Like most towns and cities in Croatia, Zadar has a rich and complicated history; the result of being conquered, and repeatedly re-conquered, throughout the centuries. Zadar has been occupied by Romans, Byzantines, Hungarians, Venetians, Austrians, Italians and Germans to name but a few. It is generally accepted that an Illyrian tribe known as the Liburnians got to Zadar first, as early as the 9th Century BC. The Romans came next, who briefly replaced the name Zadar with 'Jadera' and created a thriving port and market town. When the Roman Empire fell to the Byzantines, Zadar entered a period of development: the quaint churches and narrow, cobbled streets created by the town's new masters exist to this day.

Even when the country was finally handed to Yugoslavia after the Second World War, the political problems which have marked Zadar's past did not end: the city was badly damaged in the war for independence in the early 1990s, before Zadar was finally incorporated into an independent Croatia a little over a decade ago. It is this complicated political past which makes this quaint Dalmatian city such a fascinating place to visit.


Visitors to Zadar will find it difficult to avoid visiting The Roman Forum, (now known to locals as Zeleni Trg). Constructed during the reign of the Roman Emperor Augustus as early as the 1st Century BC, the Forum was used by the Romans as a market and public meeting place. Roman officials also constructed a 15 metre tall "pillar of shame" in the Forum; convicted criminals were chained there to endure public humiliation as penance for their crimes. The "pillar of shame" was used for a similar purpose as late as the 1840s.

The 27 metre cylindrical Church of St. Donatus, which stands in the middle of the Forum, is the most popular tourist attraction of Zadar. Built some time during the 9th Century, the Church holds the distinction of being the largest Byzantine building in Croatia. The Church was built by Saint Donat, who was the bishop at the time, and was originally named the Church of the Holy Trinity; it was not named for its founder until the 14th Century. The Church has not been used as a place of worship since 1797, and is now used predominantly as a venue for concerts in the summer months.

The Cathedral of St. Anastasia also provides a fascinating insight into Zadar's history. Built between the 12th and 13th Centuries, it is the largest Romanesque Cathedral in Dalmatia. A 9th Century stone casket in the Cathedral contains the body of St. Anastasia, whom the Cathedral was named for. The separate bell tower provides an impressive view over the rest of the city.

Those interested in learning more about Zadar's history might enjoy a trip to the Archaelogical Museum (located near the Roman Forum). The museum contains approximately 80,000 artefacts, representing each period of Zadar's history, from the Neolithic era to the late Middle Ages.

If you plan to remain in Zadar for more than a couple of days, consider a boat trip to the islands of the Zadar archipelago. The islands are largely uninhabited, or at least sparsely populated, which contributes to their idyllic atmosphere. Ugljan is probably the most populous and developed of the islands, and even has its own [ tourist office] and hotel. Visit the website or call +385 (0)23 288 011 for more information about Ugljan. The islands of Iž and Dugi Otok are also popular with tourists. Boat tours of the archipelago are readily available from Zadar, and there are opportunities to rent a boat and visit the islands yourself if you would prefer to be free of the constraints imposed by an official tour.


Shopping addicts might be disappointed to learn that Zadar is not known for being a shopping haven. However, visitors ought to find that the bustling fruit and vegetable market of the old town is worth a visit. This traditional Dalmatian market is open daily until approximately 4pm. Visitors can also expect the array of independent shops always prevalent in areas popular with tourists, many of which will sell traditional Dalmatian produce including olive oil and a local cherry liqueur known as maraschino.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Central Zadar offers a number of reasonably priced restaurants, most of which specialise in seafood and grilled dishes. Those with a taste for seafood might enjoy sampling the traditional Dalmatian dishes widely on offer: skampi na buzaru (shrimps in tomato and onion) is one of the most popular. Vegetarians ought to be warned that they are likely to be poorly catered for, as vegetarianism is still considered to be a peculiar concept in Croatia. Even dishes advertised as vegetarian options often contain animal products. Those who would prefer to play it safe may well have to become accustomed to a diet of pizzas and salads for the duration of their stay.

There are a number of bars and open-air cafés to choose from in the area surrounding the Roman Forum. If you fancy a night-cap, try a glass of maraschino, a Dalmatian cherry liqueur which has been produced in the area since 1821.

One of the music evenings frequently hosted in St. Donat Church can also be a pleasant way to pass an evening.

Those who are seeking clubs or lively bars with loud music should head over to central Zadar, Marka Oreškovica or Varosh.

Tourist Information

  • Tourist Board of Zadar, Ilije Smiljanica 5, 23000 Zadar
  • Telephone: +385 (0)23 212222
  • E-mail:
  • County Tourist Board of Zadar, Sv. Leopolda B.Mandica 1, 23000 Zadar
  • Telephone: +385 (0)23 315107 or +385 (0)23 315316
  • E-mail:
  • Website: []


[ Zadar Airport] at Zemunik, approximately 10km from Zadar, is the nearest airport. Buses run frequently between the airport and the bus station at Starcevica, which is a short walk from the old town centre.