How I spent a week in Zadar

Zadar is a gem of a city right on the Adriatic Coast, and the only city I’ve visited where the sea genuinely seems to be treated like a swimming pool – ladders up to the pavement all along the seafront, people sunbathing on the wide stone pavements and bathing platforms in the old town. With it’s stunning sunsets and unique features like the sea organ, Zadar has to be one of my favourite European cities.

The list below is by no means a prescriptive checklist, but hopefully sharing how I spent my week in Zadar will help you make the most of your time in such a beautiful city.

Day 1 – Travelling to Zadar

I travelled in early-mid July when going to Zadar to make the most of the summer weather and avoid the school holiday crowds. It was an early flight (although the excitement at being at the airport before 4am always overtakes the tiredness), and arrived at the airport around midday. There is a relatively cheap airport bus to the city, which I would recommend over getting a taxi – it is relatively frequent and delivers you to the main bus terminal in Zadar. It’s well worth getting this bus back too – the public transport, from my experience, is reliable in Zadar.

In terms of location, I stayed very centrally in the old town and would highly suggest trying to get accommodation in the old town due to it’s closeness to the ‘Pozdrav Suncu’ which is bustling hub to watch the sunset over the sea in the evenings. On the first day, it’s worth heading up to ‘Pozdrav Suncu’ – translated roughly as a greeting to the sun. It’s an illuminated part of the floor that comes on as the sun sets, however the main attraction here really is nature; watching the hues of amber and red as the sun dips below the skyline. Don’t leave watching a sunset until the last few days – it was one of my favourite parts about Zadar and something that had to be done every night while I was there.

Photos taken in Zadar and throughout the holiday

Day 2 – Swimming and Exploring Zadar

As with any holiday, you sometimes need a bit of time to settle into it. Zadar is a beautiful place to relax and chill in the heat in summer, try one of the bathing platforms near the market in the old town. There are plenty of cafes nearby if you need WiFi or a drink and the market sells a delicious selection of fresh juices (friendly recommendation to try the lavender, lemon and orange fresh juice) that you can take with you. If you aren’t quite seeking an adrenaline rush of jumping off the bathing platforms into the sea, you can find ladders into the pretty much all over the old part of the town in Zadar.

On a day where you want to half chill but also get some things done, it’s a perfect time to get your bearings and also visit the 5 Wells Square and Captain’s tower, both still in the Old Town of Zadar.

Day 3 – Plitvice National Park

Plitvice National Park. If you take nothing else from this post, the Plitvice Lakes cannot be missed. It’s a good day trip from Zadar – you can use the public buses that go from the main bus stop, although they may be a little crowded on the way back. I ended up sitting on the bottom of the bus stairs for the journey back, however if you go early the buses there will have plenty of space.

The Park itself is a huge tourist attraction, so you will need some patience if you going in the height of summer, however it is well worth it. There are boardwalks all through the park and with a boat through one of the lakes. The waterfalls there are stunning, and the colour of the lakes themselves is something you’ve only seen before in photographs.

If you’re a fast walker, you can easily go around the long walking trail in a few hours – I believe that even with the crowds I managed it in half the suggested time allowed, and there is a small bus back from one side of the park to the entrance. The national park also has a cafe that you can grab drinks from.

Photos I took during the walk around Plitvice National Park

Day 4 – Boat Trip to Kornati National Park

You can book plenty of boat trips on the small stands that appear every evening down by the seafront if you are walking up to the ‘Pozdrav Suncu’ and the Sea Organ. The Kornati Islands are an archipelago near Zadar, and this is one of Croatia’s national parks – both land and sea.

The boat trips can include a drink, lunch and comprise of several stops in the many islands. One of the islands the boat trip I went on had a climb up a mountain to an old fort, a stop for swimming and also stopped off at one of the larger islands for a couple of hours with a chance to wander up to the viewpoints and take a dip in a salt lake on top of the mountain on the island.

Day 5 – Krka Waterfalls National Park

I know it’s yet another national park, but the scenery in Croatia is stunning and all the national parks are different that you really can’t miss any of them.

Krka national park is a little like Plitvice, however both are worth a visit. Due to new legislation, from 2021 swimming has been banned in the National Park to protect it. The Krka National Park also encompasses a few old houses and mills at the top with displays and information to learn more about local culture and traditional lifestyles. At the start, Krka appears to be busier than Plitvice as you enter through a bridge to take photos of the main waterfalls however as soon as you begin walking you lose the crowd fairly quickly. In Krka, you can choose your own path rather than following a boardwalk system with one route like in Plitvice.

Krka National Park

Day 6 – Kayaking on the Zrmanja River

I personally am a fan of and have had experience in kayaking but reassure anyone who has never kayaked before – the Zrmanja River is probably one of the best places to try out kayaking. The focus for the day is not on speed or skills but on enjoying the change in scenery as you go down the river, which warms about 5 degrees from where you start to where you end up. The lunch stop too, is one of the highlights where you pull up to a small pebble beach in the middle for a few hours and can take a swim in the river.

One thing to bear in mind if you are booking tours – ask how many people are on the river with you and how many guides. Especially in peak travelling seasons if you haven’t kayaked, you want to make sure you are comfortable with the numbers of people with you.

Day 7 – Exploring Zadar Further

I always love to have the last day back in the city I’m actually staying in. The Bell Tower in the centre of the Old Town is very pretty and inexpensive to go up, though you will have to check opening times as they do vary. The Museum of Archaeology, (Archaeological Museum | Museums | Attractions | Zadar Tourist Board) across the square from the Bell Tower, is also worth a visit with it being the second oldest museum in Croatia. It has plenty of cultural and historical information to top off your trip with some enrichment on the city and it’s developments.

Don’t forget to check out some of the old churches and cathedrals if you have time, and of course the Sea Organ. The Sea Organ has to be one of the most unique things about Zadar, and you should spend at least one evening sat on the steps listening to the natural music that the sea creates with it.

Absolutely Don’t Miss

If nothing else, the Sea Organ and the watching the sunset where everyone seems to end up at the end of a day at the ‘Pozdrav Suncu’ are the top things to do in the old town in the city of Zadar. My personal favourite day-trip was the Plitvice Lakes and again – you can’t miss out on them. Zadar remains to this day one of my favourite cities that I’ve travelled to and the nature and sunsets are beyond anything I have seen before.

Now equipped with enough knowledge to build yourself a full itinerary for Zadar, check out my post on the Food Checklist for Zadar to ensure you make the most of your Croatian City Trip.