Think of Croatia and what places come to mind? Dubrovnik and Split may well be top of the list when one imagines discovering the Dalmatian coast, but this year, it’s worth branching off the beaten track. Emerging from the sidelines, the city of Zadar is set to dethrone Croatia’s two most popular tourist hubs. Formerly part of the Venetian republic, Zadar has a history dating back centuries and is positively packed with culture. Small enough to be seen on foot, the city is perfect for a leisurely weekend away, helping to sweep away all of those late winter blues.
Above all else, Zadar is known for its historical monuments. While there is plenty to be seen on the open streets, much of the city’s antiquities have been moved to more protected quarters, so don’t be alarmed if you have to hunt for your history. The Church of St. Donatus houses a large portion of the Byzantine masonry and is filled with Roman altars. A stone’s throw away, the Cathedral of St. Anastasia is equally renowned for its historical merit, and from the outside, it looks like it might have been plucked straight from the Florence skyline.
In terms of pied à terres, Zadar has plenty of prime properties at its fingertips. Having opened its doors in 2008, the Hotel Bastion is perhaps the cream of the city’s crop, drawing in the most stylish travelers for miles around. Minimalist, neutral rooms are finished off with touches of indulgent luxury in the form of soft sofas and plump headboards. The hotel boasts its own spa and a fantastic outdoor eating area, perfect for taking a spot of breakfast in the morning. This is city living done right.
Food is most definitely in vogue in Zadar, and you can expect to find a number of eateries that you’re not likely to forget in a hurry. Merging contemporary food concepts with traditional Dalmatian dining, Foša ranks in Croatia’s top twenty restaurants. Using the city’s picturesque port to its advantage, the eatery specialises in locally caught fish and seafood, prepared fresh on the premises. The terrace spots are by far the jewel in Foša’s crown, so make sure you reserve in advance to get a top spot.
Elsewhere, Kornat serves up plates of delicious, fresh produce all throughout the week. A local favorite, the restaurant is as traditional as they come, focusing its efforts on producing simple, tasty dishes. The fish plates might be pared back, but sometimes it’s the minimalist things that work the best. On the hunt for an after dinner tipple? Head to The GardenLounge, a cocktail bar that sets itself apart with both its menu and locale. Situated in front of Zadar’s harbour, perched on the city walls, the chilled out spot boasts breathtaking views and great vegetarian snacks. Get there before night falls for some of the best views in town.
Of course, there are plenty of places in which to watch the sun go down in Zadar, and the peninsula is possibly the very best there is. The nearby Sea Organ, an architectural sound art object that creates music with sea waves, attracts gaggles of tourists each evening at dusk, so make sure you head to the area early in order to pick yourself a prime spot. Settle yourself on the area’s waterside steps, keep your eyes on the sky, and listen to the melodic chords of the organ pipes as day becomes night.