Zadar is another beautiful ancient city on the Dalmatian Coast, about two hours north of Split. We love traveling in Dalmatia as a family during Winter and Spring. Many restaurants and hotels are closed and towns and cities are quiet, except for the normal everyday life of the people who call it home. And that’s exactly what we love getting to experience, without any of the crazy crowds. It’s also much warmer than Zagreb in the wintertime and such a treat!
If you love history (and coffee!) come to Zadar. It’s like walking through a living museum. Here are the 10 things we enjoyed the most about it:
1. Walk and explore the small old city. It’s pedestrian-only and doesn’t take long. You will find beautiful churches, cafes everywhere and history dating back to the 4th century BC. On Saturday mornings, everyone is out slowly walking the main cobblestone street and leisurely sipping coffee in a cafe.
2. Visit the Zadar Cathedral, originally built in the 4th and 5th centuries and later finished in the 12th and 13th. There are multiple services on Sunday morning and each one seemed to be packed. The bells also played and played for what sounded like the entire morning – it was beautiful!
3. Walk along the harbor at sunset. Alfred Hitchcock famously said that the most beautiful sunsets in the world are in Zadar!
4. End your sunset walk at the Sea Organ. Sit and listen as the waves go in and out over the underground pipes, creating lovely and unique music. Our kids also loved running on the Solar Panel Light Show once it got dark.
5. The Zadar Market! It was only about a quarter full since this is wintertime, but we still took home dried figs, lemons, aged cheese from Pag Island, fresh parsley and crunchy pears. Gracie was so thrilled to be there! Ha!
6. Roman Forum. It’s the largest on this side of the Adriatic, built between the 1st and 3rd centuries by Emperor Augustus. It’s still very much at the center of the old city. The best part about it is there’s no entrance, no part of the ruins that are off-limits, it’s just a normal extension of the town with an outdoor cafe and little kids running through it.
7. Explore the many churches, narrow streets and ancient city walls with the mark of the lion. One of John Shea’s favorite things to do in any part of Croatia is go into churches, especially the Cathedral, and immediately sit down in a pew to take it all in for a few minutes. It is so very precious.
8. Eat at Restaurant Kaštel. Every meal we had here was amazing! Our favorites were the homemade pastas with fresh seafood, stuffed chicken, lamb from nearby Pag Island and the incredible wines made within a twenty minute radius.
9. We stayed at Hotel Bastion (out of season) and couldn’t recommend it more! It’s one of two hotels actually in the old city and made it so easy for us to explore by foot multiple times a day. My husband planned this trip and could not have picked a better spot.
10. Pick an outdoor cafe, in the Roman Forum, outside the Cathedral (this is where we chose!) or anywhere in the city and enjoy a cup of coffee with the rest of the town, as many times as you can during the day. Just relax and take your time. This is the number one thing to do in Zadar! 🙂