A long weekend in Zadar
Zadar is a much smaller version of Dubrovnik. It does not have the drama of the bustling walled city further south but also doesn’t have the crowds or massively overinflated prices. It’s a great destination for a weekend if you fancy a little culture, sun, sea and sand.
Getting to Zadar
Sadly UK citizens may struggle with this weekend trip as the only flights to Zadar are from London and the timings are not ideal for a weekend. You can fly to Zagreb with only British Airways and Croatian airlines however Zadar is a 3 – 4 hour journey from the capital. Hardly conducive for a weekend break.
There are however plenty of flights to Zadar from other European cities so if you are based in Europe you can definitely visit Zadar for a weekend. Of course, you may also like to visit Zadar as part of an extended trip to Croatia. See our seven-day self-drive itinerary for more inspiration.
If you are based in Italy, or Greece you can also opt to take a ferry which will deposit you at the port of Zadar. Now that is definitely a fun way to travel!
Where to stay
There are a range of boutique and upmarket hotels within the walls of the old town, however, to get better bang for your buck, I recommend booking a hotel just outside the city walls. You can take your pick from a wide selection on hotels.com. Once you book ten nights with hotels.com, you earn one free night. It’s a great way to earn rewards without needing to remain loyal to one brand.
Alternatively, if you prefer to self-cater, you may wish to book an Airbnb. We booked a premium apartment across the Gradski Most bridge from the old town of Zadar. Not only did we have these fabulous views to admire, but it cost substantially less than a hotel of a comparable standard. If you have yet to register for Airbnb, sign up using this link to earn up to £34 as a referral bonus. You can then use this credit to contribute towards your first booking with Airbnb.
Zadar weekend itinerary
Once you have organised travel and accommodation, here’s what you should do on a long weekend in Zadar
Friday night – Zadar old town
Wander the old town and enjoy a cold drink or cocktail at one of the many bars and restaurants. Weekend evenings in the town are a bustling affair. Little stalls line the waterfront on the Riva side of the peninsula, and entertainers seek to relieve you of your money. Meanwhile swarms of locals and tourists flock to the wharf by the sea organ at sunset to chat with friends and enjoy a few beers or wine bottles.
Rise early and take a ferry out to one of the islands to soak up scenes of stunning beaches. Alternatively, you could jump on one of the organised tours to the islands. The more adventurous may wish to take a sea kayaking tour around Dugi Otok an utterly sublime island around 75 minutes from Zadar town. Read more about that adventure here.
Taking a ferry or boat tour will give you a fabulous insight into the stunning beauty of Croatia. You will sail by pristine islands, turquoise azure seas and glistening beaches. This is a remarkable contrast to the bustle of the compact old town of Zadar.
Start with a leisurely wander around the seafront promenade of the old town. This takes you past fortress walls, Roman ruins, the Greeting to the Sun monument and the Sea Organ. You can watch locals taking a dip, sailing boats heading towards the islands and local merchants plying their wares.
Once you need to escape the baking sun, head into the maze of streets and marvel at the wealth of ancient ruins dotted around the town. From the 12th Century cathedral to roman columns and the Church of St Donatus, this compact little town punches way above its weight with sights to see.
Follow our route
You can find all the sights I mention on the map below. Just click on it to get a close up and go retrace our steps.
Although a weekend in Zadar will leave you with lasting memories of a beautiful city, you will likely leave wanting more. There are so many stunning places to visit in and around Zadar including Plitvice lakes, KRNK National Park, and the neighbouring islands. It is likely that a weekend in Zadar simply will not be enough.