Excusing the awful pun (it had to be done), Croatia’s Zadar should definitely be on your to-visit list.
Croatia, in general, has risen through the tourist-ranks in recent years, even since I last visited in 2014. While destinations like Split, Dubrovnik and Zagreb have been relatively popular for some time now, other equally beautiful cities are now seeing their visitor numbers swell during the warmer months.
Zadar is one of these cities. Improved flight connections to London now mean it is easier than ever to take a visit to the port city. Ryanair offers cheap airfare to Zadar – sometimes as little as £53 return – meaning that an affordable break is well within reach. Croatia is also still a cheap country to visit, thanks to it still using its own currency, the Kuna. The price of accommodation, food and activities also falls even more once you escape the tourist centres of Split and Dubrovnik.
Zadar is on the Dalmatian coast, north of the Krka waterfalls. In fact, Zadar is well within reach of more popular Croatian destinations such as the Plitvice Lakes, making it a great backpacker route destination, or even a base from which to explore the surrounding area.
Its well-equipped port boasts regular routes to the neighbouring islands. You could start an island-hopping holiday from Zadar, or simply take some day-trips to the islands, taking full advantage of the cheap accommodation in the city.
FIVE VEGETARIAN-FRIENDLY RESTAURANTS IN ZADAR
2Ribara Restaurant (££-£££)
Pet Bunara (££-£££)
Proto Food & More (£)
Pizzeria Tri Bunara (£)
The Garden Zadar (££-£££)
As I said, flights there are cheap, especially for Croatia. When we visited Zadar, we couldn’t find a great deal of information on the place, so we weren’t too sure what to expect in terms of pricing. However, both food and drink were more than reasonably priced (about £1 for a glass of wine…). The accommodation was affordable too; we stayed in The Old Town Hostel, which seems to be one of the most popular hostels. We visited during early-September and the hostel was quiet. The dorm was clean, staff were very friendly and the location was ideal, being right in the town square. We paid £28 each for two nights in a shared room. As The Old Town Hostel is the most popular, other accommodation may be cheaper, and of course Air BnB considerably less. But the location was perfect for us, something we considered worthy of paying slightly extra for.
What to do?
There are loads of things to do in Zadar, much more than we actually did or knew to do. As we visited at a time when it seemed the city was just starting to establish itself as a popular European holiday destination, there wasn’t loads of information for us and not many people spoke English. However, the Old Town (which is pretty much where you’ll stay if you visit) is beautiful. It’s so clean, the ancient architecture is lovely, and I really appreciated that we could walk all around the area in one day. There are loads of outside spaces to sit and lounge in the sun, a pretty-cool sea organ that kept us entertained for a while, and loads of pretty buildings to look at too. There was also a little market which was a lovely and great place to pick up some souveniers.
FIVE THINGS TO DO IN ZADAR
Morske Orgulje (Sea Organ)
Museum of Illusions
The Church of St Donatus and Zadar Catherdral
Museum of Ancient Glass
There are also some museums (not really a great love of mine) – the Museum of Ancient Glass and the Archaeological Museum being two of these. We visited the Archaeological Museum, but I can’t say I remember much about it. It was pretty small and uninteresting, although Zadar isn’t really known for being a ‘museum centre’.
Unfortunately for us, the second day was overcast and rainy. This meant that we weren’t too keen on visiting the neighbouring islands, although I’m certain if we had more time we would have done so. I further researched the islands for this blog post and they look simply beautiful. There’s also loads of information on different ways to get there, what activities to do on each island, and (most importantly) how much everything would cost. Most of my research has shown that it doesn’t cost more than the equivalent of a few Euros for a ferry ticket – perfect for a day trip.
Because of just how close and how many islands there are, you could easily spend the best part of a week in Zadar: a few days spent exploring the islands properly and a couple of days meandering around the city.
Fly-drive holidays are also a suggestion when visiting Zadar, which is a terrific idea (although the buses in Croatia were really reliable in our experience and very cheap). The Krka waterfalls are really close and you could even venture down to Split if you had a car.
I’m really glad that Zadar is making a bigger name for itself and becoming more accessible for tourists. Our visit may have been brief – and many moons ago – but it really was an attractive city in every sense.
I wish we got more time there and explored the surrounding islands, however I can definitely see myself going back to do that in the near-future. It’s a great, affordable, interesting destination that has loads more to offer than first meets the eye…or the Google search.
Have you visited Zadar yet? Let me know in the comments
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