From the arrival of the Romans to the enchanting contemporary public art
The small picturesque port of Fosa
However, our next location was to the Dalmatian coastal city of Zadar. The relaxing drive along the shoreline hopping across islands, with spectacular views of the Adriatic Sea was idyllic, a memory that will always remain with me.
When we pulled up in the ancient city of Zadar, we couldn’t wait to jump out and explore.
We strolled through one of the old city gates which formed part of the historic walls and ramparts, to a mystical little city beyond. Here’s what we unearthed.
A helpful guide
If you've yet to discover the delights of Croatia you're in for a treat. While planning our road trip, I used the DK Eyewitness books. I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.
We used a previous version of this book to plan our north to south Croatian road trip, now you can grab the revised copy.
1 St Donatus Church
St Donatus Church was built during the Middle Ages during the 9th-century. The Roman Catholic church is located at the corner of the Roman Forum, with delightful views of the Adriatic Sea and enchanting islands beyond.
The unique round shape of the church is quite distinctive, and one of the reasons I wanted to head inside. With very few windows, it was quite surprising how light it was inside, and I loved its simple architecture.
Pillars inside the 9th century St Donatus Church
The interior of St Donatus Church
St Donatus is no longer a place of worship, nonetheless, due to its amazing acoustics, it is used for musical performances.
2 Zadar’s Harbours
Marina by the ancient city of Zadar
Foša harbour by the Land Gate in Zadar
3 Roman Forum
The Romans played a significant role in Croatia’s history and particularly in Zadar. The Forum complex was built from the 1st century BC to the 3rd century AD and founded by the first Roman Emperor Augustus.
Roman Forum in front of St Mary’s Church, Zadar
During this era, Zadar became a fortified city and was encircled by walls, gates and towers.
Parts of the forum outline and structure still remain, the complex was erected over 45 by 90 metres and would have had prime position overlooking the Adriatic Sea.
In the far corner, the Monumental column is preserved and known as the ‘Pillar of Shame’.
Roman ‘Pillar of Shame’ in the Roman Forum
4 Strolling the Riva day and night
Bronze sculpture to Spiridon Brusina, a Croatian natural scientist
Whether it’s during the morning sunrise or a balmy evening settling in for the night, it holds such warming memories. For those that know me, I never like being too far from water.
5 Sea Organ
Keeping with the nautical theme stroll along to the other end of Zadar’s Riva to the Sea Organ. This is a wonderful place to sit and watch the world meander by while listening to the dulcet tones of the Sea Organ beneath you.
The Sea Organ, hidden under Zadar’s Riva at dusk
The Sea Organ is located under the marble steps that lead down into the sea. The continually rolling seawater lashes under the steps to where pipes of different lengths and tone are located. As the water bounces on the pipes, a delightful reverberating sound echoes from them day and night.
It’s quite enchanting.
6 The Greeting to the Sun
Just a few steps from the Sea Organ is the enchanting sunken light display ‘The Greeting to the Sun’. It’s such a fantastic piece of public art for everyone to enjoy, located on the far end of the peninsular with breath-taking views all around you.
‘Greeting to the Sun’ light display at Zadar’s Riva
Within the 22-metre diameter circle, there are three hundred multi-layered glass plates. When the sun starts to set the mesmerising light show kicks into action, and it just makes you smile.
It so pleasant around this part of the city, you won’t want to leave, so grab a cold beer and sit back and enjoy.
7 Venetian influences throughout Zadar
I was aware of the historical period that the Venetian Empire played in Croatia’s past.
However, I was still surprised to see how much of this remained. The stunning Venetian architecture so synonymous with the beautiful Italian city can be seen through Zadar and other parts of Croatia, particularly in the north.
The striking tall towers stand so elegantly in the squares and then with the delicious Italian cuisine influences in the local food, you’d be forgiven if you were transported to St Mark’s Square.
Enjoying a gelato by a Venetian Bell Tower in Zadar
8 Strolling the ancient lanes
Zadar’s Old Town is a stunning part of the city to stroll around day and night, it’s full of such a joyful vibe.
Enticing café’s and tiny intriguing lanes, to jaw-dropping vistas and centuries of absorbing history. Around every corner, there’s a story to be had, if only these walls could speak.
Towards the Sea Gate
St Lawrence Church overlooking People’s Square
Often with old towns around the world, tiny cobblestones line the streets, here in Zadar and through so much of Croatia the lanes are laid with pale cream formal shaped stones. Which, over the centuries of footsteps have been buffed and rounded.
Why not make a day of it?
9 The charming squares
Dotted all around Zadar are delightful squares, some with fountains, some are brimming with cafés and restaurants, and others are just a peaceful place to relax and let life carry on around you.
People’ Square in the Old Town
People’s Square in the heart of the Old Town, which is surrounded by historic buildings was bustling morning through to evening. We strolled through late one night after our evening meal and live music was playing, and people young and old were dancing the night away.
Exploring the old town around Trg Petra Zoranića
The square I enjoyed heading to was Trg Petra Zoranića, near the ‘Five Wells’. The square had a lovely Venetian feel about it, central fountain, ancient column and a warm, friendly atmosphere.
10 Croatian cuisine
Fresh langoustine pasta at Restaurant "Bon Appetit"
We weren’t going to turn down the opportunity of sampling the local freshly caught delights. So, during our visit, we chose langoustine pasta, seared tuna, cuttlefish risotto, mixed fish skewers with a side order of Blitva s krumpirom (potato, chard, olive oil and garlic).
Fish Skewer from Croatian restaurant Konoba Skoblar
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