Zadar is a city of dichotomies that juxtapose modern construction with ancient architecture, live-and-let-live attitudes with fiercely patriotic conviction, and bustling entrepreneurship with laid-back Mediterranean style. You can visit the city’s historic sites and countless churches, stop for gelato in Old Town, then go on to browse the glitzy shops that line the narrow streets, but it’s much more interesting to seek out Zadar’s less obvious charms.

Built compact on a small peninsula, Zadar’s pedestrian-only Old Town was fortified by the Venetians, and sections of the city walls and four of its gates (the most notable being the impressive Land Gate from 1543) still remain. The perimeter of the peninsula is rimmed by the Riva (seaside promenade), where you can watch ferries sail in and out of port while witnessing some of the world’s most beautiful sunsets. For many people, locals and visitors alike, one of Zadar’s most memorable features is the ingenious Sea Organ, a modern installation which plays eerie melodies powered by the sea, located at the end of the Riva close to the tip of the Old Town peninsula.

Zadar is the point of departure for many other destinations in Upper Dalmatia. From the city, it’s an easy drive to Paklenica National Park, a challenging environment for hikers, rock climbers, and spelunkers. You can also drive over to the nearby island of Pag, joined to the mainland by a bridge close to its southern tip, and travel up the island to the lively little resort of Novalja with its late-night bars lining Zrće beach. 

Zadar is also a ferry port for the decidedly undeveloped northern Dalmatian islands of Ugljan, Pašman, Dugi Otok, and Silba. Sometimes known as the islands of the Zadar Archipelago, the first three are the most visited, but none are overrun by tourists. In addition, there are daily excursion boats from Zadar that depart for tours around Kornati National Park, which is really a portion of the southern islands of the Zadar Archipelago.

South of Zadar, on the way to Split in Lower Dalmatia, you’ll pass Šibenik, a charming seaside town which is often overlooked by vacationers, but more than warrants a visit. It is accessible by bus or car.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.