With so much to do and see it’s not hard to spend 24 hours in Zadar. Despite being one of the lesser-known European countries, Croatia is definitely one of the most beautiful. Due to its beauty, it’s unsurprising that Croatia has grown in popularity with tourists over the past 20 years. Unfortunately, due to the surge in tourism, the main cities in Croatia can become quite crowded over the summer months. This is why I would recommend the city of Zadar. Zadar is not as well known as many other cities in Croatia, therefore, is not quite so busy and hectic. Although Zadar is not as popular as other cities it certainly is just as stunning; if not more.
Zadar is located on the southern Dalmatian coast and has everything you could possibly want for a quick trip, from beaches to culture, it really has it all.
This is how I would recommend spending 24 hours in the Zadar:
For the perfect start to your 24 hours in Zadar head straight to the Old Town. This area is jam-packed with history and culture. There is plenty to see in this area from ruins and interesting architecture to street markets.
As the first port of call I would highly recommend doing a walking tour. There are many different walking tours, some are free, others have a small fee. Many of the tours begin outside St Donatus church at 10 am. This is the best way to soak in the rich history of Zadar. The tour guides explain in depth the significance of Old Town and how each of the areas is important in different ways. From the walking tour, you can then decide what you want to look at more in-depth.
Zadar Cathedral (St Anastasia’s Cathedral)
I would recommend climbing the bell tower at the Zadar Cathedral (St Anastasia’s Cathedral).
This tower is located right in the historical centre giving excellent, panoramic views across the city. Looking out from the top you can see the cool blue of the Adriatic Sea contrasting with the orange tiled roofs, a signature of the cities architecture. It costs around €2 to climb the tower, which is a bargain for the experience and the photo opportunity of the view!
Another beautiful building in this area is the Church. Its unique rounded shape demands the attention of passers-by. This is one of the most important pieces of architecture in Zadar due to its age and roman roots, it was constructed in the 9th century.
Although this building is called a church, a service has not been held here in over 200 years. The building is often used for concerts, mainly classical, due to its outstanding acoustics.
Zadar can be a very warm city; especially during the height of summer where temperatures can reach over 30 degrees celsius. This is why I would suggest heading straight to the beach in the afternoon with an ice cream in hand.
Zadar had a rich Italian heritage. This has significantly impacted one thing – incredible gelato. The best place to get a hold of this fine cuisine is on the main pedestrian street running through the Old Town (Kalelarga). Grab a delicious cone and head to the sea!
Kolovare beach is a just few minutes walk from the city centre of Zadar, which is very convenient. Place a towel on the beach and get into the sea to cool off, which in summer, is a perfect temperature. If swimming is not your thing, lay down and soak in the rays. This is a shingle beach; understandably this is not everyone’s cup of tea. If this is not what you like, you can travel a bit further from the city centre for a beautiful, picture-perfect, sandy beach.
Unfortunately, with only 24 hours in Zadar, commuting to the beach will waste precious time. It’s up to you if you can hack the pebbly beach!
In Zadar, the evening seems to bring more people out, mainly to experience the stunning sunset. A trip to the end of the peninsula is a must, even if you are only spending 24 hours in Zadar. This is where the most famous modern attractions are located.
The smooth marble steps jutting out into the sea are in fact an art installation installed in 2005. This unique piece of art is an organ which is played by the power of the sea. The steps make for a great seating area to relax as the skies begin to darken in the evening.
There are 35 organ pipes along the edge of these steps and the smooth, soothing sounds produced are controlled by the waves. This is a calming place enjoyed by both locals and tourists. It is such a great experience which has to be heard in person the be believed!
Greeting to the Sun (Sun Salutation)
24 hours in Zadar would not be complete without watching the world-renowned sunset. There is no better place to watch the sunset than the Sun Salutation. Located right a the tip of the peninsula there is nothing between you and the sun setting on the horizon.
The sun salutation is a circular light installation embedded into the ground, designed by the same architect as the sea organ. It absorbs light from the sun beating down on it all day; then once the sky begins to darken, the floor lights up with thousands of LEDs. Different colours and swirling patterns fascinate onlookers as they watch the mesmerising light show. This creative piece of art brings so much life to the waterfront.
This small Croatian city really packs a punch when it comes to attractions and culture. This is why we would always recommend heading off the beaten track to explore places that are lesser-known and are completely new to you. You never know where you’ll find a hidden gem.
Comment down below if you have ever been to Zadar and let us know if you have discovered another small city which has surprised you.
If you are staying in Zadar for more than 24 hours I would highly recommend a day trip to Telašćica National Park. You can check out our post about it here
If you like this and fancy travelling to other lesser-known European cities why not check out our post on Mostar, Bosnia below.