Before our trip to Hideout Festival last week, Alex and I spent 4 days exploring the nearby town of Zadar.
We decided to book a few days of chill out time before things got hectic at the festival, which is based on the nearby Island of Pag, and with our flights booked for the airport of Zadar we thought, why not explore this lesser known city in Croatia!
It was extremely hot when we arrived (around 32 degrees!) and sunshine every day except one where there was an all-day thunder storm with rain (it didn’t bother us though; we had wifi in our apartment and work to do … plus the football was on!). This meant we had around 3 full days to take in the city in a relaxed, non-rushed way.
Things To Do in Zadar
1. Explore the Old Town
One of the first things we did once we arrived in Zadar was go to explore the Old Town – always the best and most interesting area of any city in my opinion! It’s quite cool because the Old Town of Zadar is based on its own peninsula so you can cross over a bridge to get to it.
Our AirBnB was located right on the edge of the Old Town, which was fantastic because it meant all the interesting places and good restaurants (and the beach!) were within a 10 minute walk.
We spent a good amount of time walking around and looking at the beautiful Roman/Venetian buildings and admiring the 12th Century Cathedral along the way.
2. Find a Secret Garden Bar at Sunset
^ Dress from Pretty Little Thing (I think they have sold out but some similar ones below…)*
At the edge of the Old Town is a large park/gardens (I believe called Perivoj Vladimira Nazora?) that we had fun exploring one evening at sunset. The great thing about Croatia is that everything is super lush, because it does get quite a bit of rain, so gardens and parks are full of beautiful green plants.
As we walked through we stumbled across this awesome outdoor bar/club, hidden inside the walls of the garden! I’ve looked it up and apparently it’s called Ledana – it looked so cool! With loads of different chairs to lounge in, some chilled house music playing at sunset, and a range of beautiful water fountains dotted over the place, it’s bound to be one of the coolest bars in town.
3. Take a Day Trip to Plitvice or Krka
We didn’t actually do this during our trip this time, because it really does take up an entire day of your stay. Plitvice Lakes (I have never been to these but have heard from friends how beautiful they are!) are around a 2 hour drive away from Zadar, while Krka takes about 1 hour. Usually day tours will also stop in the historical town of Sibenik along the way as well.
I am mentioning this here because I have done the trip to Krka waterfalls before on a previous trip to Croatia, and it was spectacular!! If you have a day to spare when you’re staying in Zadar (or anywhere nearby really!) then I would 100% recommend it.
4. Walk Along The Sea Front and Dip in the Ocean
^ Zadar’s ‘Sea Organ’
There are a couple of pebble beaches at the edge of the city, but the waterfront around the Old Town is beautiful to walk along too, and many people swim off the promenade straight into the water.
One of the things Zadar is well-known for is its ‘Sea Organ’; this is the large round panelling on the ground that looks a bit like solar panels – it is actually a sound art object/experimental musical instrument, which apparently plays music using the waves underneath. You can listen and learn more in this YouTube video!
5. Go on an Island Boat Trip & Swim in a Salt Lake
We knew we wanted to do some kind of day trip while we were in Zadar, and had heard about the beautiful island archipelago that lies just in sight of the city, so we did some digging online.
We found a company called Zadar Archipelago who do trips around the islands in small groups on their speedboats – these looked epic and they definitely had the best itineraries, but unfortunately they were quite a bit out of our budget. If you have more to spend though, these defo look like the best tour operators for Zadar! Day trips started around €132pp (all in euros).
But not to worry if your budget is more modest, there are LOADS of companies doing day trips around the islands to private beaches, so just walk along the seafront or the harbour and you can start bargaining the best price. They’re on much bigger boats and it’s not as personal but if you just want to do some sightseeing and sunbathing on the desk it’s perfect; this cost us the equivalent of £50pp.
On our trip, we went to the island of Dugi Otok, where there is a famously beautiful saltwater lake in the Nature Park Telašćica! We climbed the cliffs to get some beautiful views of the ocean before walking down to the lake through the woods.
It was truly stunning BUT I recommend bringing some wetsuit shoes with you to go in. Not only was it quite rocky and slippy getting in, but there are tiny hermit crabs everywhere and once you get in and feel the bed of the lake (it’s kind of soft, muddy silt) there are little creatures (LORD KNOWS WHAT) that you can feel go over your toes. I was NOT a fan, and made Alex carry me back out!! Had I had shoes I would have been fine though… just a tip.
Where to Eat in Zadar
1. Pet Bunara
On our first day, we were wandering around the Old Town and stumbled across Pet Bunara, where we decided to sit down for some lunch. It had a really cool, chilled atmosphere, but the menu looked great!
For starters we shared a mixed seafood platter, and followed it with a Sea Bass ‘Pet Bunara’ (for me) and a duck leg for Alex. It was the perfect amount of food and was totally delicious. Plus it was presented beautifully too!
The service was amazing as well! Most Croatians seem to be able to speak very good English and here was no exception, but it was great table service as well – always refilling our water and even talking us through each item on our plates.
It was probably similar price-wise to what you would expect for a standard lunch in the UK, but it was much better quality and served in a fine-dining way so overall much better value.
Of course I’d done a bit of Googling and decided I wanted to try Proto because of its good reviews online. Funnily enough, it’s right next door to Pet Bunara! The menu is quite similar, but Proto is only open for dinner, so we stopped there at sunset one evening.
What drew me to Proto in the first place was their excellent range of vegetarian dishes. However, once we sat down and had a proper look at the menu, I had to go with a seafood platter again for a starter – and it was worth it; the salmon pate was delicious! Alex, meanwhile, went for the tuna tartare with homemade bread.
To be honest, I was pretty full after the enormous starter! I was served my tuna pasticada (tuna steak chunks in a red wine sauce… like a bourgingion!) and whilst it was AMAZING I couldn’t finish even half of it. The portions were super generous!
Price-wise this restaurant was similar to Pet Bunara – standard prices in a normal restaurant in England, but really good quality food and the same amazing service that you would expect in a fine dining restaurant in the UK.
3. Restaurant Bruschetta
This was another restaurant that was highly recommended online. It was our last meal before the chaos of Hideout, where we didn’t expect we’d be eating anywhere fancy for the next week or so, so we chose Restaurant Bruschetta as it looked quite fancy!
We started our meal with some bruschetta ~of course~ with salmon to share, and for main course I had mussels in a wine sauce, while Alex had lamb. We also shared a really nice bottle of wine together (again, our final taste of ‘luxury’ before the rum-n-coke diet of Hideout), and spoiled ourselves with our favourite dessert – panna cotta!
In terms of pricing, it was slightly more expensive than the other two restaurants we’d been to, but not hugely. And again, you would pay much more for the quality of the food and the service in the UK.
Have you been to Croatia before? I have also been to Split twice but Dubrovnik is still on my list!
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