I started planning a holiday to Zadar, Croatia about two weeks ago. Even though the trip was to be pretty spontaneous, I decided it was important to have an idea of what we’d be doing!
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This time, I didn’t think I was actually going to book anything. It’s not unusual for me to check out the latest travel deals; my criteria being something quick, cheap, and easy. And when I used the Ryanair “Fare Finder” and the Easyjet “Inspire Me” tools to search by budget, I cycled through a few before I landed on Zadar, Croatia. It was 36 quid for a return…I was certainly interested.
Backstory: In my misspent youth, I worked for 9 months as a flight attendant for a low-budget airline which taught me a lot about life, people, and – more than anything else – myself. I got to meet some amazing people and some awful people, but before I did this job, I was a serious wallflower and hated doing anything risky. When I came to leave to go back to Uni, my personality was completely changed.
On one flight to Croatia, I remember speaking to a beautiful Croatian passenger who told me all about her country, specifically Zadar where we were flying to. She told me I too had to go one day. And as I gazed out the plane window, admiring the tangle of islands surrounded by blue/green ocean, I promised myself I would.
Zadar, Croatia: Quicklinks!
- What To Do In Zadar, Croatia
- Travelling Beyond Zadar
- Travelling Beyond Zadar: Pag Island
- Taking The Ferry To Other Croatian Islands
- Food, Drink and Desserts in Zadar
- My Travel Picks!
Fast forward 9 years, hyped on the promise of an incredibly cheap plane ticket, I checked Booking.com for accommodation. It was really reasonable, but this didn’t mean that the apartments and hotels weren’t beautiful.
I saw this one first:
Aldo Apartments Center had everything I would expect from accommodation. It was in the heart of Zadar and even had a balcony. It was rated 9.1 on Booking.com, and with my Genius discount, it was incredibly well priced at around £50 pounds a night, sleeping up to 4 people.
A Plan Begins To Form
“Hold on, this could be completely doable,” I thought to myself. So, I started to ask around to see whether some of my friends would be interested in a spontaneous trip to Croatia in a couple of weeks. Two were! Result!
From the Google Map above, you can see the Apartment was only about 20 minutes away from Zadar Airport. There are a variety of ways of getting around I noticed: airport transfer (taxi – prebooked or not), public transport, i.e. bus, or car hire.
- Airport transfer looked really expensive, so for my “cheap, quick and easy” checklist, it certainly didn’t tick all the boxes.
- Public transport is definitely the cheapest at 25 Croatian Kuna for a one-way ticket (about £3), but public transport makes me incredibly anxious (where to catch it, when to catch it, what do they drive like etc. etc. – all these things were running through my mind at a million miles an hour).
I also thought I wanted to travel further out of Zadar to see some of the beautiful sights of the Croatian countryside. Did you know Croatia has 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites? I didn’t either, but I definitely wanted to see some if I could!
This would be difficult by bus, and after checking the prices, I realised it would get pretty steep too.
Basically, I was trying to justify spending money on car hire.
But, actually, when I searched for prices, I managed to find an economy car (a Hyundai i20 or similar) from Avis for only £8 a day. It would have been a bit cheaper (£5 a day) if the inbound flight wasn’t so late, so bear that in mind.
I like hiring a car. I’m used to driving abroad since I lived in France and Sweden for a bit, and have done a fair amount of foreign driving on various other holidays. So, I was pretty pleased to find out how cheap it was.
- When you hire a car, check how much money you are liable to pay if anything happens to it (EXCESS) – this can even mean a minor scratch or dent that wasn’t your fault.
- Companies block out a lump sum on your credit card when you pick the car up, just in case anything happens (DEPOSIT). Make sure you bear this in mind.
I chose to offset the excess part by paying £20 extra for the Premium Cover insurance. This sets my liability to £0, and gives me extra peace of mind as there are some crazy drivers out there, and they don’t care if they bump you or not! I just didn’t want to be worrying about this.
Booking The Apartment
With the car sorted, I went back to book the apartment but realised that this particular venue didn’t have private parking. It just said parking.
What the heck did that mean?
After digging around the Booking.com website, I discovered it meant parking was only available in pay-and-display car parks or on the street.
Despite paying the excess on insurance, I really didn’t want to have to worry about public pay-and-display car parks, or whether or not I had change on me. I did not want a parking ticket.
So, I went back to the drawing board with the apartments and made sure I looked for ones that had Private Parking.
I didn’t have to look long; there were so many beautiful places to stay:
It was stunning, and I loved it immediately, especially the high ceilings and outside seating area. Like the other apartment, it was in the heart of Zadar city, right by the ocean, and came fully equipped with private parking. Result!
What To Do In Zadar, Croatia
With all the booking stuff done, I could start thinking more about the places I thought we should visit. I faithfully use Tripadvisor for this.
Plitvice Lakes National Parks
Now, these lakes are technically outside Zadar, but they’re my favourite, so they’re going first.
The Plitvice Lakes were named Croatia’s first national park on 8th April 1949, located in the mountainous region of the country. Its beauty is thanks to the process of tufa formation apparently – a type of limestone that’s created when carbonate minerals in water become solid. This tufa formed barriers, which then created lakes and wonderful waterfalls.
There are rules to follow here:
- No collecting of plant material or taking any souvenirs from the site itself
- No feeding the animals
- No swimming in the lakes
- No leaving any litter whatsoever, apart from inside rubbish bins located throughout the park
- No straying off the marked pathways
- Must wear appropriate clothing and footwear
- Advised to bring rain and sun protection (check weather forecast beforehand)
- Make sure you leave enough time depending on which trail you take
You can go on lake tours or hiking trails of various lengths – the maximum can take up to 8 hours. When you purchase an entrance ticket, it includes transport with the electric boat and panorama train, and visitor insurance.
The one-day prices for 1st April to 30th June are 150 Croatian Kuna (just under £18), jumping to 250Kn (£30) from 1st July to 31st August, and then down to 55Kn (£6.50) in the winter months. This is due to how the site looks in these seasons and its popularity.
But, I think the Spring and Summer months are worth it. See?
Morske Orgulje (Sea Organ) And Greeting To The Sun
Zadar’s “Sea Organ” was designed by Nikola Bašić and built in 2005. Born out of the paving stone steps are 35 organ pipe holes, which emit “unworldly” tones. Reviewers advise coming here after dark to see the light show, which accompanies the sounds and rhythm created by the waves.
Another nature-powered creation by Nikola Bašić is the “Greeting to the Sun”. The circle is illuminated by photovoltaic cells – meaning they convert sunlight directly into electricity – and it depicts the solar system via a series of mesmerising colours and patterns.
Both of these sights will be amazing to see on an evening stroll around Zadar city.
The Forum* is a 45 x 90m municipal square from the Roman era, built from 1st century BC to the 3rd century AD. It is located in front of St. Donat’s church (the largest Byzantine building in Croatia) and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese – two more great sights to see in Zadar.
* “Forum” is what all the main squares in the cities of ancient Roman Empire were called.
Queen Jelena Madije Park
Queen Jelena Madije is an absolutely outstandingly beautiful park. Sorry, there are no photographs; I couldn’t find any that were licensed for free use. But please go check it out for yourself on Google. I will post my own photographs when I go here.
This park was founded by Baron Franz Ludwig von Welden – an Austrian commander and botanist – in 1829.
Museum Of Illusions
I’m so excited to see this!
Zadar’s Museum of Illusions offers various visual, sensual and educational experiences to trick your eyes and entertain your minds.
Some of these include:
I can already see this being one heck of a laugh!
June to September: MON – SUN: 9 – Midnight
October to November: MON – SUN: 10 – 20hr
December to March: MON – SUN: 10 – 16hr
April & May: MON – SUN: 10 – 20hr
– adults 60 kuna (£7.00)
– children (5-15yrs) 40 kuna
– family 150 kuna
Other Sights To See:
Archaeological Museum Of Zadar – next door to the Forum with departments such as: pre-historic, ancient, medieval and submarine. There are more than 100,000 items on display, coming from all cultural and historical periods.
April & May: MON – SAT: 9 – 15hr
June: MON – SUN: 9 – 21hr
July & August: MON – SUN: 9 – 22hr
September: MON – SUN: 9 – 21hr
October: MON – SAT: 9 – 15 hr
November to March: MON – FRI: 9 – 14hrs, and SAT: 9 – 13hrs
– adults 30 kuna (£3.50)
– students 12 kuna
The Gold and Silver Museum of Zadar – Otherwise known as “The Museum for Religious Art” and built in 1972 within the monastery of St. Mary’s church. Exhibits include: gold, silver, manuscripts, sculptures, embroideries, and tapestries made by nuns.
MON – SAT: 10-13 and 18-20 hr,
SUNDAYS: 10-12 hr
– adults 20 kuna (£2.30)
– groups 10 kuna (5+ persons),
– students 5 kuna
The Sphinx of Zadar – Located in Bay of Maestral (very close to our apartment), is a concrete Sphinx built by painter and historian Giovanni Smirich (1842-1929) in memory of his wife.
The Museum of Ancient Glass – Overlooking the Jazine harbour, the display of Roman glassware is one of the best outside of Italy. Goblets, jars and vials from archaeological sites across all Dalmatia are showcased here.
October to June 14th: MON – SAT: 9 – 21 hr,
June 15th to September: MON – SUN: 9 – 21hr
– adults 30 kuna (£3.50)
– groups 20 kuna (5+ persons),
– students 10 kuna
Travelling Beyond Zadar
Krke National Park
Similarly to the Plitvice Lakes, Krke National Park is known for its outstandingly beautiful waterfalls and scenery. It’s another place I’m definitely going to visit!
Lozovac Entrance is 55 minutes away from Zadar, and there are downloadable park maps and guides on the park’s official website. There are also panoramic views of the site, which you can check out here.
Krka National Park Working hours
*Puljane Eco Campus, due to the renovation works, is not currently open for visiting.
|Skradinski buk i Roški slap||Kistanje (Krka Monastery), Puljane Eco Campus*, Burnum|
|January||9:00 – 16:00||closed|
|February||9:00 – 16:00||closed|
|March||9:00 – 17:00||closed|
|April||8:00 – 18:00||10:00 – 18:00|
|May||8:00 – 19:00||10:00 – 18:00|
|June||8:00 – 20:00||10:00 – 18:00|
|July||8:00 – 20.00||8:00 – 20:00|
|August||8:00 – 20:00||8:00 – 20:00|
|September||8:00 – 19:00||10:00 – 18:00|
|October 1 – October 15||8:00 – 18:00||10:00 – 18:00|
|October 16 – October 31||9:00 – 17:00||10:00 – 17:00|
|November||9:00 – 16:00||closed|
|December||9:00 – 16:00||closed|
FYI: 110kn works out to be around £13.
Travelling Beyond Zadar: Pag Island
Paška Sirana Cheese Shop is located in the oldest village on the island of Pag, and is famous for its award-winning cheese. We will be driving through this town when we visit Pag, so stopping here is a must!
Other Places in Pag
Na Tale Croatian Restaurant – This restaurant overlooks the bay and serves up the catch of the day.
Taking The Ferry To Croatian Islands
To get to Dugi Otok: Zadar to Brbinj – 176Kn (£20)
To get to Rab: Stinica to Misnjak – 98Kn (£11)
There are so many other islands to explore in Croatia; their diverse atmospheres appealing to all different tastes. To determine which islands you think you should visit, check out this awesome post by Lonely Planet. And here is a link to the Croatian Ferry timetable – the prices are often at the bottom of the page.
Food, Drink & Desserts In Zadar
Restaurant Kaštel, Hotel Bastion
Seafood, Mediterranean, European, Croatian, Vegetarian-Friendly
Restaurant Kastel is named on Tripadvisor as the number 1 place to eat. The food is beautiful and very fancy, and when checking out the menu, I noticed that the prices (for the best restaurant in town) are pretty reasonable – similar to what you’d pay in a Zizzi or something back home. Since the girls and I will be holidaying on a budget, I’m not sure if we’ll go here. But we shall see!
Seafood, Mediterranean, European, Croatian, Vegetarian-Friendly
Proto Food&More is the 2nd best restaurant in Zadar, but the food is a lot cheaper. The small, boutique restaurant is located close to Queen Jelena Madije Park, and is definitely somewhere I’d like to go for lunch after a day of walking around Zadar.
Italian, Pizza, Mediterranean, European, Croatian, Vegetarian Friendly, Vegan Options
The girls and I love Italian food, so Mamma Mia restaurant looks perfect! It’s the 4th best restaurant in Zadar according to Tripadvisor. I think you have to sit outside as there are no indoor seats, but looking at the weather, this shouldn’t be a problem!
Croatian, Cafe, Delicatessen, Healthy, Wine Bar
There are literally hundreds of restaurants in Zadar and the surrounding areas, so if you want to find something specific that meets your needs, you definitely will.
I hope this helps you with planning a holiday to Zadar, Croatia. Please keep track of the blog to see updates from when we actually go there!
My Travel Picks!