Perching at the edge of the Adriatic Sea, this city in Croatia is perfect for combining sightseeing and sunshine...
Tourists have been lauding the delights of Croatian beauties Split and Dubrovnik for years now, while Zadar, in northern Dalmatia, has stayed somewhat off the holiday radar. And while Zadar is perhaps not as obviously attractive as Dubrovnik, and perhaps not as stylish as Split, the city certainly has its own charms.
There's a buzz about Zadar thanks in large part to the student population of the acclaimed university. Life whirls around cafés and churches, Roman ruins and seafront treasures. Just take a leisurely amble along the Riva, Zadar's waterfront promenade, to be confronted by a vista of sea and far-off hills on the islands of the Adriatic (Alfred Hitchcock proclaimed this to be the finest sunset spot in the world). This is a real slice of Croatia and once you've seen it, you will want to come back again and again.
Find out where to find the best Zadar hotels to suit your pocket...
The city isn't overrun with hotels so it's wise to book as early as possible to secure a stay in your preferred location. What choice there is starts at basic budget hotels and B&Bs and runs to top-class luxury hotels on the water's edge. The best hotels in Zadar tend to welcome guests around the bustling marina, which is on the promontory where the ancient part of the city sits. Cruise ships dock here and welcome day-trippers. Zadar is a fantastic gateway to the coastal treasures of Europe, so if you fancy it you can take a break in the city before boarding a cruise. Cheaper hotels tend to be concentrated in the areas west and north of Old Town.
Life in Zadar is about sipping coffees at cafés and strolling cobbled streets rather than rushing from one attraction to the next...
There is just enough to see and do though, should you itch to be active while in Zadar.
Top five attractions
Dozens of churches can be found among the red roofs of this ancient part of Zadar. Roman architecture reigns here, so much so that you'll think you're in Italy.
You can check out the sands of some of the small city beaches, though the beaches at Nin, just 20 minutes north of Zadar, are huge, dotted with woodland, and feature a delightful mountain vista.
Stroll to the Riva in Zadar to hear the sounds of the sea organ, which uses pipes under the marble steps to create amazing melodies.
Church of St Donatus
The largest pre-Romanesque building in Croatia, work began on this impressive building in the 8th century.
Sprawling across the seas in front of Zadar, and tempting visitors to take a closer look, is a number of attractive Croatian islands. These ribbon-like stretches of land offer the chance to enjoy secluded beaches and quiet villages.
It's a pleasure to visit Zadar at any time, though summer is when the events calendar is packed with highlights...
These three highpoints of Zadar's social calendar attract big crowds so book hotels early if you plan to be in town.
Summer Theatre Festival; June-August: Some of the city's most magnificent buildings host performances of theatre, dance and music throughout summer.
Full Moon Festival; July/August: When the moon is full in summer the lights are turned off and the Riva is lit by candles and torches. Music plays, food is served, and visitors witness one of the most beautiful sights in Croatia.
Musical Evenings in St Donat; July-August: The church and other religious buildings set the stage for classical music. Many national and international performers fill the air with music.