Nin is an exceedingly charming little town at the top of North Dalmatia, around 30km northeast of Zadar and very close to the island of Pag. It’s perhaps not the best known Croatian destination, but it’s a short hop up from Zadar making it very easy to reach and there’s plenty to enjoy here.
The main core of the town is located on a small islet situated in a lagoon that is connected to the mainland by two stone bridges – unusual and rather unique! Nin is also well known for its beaches which stretch out for over 8km in length. (Astonishing!) The most famous beach here is Queen’s Beach – see more about this below. The town also plays an intriguing part in Croatian history.
Nin was proclaimed a European Destination of Excellence in 2010 in recognition of its beauty and pleasantness as a place to visit.
History of Nin
For such a small place, the town has a fascinating and rather important history. First thought to have been settled around 3,000 years ago, Nin’s main claim to fame in a Croatian sense is that it was the first Croatian royal town in the 9th century and a permanent seat for several Croatian Kings. It was here that the first Croatian bishops were established including Gregory of Nin (see below) who played a large part in establishing the Croatian language and identity.
Under the control of Venice, the town was completely destroyed twice to sacrifice it and protect the larger town of Zadar from the Ottomans.
Getting to Nin
The nearest airport to this town is Zadar Airport, and it’s easy to reach Nin once landing at this airport. Take an airport transfer bus to the main bus station in Zadar, and then make your way to suburban bus 101 which will take you to Nin. This same bus also makes stops in nearby Petrcane and Zaton should you be staying in one of these two locations. You can see the timetable for bus 101 here.
If you’re attempting to reach Nin from elsewhere in Croatia, we would recommend that you travel to Zadar first and then travel on using the above-mentioned bus.
What to See and Do in Nin
Enter the Old Town part of Nin via the stone bridge and through the old stone gate. It’s a great part of town to spend a few hours walking around exploring and getting a feel for the place.
The Church of the Holy Cross is one of the famous symbols of the town, having been built in the 9th century – the oldest religious building in Nin. The Church is often referred to as the “smallest cathedral in the world” and it stands at just 7.8 metres long and 7.6 metres wide. The Church’s windows are positioned to act as a kind of sundial and can mark the winter and summer solstices and spring and autumn equinoxes.
The Church of St Nicholas is another important church in this local area. Built in the 11th and 12th centuries, the Croatian Kings, after they were crowned, would ride on horseback to be presented to the crowd here.
As we’ve mentioned above, Nin is a great place to visit if you enjoy beach life. The 8km of beaches will keep you occupied for some time and they’re very suitable for the whole family. Beach lovers will delight in the fact that – that rarity for Croatia – many of the beaches here are of the sandy variety. Some say that the seawater here is also warmer, another plus for enjoying a bit of sea and sun fun here.
Queen’s Beach (Kraljicina plaza) is so named because it was thought to be a favourite of the wife of the first Croatian king, King Tomislav. The long, very shallow sandy beach is perfect for all ages – especially very young ones – and so it is a great place for families to come to. Unusually, the beach is accessed via a 10-metre section of shallow water…which is of course fun in itself! There are ample changing facilities here plus beach rental equipment and watersports facilities too.
Close to Queen’s Beach is an area of medicinal mud – the kind of stuff you coat your whole body in before leaving it to dry in the sun (via a quick sunbathing session) and then rinsing it off in the seawater. It is said that this mud can help with skin conditions, rheumatic diseases and even fertility. Whether true or not, it’s still a fun and relaxing thing to do.
Zdrijac Beach is close to Queen’s Beach and also features coarse sand. It has changing facilities.
Bilotinjak Beach is located a little to the south, close to the Zaton Holiday Resort, and is another partially sandy beach. However, this one has no facilities so be prepared for this should you visit – you will be rewarded with a slice of nature.
Gregory of Nin Statue
If you’ve visited Split, you have surely come across the large Gregory of Nin (Grgur Ninski in Croatian) statue that is located just by the Golden Gate in the Diocletian’s Palace area. Well, the “…of Nin” part is…here! Gregory served as the Bishop of Nin in the early part of the 10th century and is an important figure in Croatian history as he was instrumental in establishing religious services in the Croatian language, which helped promote and strengthen the language at the time.
The statue in Nin is made from bronze and was made by the famous Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic. As with the statue in Split, this Gregory of Nin statue also has a golden toe due to people rubbing it for luck. You’re bound to do the same.
As well as being well known for its beaches, the area of Nin has a long association with salt production. Nin Saltworks (Solana Nin) has over 1,500 years of tradition; the first salt production in this area was established by the Venetians in the 15th century. The salt produced here is done so ecologically with natural elements – with the sun, the sea and the wind assisting the harvest of salt in five large pools of water.
The Saltworks offers tours to help you learn more about salt production. Should you really want to get an understanding of the process, you can even undertake a 90-minute saltworker experience.
Of course, be sure to go home with some of their products, especially their Flower of Salt which is a nutrient-enriched salt.
Events in Nin
The Festival of the Sun and Light takes place in the Church of the Holy Cross to mark the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. Attendees can watch the first sun rays of the day enter the Church; the rest of the day is given over to workshops, performances and music.
On 21st July each year the Sokol Festival takes place. Sokol is a local speciality; it is pork meat that is cured first using salt, then with boiled red wine then rubbed with spices and smoked and dried by the wind. This festival is the perfect time to sample this delicacy.
Eating and Drinking in Nin
Restaurant Pizzeria Peperoni is the top place in town to have pizza with a wide variety of options.
Mad Duck is the place to head to for tasty burger treats, plus pizzas (including special ones with black dough and sokol meat), salads and grill choices.
Restaurant Sokol is a family-run restaurant that was established in 1951. There’s a very wide range of tasty meat dishes plus some excellent seafood ones too.
Accommodation in Nin
There are no hotels located in Nin itself, although there are some hotel options in the wider area. The main accommodation in this region is the ever-popular Zaton Holiday Resort which is a large-scale resort actually located in Zaton, around 3km outside of Nin. The resort offers camping pitches, mobile homes, apartments and glamping options as well as a whole heap of activities and amenities for all ages – from the private mostly sandy Blue Flag beach to the pool complex with multiple pools for ages (and a Splash Park), the playgrounds and sports facilities to the kids’ club, there are also several restaurants and bars located here.
For other hotel choices, the Hotel Laguna is a smart four-star option with a great location in the small settlement of Privlaka whilst the Hotel Pinija in Petrcane offers modern rooms and indoor and outdoor pools, and the four-star Hotel Petrcane offers comfortable rooms and also has an outdoor pool
To stay in Nin itself, there are plenty of villas and private apartments. Take a look at Accommodation in Nin on Booking.com to see what’s available.
For campers, your options are the Ninska Laguna Campsite or the Auto Camp Grbe. The former has spaces for 100 campervans or tents and access to a sandy beach, whilst the latter is smaller with 21 pitches.
Of course, it would also be possible to stay in Zadar and make the short hop up to Nin to enjoy it. Take a look at our Accommodation in Zadar page for the very wide range of accommodation on offer in this town. Alternatively, consider staying in private accommodation on the nearby island of Vir.