In the last five years, Croatia has seen a huge increase in tourism. Breathtaking scenery, affordable prices, and great weather is making it the ideal spot for many, especially during the summer. While many young people go for the big name music festivals like Outlook and Hideout, Croatia has a lot more to offer. This is especially evident in Zadar, an underrated port city on the Dalmatian coast. It is an eclectic mix of modern and ancient architecture and is in an ideal location with both national parks and party islands nearby. You can definitely cover Zadar in 48 hours although you’ll undoubtedly want to extend your trip. If you have any more time to spare here, then the hostels often run trips to the two most popular national parks, Plitvice Lakes and Krka.
Where to Stay
The Drunken Monkey Hostel. You have everything you need here: clean facilities, a lively common room, a swimming pool, wifi, and a bar with cocktails galore. It’s only downside is that it’s a fifteen minute walk from the Old Town (and it’s in a residential area so you have the keep noise down after hours), but in terms of facilities it beats any of the more central hostels. Prices start at £12.46 for a standard mixed dorm in low season, and £19.04 for the same in high season.
Most of Zadar is easily explored by foot. The majority of the things to see and do are in the Old Town, and you can walk around that in about an hour.
Direct flights using Ryanair. Cheapest to fly from London. Typically ~£90 single in high season and ~£80 single in low season. Flying time 2 hours 25 minutes. If you have more time to spare, I’d highly recommend flying into Split and taking a coach up to Zadar to get more of a taste of Croatia.
Arrive early and spend your first day wandering through the cobbled streets of the old town and doing the majority of the sightseeing. Not to be missed is the city gate, Zadar Cathedral and the Church of St Donatus. The People’s Square is home to a fantastic set of roman ruins for history buffs to peruse.
Have lunch at the Garden Bar which prides itself on the art of raw food. Here you’ll find delicious smoothies and snacks, and an array of impressive cocktails if you want to see the atmosphere change after dark. The bar is the ideal place to relax with lounger beds and views overlooking the sea. Zadar is home to two unique art installations, both by architect Nikola Bašić. The first, the Sea Organ, is an immersive experience which generates music using the waves. The second, The Greeting to the Sun, is a unique solar panel which absorbs the energy from the sun in the day and is brightly colored after dark. Stroll along the promenade and watch the famous sunset, which Alfred Hitchcock called the most beautiful in the world, and then watch The Greeting to the Sun light up.
When you’re finished, head to 2Ribara (The Two Fishermen) for dinner which serves fresh seafood for a fraction of the price you’d pay at home. Pre-drink either back at the Hostel or in one of the many bars in town such as Q bar. Then head to Ledana, an open air nightclub which overlooks the city. It’s free entry and is open until 4am.
Have breakfast at the nearby sister hostel, The Lazy Monkey, and then go to the beach to cure your hangover. Croatia is notorious for it’s stoney beaches but its turquoise water makes up for it. The beach and cocktail bar Bamboo is in a fantastic location on the edge of the sea, and you can grab lunch there too. If you’re feeling adventurous, Zadar is also home to various spots to cliff jump, as well as offering a wide variety of water sports. Head to Bruschetta for dinner where they specialize in classic food with a twist (the squid ink gnocchi is my favourite) and then go to Donat for dessert, where you’ll find the best gelato in Zadar. It’s probably wise to make a reservation for Bruschetta as it tends to get very busy, especially in summer.
For your second night out, go to the nearby party island Pag for nightlife, home to Zcre Beach which is dubbed the Ibiza of Croatia and is an hour away by bus. If you’d rather stay local, check out bars such as Factory Bar and Maraschino. In a similar fashion to Rome, crowds congregate in the streets to drink during the evenings, so there is always a vibrant atmosphere in the city.