The Adriatic coastline plays a star role in what makes Croatia such a popular travel destination and why I love Croatia. Every seaside town along this most indented Croatian coastline has a Riva where people promenade, swim, fish, moor boats, drink coffee and take their evening stroll. Beside these common things to do in Zadar however are the quirky light installation known as the Sun Salutation Zadar with the accompanying Eerie sounds of the Zadar Sea Organ. My hat is off to you Zadar.
I Love Zadar for it’s Inventiveness and Creativity
Zadar Riva shines with more than just the sun’s rays.
Zadar Sea Organ and Sun Salutation Zadar
Zadar’s Riva has expansive views, across Zadar Strait to Ugljan Island only 3km from the town harbour. Our Airbnb apartment was situated at the southern end of the Riva, offering the perfect opportunity for an afternoon walk northward to the joint attractions of the Zadar Sea Organ and Sun Salutation Zadar.
Looking to Ugljan Island across the strait.
What You Will Find in This Post
Who created the Zadar Sea Organ and Why?
The Sea Organ Zadar is an intriguing concept created by architect Nikola Bašić .
A set of wide 70 metre long marble steps provide the perfect place to sit and view the sunset, mesmerised by strange ghostly harmonies emitting from the sea. Thirty-five pipes built beneath the steps, create organ music conducted by the haphazard movement of waves.
I’ve likened it previously to music for mermaids and you can view and listen to it here. With our bedroom windows open late at night, sea organ music would ebb and flow exquisitely around the room.
How was the Sun Salutation Zadar Made and by Who?
The Zadar Sun Salutation was also created by Nikola Bašić.
Implant 300 multilayered glass plates in a 22 metre wide circle in the surface of the Riva, then sit back and enjoy the show.
That is what Nikola Bašić achieved within metres of the Sea Organ.
LED lights powered by the sun’s stored power, pulse in time with wave action producing colourful sequences that flash and disappear hypnotically. What I didn’t realise at the time was that the entire waterfront lighting system is also generated from the Sun Salutation’s photovoltaic cells.
These two impressive attractions create great interest along the promenade.
More things to do in Zadar
Zadar Land Gate and the Harbour of Fosa Zadar
Walking in the other direction away from Zadar Sun Salutation leads to the eastern walls of Zadar old town at Fosa Harbour, beyond which lays the renaissance Zadar Land Gate, once the main town entrance.
The Venetians built the gate in 1543 with a triumphal arch for vehicles and smaller gates either side for pedestrians.
On the seaward side, the winged Lion of St. Mark reminds of a time when Venetians ruled Zadar town.
Of the four gates that remain in the walls this one is the most impressive.
It is considered the finest Venetian monument in Dalmatia.
From here you can either enter the gate or turn south and to find a swimming spot.
Kolovare Beach Zadar – Boat Harbour
My camera has one fault with disastrous consequences – it allows me to take photos without a camera card being loaded.
I’ve done this twice and our walk to Kolovare Beach was one of those occasions.
We had a lovely afternoon exploring the area – having drinks at a waterside bar, watching beach volleyball and finding the imperial fountain. Marty provides a lot of photos for the blog and thankfully he took two shots that afternoon. Here they are.
Walk to Kolovare Beach.
Kolovare Beach Zadar – The Imperial Fountain
Built in 1536 during the Renaissance Period, then renovated during the 18th Century, the Imperial Fountain Zadar is contained within a circular building open to the sea. At one time it provided fresh water for the town and Venetian ships.
Sadly it is somewhat neglected today but still structurally sound and a beautiful sight.
Zadar Cafes, Music and the Rome influence
The squares of Zadar are not lacking cafes overflowing with patrons. Some looked far too busy for us.
The main thoroughfare in Zadar is the original Roman Road but then Rome’s influence can be seen all through town.
Between Zadar Riva and the backing street Ul. Mihovila Pavlinovica, cafe tables and chairs spread out in the grassy park. To enjoy the ambience just take a seat and waiters will deliver your order from across the street.
Zadar Cafe beside Roman column.
Cafe Rio on the northern side of our apartment block, with it’s cushioned bench seats could easily hail from Turkey.
On the southern side was a mural depicting the famous now deceased Croatian singer, songwriter and politician Tomislav Ivčić, famous for his song Stop the war in Croatia, which surprisingly was a top ten hit in Australia in 1991. He died in a car accident aged 41 and is buried in the famous Mirogoj Cemetery in Zagreb.
We were serenaded by guitar music in our apartment some nights, so it was probably no accident that his mural adorned the walls beneath.
Enjoy walking Zadar Streets
Zadar is no Dubrovnik. Her streets are not over-run with tourists and her scars of war have been filled with a mix of normal everyday buildings.
Whether modern or ancient, Zadar’s streets are a friendly place for locals and visitors to roam.
Zadar Roman Forum
The remains of Zadar Roman Forum are spread out in a manicured grassed area with paved walkways. Although only pieces remain, they are interesting pieces. Wrong-doers were chained to the shaming post (above) during the middle ages for a dose of public humiliation.
Learn about Zadar History
Present day Zadar has been populated since pre-historic times, with the Romans first invading in the 2nd Century BC. The town has a huge history of prominence, destruction, invasions and rulers, but along the way it acquired the typical Roman rectangular street plan, forum and a water supply system arriving from lake Vrana, via a 40 kilometre long aqueduct.
Zadar War II
Looking at Zadar today it is hard to believe that 60% of the old town was destroyed by allied bombing in the second world war after Germany took the city, or that it was partially destroyed by Yugoslav rocket attacks 1991-3. Back then the people were stuck in their homes without food or water. The waterfront was finally reconstructed in 2005 at which time the Sun Salutation and Sea Organ were installed.
Zadar is known as the Oldest Inhabited Town in Croatia.
Head of Jupiter with Rams Horns.
Visit St. Donatus Church
Circular, 9th Century Byzantine St. Donatus Church was built on top of the Roman Forum.
The St. Donatus Church Zadar building is in good condition, except for the missing timber floor. This stroke of luck reveals the way the old roman columns were used as footings for the 9th century Church.
The church has gorgeous forum and ocean views from the top level.
Roman Footings at St. Donatus Zadar
Zadar Cathedral of St. Anastasia and Bell Tower
Originally built in the 4th Century, this Romanesque version dating from the 12th Century, was reconstructed after damage in WWII.
The bell tower can be climbed from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. except on Sunday for beautiful views of the peninsula.
The sunset views from up the top are to die for.
Looking skyward past the bas relief of Madonna and Child.
I thought the Church was pretty from the outside so I peeked within. I’m no church aficionado, but I did like the unusual dark timber ceiling (no colourful frescoes here) and the natural stone columns dominating the room in a sombre yet attractive way.
Watch the Zadar Sunset
Looking south while waiting for Sunset on the Riva.
Our camera cards are full of Zadar’s Sunsets. The sunset shot below being taken from the Riva near the Sea Organ Steps.
Crowds gather for Sunset from the Sea Organ steps.
In the words of Alfred Hitchcock “The sunset of Zadar is the world’s most beautiful and incomparably better than in Key West, Florida.”
Hmmm. Poor Key West…
Inspect Zadar Fortifications
Fortifications are an everyday sight on the streets of Zadar. These photos show another two of the town gates.
Take a Zadar Tour
Where to Stay at Zadar
Diklo and Boric 6km to the north-west have traditionally contained the majority of tourist accommodation. If you (like us) would prefer to stay more centrally, I suggest looking at Airbnb “old town” options. We loved our choice.
Hosts Ana and Nik were so hospitable, they even waited on the street to guide us to a saved parking space. They surprised us with chocolates and fresh cherries (Maraschino Cherry Liquer originated in Zadar).
We loved their third floor apartment set amongst the bars and restaurants and best of all – just across the street from the Riva.
If you have not used Airbnb previously you can use the link in our sidebar and you will receive a discount (currently at $35 AUD).
Self Catering Accommodation Zadar
While there are markets and a supermarket in the old town, we visited Supernova on the way through the new Town to stock up for our stay.
Six kilometres and 14 minutes from the old town by car, this modern shopping centre has a large supermarket, specialty stores, food court and restaurants.
The Tele2 (mobile data) store there helped get our phone working again.
How to get to Zadar Croatia
Zadar by Boat
Zadar is one of the best connected towns in Croatia. Car and passenger ferries to the Adriatic islands and beyond (Italy) depart from the harbour.
Jadrolinija sells tickets for all local ferries.international tickets available from Jadroagent inside the walls.
Zadar is connected to Ancona Italy by ferry. Jadrolinija international tickets are available from Jadroagent inside the walls.
In Summer (June to August) Gomo Viaggi run services Cesenatico and Pesaro near Rimini Italy to Zadar.
Zadar airport is 12km east of the city (Ryan Air, Croatian Airlines). Bus (2km east of the old city) and Train (adjacent the bus station).
Getting to Zadar by Bus
Buses arrive at Zadar Bus Station Bregdetti and Ante Starcevic streets. They come from many towns including Zagreb, Split, Dubrovnik, Rijeka, Sibenik and internationally from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Germany to name a couple.
Arriving by Train to Zadar
There are regular Zagreb to Zadar train services and internationally from Vienna, Belgrade, Prague, and Budapest to Split. Whether you arrive from within Croatia or internationally all services to Zadar change at the town of Knin. There are no direct train services to Zadar.
Budget Travel Tips for Zadar Croatia
St. Donatus Church entrance fee 20 kuna. Opening hours 9 am – 9 p.m.
Cathedral of St. Anastacia – entrance free. Opening hours 6.30-7pm Mon-Fri, 8-9am Sat, 8-9am & 6-7pm Sun.