Krka National Park Croatia

© Princess

Five things to do in Zadar, Croatia’s unsung gem

Find an abundance of sunshine, history and delicious local tipples in this Dalmatian city

April 2024

By Ashleigh Arnott

The oldest continuously inhabited city in Croatia is often overlooked in favour of its glossier cousins Dubrovnik and Split, but it has so much of its own history and personality to offer visitors. We’ve rounded up five things to do in Zadar that will convince you to add it to your next itinerary.

Krka National Park from Zadar in Croatia

Beautiful Zadar Krka National Park is easily accessed from Zadar © Tom Wheatley/Unsplash

Chase waterfalls in Krka National Park

A nature-rich wilderness the size of Jersey that surrounds its eponymous river, the Krka National Park is one of Croatia’s treasures. Just over an hour’s drive from Zadar, it offers birdwatching, hikes, wild swimming and botany galore, but the main reason it attracts so many visitors is its spectacular waterfalls. Every trip to Krka should include a visit to Skradinski Buk, where a network of elegant cascades spill into a huge, crystal-clear natural pool. The park also runs boat excursions further up the river, allowing visitors to get a duck’s-eye view of another major waterfall, Roški Slap, and the serene lake island of Visovac, which is home to a 15th-century Franciscan monastery.

Sip cherry liqueur

Dark, bitter marasca cherries are native to Croatia and are said to be at their tastiest when grown in and around Zadar. They’re the perfect fruit for making liqueur, and maraschino has been a favourite tipple in the area for more than 400 years. In fact, the lurid red maraschino cherries that garnish ice cream sundaes and cocktails the world over were originally marasca cherries that had been preserved in the liqueur. Needless to say, the drink itself is a must-try while you’re in Zadar, so why not round off a walking tour with a maraschino liqueur tasting at the Arsenal Tavern.

Stroll through centuries of history

A walking tour through Zadar’s Old Town is the perfect opportunity to admire its rich history – there are ornate Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance buildings, Roman ruins and even a ninth-century church. Those keen to swot up on the facts might like to linger in the Archaeological Museum, where a models portray how the city’s current street layout is very reminiscent of how it would have been 2,000 years ago. For a more immersive slice of history, book tickets for a medieval music performance in the atmospheric rotunda of St Donatus Church, the largest pre-Romanesque building in Croatia, which dates back to the 9th century.

Sea Organ, Zadar in Croatia

Be lulled by the city's musical Sea Organ © Zadar Tourist Board Photo Archive

Soak up the sounds of the sea

Along Zadar’s sunny Dalmatian coastline is a set of marble steps perfect for lounging on as you listen to the waves. But it’s not just splashing and the sound of gulls you’ll hear; in 2005, a specially designed musical instrument called Morske Orgulje (Sea Organ) was installed on the seafront and swiftly became one of the top things to see in Zadar. A series of tubes generate sounds as they’re hit by the water, and the amplified notes are carried up from the resonating cavity so they can be heard on the steps. It’s eerie but beautiful and surprisingly calming. Think of it as forest bathing for those who prefer blue space to green.

Explore a lesser-known world of wine

The hilly, mineral-rich countryside of the Dalmatian coast is an excellent location for growing grapes, and its reliable supply of sunshine has helped Croatia to develop delicious wines from no fewer than 64 indigenous varieties. Just outside the historic fishing village of Petrčane is Kraljevski Vinogradi, a vineyard of over 300,000 vines, the first of which were planted around 870 years ago. At their wine tastings, you’ll try Crljenak, the Croatian version of an Italian Primitivo; Pošip, a bold white with an almost herbal aroma; and semi-dry Muškat Žuti, as you nibble on local snacks.

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About the Author

Ashleigh Arnott

Ashleigh Arnott

Ashleigh is a freelance writer who plans her travels around delicious dinners, elegant bakeries and rowdy taprooms. She'd always choose verdant hills over sandy beaches and lives in the UK's greenest city, Sheffield, where you are very likely to find her in a good pub with a pint of stout, even in summer.