On my previous visit to Croatia, back in 2010, i’d simply stopped Zadar for lunch whilst driving with some friends from Split to Plivice. What a waste, why oh why did we not stay in this amazing town for at least a night?
Last week I returned to Croatia and finally got the chance to see what i’d missed out on first time around. The mrs and I had decided that anniversary presents were a naf idea, instead we’d just take ourselves away for a few nights instead. I suggested Zadar in Croatia, she didnt object so I booked it all. Good team work!
About Zadar (via Frommers)
Before I left for Croatia I attended a Travel Massive in London’s St James’s park which was hosted by Frommers. Alongside a free drink, Frommers were good enough to give me a couple of copies of their guide to Croatia. Two of them I gave away in a competition on this site, the third I obviously took with me to Zadar. Therefore I think its only fair that I give Frommers the opening words on Zadar …
Despite frequent reconstruction, Zadar remains a city brimming with more than 3,000 years of history and culture. Like most cities on the Dalmatian coast, Zadar evolved from a prehistoric settlement to an Illyrian village to a Roman municipality, and survived other incarnations involving administrative changes and foreign assaults that finally ended with the city’s liberation and reunion with Croatia in 1993.
When Venice tried to capture every city on the Dalmatian coast starting in the late 10th century (it finally succeeded in the 15th c.), Zadar fought back harder than any other municipality. From 1096 to 1346, Zadar was conquered and liberated an incredible seven times and taken over six more times until it was sold in 1409 to Venice by King Ladislav of Naples, who was Zadar’s ruler du jour. Following the sale, Venice had authority over Zadar for almost 4 centuries until 1797. During that time, the Venetians developed the city and its economy, but only to the extent that those efforts benefited Venice.
Eventually, the Venetians were driven out, and for 120 years or so after that Zadar was governed by Austria (with a short stint of French rule), a regime that ended with World War I but did not end Zadar’s occupation. From 1920 to 1944 Zadar was governed by Italy and forced to accept Italian acculturation, though many citizens left rather than become “Italianized.”
During World War II, Zadar was almost destroyed by Allied forces, though it was mostly rebuilt during the postwar Yugoslavia era. Then, during the 1991 war, the city took another devastating hit when Serb forces cut the city off from Zagreb and reduced it to rubble once again. The Croatian army at last liberated Zadar in 1993 and the outlying areas in 1995.
Today’s Zadar is an exceptional mix of new and old architecture and a diverse mix of cultures. It is also fiercely nationalistic, a characteristic that took hold while the city was isolated from the rest of Croatia by the Serbs
Arriving in Zadar
Esther and I arrived in Zadar about 3pm local time and easily found the bus from the aiport to Zadar central bus and train station. The bus appears to run in time with arrivals, but also we found this link pretty helpful with our planning
http://www.zadar-airport.hr/en/how-to-reach-us – no one has paid me to post this, I just think its handy.
A one way ticket for an adult cost just 25HRK (£3 ish, based on 8.7HRK to £1), whereas we were told a cab is around 150-200HRK (£18-£22). Zoom out on the map below to see both the location of the Aiport and the bus/train station.
Its worth noting that the bus back to the airport leaves from stop number 8.
What to do in Zadar
Zadar is pretty small and easily walkable. From our appartment is was a mere 10 minute walk to either the beach or the beautiful old town. Here’s a run down on the sights we visited and would recommend – click on the markers for more details.
View Zadar in a larger map
Sea Organ and sunsets
These were probably our favourite things in Zadar. Each evening we sat on the riviera and listened to the worlds first and only sea organ whilst kids dived and back flipped off the sea walls to a backdrop of a blood red sunset. We weren’t the only ones totally hypnotized by the scenes beauty, crowds gathered each evening for the spectacle and who can blame them.
Greeting to the sun
Once the sun had disappeared into the sea we moved a mere 20 metres to our next favourite attraction in Zadar – The greeting to the sun.
The Greeting to the Sun consists of three hundred multi-layer glass panels in the form of a large circle, 22m in diameters. During daytime hours, the solar modules absorb solar energy, transforming it into electricity. Come evening that solar energy is used to put on an amazing light display.
5 wells Square and hill top lookout
Zadar survived Turkish attacks during the 16th century, in part by building a huge water tank and five ornate wells. After the Turks retreated, the city built a park over the fortifications and it includes a concrete square built around the wells. The wells no longer provide drinking water, but they do serve as “gates” for skateboarders, who like to practice their techniques on the span[text source – Frommers]
Climb the bell tower next to St. Anastasia Cathedral
Climbing the bell tower was the only attraction we paid for whilst in Zadar. It set us back a mere 10HRK each (£1.20 ish). The climb wasn’t difficult and within minutes we had a perfect view over the Zadar old town, surrounding neighbourhoods and island. There was also a nice breeze up there.
**I’m widescreen, click to enlarge me**
Chilling on the old town walls
I’d read about a bar called The Garden before leaving for Zadar, but it wasnt until our last evening in the old town that we found it. Located on the old town walls, comfy beds and sofa’s scattered around a twinkly garden give a great view over the harbour. We liked it so much we went back the next day before our flight for one last cheeky beer.
Hit the beach
Like a lot of beaches in Croatia, Zadar’s main stretch of beach was stone, but that didnt stop hundreds of bronzed bodies worshipping the sun each day. Whilst some simply read a book whilst baking, other more energetic minded individuals took to the beach side volleyball and basketball courts … we were not that energetic, we ate ice cream instead.
So in a nutshell, that was Zadar. If you like beatuiful old towns, friendly people, glorious weather, beaches, free attractions, pizza and ice cream you might have just found your next travel destination. You may even choose to travel further afield in Croatia. Plenty of tours were on offer to us whilst in Zadar. There’s so many stunning national parks its hard to decide between them. A day trip to Konati national park was pitched to us at around 280HRK (£32), Krka was quoted in euro’s for some reason €65 ( £50, 487HRK) and a day tip to Plitvice was around the same.
Right, now its time to waddle my fat ass off to a footy pitch somewhere and run 3 days worth of pizza, ice cream and beer off. I’ll leave you with a few costings.
General costs in Zadar
Things in Zadar seemed pretty cheap on the whole. As per above there were quite a few free bits to do. We didnt buy any material good whilst out, but we ventured out for dinner each evening, here’s some average costs.
- A beer – around £2 (12-16HRK)
- Soft drinks – around £2 (12-16HRK)
- An ice cream – around 80p (7HRK)
- A pizza – around £5 (40-60HRK)
- A meat or sea food dish – around £10-£20 (90-180HRK)
*all based upon 8.7HRK to £1
- Flights from standsted – £260 return for 2 adults (if I had book them the day before they would have been £200)
- Getting to standsted – £20 for 2 adults underground and easybus tickets
- Apartment in central Zadar – £143 between 2 adults for 3 nights
- Spending money – £130 (£12 on Zadar airport transfers)
- Getting home from stansted – £30 each … we missed our easy bus and had to get two other separate coaches
TOTAL – £583 … which would have been lower if we’d have caught our easybus home. £290 odd each for 3 nights isnt too bad.