20 Unique Things to Do in Zadar: The Ultimate Guide

An insider’s Zadar travel guide – including the best things to do in Zadar UNESCO Old City and beyond, plus where to find the best local cuisine, coffee, and other travel tips.

Considering that my husband was born here, Zadar is more than just a city for me. It’s emotion, nostalgia, the sea, the wind, the taste of fresh mussels from the Novigrad Sea, hours spent sipping coffee by the beach.

Whether you love visiting museums and cultural monuments while traveling, prefer sunbathing on the beach, or are a fan of active vacations, Zadar is a city that won’t disappoint you.

This mega guide brings together all my favorite things to do in Zadar, Croatia – including free activities, unusual and unique attractions, immersive experiences, and local favorites.

Kalelarga (Wide Street)

Do you want to see how Zadar’s pulsing vein functions? Simply take a stroll along Kalelarga, the central street of the historic peninsula, and let the city’s story unfold with each step.

Although the street is officially named Široka ulica (Wide Street), it is known as Kalelarga (which is actually a literal translation). 

Since it was built in the time of the ancient Romans, the street has undergone several name changes, such as Via Magna, Strada Grande, Ruga Magistra, and Calle Larga, which essentially mean ‘wide street’ in the Venetian dialect that was once spoken in Zadar and Dalmatia. Ironically, Kalelarga was not originally as wide as it is today; it was only 5 meters wide compared to the current 13 meters.

The most famous street in Zadar runs right through its heart, practically dividing the historic peninsula into two parts! Legend has it that the street is older than the city itself, probably because it was formed before the Romans turned it into the city’s main street. 

Today, it leads us to the most beautiful attractions, as well as to great cafes, pastry shops, and restaurants. Stop for ice cream, pick up souvenirs, and enjoy the atmosphere!

Zadar Bridge

We’ve long realized that bridges are not just piles of concrete and iron used for decoration. That’s the case with Zadar Bridge as well.

This year marks its 62nd anniversary, and it’s the main link between the Peninsula and the northern part of the city, still bravely carrying the weight of thousands of hurried feet crossing it every day.

I was a child the first time I was here, and I still remember the fishermen who used to fish here. I think it’s not allowed today.

Church of St. Donatus

This ancient church was built before the division of Christianity into Western Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. This is a church you can’t help but notice due to its monumental size. 

This unusual circular church was originally the private chapel of Bishop Donatus. Initially dedicated to the Holy Trinity, it was renamed the Church of St. Donatus in the 15th century in honor of the bishop who commissioned its construction.

This church is no longer used for liturgical ceremonies, but you can purchase a ticket (starting at just 3 euros per person) to explore its interior, which is quite fascinating due to the gallery on the second floor.

Five Wells Square

If you’re looking for a fairytale-like setting to explore while in the city, make your way to Five Wells Square. 

As the name suggests, this beloved public area is most famous for its five beautifully landscaped wells, which were built in 1574 as a secure source of drinking water during the Ottoman invasion. 

The square is part of the vibrant old town dating back to the 9th century. With so many historic buildings and stunning pieces of scenery, it’s worth exploring the area on a walking tour. 

Your guided excursion will take you past the square, local churches, and many other beautiful spots in the city center while teaching you more about the neighborhood’s evolution over the centuries.

Old Harbor Foša

Right at the entrance to the heart of the city, you’ll find Foša.

This picturesque harbor has served as inspiration for many painters, and what makes it even more interesting are the Landward Gates, which also serve as the main entrance to the city.

The Landward Gates are adorned with various scenes, and the most captivating of them is undoubtedly the image of Saint Krševan on horseback, the patron saint of Zadar, and a large monumental lion.

Cathedral and Bell Tower of St. Anastasia

The Cathedral of St. Anastasia (also called Stošije) is a monumental Romanesque building named after a Sirmium martyr who was venerated by two popes in Zadar. 

Pope Alexander III visited her grave in 1177, and Pope John Paul II paid his respects at the cathedral’s entrance in 2003. The cathedral itself was constructed in two phases, first in the 12th and then in the 13th century, with the preservation of an older building from the 9th and 11th centuries. 

The older structure rose on the site of an early Christian basilica, so it’s safe to say that its construction dates back to the 4th and 5th centuries.

The basilica was originally dedicated to Saint Peter, the apostle, but Zadar’s bishop Donat renamed it the Cathedral of St. Anastasia, known as Stošija in Zadar. 

Zadar Cathedral is also the largest church in Dalmatia, and its interior is extremely grand.

What also captivates during a visit is the bell tower, which was mostly built in the neo-Romanesque style in the 15th and 19th centuries. It was completed in 1894 by the English architect and art historian, Thomas Graham Jackson. 

The bell tower stands at a height of 62 meters, and from its top, you can enjoy a panoramic view of Zadar and the Zadar Channel.

If you’re up for a beautiful view, prepare for the ascent. The bell tower is open every day from 10 am to 5 pm, and the admission fee is 2 euros. 

If, like me, you have issues with heights and confined spaces, be prepared for an adventure and conquer your fear because the view is truly spectacular.

Fun Park Biograd

For family activities in Zadar, head 40 minutes out of the city and visit Fun Park Biograd. This playful and creative theme park features dozens of attractions spread across four themed areas: Atlantis, Wild West, Pirate Town, and Space. 

Fuel your imagination with journeys through impressive worlds or relax and unwind on a panoramic wheel and canoe ride. The park also has a 4D cinema, world-class simulators, and a gaming area with plenty of favorite arcade games. 

You can also enjoy a continuous lineup of live entertainment throughout the park, from comedic performances and magicians to genuine circus acts.

People’s Square and City Lodge

Everything important that ever happened in Zadar, dating back to the Middle Ages, either occurred or was heard on People’s Square.

It’s the center of city life, where people have coffee, socialize, and it’s a kind of Zadar’s gathering spot. From People’s Square, paths lead in all directions! It’s the starting point to Kalelarga, the promenade, Five Wells Square, or the market and fish market.

In the City Lodge on People’s Square, built in the 13th century, Zadar’s residents gathered and discussed the city’s most important matters.

On the other side stands the City Guard from the mid-16th century with a clock tower that has been continuously operating since 1803. Today, the City Lodge is the center of Zadar’s artistic life, hosting well-known international events during the summer months.

Defensive Walls and Land Gate, UNESCO Monuments

The defensive system of walls and fortresses in Zadar was built during the 16th and 17th centuries to resist Ottoman attempts to conquer the city.

The most impressive part of the walls is the Land Gate, built in 1543 and considered one of the most beautiful Renaissance monuments in all of Dalmatia. During the rule of the Venetian Republic, Zadar was the largest fortified city, and the Ottomans never managed to breach its walls.

Sea Organ

The Sea Organ is a must-visit for anyone coming to Zadar. This fantastic art installation is the work of Nikola Bašić and consists of pipes located beneath the steps.

The 70-meter-long steps descend into the sea and produce a unique melody every time the sea waves touch the shore. The Sea Organ is located on the western side of the peninsula, built in 2005, and quickly became one of the most recognizable symbols of the city as a one-of-a-kind installation of its kind in the world.

You can sit on the steps and enjoy the relaxing melody played by the sea while watching the nearby islands stretching on the horizon.

Greetings to the Sun

Just a few steps away from the Sea Organ, you’ll find another world-famous attraction also designed by Nikola Bašić.

The Greetings to the Sun is a solar panel with a diameter of 22 meters, consisting of 300 multi-layered glass plates.

Beneath them are a series of solar cells that store energy during the day and produce a changing wave of impressive colors after dark. It’s like a modern open-air disco floor with the background music of the Sea Organ!

Roman Forum

One of the most famous landmarks in Zadar is undoubtedly the Roman Forum located in front of the Church of St. Donatus and the Archbishop’s Palace. This is the largest space of its kind on the eastern side of the Adriatic, and the founder of the forum was the first Roman emperor, Augustus.

Two stone inscriptions dating from the 3rd century, when the construction of the forum was completed, serve as evidence. The forum is the name of the main square in all ancient Roman cities where the entire public life of the city took place.

Originally, on its southwest part, there was a raised Capitoline Hill, in the middle of which stood a temple dedicated to Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva.

On its northwest side, one monumental column has been preserved, which in the Middle Ages served as a “column of shame,” as evidenced by the chains from that period.

Explore the Zadar Archipelago

Since the city is right by the water, there are plenty of local activities that involve sailing. Boat trips are among the most interesting and fun activities in Zadar.

While cruising the Zadar archipelago and surrounding areas, you’ll be treated to beautiful landscapes and epic adventures. With a variety of available half-day and full-day excursions, you’ll be able to enjoy the sights at your own pace.

Go on a full-day trip from Zadar to the Telascica National Park, home to wild donkeys and the impressive Mir Lake, which is filled with saltwater. If you’re up for a James Bond-like experience, book a half-day speedboat tour to some of the nearby islands. The only thing more enjoyable than exploring the quiet, idyllic shores of Ugljan, Ošljak, and Školjić islands will be the thrilling ride to get there.

Discover the Best Zadar Beaches

Another advantage of staying on the coast? Beautiful beaches! You could easily spend your entire vacation lounging on various shores, but some beaches truly stand out. Head to Borik Beach for excellent swimming or relaxation on a lovely pebble-filled shoreline.

For a more secluded experience, try exploring Puntamika Beach, which has a small café, a picturesque lighthouse, and plenty of quiet coves. And for stunning scenery with a touch of local flavor, swing by Punta Bajlo Beach, with its peaceful pine forest that’s a great place to unwind after a few laps in the water.

Whichever option you choose, you’ll be guaranteed beautiful waters and a gentle atmosphere to help you relax.

Museum of Ancient Glass

If you love historical artifacts with beautiful aesthetic details, take a trip through the Museum of Ancient Glass.

As the name suggests, the museum specializes in glass specimens, some of which date back to the 1st century BC. With over 5,000 items organized into several thematic areas, this impressive collection provides a comprehensive look at the story of glass in some of its earliest forms.

In addition to world-class exhibitions, you can also visit the workshop area and witness live glassblowing demonstrations. Learn all about the techniques used by art practitioners, and then watch as they create replicas of ancient works displayed throughout the museum.

As beads, laboratory glass, and unique decorative pieces begin to take shape, you’ll gain a better understanding of how this beautiful art form continues to inspire creative movements to this day.

Kayak Around Long Island (Dugi Otok)

If all the boats and harbors in the city are giving you a sense of nautical adventure, try booking a kayak tour for an extra level of excitement.

One of the most popular places to go is Dugi Otok (Long Island), a beautiful and slightly more rural island off the coast. This stunning area offers everything from untouched beaches to breathtaking cliffside views, and even an opportunity for snorkeling near a shipwreck.

You can also try a general sightseeing tour that takes place closer to the city. Paddle past historical monuments and coastal promenades, seeing the city from an entirely new perspective while enjoying the gentle waves of the water.

Duke’s Palace

If you enjoy seeing how historical spaces take on new lives, then visiting the Duke’s Palace is one of the great things you can do in Zadar. This former noble residence was built in the 12th century and later withstood the violence of World War II and Balkan battles.

It currently serves as one of the central points of community civic life, housing a concert hall and a public library, as well as a small museum showcasing the city’s history.

Whether you want to learn more about the city, find new reading material, or simply enjoy beautiful melodies in a unique setting, the Duke’s Palace has something for you.

Archaeological Museum Zadar

If you want to see Paleolithic tools, Roman artifacts, and religious objects all housed in a building that is historical in itself, then be sure to visit the Archaeological Museum Zadar.

This institution is the second oldest museum in all of Croatia and boasts a truly impressive collection of specimens from the earliest days of human activity. 

With over 100,000 displayed items, you will never run out of things to learn as you peruse exhibits from the Greek and Roman periods, admire Neanderthal artifacts, or observe relics from the height of the Byzantine Empire.

This unique and comprehensive space showcases how far the region’s history reaches back and offers an opportunity to get up close to some of the treasures of the past.

Museum of Illusions

Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you can’t exercise your mind. And for a creative (and fun) way to test your brain while in the city, check out the Museum of Illusions.

This entertaining and free space is one of the most unique things you can do in Zadar, teaching visitors about the power of perception through a series of interactive exhibits.

Whether you’re stumbling through the Vortex tunnel defying gravity, changing your shape in the Room of Mirrors, or playing with optical illusions in the Infinity Room, you’re sure to have fun pushing the boundaries of sensory understanding.

Enjoy Dalmatian Cuisine 

After spending a few hours walking and sightseeing, I believe hunger will catch up with you. But don’t worry, the Zadar Peninsula is full of restaurants and places to have a nice coffee.

The most popular restaurant is Bruschetta, which offers a perfect view of the waterfront. If you’re vegan, then The Botanist is just 50 meters away, and if you’re a gourmet, then you’ll find the best barbecue at Harbor CookHouse & Club.

At Bruschetta, you can enjoy traditional Dalmatian cuisine, and if you’re traveling to Zadar in the summer or on weekends, I recommend booking a table in advance just in case.

You won’t go wrong by choosing one of the restaurants in Varoš, a charming neighborhood that you must visit when traveling to Zadar. Varoš is known for its narrow streets and tall, old residential buildings.

The iconic place “četiri kantuna” or “four corners,” named so because it connects four streets, is also a part of Varoš. For years, this has been a meeting place for locals, where they move on to lectures, the market, or a stroll in the city center.