadar for your holidays and want some tips on how to organise your time? Well, if you need some suggestions, go ahead and read my article, you'll get a quick rundown on what are the must-have experiences in Zadar.

The sounds of the Marine Organ

Be enchanted by the sounds of the Marine Organ, a truly unique place in the world. Created by local architect Nikola Bašić, the organ collects water from the Adriatic Sea in underground pipes designed to produce dreamy sounds. A perfect mix of human ingenuity and the power of nature, which makes this place almost mystical, suitable for contemplation and relaxation… If you want to enjoy the spectacle, reach the end of the Zadar peninsula, sit on the stone steps and listen to the ever-changing repertoire created by the movement of waves and tides. A melancholic and at the same time nostalgic concert, almost as if the earth itself is breathing…and if you want to join the many sounds, then go ahead and dive in for a swim.

The lights of the Sun Salutation

The same artist who conceived the Marine Organ, has created an equally important installation not far away: the Sun Salutation, a circle of 22 meters in diameter formed by 300 panels of multiple layers of glass, which, during the day absorbing solar energy, are ready to reproduce suggestive plays of light after sunset. The work manages to combine nature, technology and art; the idea was born from the intent to illuminate the waterfront through a solar experiment and at the same time, showing the wonders of nature. Go to the big glass circle just before sunset and let yourself be amazed by this original light show.

Plitvice Lakes National Park

Probably the most beautiful in Europe, with its countless waterfalls, the Plitvice Lakes National Park is 130 km (1h 30’ by car) from Zadar, the perfect place to spend a day among the forests and the green and blue waters of the waterfalls. Once you enter the park, you’ll find the largest lake, Kozjac, followed by a path that will take you to the smaller lakes. The park’s main attractions include Lake Milanovic with its emerald green waters, the viewpoint from the Šupljara cave and Veliki Slap, the highest waterfall in Croatia. To do this excursion you can drive there independently, or join organised group tours.

Zadar’s nightlife

Among the most attractive places to spend a summer even ing are the bars scattered throughout the streets of the old town of Zadar, sipping a glass of Croatian white wined enjoying the sea breeze. If you prefer a more refined location then head to the Varos district at the south -western end of the old town, which is full of cafes and clubs frequented by artists and creative types, or to nearby La Bodega, with its excellent Croatian wines. But to capture the essence of cool Zadar, go up the old city walls to the Garden Lounge, a fantastic bar offering sea views, secluded corners and good music.

The old town and the traces of ancient Rome

Leave the pretty bars and cafes for an aperitif by the sea…wonder through the narrow streets of Zadar to discover the old town, the beating heart of the city, where you can learn more about its history, all comfortably on foot. Just as in Roman times, today the Forum is the city’s main meeting place. Not far away you will find the Archaeological Museum (entrance fee 30 kunas = € 5,00) dedicated to the Roman era, which houses a marble statue of Augustus 2,5 mt high and a scale model of the Forum. There is also the Museum of Ancient Glass (entrance fee 30 kunas = € 5), which illustrates the invention of glass and the history of its manufacture, displaying examples such as urns, amulets, jewellery and Roman jars.

The flavours of the local cuisine

Based on simple principles, Dalmatian cuisine is considered one of the healthiest in the world, and the locals owe their vitality to a diet of grilled fish accompanied by seasonal vegetables and small amounts of spices, with the inevitable touch of olive oil. Each meal is completed with a glass of quality wine from the rich local vineyards. Thanks to its rich gastronomic offer, Zadar is at the centre of the Croatian culinary scene, ready to satisfy every kind of need, from fast food, pastry shops and taverns to the most exclusive ones. Most of the restaurants are located in the old part of town and it is here that you will be able to taste a good platter of Croatian prosciutto and sheep cheese from the island of Pag. There are also white and red wines, delicious sweets, liquors (especially Maraschino, made from the ripe fruit of the Maraska cherry, a native Dalmatian cherry) and grappas.

The nearby island of Pag

The island of Pag, thanks to a bridge that connects it directly to the mainland, is accessible to the nearby Croatian city of Zadar not only by sea. A popular tourist destination as well as by the youngest, even for lovers of good food, the island is characterised by a beautiful natural landscape typical of the Mediterranean and bases its economy on agriculture, fishing, cattle breeding, salt pans and, for a few years now, also on tourism. If we think about the gastronomy, the national culinary symbol is the characteristic paški sir (Pag sheep cheese); with its salty and herb flavoured taste, you can enjoy it even more when combined with the typical Pag ham and local wines. Although in the restaurants of Pag you will have many opportunities to taste it, if you feel like dedicating your day to an excellent tasting, I recommend visiting the village of Kolan, the capital of cheese.

The Kornati islands and Telašćica Nature Park

Set out to explore the northern Dalmatian coastline with its typical limestone cliffs with destination the Kornati islands. With organised boat tours departing from Zadar you can enjoy a day trip to discover bays and coves, caves and cliffs. Depending on your request, choose the tour that suits you best…for example, you can think about sailing along the waters of the Zadar Channel to the island of Uglijan or if you prefer, access the Telašćica Bay with a visit to its Nature Park, the largest and most beautiful natural harbour on the Adriatic. In addition, between swimming stops you will have the opportunity to make a short pit stop at the Mir slat lake and the famous cliffs of the island of Dugi Otok, also known as “Devil’s Cliffs”.

Here’s what I suggest you do once you arrive in Croatia. According to my experience you will not be able to do without… from the places to visit to the good food to taste of this marvellous earth… I am sure that Zara will know how to satisfy to full your demands, making every day of your vacation special.

mariagrazia youknow

Maria Grazia Funel

Born in 1989
Coming from Southern Italy, I cannot help but love the sea and, more generally, everything about travels and new places to discover. My perfect day? A beach, at sunset, in good company, with a nice bottle of wine!