There’s plenty to see and do in this lovely town – check out our guide to sightseeing in Zadar!
Zadar’s Old Town is located on the tip of a narrow peninsula. Most of the town is surrounded by city walls, with towers and the two city gates being of interest. It is a stunning place to visit!
The Mainland Gate (Kopnena vrata in Croatian), to the east of the Old Town, was built in 1543 and has the city coat of arms engraved on it. Its use was as the main entrance to the Old Town from the…mainland, unsurprisingly!
Close to this is the Captain’s Tower (Kapetanova kula), dating from the 13th century, part of the city’s defences. A much more recent terrace has been built, meaning you can climb up the tower to see the great view. In the same square – Trg pet bunara – are five wells (pet bunara means five wells in Croatia). They were built in 1574 and used to function as the water supply for the city.
The other gate is the Port Gate (Lucka vrata) to the north, built in 1573.
Kalelarga (official name Siroka ulica – meaning Broad Street) is the main ‘street’ that runs through Zadar Old Town, and features a number of cafes, ice cream shops, regular shops and more!
In the centre of the Old Town is St Donatus Church (Crkva Sveti Donata) which was built at the beginning of the 9th century – using some stone from the Forum (see below) – and stands at 27m high. In a city of 30 churches, this one stopped being used as a church in the late 18th century, but is still used today as an excellent concert venue and is something of a Zadar icon.
Nearby is the Church of St. Mary (Crkva Sveta Marija) as well as the Cathedral of St. Anastasia (Katedrala Sveta Stosija) from the 13th century.
The belltower (zvonik) of the Cathedral of St Anastasia – which is actually located almost next to St Donatus Church – can be climbed for gorgeous views over Zadar, out to sea and particularly over the people strolling down below on Kalelarga. The steps up to the top are fairly narrow but not particularly scary, and there’s not much room at the top either – but the views more than make up for this.
The Forum in Zeleni Trg used to be 95m by 45m in size, believed to have been built between 1st century BC and 3rd century AD. Today, very little of it remains apart from the paving stones and some walls. There is also a 14m high column to which, up until 1840, the town’s offenders were chained to suffer public humiliation. Zeleni Trg, however, is still Zadar’s bustling central square.
The Archeological Museum, just off The Forum, is worth a visit – this museum is well laid out and offers detailed explanations on all of the exhibits, including quite an extensive history of the region and Croatia.
If you have kids in tow – or perhaps you’re a big kid at heart! – check out the Museum of Illusion. You can have fun with the range of exhibits, from the vortex tunnel to the anti-gravity and rotated rooms, and much more besides.
Zadar is also home to two very unusual sights that are rather modern, although no less enchanting. The Greeting to the Sun (Pozdrav suncu) and the Sea Organ (Morske orgulje) are next to each other by the sea on Istarska Obala.
The former is an art installation that is a collection of glass plates in a large circle. Undernearth are solar elements that charge during the day and then power the numerous lights in the evening.
The latter is a collection of pipes under the harbourfront steps that “play” chords as the waves come in and out. Both are must sees (must experiences, really) and are wonderful examples of well thought-out modern sights. (Well done, Zadar!)
Check out our video of Zadar’s harbourfront below where you can hear the sounds of the Sea Organ:
The sunset in Zadar
Not really a ‘sight’, but we include it here as it is something that the town is so famous for. Even Alfred Hitchcock claimed that “Zadar has the most beautiful sunset in the world”. It really is a stunning sight, and there’s almost no better way to spend an early evening in the town. Join the groups of people on the harbourfront to watch the sun go down. In the background, the Sea Organ makes its soothing sounds. And then, when the sun is finished doing its thing, you can play around on the Greeting to the Sun. A must!