Zadar, Croatia, is a scenic place in this wonderful country to really feel the incomparable atmosphere of this unique region. With its fantastic mix of medieval alleys, Roman relics, waterfront, and fantastic beaches, a trip to Zadar is definitely worth it.
But what if you can only spend one day in Zadar? Here you’ll find an ideal Zadar itinerary one day, helpful travel tips for transportation and getting there, and everything else you need to discover Zadar in a day.
Follow our Zadar itinerary and learn how to make the most of your 24 hours in this small city on the Adriatic Sea. Let’s explore the old town of Zadar together and discover the best things to do in Zadar. Whether visiting the city of Dalmatia as the main destination or planning a Zadar day trip, you’ll find everything you need right here.
What to find out in this post
- 1 Zadar Facts
- 2 Where is Zadar?
- 3 How to get to Zadar, Croatia
- 4 Zadar Transport – How to get around
- 5 Our One Day in Zadar Itinerary to the essential things to see in Zadar
- 6 Vladimir Nazor Park
- 7 Kopnena Vrata – The Old City Gate of Zadar
- 8 Park of the Queen Jelena Madijevka
- 9 Five Wells Square
- 10 Captain’s Tower
- 11 Petar Zoranić Square
- 12 Narodni Trg – The People’s Square of Zadar
- 13 Zadar Forum
- 14 Church of St. Donatus
- 15 St. Anastasia Cathedral
- 16 Riva Zadar
- 17 Greeting to the Sun
- 18 The sea organ of Zadar
- 19 More things to see in Zadar in a day
- 20 Where to stay in Zadar
- 21 FAQ about visiting Zadar
- Port city and seaside resort on the Croatian Adriatic coast
- about 75.000 inhabitants
- Was known in Roman times as Iader or Jadera
- Later also mentioned under the name Diadora
- In the Eastern Roman Empire Zadar was the capital of Dalmatia
The most popular activities and tours in Zadar
Getting there: Make sure to check for the best flight deals on Flight comparison-Sites like Skyscanner
Transport: Best walking or by public transport
Want to rent a car? You can find great deals on RentalCars.
Zadar Must-Have: Practical Croatia Travel Guide
Where is Zadar?
Zadar is located on the Croatian Adriatic coast in Dalmatia, approximately in the center of the country.
How to get to Zadar, Croatia
Getting to Zadar by plane
For many visitors, the plane is the most convenient method of access. Surprisingly, the small town of Zadar is served by many international destinations.
It is worth booking your flight a few weeks in advance to get a good price. Also, use flight comparison sites like Skyscanner to compare the best providers and get the best deal.
Getting from Zadar airport to the city center
If you travel to Zadar by plane, you should know that Zadar Zemunik Airport is located about 15 km outside the city center. The best way to reach the city from here is by Airport Bus Shuttle. It regularly runs between the airport and the central station on Liburnska Obala Street.
One ride takes about half an hour and costs around 3,50 €. You can find the current timetable here on the official website.
Getting to Zadar by car
The roads in the country are of high quality, and there is no reason to worry about driving in Croatia.
From the north and south of Croatia, you can easily drive to Zadar within a few hours on the highway (Note that there is a toll!).
If you are not traveling by your own car, a rental car can also be worth it. It is worthwhile to reserve your car before you arrive, e.g., via the car rental comparison site Rentalcars.
Extra tip: You will usually find the best prices when picking up your car from the airport and not from the city center.
Getting to Zadar by bus
Another option to get to Zadar is by bus. Especially those who are in the country as part of a Croatia round trip can use the bus to move around within the country at a reasonable price.
To find the best deals, I recommend you use a bus comparison site like Busbud.
Zadar Transport – How to get around
Zadar is truly not a huge city. And so you can easily visit the most important sights in Zadar on foot. In fact, if you walk through the entire city, you will cover only about one kilometer of walking.
If you want to reach more distant points in and around the city, you can also use public transport such as the bus.
If you don’t want to explore the city on your own or just want to get more interesting information about Zadar, it’s also worth taking a guided walking tour in Zadar, such as this one.
Our One Day in Zadar Itinerary to the essential things to see in Zadar
Author’s note: In this Zadar itinerary, we assume that you start your day from the parking lot and therefore cross Zadar from south to north. However, if you start your day from inside the city, it may be worth adjusting the route accordingly.
Vladimir Nazor Park
Opening Hours Vladimir Nazor Park: 24 h
Entrance Fee Vladimir Nazor Park: free of charge
Immediately upon entering the city, the path from the parking lot leads us through the largest park in Zadar, Vladimir Nazor Park (Perivoj Vladimira Nazora).
They built the idyllic park at the end of the 19th century in the fortress of Zadar. Since the builder of the park was a military commander, the park was first called “Military Park” for a long time before being given the name of one of Croatia’s most important writers.
Today Vladimir Nazor park is not only a popular place among sportsmen and walkers but also a natural monument of Croatia.
Enjoy the tranquility of the park’s peaceful paths along the cypress trees before starting your actual Zadar itinerary.
Kopnena Vrata – The Old City Gate of Zadar
Already at the entrance to the old town of Zadar awaits you one of the most beautiful things to see in Zadar, the former land gate, “Kopnena Vrata”. This imposing construction has been standing here since the middle of the 16th century.
The city gate was designed in the form of a typical Roman triumphal arch and therefore bears the name “Porta Terraferma“. In total, it offers three passages, of which the outer two are used for pedestrians and the inner large gate for road traffic.
Before passing through the gate, take some time to admire the impressive reliefs of the city gate. Besides the patron saint, San Chrysogonos, you can also recognize the winged lion of St. Mark and the coats of arms of Dalmatia and Venice.
Park of the Queen Jelena Madijevka
Opening Hours Jelena Madijevka Park: 24 h
Entrance Fee Jelena Madijevka Park: free of charge
If you want to enjoy the view of the Old City Gate of Zadar even better, I recommend you to visit the neighboring park of Queen Jelena Madijevka (“Perivoj Kraljice Jelene Madijevke“). Because from here you simply have a fantastic view of the old city gate and the small fishing port, Fosa, next to it.
This romantic little park, located right at the entrance to Zadar, is also the oldest park in the city. It was built in the late 1920s.
Not-So-Fun-Fact: At former times, a lot of emphasis was placed on local plants in the park. In addition, an impressive Chinese pagoda was located inside the park. However, a large part of it was destroyed during the war.
Five Wells Square
If you follow the just presented Queen Jelena Madijevka Park to the end, you will reach another popular sight of Zadar, the Five Wells Square. As soon as you reach the square, you will realize where the name of the square comes from. Namely, there are five fountains in a row here.
While nowadays, the wells are a tourist attraction of Zadar, once upon a time, the wells were of great importance to the city. After all, they were designed to provide drinking water for the city.
The whole thing was built in 1574 during the siege of the Ottoman Empire army in Zadar. Drinking water was transported to the wells via the ancient aqueduct from Lake Vrana.
After admiring the adjacent park and the Five Wells, you can turn around to see the next sight on our list, the Captain’s Tower, Kapetenova Kula.
It was once built to be a defensive tower to be better guarded against attacks coming from the direction of the Ottoman Empire. Today, the tower just fits great into the ancient atmosphere of this part of the city.
Today, however, the tower is often used for exhibitions.
Petar Zoranić Square
From Five Wells Square, we continue down the small staircase that leads us to Petar Zoranić Square. This is one of the most popular squares in the city. Especially during the summer months, there are always events taking place here.
But even when there is no event, it is worth visiting the idyllic square. Make yourself comfortable in one of the cafes and enjoy a delicious Croatian drink or a local delicacy.
An impressive city gate once stood here. Today, you can still spot a large ancient column in the square.
By the way, the iconic square was named after the Croatian writer of the same name.
Narodni Trg – The People’s Square of Zadar
Let’s move on to the next square that should not be missed during your visit to Zadar, the People’s Square of Zadar (“Narodni trg“). The square is located just a few minute’s walk from Petar Zoranić Square and is considered the heart of the city.
Surrounded by historic buildings, it is a good place to spend time, stopping to sit in one of the cafes and take in the hustle and bustle of locals and visitors alike. The buildings here date back to different eras and thus embody parts of Zadar’s history.
While Petar Zoranić Square hosts many larger events in the warm season, you can often admire smaller performances, such as traditional folk dances, on Narodni Trg.
Let’s move on to one of the city’s most important sights, the Zadar Forum. Like many Mediterranean cities, Zadar once had an impressive Roman Forum built during the reign of the first Roman emperor.
During its heyday, the Forum was the city’s main meeting place and even had two floors.
Today, the ancient remains from this glorious time can be found in the Zadar Forum. With numerous relics, such as parts of the columns that once surrounded the forum and remains of an ancient altar, you can well imagine how magnificent this place must have been once.
Church of St. Donatus
Opening Hours Donatus Church: 09 am – 09 pm
Entrance Fee Donatus Church: 20 Kuna (ca. 2,50 €)
From the Forum, you can already discover the next sight of the city, St. Donatus Church. The remarkable church might not date back to Roman times, but it fits perfectly into the scene.
The church dates back to the 9th century and is considered one of the best-preserved architectural monuments in Croatia. Therefore, the old place of worship is considered one of the most important historical buildings in the region. But the magnificent exterior facade also makes the church a landmark of Zadar.
The interior of the church does not disappoint either. Here are two columns of the neighboring forum.
St. Anastasia Cathedral
Opening Hours Zadar Cathedral: 09 am – 09 pm
Entrance Fee Zadar Cathedral: 15 Kuna (ca. 2 €)
Important: To enter the cathedral, your shoulders and thighs should be covered.
Just a few steps from St. Donatus Church is already the next important place of worship on our list, Zadar Cathedral. The cathedral, which holds the title of Basilica Minor, is considered the largest Christian building in Dalmatia.
While the cathedral was built in the 12th and 13th centuries, a Christian basilica stood here as early as the 5th century. While the original building was dedicated to St. Peter, today’s namesake is the pre-Christian martyr Anastasia of Sirmium.
Today, the cathedral is especially popular for its bell tower and the view from it. Even if the climb is not quite easy, especially during the hot summer months, the view is worth it. From here, you can not only discover the city from above but also see as far as the neighboring islands.
Let’s move on to one of my personal favorites of the city, the Riva, the waterfront of Zadar. For me, definitely one of the most relaxing places in the city. Stroll along the sea to the last attractions of our day.
The promenade was once commissioned by the Austrian ruler Franz Joseph. Today, it is one of the city’s most popular walking paths and meeting places.
Soak up the sun with a view of the water and the neighboring islands of Zadar. You can also stop at one of the cafes and enjoy a cool drink in the sun.
Greeting to the Sun
The Greeting to the Sun is probably the most modern of the things to see in Zadar and has been here only since 2008. The modern work of art is also created by the artist of the Sea Organ, Nikola Bašić, which we will introduce in the next point.
The artwork consists of solar panels that capture sunlight during the day. As soon as the sun is now gone, an impressive spectacle of light begins here.
With the energy gained during the day, the plates are illuminated with different colored lights, turning the ensemble into an artistic dance of lights.
The salute to the sun is in conjunction with the adjacent sea organ. The two works of art represent Zadar’s deep connection to nature, water, and light.
The sea organ of Zadar
At this last sight, we will now end our day in Zadar. But this special place in the city couldn’t be more perfect to end our tour of the Croatian Old Town of Zadar.
Settle down on the steps of the Sea Organ, and soon you’ll discover what the strange name of this attraction is all about. Because as soon as the wind starts blowing or a passing boat makes the sea move, the sea organ sounds.
The sea organ is an experimental musical instrument in which sounds are created by the movement of the water under the stone slabs. The arrangement is based on an ingenious system of tubes. The construction is placed in such a way that you can’t spot it (we checked!).
Extra tip: If you have the chance, be sure to come here for sunset. The Sea Organ is considered the best sunset spot in the city and is a popular meeting place at that time for visitors and locals alike.
More things to see in Zadar in a day
Do you have more time in Zadar? In the following part, you will find some more fantastic places in Zadar.
Archaeological Museum Zadar
Opening hours Archaeological Museum: Depending on the season. See the current opening hours on the official website
Entrance Fee Archaeological Museum: 30 Kuna (ca. 4 €)
As the second oldest museum in Croatia, the Zadar Archaeological Museum is a real experience. – And not only for history buffs. With more than 100,000 archaeological finds from various periods and cultures, you can learn a lot of interesting things here.
The Zadar beaches
Croatia lovers know that the region around Zadar is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. So if you have a little more time, a beach visit is definitely worth it.
The small town of Nin is a great day trip from Zadar, but we’ll get to that in a moment. First of all, we would like to introduce the wonderful lagoon of Nin. Here you’ll find everything you need for a successful beach trip. From secluded lagoons to volleyball nets and a wide range of water sports.
With several kilometers of beach, simply everyone gets their money’s worth here. You can reach Nin by bike, car, or bus.
Saharun Beach is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the country. It is located on the island of Dugi Otok and is about an hour away (by catamaran or ferry) from Zadar. The sandy beach offers crystal clear water like you are used to from tropical destinations or Costa Brava beaches.
You can reach the island and the beautiful beach on your own or with a guided tour from Zadar (e.g. this one).
Did you know Croatia is the perfect place to combine partying and a beach vacation? If that caught your attention, you should definitely visit Zrće Beach. Even though the beach is about a two-hour bus ride away, it is considered THE party beach in Croatia.
With a party atmosphere throughout the entire summer, cool drinks in the sun, and plenty of activities on hand, you’re guaranteed not to get bored at this beach.
Day trips from Zadar
If you have a little more time, a day trip from Zadar is totally worth it. Located in the central part of the country, there are a lot of interesting places to discover in the region around Zadar.
Below, you will find three great options for a possible day trip.
Nin is a dreamy little town on the Adriatic Sea, only about 15 km from Zadar. If you want to take a relaxing day trip from Zadar, this is the right place for you. Stroll through the small old town of Nin, discover Roman temples, or just enjoy a coffee.
If you like it more active, you can also reach Nin by bike without any problems.
If you are more inclined to hike in nature, you should definitely pay a visit to the Velebit Mountains. The 150 km long mountain range, which has been designated as a biosphere reserve, is considered one of the most important mountains in Europe.
With a variety of flora and fauna, the mountains are a unique experience not only for nature lovers and hikers but also for photographers.
You can reach Velebit after a 1 ½ hour drive from Zadar.
National park Plitvice Lakes
Plitvice Lakes National Park was definitely the highlight of our last trip to Croatia. So if you have the opportunity to visit, I can only recommend this trip to you.
As you can guess from the name, there are a lot of lakes and waterfalls. With a deep green to turquoise watercolor and spectacular waterfall landscapes, this park is certainly a truly memorable experience.
You can choose between different routes and difficulty levels, and be sure not to forget your camera. The park is located about 1 ½ hour by car from Zadar.
Extra tip: So much natural beauty will, of course, attract a lot of people. Try to get to the park as early as possible to avoid the tourist crowds. Also, be sure to book your ticket in advance.
Where to stay in Zadar
Best Budget accommodation in Zadar
Only 350 meters from Kolovare beach, this hostel offers everything a budget traveler’s heart desires: cleanliness, shared kitchen (with microwave, fridge, kettle, and toaster), air conditioning, and wifi. If you want to get in touch with other travelers, this accommodation is the right place for you.
Best middle-class hotel in Zadar
This 3-star accommodation awaits your visit directly in the center of Zadar. The rooms are stylishly furnished, and you can choose between a room and a whole studio. Guests especially like the great location, the facilities, and the cleanliness of the accommodation.
Best luxury hotel in Zadar
This attractively furnished accommodation offers a location in the center of Zadar, express check-in, and 4-star comfort in every one of its rooms. The accommodation offers high-quality, beautiful old-style furnishings in a central location, as well as high cleanliness, city views, and comfortable beds.
Your perfect accommodation is not on the list?
FAQ about visiting Zadar
Zadar is relatively small, so you can discover the main sights of the city in just one day. If you also want to experience the beaches of the region, you should plan around 2-3 days.
Zadar is considered a very safe destination. However, as in any other tourist city, you should always keep an eye on your valuables.
While the summer months of July – September are considered the best months to travel in Croatia, I recommend that you avoid the very hot months of July and August. The best months are, therefore, May, June, September, and October.
As in the rest of Croatia, Zadar uses the national currency, the kuna. One euro is equivalent to about 7.5 kunas. However, from 2023, the euro will be officially introduced as the currency in Croatia as well.
The general tipping habits in Croatia also apply in Zadar. You might therefore want to leave about 10-15 % of the bill as a tip.
The average Croatia travel cost per day is about 75 € per person. However, these costs can also vary (strongly) depending on travel style and chosen activities.
Which sight in Zadar are you looking forward to the most? Or is there a place in Zadar that is missing from this list? Let us know in the comments below!