Perfect Day Trip to Zadar: A Tour Guide’s Picks

Welcome to Zadar, a city rich in history and full of life, situated on the beautiful Adriatic coast of Croatia. Known for its Roman and Venetian ruins in the Old Town, unique Sea Organ, and stunning sunsets that Alfred Hitchcock once claimed to be the most beautiful in the world, Zadar is a destination that will captivate you with its charm and beauty.

Getting to Zadar

By Car: Zadar is a scenic drive away from Slovenia, approximately 260 km from the nearest border crossing. For a quick journey, take the Croatian highway from the Slovenian border and exit at Zadar I. For a more scenic route, consider the toll-free local roads from Zagreb or Rijeka. If you’re coming from the south, from Split or Dubrovnik, exit at Zadar East (Zadar II). Remember to follow Croatian traffic rules, check road conditions and weather forecasts, and always wear your seatbelts.

By Bus: The main bus station in Zadar links major Croatian cities and even has international connections. If you’re landing at Zadar Airport, the city center is just a short bus ride away. Buses from the airport stop at the main station and near Old Town. Remember to check bus schedules in advance as they change monthly.

By Plane: Zadar has its own airport, conveniently located just 11 km from the city center. Flights are available from various European cities, including the UK and Ireland. Once you land, the city center is just a short ride away. The airport offers public transport services, with the bus stop located right in front of the main airport building. Taxis are also available 24/7 at the airport.

By Ship: Zadar is also accessible by sea, offering a unique and scenic journey. The city has international ferry connections from Ancona, Italy, and local ferry routes connect Zadar with nearby islands year-round. The ferry dock is centrally located but can be busy in summer.

By Train: There are regular trains from Zagreb to Zadar, with a transfer in Knin. The journey time from Zagreb to Zadar by train is either 7 and a half or 9 and a half hours, depending on the specific train. Zadar’s railway station is located next to the bus station, making it easy for you to switch to local transport or a taxi upon arrival. However, buses are generally quicker than trains to Zadar.

No matter how you choose to get to Zadar, the journey is part of the adventure. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride as you make your way to this beautiful city on the Adriatic coast.

Early Morning Activities

Sea Organ (Morske Orgulje) 

Brief Description: Begin your day with a visit to the Sea Organ, a unique attraction that combines architecture, music, and nature. This experimental musical instrument, designed by architect Nikola Basic, uses the power of the sea to create a soothing melody. The Sea Organ consists of white marble steps leading into the sea, with a network of pipes hidden underneath.

As the waves crash into the steps, they create air pressure that produces harmonious tones in the pipes. This melody, based on the musical matrix of the traditional Croatian klapa song, is often described as the sea singing to you. The Sea Organ is not just an auditory experience but a visual one as well.

The stunning white marble steps are a perfect spot to sit and watch Zadar’s famous sunsets, making it a favorite spot for both locals and tourists. Whether you visit during the day or at night, the Sea Organ offers a unique sensory experience that is sure to leave you feeling calm and refreshed.

Working Hours: Open 24 hours. 

Ticket Prices: Free Entry. 

Exploration Time: 30 minutes to an hour.

Practical Information:

  • Located at the end of the Zadar peninsula, within walking distance from the Old Town.
  • No restrooms or cafes directly at the site.
  • Can be quite loud during storms or high wave activity.
  • Best visited early in the morning and during sunset for an unobstructed view of nature’s spectacle.
  • Night visits offer a peaceful atmosphere with fewer crowds.

Mid-Morning Activities

Walking Tour of Zadar Old Town

Brief Description: Immerse yourself in Zadar’s rich history with a walking tour of the Old Town. This tour will take you to significant landmarks, including the Roman Forum, the Church of St. Donatus, and the Cathedral of St. Anastasia. Learn about the city’s fascinating past from a knowledgeable guide and enjoy the stunning architecture.

Working Hours: Varies, but tours typically start in the morning and last about 2 hours.

Ticket Prices: Around 15 € per person.

Exploration Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Practical Information:

  • Book a tour in advance or find a guide on the spot.
  • Wear comfortable shoes for walking.
  • Bring a hat and sunscreen for protection from the sun.
  • Carry a bottle of water to stay hydrated.

Roman Forum (Old Town)

Brief Description: The Roman Forum, located in the heart of Zadar’s old town, is a testament to the city’s rich history. Once a bustling marketplace during the Roman Empire, the forum now offers a unique opportunity to connect with the past. It’s a favorite among tourists, offering a rich tableau of beautiful architecture and captivating ruins.

Working Hours: Open 24 hours.

Ticket Prices: Free Entry.

Exploration Time: 30 minutes to an hour.

Practical Information:

  • Located in the vibrant heart of Zadar’s old town.
  • No restrooms or cafes directly at the site.
  • Can be quite loud during storms or high wave activity.
  • Best visited during sunset for an unobstructed view of nature’s spectacle.
  • Night visits offer a peaceful atmosphere with fewer crowds.

Church of St. Donatus

Brief Description: The Church of St. Donatus, a beautiful piece of Byzantine architecture, is a must-visit in Zadar. Built in the 9th century, this church serves a dual purpose – by day, it’s an awe-inspiring historic site; by night, it transforms into a venue for soothing medieval renaissance music.

Working Hours: Please check local listings, as working hours may vary.

Ticket Prices: The entrance fee to the church is very reasonable. The fee to ascend the tower is approximately 3 €.

Exploration Time: 1-2 hours.

Practical Information:

  • Located right in the center of Zadar, within the charming confines of the old town.
  • Shops and restaurants lie just a stone’s throw away.
  • The interior of the church may seem simple to some, but the rich history, magnificent views, and enchanting evening concerts more than make up for it.

Cathedral of St. Anastasia

Brief Description: The Cathedral of St. Anastasia, the largest church in the region, is a must-visit in Zadar. Dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries, this cathedral is a testament to the rich history and culture of Croatia. The cathedral complex extends to include a magnificent bell tower, offering stunning vistas of Zadar’s old town, the neighboring islands, and the towering mountain Velebit on the northern side.

Working Hours: Open every day from 9 am to 8 pm.

Ticket Prices: Cathedral – Free Entry. Bell Tower – around 2 €.

Exploration Time: Around 30 minutes to an hour.

Practical Information:

  • Open every day from 9 am to 8 pm.
  • Visitors are respectfully asked to avoid visiting during mass times to ensure the sanctity of the services.
  • The cathedral hosts holy masses at 7 pm from Monday to Friday, and at 9 am on Saturdays. On Sundays, masses are held at 9 am, 11 am, and 7 pm.

Lunch Spot – Pizzeria Tri Bunara

Brief Description: Pizzeria Tri Bunara is located in the historical part of town “Kampo Kaštelo”. It is the oldest pizzeria in town, having been in operation since 1976 and led by the same family. The pizzeria has a beautiful terrace with 40 seats, making it an ideal choice for hot summer days and evenings.

Recommended Dishes: The reviews suggest their pizzas are a must-try, with specific mention of the Napoli pizza. They also have a variety of vegetarian and vegan options. One review mentioned a delightful vegetarian lasagna.

Practical Information: The price range is 10-20 €. The restaurant is located at Ulica Jurja Bijankinija 8C Trg Tri Bunara BB, Zadar. They offer television, takeout, reservations, outdoor seating, highchairs, alcohol service, and free Wifi.

Early Afternoon Activities

Kolovare Beach

Brief Description: Spend your afternoon at Kolovare Beach, a popular beach in Zadar known for its clean, clear waters and vibrant atmosphere. The beach is predominantly covered with fine pebbles and offers a variety of amenities, including umbrella and sunbed rentals, changing rooms, showers, and public toilets. For those seeking activities, the beach offers water sports like catamarans, water skis, and a dive center, as well as land activities such as volleyball and ping-pong.

Working Hours: Open 24 hours.

Ticket Prices: Free Entry. Umbrella and sunbed rentals available at an additional cost.

Exploration Time: Spend the afternoon at your leisure.

Practical Information:

  • Located just a 6-minute drive from Zadar center.
  • Parking is available directly on the beach.
  • The beach is supervised by lifeguards, but due to some sharp boulders, rubber slippers for swimming are recommended.
  • The beach can get crowded during the season, so consider arriving early to secure a good spot.
  • There are kiosks selling fruit, sweets, and souvenirs, as well as nearby cafes, bars, and restaurants.
  • The beach is just a short walk along the promenade to the center of Zadar, and Hotel Kolovare is conveniently nearby.
  • Overall Rating: 8/10 (Cleanliness: 8/10, Accessibility: 9/10, Facilities: 8/10, Activities: 8/10, Crowd: Crowded)

Late Afternoon Activities

Sunset Boat Tour

Brief Description: As the day winds down, embark on a Sunset Boat Tour to experience the beauty of Zadar from a different perspective. This tour takes you along the coast of Zadar, offering stunning views of the city’s architectural highlights, including the 16th-century Zadar Walls, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The highlight of the tour is the breathtaking sunset over the Adriatic Sea, a sight that promises to be unforgettable.

Working Hours: Please check with the tour operator as timings may vary.

Ticket Prices: Approximately 40 € per person.

Exploration Time: The tour takes about 2 hours.

Practical Information:

  • The tour includes views of significant architectural buildings and sights, including the Sea Organ and the Greeting to the Sun.
  • Opportunities for swimming and snorkeling are available.
  • The tour is suitable for both adults and children.
  • The tour can be booked in advance or in-person at the booth for Banali tours, located on the old town side of the city bridge.
  • Rescheduling is usually possible if your plans change.
  • The tour operates in a small group setting for a more personal experience.
  • Remember to bring your camera for capturing the beautiful sunset.

Dinner Spot – Restaurant Bruschetta

  • Brief Description: Restaurant Bruschetta is a wonderful restaurant in Zadar that specializes in fresh seafood and meat dishes from the Mediterranean region. It has a sleek, minimalistic exterior with neutral colors and wood furnishings, while the interior is comfortable with plenty of tables for seating. It also has a charming outdoor patio.
  • Recommended Dishes: The reviews recommend the fresh sea bass with handmade gnocchi, and tuna. The pistachio cheesecake also comes highly recommended.
  • Practical Information: The restaurant is located at Ul. Mihovila Pavlinovića 12, 23000, Zadar.

Evening Entertainment

Arsenal Venue

Brief Description: As the sun sets, immerse yourself in the vibrant energy of Zadar’s nightlife at Arsenal. This multi-purpose venue is a historical structure repurposed into a contemporary hub, offering a unique blend of past and present. With a restaurant, bar, club, and live performances, Arsenal encapsulates the essence of Zadar’s eclectic cultural scene.

Working Hours: Open daily from 7:00 am till 4:00 am.

Ticket Prices: Entry is generally free, but prices for special events and performances vary.

Exploration Time: Depending on your plans, you could easily spend a few hours here.

Practical Information:

  • Arsenal is located in the heart of Zadar’s old town, making it easily accessible.
  • During the day, Arsenal serves as a laid-back café and features an art gallery, a kids area, and a tourist information center.
  • Internet facilities are available for visitors.
  • Live performances are held most weekends, featuring local bands and internationally acclaimed artists.
  • Arsenal is also a popular venue for special events, including weddings.
  • It’s recommended to check the schedule for any special events or performances during your visit.
  • Remember to bring your ID if you plan to enjoy the bar and club.

3 Alternative Activities

Museum of Illusions

Brief Description: The Museum of Illusions in Zadar is a unique and interactive attraction that challenges your senses and perception. With a variety of exhibits, puzzles, and illusions, it’s a fun and educational experience for all ages. The museum is conveniently located in the heart of the old town, making it an easy addition to your sightseeing itinerary.

Highlights: The museum features a range of exhibits that play with your perception of reality. From the vortex tunnel to the tilted room, each exhibit offers a unique and immersive experience. The museum is also family-friendly, with many exhibits designed to be engaging and educational for children.

Practical Information:

  • Working Hours: Open daily from 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM.
  • Ticket Prices: Individual tickets range from 6.64 to 9.29 €, with family tickets available for 26.54 €.
  • Exploration Time: Most visitors spend about an hour exploring the exhibits.

Archeological Museum Zadar

Brief Description: The Archeological Museum in Zadar offers a deep dive into the region’s rich history, from Prehistoric times to the first Croatian settlements. The museum’s exhibits are spread across three floors, each dedicated to a different historical period.

Highlights: The museum’s collection includes decorative ceramics, weaponry, and artifacts from the Liburnians, seafaring people from ancient times. The Roman exhibition is a particular highlight, featuring a stunning array of weaponry, sculptures, mosaics, and art pieces from the Roman Empire.

Practical Information:

  • Working Hours: Open from 09:00 to 17:00.
  • Ticket Prices: Admission is priced at 3.98 €.
  • Exploration Time: For a thorough visit, plan to spend at least 2 hours exploring the museum.

Nin Salt Works and Salt Museum

Brief Description: The Nin Salt Works and Salt Museum offers a unique exploration of the history and process of salt production. With roots tracing back to Roman times, the salt works continue to produce salt using traditional methods. The site also includes the House of Salt, a small museum that delves into the history of salt production.

Highlights: The Educational Salt Tour is a captivating journey through the process of natural ecological salt production, crystallization, and manual harvesting. The site is also a habitat for diverse wildlife, making it an excellent spot for bird-watching.

Practical Information:

  • Working Hours: Check the website for current tour timings.
  • Ticket Prices: Varies depending on the tour or museum visit.
  • Exploration Time: Allow approximately 45 minutes for the guided tour, plus additional time to visit the museum and shop.

For even more alternatives, check out this article about pretty much everything worth seeing in Zadar.

About the author

CroatiaWanderlust is the passion project of Dinko, Antonio, and Tomislav. They are the creators of the content on the site, using their combined skills in hospitality, marketing, and content creation to provide a unique and authentic exploration of Croatian tourism. Their work brings you closer to the enchanting beauty of their homeland. For more information about them, visit the About page on the site.

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