Rebecca Ballinger is American actor who recently visited the charming town of Zadar. It turned out to be a true adventure, and here’s here story!
Other than knowing how to say hello (Bok!) and thank you (Hvala) in Croatian, I realized mid-flight that I did not know much about where I was about to spend my weekend. Without having many movies or Pinterest pictures to advertise its charm, Zadar is a seaside city that goes unsung in the mainstream world of traveling. With an open mind and a Ryanair flight to the Zadar Airport, I found myself in a vivacious city that was covered in a delicious clash of Roman and medieval architecture.
Here are a few things Zadar had to offer that turned a quick weekend trip into an amazing holiday.
The Things to Do: In the short time I had in Zadar, a majority of it was spent in the walled part of the city mesmerized by the endless marble streets and the postcard-perfect shops and cafes. This historic part of the city is filled with pedestrian only streets and is just a few miles long, making it easy to sightsee and maneuver your way through.
- The Sea Organ and The Greeting to the Sun: Located next to each other on the northwest tip of the peninsula, these two attractions celebrated the sun and sea in an artful way. At the edge of the water, the sea organ, on the surface a series of steps, was an instrument played by the rolling waves, creating a mystical song that only nature could write. I had the pleasure of hearing the organ when the waves were a bit more frantic giving the sea organ an exciting and slightly eerie song. The Greeting to the Sun was a circle of solar panels embedded in the ground that cast a colorful lightshow at sunset. The small crowd it attracted had a wonderful festival-like vibe, watching children chase the colorful lights and a few tourists dancing and laying about. It was definitely a great way to end the day.
- The Archeological Museum: It was originally a little rainfall that drove me into this museum, but it proved to be an entertaining way to add a little history education to my holiday. The three floor museum featured a plethora of stone and copper goods dating back to the time of cavemen. I spent a majority of my time wandering through the Roman statues and picking up a few fun facts about everyday life during the Roman Empire. With tickets priced at 30kn (about 4 euro), this was an ideal way to wait out the rain.
- The Parks: To the southwest of the walled port, Zadar had two gorgeous parks containing a variety of plant life and ancient ruins. Queen Jelena Madijevka Park was on a hill that allowed me to look out over the marina and the city itself. Vladimir Nazor Park, right next door, had long footpaths shaded by trees and a charming playground at its center.
- The Plitvice Lakes National Park: While this is not within the city of Zadar, it was close enough for a daytrip that gets you back in time for dinner. The Plitvice Lakes were the epitome of the natural beauty Croatia had to offer. Visitors were able to walk on footpaths taking us over and through the vibrant lakes and countless waterfalls. The lakes’ deep turquoise water against the lush green of the forest created a color contrast that was just begging to be photographed. The footpaths led us through a variety of waterfalls ranging from modest to majestic and allowed us to see the falls from all angles.
The Food and Drink: Since I was traveling on a budget, I didn’t have the luxury to dine at any proper restaurants. Luckily, Zadar’s street food is not lacking culinary perfection. With pizza slices the size of a baby going for 10kn and a scoop of gelato for 8kn, Zadar did a great job feeding the penny-pinching traveler. As far as drinking went, I had to look no further than Karlovačko, a very popular Croatian beer brewed in Karlovac. Being a devout Carlsberg drinker, I enjoyed the same golden color and crisp flavor in Karlovacko. Then there was the Zadar original, Maraschino Liqueur. While it was a bit too harsh for my pallet, this liqueur was certainly worth a try for any cocktail lover.
In just three days, Zadar had me head over heels with its culture, people, and crystal clear waters. My advice to future visitors is to allow plenty of time to get lost in the marble streets of downtown Zadar and to bring an extra memory card for your camera. Being visitor friendly but not over-run by tourists, Zadar is alive and welcoming making it Europe’s ultimate hidden-gem worth exploring.