Incredible views of Zadar from the top of the Old Town's Bell Tower, definitely a must do activity during 1 day in this city.

1 Day In Zadar: The Perfect Itinerary For Croatia’s Hidden Gem

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Read on for all the best things to do in Zadar in 24 hours!

Zadar is one of the most charming cities to visit in Croatia, and it’s possible to see a lot of what it has to offer in just 1 day. Smaller and less crowded than the likes of Dubrovnik and Split, it is however just as beautiful and impressive.

It is the oldest city in the whole country, dating back several thousand years, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that it’s full of hidden churches, historical ruins, monuments and glorious beaches.

I spent one day in this majestic city not too long ago, so I put together this perfect 24 hour itinerary, covering all of the top attractions and hidden gems to explore in this ancient and culturally rich city on the Adriatic coast.

In a rush? My Tour Recommendations for Zadar:

Zadar Guided Sightseeing Tour
Zadar Food Tasting Tour
Zadar: Island Hopping Speedboat Tour

🏨 My Hotel Recommendations for Zadar:

Downtown Boutique Hostel
Idassa Palace rooms
City Premium Heritage

How To Spend 1 Day In Zadar

So how exactly do you spend just 1 day in Zadar and get the most out of your time here?

Well, you really want to focus your time in the city’s famous medieval Old Town, which is only accessible by foot, via Gradski Most – a bridge that connects it to the modern city close by.

I loved how entering the Old Town via this bridge felt like crossing back in time – the town is full of charming cobbled streets with stunning architecture everywhere you look.

The Old Town has a lot of stunning landmarks that can be perfectly covered over the course of one day. But knowing which sites to see and where to begin is not so easy, so let’s take a look at my itinerary for Zadar.

Perfect Itinerary For 1 Day In Zadar

Here’s all the places I covered when I visited this beautiful city for just 24 hours and which I recommend you visit too:

People watch at Narodni trg

Also known as ‘the people’s square’, Narodni trg is the main square in the Old Town and is the perfect starting point for your day exploring the city.

It is the central point of Zadar and there are a lot of outstanding architecture everywhere you look, from an old Clock Tower to churches and cathedrals.

It’s a pretty, lively place full of people with plenty of outdoor cafes and restaurants. It’s an ideal spot to grab a coffee to start your day and enjoy a bit of people watching for a little while.

Narodni trg, the popular main square in the Old Town of Zadar.
Narodni trg, the popular main square in the Old Town of Zadar.

Listen to the magical Sea Organ

Zadar’s famous Sea Organ is one of the most unique and interesting places you’ll come across. It’s an experimental musical instrument based on the edge of a seafront promenade in the Old Town.

Consisting of several marbled steps, the sea organ features 35 organ pipes underneath, which produces musical sounds as the waves crash into the steps.

It’s quite a peculiar but oddly captivating place to sit and listen to the tunes being produced by nature as you gaze out to sea, which is why it is a popular place with tourists visiting the city.

👉 Pro Tip: Visit the Sea Organ during sunset for an even more enchanting experience, the combination of the music and the gorgeous views are quite exceptional!

Tourists listening to the enchanting sounds of the Sea Organ in Zadar.
Tourists listening to the enchanting sounds of the Sea Organ in Zadar.

Admire the Monument of the Sun

Situated right next to the Sea Organ is another special art installation that you can’t miss when in Zadar, which is known as the Monument of the Sun.

This is a circle (22 metres in diameter) set in the pavement and consists of 300 glass plates that takes in the solar energy in the day and produces a captivating and magical light show after sunset.

It obviously attracts a lot of tourists at sunset and after dark, but really has to be seen to be believed.

Climb the St. Donatus Bell Tower

To discover the best views of Zadar, then there’s only one option: the St. Donatus Bell Tower.

This bell tower is simply unmissable here as it’s the tallest structure in the medieval city, and it’s possible to climb it’s many steps all the way to the top.

Costing just a couple of Euros, I climbed the many steps and the views of the Old Town, nearby mountains and the Adriatic coast at the top are absolutely breath-taking.

👉 Pro-Tip: climbing the steps to the top of St. Donatus Tower was quite exhausting – and I consider myself to be quite fit! So I would advise only doing this if you’re in good physical condition, and take a bottle of water with you too!

Panoramic views of Zadar and beyond from the top of the Old Town's Bell Tower.
Panoramic views of Zadar and beyond from the top of the Old Town’s Bell Tower.

Explore The Church of St. Mary & Benedictine Monastery

Accompanying the St. Donatus Bell Tower is what is probably the most famous building in Zadar – the Church of St. Mary and Benedictine Monastery.

Dating back several hundred years, it’s possible to enter this building and enjoy the Gothic architecture and special ambience.

The Church also features a museum known as the ‘Permanent Exhibition of Religious Art‘ and here you can see more religious paintings, sculptures and more.

The Church of St. Mary & Benedictine Monastery next to the Bell Tower.
The Church of St. Mary & Benedictine Monastery next to the Bell Tower.

Discover the Roman Forum

After visiting the St. Donatus Bell Tower and the Church of St. Mary, then next I would recommend checking out the Roman Forum, which is right outside of the church.

The Roman Forum are ancient ruins of what was once the main square of the city, and it’s quite an experience to wander around so many artefacts and relics from several hundred years ago.

Visit the majestic Cathedral of St. Anastasia

The most famous and beautiful cathedral in Zadar is the Cathedral of St. Anastasia, and is another must see building during your one day tour of this magnificent city.

Again, this building is several hundred years old and is one of the most attractive historical sites you can see.

👉 Pro Tip: If you want a really unforgettable experience of visiting the Cathedral of St. Anastasia, then I recommend going there to see Holy Mass – which takes place every evening at 7pm from Monday to Friday.

Don’t miss the Land Gate

I would also recommend one more historical site when in the Old Town – the very impressive Land Gate.

This is the most well known entrance gate along the wall that encircles the Old Town. It is well known because of it’s stunning design – it is of a Renaissance style and features six columns – it’s a very dominant and impressive structure.

Chill out on a nearby beach

Having visited the most popular historical sites that the Old Town has to offer, I recommend an afternoon at a nearby beach to relax and unwind.

There are several top quality beaches in Zadar that feature crystal clear blue waters and beautiful surrounding nature.

I visited Kolovare Beach, which is a great pebbly beach and is within easy walking distance from the Old Town. I walked around 15-20 minutes to reach this beach and loved how quickly I was surrounded by nature and how quiet it was.

I highly recommend this beach if you only have one day in the city and there are nearby beach bars where you can relax as well.

Beautiful sea views on the way to Kolovare Beach.
Beautiful sea views on the way to Kolovare Beach.

Here are some other well known beaches close to Zadar that are also worth a visit if you have more time to spare:

  • Sakarun Beach – based in Dugi Otok, an island off the coast of Zadar and is reachable via ferry. It is arguably the most beautiful beach in the Zadar region, with stunning blue waters and nature nearby.
  • Zaton Beach – located 10 miles away from the Old Town, this is a gorgeous sandy beach popular with families and is considered one of the best in the whole country.
  • Sotorišće Beach – situated in Silba island, this beach is also reachable from the city via ferry. It’s worth the trip, as the beach and surrounding area offers a peaceful, tranquil retreat away from the tourist centre of Zadar.

Eat at some amazing restaurants

At the end of your 1 day visiting Zadar, you must treat yourself to a meal at a top restaurant in the Old Town. There are numerous highly rated traditional and modern restaurants in the city, offering a wide choice of Mediterranean food.

The restaurant scene is really exceptional in Zadar, and it’s possible to find plenty of places with reasonable prices where you can expect to pay around 15-20 Euros for a delicious meal.

Map of Zadar

Check out this interactive map of Zadar, featuring all the top spots mentioned in this blog post:

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    Best Zadar Tours

    Taking a tour in Zadar is a top choice if you’re short on time and want to experience all that this fantastic city has to offer. Let’s take a look at three of the best tours that you may wish to consider:

    Zadar Guided Sightseeing Tour

    Rating: 5/5 (68 reviews) | ⌚ Duration: 2 hours | ✅ Book it here!

    A walking sightseeing tour is always a great option when visiting a new city for the first time. This guided sightseeing tour will take you to all of the top attractions mentioned in this blog post and more with a professional guide.

    Check out Julie’s top review of this Guided Sightseeing Tour
    “Very knowledgeable guide, extremely helpful and informative. Pace of tour was excellent. Perfect experience with friendly guide.”

    ➡️ Book a ticket for this Zadar Guided Sightseeing Tour here

    Zadar Food Tasting Tour

    Rating: 5/5 (55 reviews) | ⌚ Duration: 3 hours | ✅ Book it here!

    If you’re a foodie and want to improve your knowledge of Croatian cuisine when visiting Zadar then this is the perfect tour for you!

    This 3 hour tour will take you to a total of five food stops where you’ll get to taste samples of the best local food and wine that the city has to offer.

    Including a visit to Trznica Zadar, the city’s main food market, you’ll have a wide variety of food samples throughout the tour, from local fish dishes, cakes, local olive oil, wine and more.

    Check out Amy’s top review of this Zadar Food Tasting Tour:
    “We always try to do a food tour when travelling to different cities and this was one of the very best. We learned so much about Croatian cuisine, culture and Zadar’s history. We highly recommend this amazing tour.”

    ➡️ Book a ticket for this Zadar Food Tasting Tour here

    Zadar: Island Hopping Speedboat Tour

    Rating: 5/5 (184 reviews) | ⌚ Duration: 4 hours | ✅ Book it here!

    If you plan on staying in Zadar for more than just one day then I highly recommend visiting several of the beautiful islands close to Zadar, and this tour provides exactly that.

    Lasting for 4 hours, you’ll get to visit outstanding places such as Ošljak and Preko, all via a speedboat!

    You’ll have plenty of time to visit these unique places and you can decide on what activities you want to do at each place, whether you want to swim, snorkel or simply go for a walk and explore each fascinating area.

    This is a great option to explore some of the lesser known areas around Zadar and it is a memorable trip that is reasonably priced.

    Check out Grant’s review of this Island-Hopping Speedboat Tour:
    “Great little excursion around Zadar Islands. Tony our skipper was great and most helpful and made for a very relaxing and fun trip. Would highly recommend.”

    ➡️ Book a place on this Island-Hopping Speedboat Tour here

    Best Places To Stay In Zadar

    Finding a place to stay in Zadar can be tricky as there’s a lot of outstanding options to choose from! Let’s take a look at three different accommodation options at three different prices:

    📍 Budget Recommendation: Downtown Boutique Hostel

    If you’re on a tight budget when visiting Zadar but still want to be based in the Old Town then you’re best option is to stay at Downtown Boutique Hostel.

    This hostel offers a range of really nice dorm rooms and private rooms at very competitive prices and it features a shared lounge and a terrace.

    Check out Milly’s top review of Downtown Boutique Hostel:
    “It’s the most luxurious hostel I’ve ever been in. The beds are very comfortable and you get a very spacious closet to put all your personal things in.”

    ➡️ Book a room at Downtown Boutique Hostel here

    📍 Mid-Range Recommendation: Idassa Palace rooms

    This fantastic 3 star accommodation is based very centrally in the Old Town and is in very short walking distance from the port as well as cafes and restaurants.

    They have a variety of rooms available including family rooms which are all of exceptional quality, and they also offer an airport shuttle service.

    Check out Kevin’s top review of Idassa Palace rooms:
    “The location is perfect. In the old town and literally a minutes walk to the nearest bars. A few minutes walk to the centre of the old town and waterside. Absolutely spotless.”

    ➡️ Book a stay at Idassa Palace rooms here

    📍 Luxury Recommendation: City Premium Heritage

    If you’re looking for a more luxurious stay in Zadar, then you really can’t go wrong with staying at City Premium Heritage.

    This exceptional 4 star bed and breakfast offers stunning city views, modern rooms with all the necessary facilities you need and there is an airport shuttle service available too.

    Check out Yiwanka’s top review of City Premium Heritage:
    “Everything is very neat, clean and creatively decorated. the bathroom is extra spacious, nicely decorated. The staff is very friendly and professional.”

    ➡️ Book a room at City Premium Heritage here

    1 Day In Zadar FAQs

    Still not sure about visiting Zadar for a day or more? Allow me to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about this truly fascinating medieval city:

    Is just 1 day enough for visiting Zadar?

    Yes, in my experience I found that one day was just about enough time to visit all of the city’s cultural and historical highlights in what was something of a whistle-stop tour.

    However, if you really want to get to know Zadar and learn more about it’s ancient history, culture and peoples, then I would recommend spending longer than just one day, preferably 3-4 days.

    This would allow you to enjoy the city at a more leisurely pace, visit some of it’s interesting museums and maybe take a day trip to one of the many islands or a national park such as Krka nearby.

    Is Zadar expensive?

    No, Zadar is not considered expensive and I found it to be quite a reasonably priced city.

    It’s cheaper than the tourist hotspots of Dubrovnik, which is a city full of interesting places to visit but most of these are overpriced.

    Zadar is also quite cheap when it comes to accommodation, but this depends on what time of year you decide to visit.

    Which is better: Zadar or Split?

    This all depends on what you’re looking for during your Croatian adventure. If you want a more relaxed, quiet experience then I would definitely recommend Zadar over Split.

    Split on the other hand is a more popular tourist destination and is bigger to explore, and is known to be something of a party city, which is just the opposite to Zadar.

    I really enjoyed both cities and my advice would be to make time to visit both of them during your trip – they’re not that far from each other and a bus from one location to the other takes around 2 hours 30 minutes.

    Conclusion: 1 Day In Zadar

    So that concludes my perfect itinerary for visiting Zadar in just 24 hours. It’s such a beautiful city in Croatia and with so many top attractions being based close to one another, it’s quite easy to fit in quite a lot in just one day.

    Whether that includes being wowed by the majestic sounds of the Sea Organ, learning about the city’s extraordinary history or just relaxing on a beach, Zadar is a compact sized place and ideal for exploring in a short amount of time.

    I hope you’ve enjoyed reading through my 1 day in Zadar itinerary and are now inspired to explore this uniquely special European destination.

    ➡️ Planning your trip? Here are my favourite resources:

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    ❤️ Travel Insurance: I recommend using Visitors Coverage
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