Zadar is a beautiful and historic city with an edge. Located on the Dalmatian coast of Croatia, it is most famous for its stunning beaches, rich history and impressive modern installations.
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View of Riva waterfront and the sea organ in Zadar
Zadar ferry port
There are 2 ferry ports in Zadar: the Zadar (Gaženica) port and the Old Town port.
The Port Zadar Gaženica serves cruise passengers as well as international ferries, Ro-Ro and vehicles. The modern passenger terminal here has shops, cafes and a supermarket providing comfort for passengers.
There is also a smaller port on the Old Town peninsula, which is now dedicated to catamarans and domestic lines.
Ferries from Zadar port: schedules and tickets
Zadar is the perfect spot from which to explore the numerous breathtaking islands of the Adriatic Sea. Zadar also serves ferry routes to the mainland Croatian cities of Pula and Rijeka, and the Italian port of Ancona. The ferry companies primarily serving these routes are Kapetan Luka - Krilo, Jadrolinija, G&V Iadera, and Miatours. Specifically:
- Zadar - Pula ferry: the route between the two mainland ports is available year round, with ferry trips that last around 4.5 hours on average and tickets that cost €21-26.
- Zadar - Lošinj ferry: ferries to Mali Lošinj travel year-round and make the crossing in between 1 hour 45 minutes and 6 hours 45 minutes, depending on the operator and vessel. Ferry tickets usually cost up to around €13 for this route.
- Zadar - Susak ferry: you can find 2-5 weekly crossings to Susak from Zadar all year round. Ferry tickets range from around €1.5 to €13.5, with the trip lasting between 2 hours 40 minutes and 2 hours 55 minutes.
- Zadar - Silba ferry: this is a year-round route to the island of Silba that lasts between 1-4 hours. The price of a single ferry ticket starts at about €4.
- Zadar - Unije ferry: there are 2-5 weekly ferries to the island of Unije all year round that make the crossing in 3.5 hours on average. Depending on the operator and the season, ferry tickets to Unije cost around €12-€15.
- Zadar - Ilovik ferry: there are 2-3 weekly ferries traveling to Illovik throughout the year. A standard ticket costs around €10-€12, while the trip lasts around 1.5 hours.
Additionally, there are ferry connections between Zadar and Ancona in Italy, operated by Jadrolinija. Departures are available seasonally, with 1 weekly schedule.
There are also multiple daily ferry crossings from Zadar to the islands in the Zadar archipelago, namely Dugi Otok, Molat, Ist, Iž, Rava, Ugljan, Rivanj, Sestrunj, Molat, Zverinac, Olib, and Premuda, the island of Pag in the north Dalmatian archipelago, as well as the island of Rab in the Kvarner Bay archipelago.
Where is the ferry port in Zadar?
The ferry port of Gaženica is the main travel port, located on the outskirts of Zadar, between Zadar and the village of Bibinje. It’s about 4-5 km from the city center and 7 km from the airport.
The smaller Old Town Port is situated at the Sea Promenade, which is in the heart of the Old Town, just a stone's throw from various sites such as the church of St Donatus.
How to get to Zadar port?
The Gaženica port is easily accessible from the Old Town and the airport. You can get here by local bus, taxi/private ride or on foot from neighboring points of interest. From the Old Town, take bus #2 or #4 to the central bus station. There, change buses and take bus #9 to the port.
Beautiful lighthouse at the entrance to the port of the Croatian city of Zadar
Vacation in Zadar
The romantic seaside city of Zadar has always been handy for its ferry connections to some of Croatia's best islands. However, it’s more than a jumping-off point - it has quiet wonders all of its own. Home to ancient Roman ruins, historic churches, cosmopolitan cafes, lively markets, and crystal-clear waters, the North Dalmatian city is one of the coolest places on the Adriatic. And as opposed to Split or Dubrovnik’s crowds, there’s an easy, laid-back pace of life here.
So, if you are looking for a vacation that combines relaxation and culture, Zadar is a great option. The city has something to offer everyone, from families to couples to solo travelers. Three days are plenty to discover the sights in the Old Town as well as to venture out to explore some of the nearby national parks and islands.
How to get to Zadar
The fastest and most convenient way to get to Zadar is by ferry, bus or plane.
Reaching Zadar by ferry is the best way to get in the right mood for holidays in the Adriatic Sea, with direct connections from other mainland cities in Croatia (Pula and Rijeka), the Adriatic Islands and the Italian port city of Ancona.
Lastly, you can catch a flight to Zadar Airport, which is located about 11 km from Zadar Old Town and is connected to other major Croatian and European cities. There is a public bus that leaves the airport to the Old Town every few minutes.
What to do in Zadar
Spend a morning wandering Zadar’s main market close to the harbor on the eastern side of the peninsula, where local vendors sell various Croatian delights 6 mornings a week.
If museums and history are your thing, don’t miss the Archeological Museum and the National Museum of Zadar. Then head to the Forum, the marketplace built by the first Roman emperor Augustus 2,000 years ago. You’re free to inspect the chunks of columns and broken pillars, there’s nothing behind glass or kept under lock and key. If you’re traveling with children, check out the Museum of Illusions.
After having lunch at Pet Bunara, or “Five Wells” square, take a short stroll along Obala kralja Petra Krešimira IV, the western embankment, to relax, sunbathe and visit the city’s 2 famous contemporary installations. The Sea Organ and The Greeting to the Sun, are both best experienced at sunset. In fact, Alfred Hitchcock called Zadar's sunset the most beautiful in the world so, don’t miss it.
If you fancy heading on an adventure further afield than Zadar’s Old Town, also known as the Zadar Peninsula, then there are plenty of choices. Admire the impressive waterfalls in the Krka National Park and the wild mountains in the Paklenica National Park or go canoeing on the Zrmanja River.
Of course, Zadar is well placed for island-hopping too. So, hop on a ferry to Silba, Pag, Dugi Otok, the islands of the Kornati National Park, and many more, and take your vacation in Croatia to the next level!
Tip: check out our blog about the top islands to visit in Croatia for more inspo.
The skyline of the historic Old Town in Zadar
Beaches in Zadar
Zadar’s many pristine sandy beaches make it one of the most popular vacation regions in Croatia. From lovely beaches near the Old Town perfect for chilling at the bar or going for a quick dip to more peaceful bays a short drive or ferry ride away, the selection of fantastic bathing possibilities is unique here.
The top 6 beaches in Zadar and its surroundings that should not be missed are:
- Kolovare: about a 10-minute walk from the Old Town, Kolovare is the main city beach. It features pine trees, a mix of sand and pebbles, and has been awarded the Blue Flag award for its clear waters. It’s organized with plenty of water-based activities, restaurants and café-bars.
- Borik: this 1.5 km half-sand, half-gravel beach with beautiful blue waters is located 4 km north of the city center. With paddleboarding, windsurfing, parasailing, and more on offer, it is a great escape for all water-sports lovers. Keep in mind that there might be a small charge to enter since it’s managed by a hotel complex.
- Puntamika: if you’re looking for a small, quiet beach with no facilities, this little gem is ideal for you. Located only 3.5 km from the city, Puntamika has very clean, coarse pebbles. There is a café, a lighthouse and the marina nearby.
- Riva: although not technically a beach, this 1-km long promenade is a very popular spot for sunbathers in the Old Town of Zadar. There are multiple sea access points with ladders, but the most popular are the steps at the Sea Organ where you can hear its mysterious sounds.
- Cape Radman: situated in the charming vacation resort of Petrcane, just 15 minutes away from Zadar, Cape Radman is characterized by fantastic turquoise sea colors and ancient pines. It is very popular specifically for families with children.
- Sakarun: located on the island of Dugi Otok, this is one of the best beaches in the Zadar archipelago. What sets this 800-m-wide bay apart is its white, soft sand and extremely shallow water, making it perfect for children. It can be accessed by boat from Zadar.
Breathtaking turquoise waters at Sakarun beach, Dugi Otok
Sightseeing in Zadar
This characteristic 3000-year-old Dalmatian town offers the most diverse range of attractions in Croatia. From the Roman Forum and the historic churches to the top quality museums and modern installations, Zadar is one of the best places to visit in Croatia for its juxtaposition of the old world and the new.
During your stay in Zadar, we advise you to visit:
- The Roman Forum, dating back to the 1st century BCE, it houses the most impressive ruins in the Old Town of Zadar such as the temple dedicated to Jupiter and the towering ‘Pillar of Shame’
- The Land Gate, the main and most dramatic of the four entrances to the Old Town with Renaissance-style decorations
- The Church of St. Donatus, built in the 9th century, this is Croatia's largest Byzantine church, with Roman paving slabs and columns
- The Cathedral of St. Anastasia (Zadar Cathedral), the largest church in Dalmatia, climb the bell tower for spectacular views
- The Sea organ and the Greeting to the Sun, two contemporary installations on the beautiful Riva waterfront promenade
- The Archaeological Museum, the second oldest museum in Croatia
- The Museum of Ancient Glass, housed in the former Cosmacendi Palace, it features rare glass collections dating back to the Roman era
- The Narodni trg, the modern-day main square with many cafe-bars
- The Sphinx, Zadar’s most unusual sight at the embankment at Obala kneza Trpimira
View of the impressive Roman Forum with St. Donatus church and St. Anastasia's Cathedral
Nightlife in Zadar
After a delicious dinner in a local restaurant in the Old Town, it’s time to party! Zadar is, in fact, considered to be the most influential nightspot on the Croatian coast. The city’s nightlife is vibrant, entertaining, and full of amazing music and atmosphere. Plus, everything is within a 5-minute walking distance, so you can enjoy the nightlife in Zadar carfree.
Students bar-hop in the cool Varoš area, where you will find all the popular bars with delicious cocktails. Besides the Old Town, other popular nightlife areas in Zadar include Borik, Diklo and Kolovare. We also recommend heading to Zrće beach in Novalja on Pag Island if you're after wild parties until the early morning hours.
Make sure to visit the Garden Lounge, a ground-breaking bar and nightspot featuring live music and name DJs all summer. Located high atop the city’s Venetian walls, it also offers great views. The Arsenal Zadar, a multi-purpose venue housed in a renovated 16th century warehouse, is another one of the main entertainment experiences in Zadar.
Tip: for a unique experience in Zadar, check out the Full Moon Festival. It is held on the night of the full moon in August, and is filled with live music, dancing, singing, delicious food, and other activities.
Food in Zadar
The Dalmatian heritage can be seen in every facet of Zadar’s culture, including the local cuisine. As a popular modern tourist destination, Zadar has a tremendously varied gastronomic offer that can satisfy even the most demanding visitors. The city is mostly known for the following products and dishes:
- salata od hobotnice (octopus salad)
- brudeta (fish soup or fish stew)
- crni rižot (a black risotto served with fresh squid or cuttlefish)
- Dalmatian prosciutto
- janjetina s ražnja (roasted lamp)
- ninski šokol (dried and cured meat)
- ninska sol (sea salt)
- cheeses from Pag island
- soparnik (a triangular, thin flatbread with a Swiss chard and olive oil filling)
- fritule (doughnuts)
- maraschino (clear cherry-flavored liqueur)
Useful info: to experience typical Dalmatian cuisine, make sure to go to an authentic konoba.
Here are 5 tips that we hope will be useful to you before and during your trip to Zadar:
- The best time to visit Zadar is in July and August when the weather is at its finest. If you want to visit the parks, on the other hand, we would recommend doing so in May or June.
- Kalelarga is Zadar’s main pedestrian-only promenade. Stretching from one end of Old Town Zadar to the other, it is the central place for hangouts, fun and people-watching.
- One of the most unique Croatian experiences during your vacation here is to take a boat ride with the Boatmen of Zadar (Barkajoli Zadarksi). The barkajoli, an 800-year-old tradition and one of the most protective symbols of Zadar, transport passengers between Zadar Old Town and the rest of the city.
- The Zadar Summer Theater Festival, Zadar Snova, the Salt Festival, and Sali Festival are just a few of the numerous local and international events that take place in Zadar during the summer.
- Nin, a tiny medieval islet 20 minutes’ drive from Zadar, is one of the oldest towns in the Mediterranean. It was also voted the most romantic destination in Europe in 2016, so it’s worth coming here with your other half, especially during Romantic Week.
Useful information about Zadar
As one of the most important cities on the Eastern Adriatic coast, Zadar has a well-developed tourist infrastructure.
In regards to accommodation, the most recommended place to stay in Zadar is its historic Old Town. Another option is to stay in the New Town (Zadar’s city center), located to the east of the Old Town. Alternatively, you may be interested in exploring more beachside locations or areas that tend to be more budget-friendly, such as Kolovare and Bibinje.
Whichever your choice, Zadar provides visitors with all essential comforts, including ATMs, rental and medical services, as well as entertainment options that cater to all.
Important phone numbers for your stay in Zadar
Take a look at some phone numbers that may prove handy during your stay in Zadar:
- Zadar Port Authority: +38523201201
- Zadar Airport: +38560355355
- Police: +38523345111
- Zadar General Hospital: +38523505505
- Tourist information center: +38523316166
- European emergency number: 112
Transportation in Zadar
Walking is the best way to explore Zadar`s Old Town, because nearly all of it is pedestrian. As the area along the coast is relatively flat, biking is another popular and convenient way to get around Zadar and its surroundings. Marked bike paths are on the sidewalk, making the experience more relaxing.
The only form of public transportation in Zadar is by bus. The city’s local bus company is Liburnija which handles 10 different bus routes in Zadar and its surroundings.
While we do not recommend driving in Zadar, a car is very handy if you want to explore those amazing places off the beaten track. Keep in mind that you can find parking spaces alongside the city walls.
Beautiful view of the famous St. Donatus church in the Roman Forum during sunset
Book ferry tickets online to Zadar
Your trip to/from the impressive port city of Zadar is only a few clicks away. Take a look at our interactive Map of ferries, visualize your ferry getaway across Croatia and plan your ferry trip hassle-free.