20 Must-Visit Attractions in Zadar, Croatia

Land Gate
Land Gate | © Ramón/Flickr
Peterjon Cresswell

Centrepieced by a Roman forum, Zadar has a significant ecclesiastical heritage reflected in its historic churches. Some contain the remains of saints brought here after the fall of the Romans. It’s not all altars and caskets, though – contemporary attractions include the wacky communal art installations of Nikola Bašić.

1. Zadar Cathedral

Cathedral, Church

Zadar Cathedral
© Peter Collins/Flickr
Originally constructed in the fifth century to house the remains of Saint Anastasia, Zadar Cathedral assumed its late Romanesque appearance during a 12th-century rebuild. The largest church in Dalmatia, it features a bell tower completed by Englishman Thomas Graham Jackson in the 1890s. The views alone justify the separate entrance fee.

2. Captain’s Tower


Captains Tower
© stefano Merli/Flickr
Tucked inside the Land Gate near the entrance to Zadar’s historic centre, the five-sided Captain’s Tower was built around the same time as the Venetian landmark, when the threat of Ottoman invasion was imminent. Today it has been converted into an exhibition space, four floors connected by a winding staircase.

3. St Simeon’s Church


St Simeons Church | © Dr János Korom/Flickr
© Dr János Korom/Flickr
As a 17th-century rebuild, the St Simeon’s is of limited architectural interest. Within, however, an ornate silver casket atop a high altar contains the remains of St Simeon who lived at the time of Christ. Commissioned in the 1300s by Elizabeth of Bosnia, the chest is fully displayed every October 8.

4. St Donat’s Church

Church, Building

St Donats Church
© Alistair Young/Flickr
Circular-shaped St Donat’s symbolises Zadar. No longer a place of worship, St Donat’s hosts summer concerts of church music for which its acoustics are perfectly suited. Built by the saint of the same name, who brought the remains of St Anastasia to Zadar, St Donat’s was completed in the ninth century.

5. Zadar market

Market, Food Stall, Healthy, Vegetarian, Seafood

Zadar Market
© flöschen/Flickr
The produce of the surrounding countryside is on offer six mornings a week at Zadar’s main market close to the harbour on the eastern side of the peninsula. It has two sections, an outdoor one lined with colourful fruit and vegetables, and an indoor fish market alongside.

6. Zadar City Museum

Monastery, Museum

Covering urban development from antiquity to World War I, the Zadar City Museum is housed in what was Sv Krševan monastery, converted by Napoleon into a lycée. Highlights of the collection include elegant furniture from the 1600s and portraits of city notables from a century or so later.

7. Gradska Loža


Gradska Loža
© Fred Romero/Flickr
Narodni trg assumed the role of the city’s main square after the Roman forum fell into disuse. Built in Venetian style in 1565, overhauling a building in place since the 1200s, the Gradska Loža (City Lodge) was where municipal decisions were made. Today set behind glass, it functions as an exhibition space.

8. Archaeological Museum


Archaelogical Museum
© Ashley Webb/Flickr
Overlooking the Roman forum, the Archaeological Museum contains more historic treasure than its plain exterior would suggest. Along with artefacts from the original local Liburnian tribe, Roman mosaics and evidence of early Christian worship, a scale model shows how the Roman forum would have looked 2,000 years ago.

9. Sea Organ

Art Gallery, Park

The Sea Organ on the north-western tip of the peninsula was created by installation artist Nikola Bašić. A series of holes in the pavement emit bizarre noises powered by the strength and pattern of the waves. Many sit on the sea-lapped steps to enjoy the weird sounds, or even sunbathe alongside.

10. Roman Forum


Roman forum | © Carole Raddato/Flickr
© Carole Raddato/Flickr
Stretching across concrete and greenery in the heart of Zadar’s historic centre, the Roman Forum was the marketplace built by Augustus 2,000 years ago. Here citizens gathered, traded and worshipped at pagan temples. Passers-by may inspect the broken stonework, nothing is kept behind glass or under lock and key.

11. St Mary’s Church & Treasury

Church, Monastery

St Marys
© Ruben Holthuijsen/Flickr
Plain St Mary’s is overshadowed by nearby St Donat’s and the Cathedral. But this Benedictine complex houses a remarkable treasure, the Gold & Silver of Zadar, a glittering collection of chalices, crucifixes, tapestries and reliquaries, some containing parts of saints. These exquisite works date between the eighth and 18th centuries.

12. Museum of Ancient Glass


Museum of Ancient Glass
© Carole Raddato/Flickr
The Museum of Ancient Glass, housed in the former Cosmacendi Palace, contains houses an impressive display of perfume jars, cups and vessels, some dating back to Roman times. The museum also lays on workshops and demonstrations of the age-old techniques that created such fine craftsmanship.

13. St Chrysogonus Church


Named after one of the city’s four patron saints, Sv Krševana (St Chrysogonus) is tucked away behind Narodni trg, a Romanesque church consecrated in 1175. Chrysogonus was probably matyred at the hands of Diocletian in the fourth century and his remains were brought to Zadar in 649.

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