This post originally started as a continuation to my post, The Top 5 Places I Officially Can’t Wait to Visit, and was going to be a list of the top 5 places I officially think you should visit after quarantine ends. However, the more I wrote about each city, the more I realized that every place is so wonderful I should be making it it’s own entire post.
And so I did!
Rather than one long post, this will be the first of 5, each of which will share with you details of some of my favorite places I’ve ever been and why I think they should absolutely end up on your travel list.
Now, writing about these places isn’t honestly at the forefront of my mind right now. Writing about how to best cope with what we’re all going through using experiences I’ve had and skills I’ve gained through my travels has been, and will remain, my primary focus on my posts!
However, I think one of the best things we can do for ourselves right now is to plan for exciting adventures when this is all over. And I can promise you, Zadar is a place that will keep you dreaming!
With Zadar, I’m obviously super biased because I lived there, and I considered not putting the two places I’ve lived outside of my home on this list for that reason. However, Zadar is truly a magical city and I would be lying through my teeth if I put any other place I’ve been above it, regardless of my experiences living there!
Things to Do
Wander through Old Town
Old Town is the city center, but it’s not like other city centers you might be used to. There’s no driving or biking, only walking, as the streets are paved with beautiful white marble.
Ruins and churches collide with modern shops and cafes in this town center, creating a one-of-kind experience when wandering through Old Town. As old town is also on a peninsula and surrounded by water on one side, it makes for a spectacular place to sit and have lunch
Enjoy The Greeting To The Sun
The Greeting to the Sun is an art installation that is a part of the peninsula that Old Town resides on. This art installation, made up of over 10,000 solar powered light bulbs, collects power throughout the day and then at night lights up all different colors and patterns that move in perfect programmed sync with the sounds of the Sea Organ.
And as an added bonus, the glass on top of these lights perfectly reflects the sunset as it goes down. (It can be hard to see the reflection at sunset with all of the people around, but sunrise is a great time for some peace and quiet with this beautiful piece of art.)
Take in the haunting sounds of The Sea Organ
Also built into the peninsula just below The Greetings to the Sun, is the Sea Organ. Long stairs that have been hollowed out combine water and air in a way that creates organ music as the waves crash into them. It’s been described as beautiful and even a little haunting. But it’s absolutely unlike anything you’ve experienced, and as the sounds become more dramatic the bigger the waves that crash into it, spend some time hanging out down there and inevitably a boat will create a perfect set of waves to make the unique organ music even more interesting to listen to.
Visit the Restaurants and Cafes
Croatia is well-known for its amazing cuisine, primarily its seafood. And Zadar is no different. I couldn’t honestly tell you my favorite restaurant because they all have amazing dishes.
As you wander through the beautiful Old Town you will walk through alleys filled with restaurants or you’ll come out into the main center and have restaurants with a perfect view of the Adriatic Sea.
Wander Through Arbanasi
Now this is a recommendation you might not come across too many times, as Arbanasi isn’t exactly a ‘destination’ in Zadar, it’s a neighborhood.
But let me tell you, it’s unlike any neighborhood you’ve ever seen.
It’s the oldest neighborhood in Zadar and home to my beloved Drunken Monkey Hostel (now called the Mellow Monkey Hostel, but it’ll always be the Drunken to me…sorry guys!).
But being home to my hostel isn’t what makes it special. The building architecture and the love and care people put into their homes is what makes it so unique and nothing short of magical.
Flowers cover walls, vines wrap endlessly around terraces, gardens are filled with fruits and vegetables and houses are painted all different colors. Wander through the alleys and end up right on the water from almost every direction.
These homes have been passed down through generations and generations of families, and you can see the care and love that have gone into taking care of these homes for decades.
You just feel like you’re wandering through a part of history as you walk the alley ways.
In fact, while I was working with two Kiwi’s we were sitting in our hostel chatting with our boss about how old the building of our hostel was and we realized it was actually older than the country of New Zealand.
Now, NZ is a pretty young country, but still, as 3 people from countries that put historical landmarks on buildings that are 100 years old, we were all pretty wowed!
Have a Drink at Tequila Sunrise
This is another little hidden gem, as it sits on the far opposite end of the peninsula from Old Town. However, it sits at the edge of Arbanasi and is the perfect place to grab a drink or a cup of coffee, do some cliff diving into the Adriatic Sea and then sit and take in the spectacular sunsets of Zadar.
Take in a Sunset
I’ve seen my fair share of sunsets around the world and while I have seen some pretty spectacular ones, nothing has ever quite captured me like the sunsets of Zadar.
You’ll see it mentioned on every blog post about Zadar, photographed by every photographer who visits and raved about by anyone who’s had the chance to take it in.
There’s something about the combination of having a perfectly clear view as the sun just hits the water and the sea as it reflects the beautiful colors of the sunset. The clouds intermix with the islands and, for just a few minutes, everyone is silent as they watch the sun slowly disappear into the glittering Adriatic Sea.
I’ve shared some photos, but I genuinely hope you all get the chance to see it for yourselves one day. I don’t know that any photos could truly do it justice.
And as a side note, Zadar has some pretty spectacular sunrises as well!
Enjoy the Nightlife
As the sun sets you’ll see the streets of Old Town fill up with people, the cafe’s turn into bars and the energy turn from quiet coffees and lunches to a nightlife full of specialty cocktails and tons of music.
And if you feel like dancing rather than just just having drinks, you can pop over to Ledana and Svarog for some more mainstream dance music, both of them boasting outdoor dance floors and bars. (An added bonus as you dance away your worries in the heat of the Zadar summer!)
Call it home base for many of your other Croatian adventures
Zadar is called the gateway to Dalmatia, and it’s the perfect place to call home while you adventure to many other nearby amazing sites.
It’s an easy hop onto ferries that will take you to a variety of islands nearby, you can drive to Pag or many of the nearby cities, take a tour to Plitvice Lakes or Krka National Park, and so much else. But I think I’ll save all of that for a later post on what to do in Croatia, outside of Zadar!
A guest once put it perfectly to me when she said ‘I just can’t put my finger on it. Zadar just has a certain je ne sai quois about it, I’m not sure how I’ll ever leave.’
Its je ne sai quois is a little bit of magic that makes it hard to leave, and impossible to forget.
So if you ever find yourself down that way, add it to your destinations list. I promise you won’t be disappointed!
Have you already been to Zadar or Croatia? If so, I’d love to hear your favorite parts about it in the comments below!