How to spend a perfect weekend in Zadar, Croatia
For idyllic deep blue water, exquisite seafood and a thriving Old Town encased by Roman Walls and the Adriatic Sea, Zadar is the perfect weekend break to explore an overlooked region of Croatia...
Your guide to a short break in Zadar
Croatia’s fifth largest city and its oldest continuously inhabited settlement, Zadar is often overlooked for the more popular cities and regions in the south - Split, Dubrovnik and Hvar. What the city lacks in golden beaches it makes up for in history, culture and dazzling blue water surrounding the city.
Let tourists flock towards the south of the country; you’ll have the cobblestone streets of Zadar to yourself at times and you can mingle with the locals.
Before you read on, make sure you read our Zadar Travel Guide, telling you all you need to know about this amazing city!
When to go: March to June or September to October is a perfect time to soak up the Croatian sun without the crowds pouring off the cruise ships.
Getting there: Ryanair flies directly to Zadar Airport (ZAD) from across the UK, while EasyJet operates flights from London Gatwick.
Getting to Zadar from ZAD: There is an airport bus that departs ZAD 30 minutes after every flight arrives. However, if the flight is delayed the bus will leave anyway, and if you miss it, a taxi is your only transport option; there is a taxis rank directly outside the airport.
Both take 15-20 minutes into Zadar Old Town.
For the return journey, head to Zadar Bus Station, east of the Old Town. You can catch coaches to take you to the airport, as well as to other destinations in Croatia, such as Krka National Park, Plitvice Park, Zagreb, Split and more.
Travelling in Zadar: Zadar is completely walkable, with little-to-no automobiles in the city centre. Boats and ferries leave regularly to the Dalmatian Islands close by.
Where to stay: Hotel Bastion is a chic 4* hotel by the ferry port in the heart of the Old Town.
Where to eat: Tri Bunara is a pizzeria with a sweet terrace on a cobblestone street. For breakfast, try Kavana Sv. Lovre on Zadar’s main plaza (Narodini Trg). Or, grab a coffee and pastry at Pjaceta Bar overlooking the fabulously colourful local market.
Top tip: People still smoke in the bars and restaurants - just be aware.
Spend time adjusting to the surroundings. Zadar’s Old Town, where you will spend most of your time, is a maze of narrow cobblestone streets - if you’re not careful it can be disorientating.
Climb the city's iconic Bell Tower for unrivalled views over the city.
Walk along the boardwalk an hour before the sun goes down towards the tip of the Old Town to the west and stop by Slasticarna, the city’s best ice cream parlour. As you get closer, you’ll notice the deep, low, natural hum of the Sea Organ where water pushes air through the carefully designed whistles on the floor.
Next, enjoy the spectacle of one of Europe’s most magical sunsets with the rest of the city as it congregates on the boardwalk. The sun slowly disappears over the Dalmatian Islands and the sky turns into a special purple and orange hue. Then, dance the night away on the Greeting to the Sun, a 22m wide solar panel which has absorbed the suns rays and becomes and exceptional, interactive light show.
Finish your night off on the terrace of Zlatni Kutić with a drink or two and relax.
After a day of relaxing, today is the day to trek and explore some of the Dalmatian Islands that tantalised you from the water during last night's sunset. Catch the ferry to Uglijan Island - 20 minute journey - and walk the small tracks of sleepy Preko before ascending to Fort Saint Michael, a 6th-century fort perched precariously on the highest point of the island.
Avoid this in the harsh heat as the hike lasts two hours at a medium-level difficulty, but the 360 degree views are unmatched. The blue water sparkles in the sunlight, and the lush green islands are breath-taking. Take extra precaution walking around the fort - the walls are narrow to walk on and there are no rails.
Stop by Čoko Roko on the way back to the port and reward yourself with an ice cream, or something stronger.
Freshen up back at your accommodation and enjoy a night at 4 Cantuna, a relaxed fine-dining restaurant with a perfect terrace to people-watch.
Top Tip: Pack a picnic from the local market and enjoy lunch with a view at the top of Fort Saint Michael.
It’s time to explore outside the city on your last day.
Only one hour away is Krka National Park, Croatia’s most celebrated park awash with pristine waterfalls, winding paths into castle ruins, and vibrant forests. The most mystical area of Krka National Park is Skradinski Buk waterfall, a picturesque phenomenon that cascades into a public swimming lake.
Venture even further up the lake towards Franjevački samostan (Mother of Mercy Franciscan Monastery), a 14th-century church on a tiny island in the middle of Lake Viskovac. The monastery has been extensively worked on since it was founded, with a bell tower added in 1728.
Return to the Zadar and experience the sunset one last time, or at least the Sea Organ and Greeting to the Sun, and settle down at Tri Bunara for your last meal.