Top 13 Things to Do in Zadar

What to expect when visiting Zadar

Often overlooked in favour of its well-known neighbour Split, Zadar is a perfect base to visit Plitvice Lakes and Krka Waterfalls from!

Zadar is somewhere you can really observe and embrace Croatian culture. It’s a place where you don’t feel like you have to be busy all of the time.

A perfect way to spend your time is to simply find a cafe or bar, and take in your surroundings.

Boasting a fascinating combination of modern and rich history, Zadar often holds a special place in everyone’s hearts after they leave!

How long should you spend in Zadar?

With not as much to do as some of the other Croatian cities, you don’t need that much time in Zadar.

We recommend spending 1-2 days here. Most of the city can be seen within one day. It really depends on whether you want to do day trips to the nearby islands, national parks, and others.

Top 3 tours in and around Zadar

#1 Join a Free Walking Tour

walking tour in Zadar
Ruins in Zadar’s Roman Forum

Walking tours speed up the process of getting to know a new city. Within a couple of hours, you can learn the history of the place, see the main sights and hear about the best places to eat.

They are often led by locals, giving you a different perspective of the city and the best tips!

What tour should you join? 

We recommend joining the Free Spirits Free Walking Tour. For 1.5 hours, you’re taken on a journey through Zadar. At the end of the tour, you can tip what the tour was worth.

This tour in particular covers all of the main sights in the Old Town, including the Forum, Five Wells Square, Kalelarga, Sea Organ and much more.

The tour runs every day at 10:00 between April and November. You can also join an evening tour at 18:00 from June to September.

The meeting point is in front of the Archaeological Museum. Just look out for the orange umbrella!

We think it’s one of the best ways to see Zadar!

#2 Enjoy the music of the sea organ

Sea organ aerial view
View of sea organ and sun saltation at sunrise

Before visiting Zadar, most people don’t know that a ‘sea organ’ is even a thing.

If you’re a little confused. The sea organ in Zadar is an architectural sound and art object. As the waves crash against the marble steps, the water flows into the hidden tubes underneath your feet.

This motion creates a beautiful symphony that fills the air. Take a seat and listen to the sounds as you look across the Adriatic sea.

The best sunset spot

Sea organ in Zadar
Perfect seats for sunset

It’s hard to find another sunset spot that is quite as magical as this one!

It’s the perfect seat to watch the sun say goodbye for the day whilst it disappears behind the opposite island. All of this with the sound of the sea organ in the background is spectacular.

#3 Admire the Sun Salutation art installation

Sun salutation in Zadar
Sun Saltation installation at night

The Sun Salutation, which can be found right next to the sea organ, is another example of harnessing the power of nature for art.

Using a 22 m diameter solar panel and 300 multi-layer glass panels, a mesmerising light show is created.

During the day, the solar cells absorb the sun’s energy and convert it into the electricity that produces the lights.

The lights are arranged to represent the solar system and its motions. Within the art, you’ll be able to spot all 8 planets and the sun!

The Sun Salutation is transfixing and addictive.

TIP: Our compact Zadar Travel Guide shows you the best areas to stay, restaurants you don’t want to miss and many more tips for your visit to Zadar!

#4 Explore Zadar’s historic centre

St. Simeon church in Zadar
St. Simeon Church in Zadar’s historic centre

Zadar dates all the way back to the 9th century BC. That’s a lot of time to collate an interesting history and stunning architecture.

The Old Town is a historical pic ‘n’ mix of cultures – Roman, Byzantine and Venetian. This makes it a fascinating place to explore.

If you don’t want to join the free walking tour that we mentioned in #1, then you can easily walk around the city yourself.

You can get lost within the labyrinth of streets or make a rough plan of the spots that you want to visit. We recommend checking out St. Donatus’s Church, city walls and gates, Roman Forum and St Mary’s church.

There are plenty of other places to visit, but these are a great start!

#5 Climb the bell tower

Bells inside the Bell tower
Blue bells in Zadar’s bell tower

Want to get a view of those iconic Croatian red roofs?

The bell tower in Zadar is the perfect way to do this. After ascending a number of steps and passing the huge bells on the way, you’ll see a spectacular view.

Three sides of the bell tower showcase the stunning city of Zadar. The final side looks out to nothing but the turquoise sea and islands in the distance.

The whole experience won’t take longer than 30 minutes, but it’s something that you shouldn’t leave Zadar without doing.

Entrance to the bell tower costs only €2.

#6 Enjoy a boat trip to the Kornati islands

Boats in Kornati islands in Zadar
Sail boats visiting Kornati National Park

Situated just off the coast of Zadar are the 140 islands and islets that make up the Kornati islands. Of these islands, 89 are protected as part of the Kornati National Park that was established in 1980. 

Once you visit these islands, you can see why they want to protect them. Their rugged landscape, rolling hills and crystal-clear waters are idyllic and picturesque.

How can you visit these incredible islands? 

Kornati islands
Ariel view of Kornati islands

Zadar is one of the best places to visit the Kornati islands. Its close proximity makes it the perfect place to join a boat trip from.

You’ll spend the day gliding across the waves, visiting a number of the islands, getting to swim in the serene waters and simply soaking up the sun.

We recommend this awesome all-day boat trip to the Kornati islands and Telasci National Park. Not only do you get to have an amazing day on the boat, you’ll also receive breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus a snack before you get off the boat.

Sun, sea and a day full of eating! Can you think of anything better?

Book your boat trip adventure to the Kornati islands starting at 08:45 and finishing at 17:30. All of this and it costs only €53.

#7 Take a day trip to Plitvice National Park

Plitvice lake
Spectacular waterfalls in Plitvice National Park

If you don’t fancy staying in Plitvice, Zadar is one of the best cities to do a day trip to Plitvice National Park from.

Zadar to Plitvice is an hour shorter than from Split, another popular place to visit from.

You can’t help but exclaim ‘wow’ when you get your first good view of Plitvice Lakes. The colour of the water almost looks fake, it’s so vibrant and turquoise!

Plitvice is made up of a chain of 16 terraced lakes that are all interconnected by magnificent waterfalls. You can’t help but be impressed by their immense power.

There are a number of walkways around Plitvice National Park, ranging from short to long. We’d recommend taking the longest route as the park is simply too beautiful to miss any part of it.

How to visit Plitvice National Park?

Plitvice lake walkway
Wooden walkways over one of Plitvice’s 16 terraced lakes

For those that have a car, the drive takes around 1.5 hours.

There are five daily bus departures costing €7-13 each way. The bus journey takes slightly longer than by car, about 2 hours.

However, we recommend booking a transfer instead. For only €10, you will be picked up and dropped off at your accommodation. It actually works out cheaper than the bus, and is considerably more convenient! Why wouldn’t you?

Once you arrive, entrance to Plitvice National Park costs €40 during peak season (June-September).

Join a guided tour with a boat ride 

Boat in Plitvice
Boat ride on Plitvice Lake

Sometimes you appreciate a place more after hearing about its history and story. If that’s something that you find to be true, then we’d recommend joining a guided tour of Plitvice.

Over 4 hours, your guide will show you the best spots in the park and take you on a boat ride across the lakes. You can’t swim in Plitvice, so the boat tour is a good substitute.

The guided tour to Plitvice National Park costs €73 and includes transportation, a knowledgeable guide, boat ride and breakfast.

#8 Spend the day at Krka National Park

Krka waterfalls
Main waterfalls in Krka National Park

Krka National Park is one of Croatia’s biggest selling points. You can’t really visit Croatia without going to Krka National Park. It’s incredible!

Both Zadar and Split are great places to visit the park from. From Split, it’s a 1.5-hour drive and from Zadar only 1 hour. Either city is a good place to visit the park from.

Krka National Park has 16 plunging waterfalls, lush hiking trails and a monastery sitting on an island in the middle of the lake.

Krka also has a slight edge over Plitvice Lakes National Park – the second most popular waterfall in Croatia. In contrast to Plitvice, Krka offers the opportunity to swim in certain areas of Krka.

How to visit Krka National Park?

Krka waterfalls pathway
One of Krka’s many pathways

If you have a car, then the drive from Zadar to Krka National Park will take you around an hour.

For those without their own form of transport, you can also get a bus. The bus takes a similar amount of time as a car and costs between €7-10 each way.

Looking for a completely stress-free day? You can book a transfer that includes pick up and drop off from your hotel in Zadar. They also pre-book your tickets beforehand so there’s no waiting around! Great for the busy peak season. This service costs €40 per person. 

Tickets to Krka National Park cost €13.30 per adult and the national park is open from 08:00 to 20:00 every day during the high season.

Book here: Return transfer to Krka National Park for €40

#9 Go hiking in Paklenica National Park

Pakleni in Zadar
Paklenica National Park is 1-hour from Zadar

Everybody has heard of Plitvice and Krka National Parks, but Paklenica National Park has managed to slip under the radar.

Situated an hour outside of Zadar, Paklenica National Park is the ideal day trip.

What is there to do in Paklenica National Park?

If you’re a fan of hiking, climbing or just admiring dynamic and impressive landscapes, you’ll love it.

The national park can be found to the south of the largest mountain range in Croatia, Velebit. As a result, the 100 square km park is full of stunning views and deep gorges covered in a blanket of beech and pine trees.

Want to take on a challenge? Paklenica’s highest peak stands at an impressive 1,757 metres high. Don’t worry, if you want to stick to flat ground then you can enjoy one of the parks’ two canyons.

As you explore, keep your eye out for hidden caves and wildlife such as birds, deer, bears, foxes and wild cats.

How to visit Paklenica National Park?

Pakleni National park
Steep cliffs in Paklenica National Park

Getting to Paklenica National Park by car is your easiest option. The drive only takes around an hour.

If you don’t have a car, there’s a bus that goes directly from Zadar Bus Terminal to Paklenica. The bus takes a little over an hour and costs €5.

The price for entry to the park depends on which month you visit:

  • November-February: €2.70
  • March, April, May, October: €5.30
  • June-September: €8

#10 Kayaking adventure to Dugi Otok

Dugi Otok in Zadar
Ariel view of Dugi Otok

Want to add a splash of adventure to your city break to Zadar?

With its white sand, sheer cliffs, secret bays and diverse wildlife, a kayaking trip to the island of Dugi Otok is an image of pure perfection.

Shipwreck underwater in Zadar
Underwater shipwreck near Dugi Otok

This kayaking tour is the perfect combination of adventure, relaxation and fun! Alongside the kayaking, you’ll visit a shipwreck where you can go snorkelling. You spend time relaxing in a hidden cove and have a go at the local game of picigin. 

This full day of adventure and exploration, plus transfers and a local guide costs €100 per person.

#11 Soak up some sun at the beach

Puntamika peninsula
Puntamika beach in Zadar

A beach holiday shouldn’t be the focus of your trip to Zadar. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any that are worth visiting.

There are actually a number of beaches near Zadar that are ideal for a refreshing swim or an opportunity to read your book.

Borik Beach, Kolovare Beach and Puntamika are all great beaches. They are mainly pebble beaches, which are small stones softened by sand and water. Once you’re in that turquoise water, it doesn’t matter that it’s no sand.

If you’re simply looking to go for a swim, head to, the concrete pier along the promenade. It’s a popular spot for locals to go swimming.

#12 Visit the Museum of Ancient Glass

Museum of ancient glass
Museum of Ancient Glass has over 5,000 pieces

Zadar isn’t known for its museums, but the Museum of Ancient Glass is worth a visit.

This unique museum displays over 5,000 glass objects of all shapes, sizes and ages. Pieces range from the 1st century BC to 5th century AD.

Over 1.500 of these are complete glass objects. It’s pretty incredible how well the pieces have lasted and can now tell a story of Zadar’s past.

As well as the displays, there is also a fascinating glassblowing workshop and a glass jewellery one too.

Entrance to the Museum of Ancient Glass costs €4.

#13 Join a tour at Solana Nin Salt Works

Salt nins
Salt in Solana Nin Salt Works

Looking for something slightly different that you might not find elsewhere? 

Well, to the north of Zadar you will find Solana Nin Salt Works. For generations, the knowledge and techniques of naturally producing salt have been passed down at Solana Nin.

Through their guided tour, you’ll get to explore their five salt pools and learn about the natural production of salt. You can even try your hand as a salt worker.

The tour lasts for around 45 minutes and costs €8.60 per person.

Once you’re done at the salt works, you can explore the cute town of Nin.

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About the author(s)

Professional Traveller

Kate is a writer, (ex)Management Consultant and avid traveller. She recently returned from a 2-year career break exploring the world and decided corporate life wasn’t for her. She’ll soon be testing life as a digital nomad. She’s visited over 40 countries and fell in love with Latin America in particular. Her travelling has inspired a passion for yoga, salsa, hiking and Spanish.

Based in Bali, Maarten’s passion for travel is undeniable. In 2016, he decided to quit his job as a stock analyst and started doing what he always dreamed of: travelling through South East Asia and helping other people plan their trips. When he is not working on Gecko Routes, you’ll find him surfing in the ocean or exploring the best gems of Indonesia.