Take the rowboat. For 10 Kuna, a man in head-to-toe white with a floppy hat will row you across the harbor at the west of Old Town in front of The Garden, a centuries’ long tradition still in fine form.
- More about your oliver guide: Barbara Ray
- Trip type: Adult, Beach, City
- Activity level: moderate
- Ideal length of trip: One week to a month!
to & from
Zadar is closest to Split, but avoid the much-advertised bus between the two. It’s late, hot (rarely any AC) and slow—usually 3+ hours. Fly into Zagreb and rent a car or take the once-daily flight to Zadar airport. Zadar itself is walkable, and Uber is available, but taxis are as cheap.
Where to Stay
We stayed in an Airbnb, which was great. Stay shoreside on the mainland northwest from Old Town for lovely sea views (but a walk). Inland is walkable to beach/Old Town.
A friend who lives there recommended three hotels:
- Hotel Bastion: Elegant, tony boutique hotel in Old Town near the Sea Organ and The Garden. Welcoming staff.
- Art Hotel Kalelarga
- Almayer Art and Heritage Hotel: Newly opened modern take on ancient life with a restful inner courtyard and art for purchase on the walls.
Where to Eat and Drink
- Ledana ("By day"): Above Old Town in a sweet park, this loungy, chill spot is great for a glass of Procip, a local light and crisp white wine, designed for a summer day.
- Gelato! Slasticarnica (M Klaica 4 in Old Town). Their blueberry gelato is sublime.
- Proto Food & More. The chef is serious about his local ingredients. The carrot cake is a must.
- The Garden. Owned by members of UB40, The Garden is perched above the water with chairs and loungers tucked around a shaded lawn. Very chill.
- La Familigia. If you miss a burger, this is the place. Rest of the menu is strong as well. Staff is fantastic
- Bruschetta—The starter seafood platter has this amazing cod puree/pate. Bonus is the tuna prosciutto. All great for sharing. Bigger appetites: fusilli with pistachio pesto. Don’t miss the Roman ruins at the tail end of the restaurant.
What to Do
- Swim and sun: Croatians are swimmers! Everyone it seems heads to the beach around 3:00, though retirees prefer the mornings for their swims. Beaches aren’t always formal affairs. You can dive in practically anywhere, and diving from rocks and walls is the preferred entry. Don’t miss Kovare beach for all kinds of action—volleyball, water polo, diving, lounging. For shallow water try the beach near Marex Café. A post-swim macchiato at Marex in the morning or a beer at the café near Kovare in the afternoon is a must.
- Take the rowboat: For 10 kuna, a man in head-to-toe white with a floppy hat will row you across the harbor at the west of Old Town in front of The Garden, a centuries’ long tradition still in fine form.
- Attend to a concert at St. Donat’s—a 12th century church with amazing acoustics.
- Rent a boat and skipper and get thee to some islands. Any of them will do. Drop anchor in a cove and dive from the boat.
- Stroll Old Town, eat gelato, and wander among Roman ruins in front of St. Donat’s church. Head in the direction of the sea to the Rive (promenade). Turn left to a charming harbor hugging the wall. Right takes you past the Sea Organ.
- Don’t miss the high divers at Kovare beach. Three tiers of platform diving, the highest 30 feet in the air. You can spend hours watching the action. Jump in yourself if you dare, or just take the plunge from the seaside wall into the cool Adriatic.
- Bring reef walkers for the beach—the beaches are not sandy. Follow the locals’ lead on diving—some waters are shallow.
- Croatians eat dinner late (9:00) so if you want a table at a popular restaurant, go at 7:00. In Europe, the table is yours for the night—no rushing you out to turn the table over--so when you’re ready to leave, you’ll have to flag the waiter. Tips are welcome (10% is good).
- Though we didn’t do it ourselves, the submarine boat seems to be a very short trip. We watched from a café as it left and returned less than an hour later. And to be honest, the Sea Organ isn’t "wow".