Zadar is the capital of North Dalmatia and one of the oldest cities in Europe, with an eventful history and a lot of sights. The city is situated in the north of Dalmatia opposite a group of islands. The Zadar Old Town is one of the most beautiful in Europe.
Today, according to the latest census , the city has a population of just over 90,000, is the most important trading and cultural centre in the region and also has an airport. People living there modestly call their city “Najlipsi grad na svitu“, which means “the most beautiful city in the world“.
Why Zadar Should be the Starting Port of Your Croatia Cruise Holiday
Zadar, the almost 3000 year old city, is the center of the region and the capital of northern Dalmatia. For centuries it was the capital of Dalmatia and the political, cultural and intellectual center. The old town of Zadar is located on a long peninsula. The ancient street division of the old town is paved with shiny white stones.
Numerous museums, churches and monuments provide insights into the history of the very old city. Zadar was founded in the 9th century BC. BC inhabited by the Illyrian-Liburnian tribe.
The main feature of the city is the early Romanesque St. Donatus Church from the 9th century. It stands on the place where the Roman forum (1st century) once had its place and from whose stones it is built. The church got its name after Bishop Donat. Around the basilica are finds from the early days of the city. This was the site of the city’s forum in Roman times.
Zadar is also home to the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in Croatia: St. Anastasia Cathedral from the 13th century, St. Chrysogonus Church from the 12th century and the bell tower of St. Mary from 1105 .
The city has a mighty fortress wall with representative port and mainland gates from the 16th century, a three-well and a five-well square, the town loggia and the tower of the town watch, numerous palaces, and all this under the protection of the four town saints: St. . Simeon, St. Anastasia, St. Chrysogonus and St. Zoilus.
The Zadar Channel separates Zadar and the Zadar Riviera, a resort center for water sports, from some 300 off-shore islands. The city is surrounded by the Velebit mountain range and four national parks. Zadar is a university city (e.g philosophy) and a popular venue for cultural and sports events.
Zadar is the center of shipping, business, culture and tourism. Shipbuilding, the textile industry as well as the food and spirits industry (including Maraschino schnapps) are important employers in the city. Zadar is particularly important as a market location for the surrounding agricultural land (such as the fertile Ravni Kotari plateau).
With a history of several thousand years, Zadar lies in the middle of Ravni Kotari. Its patron saint is Sv. Krševan (St. Chrysogonus).
Alfred Hitchcock was also impressed by it and is supposed to have said that the sunset in Zadar is even more beautiful than in California. Among others, Bernie Ecclestone and Bill Gates have also visited the city and the region in the last few years.
The climate is very pleasant and Mediterranean with mild winter and warm summer. Between spring and autumn the cold north westernly mistral blows, which makes the summer heat more pleasant.
The bora, a dry and cold wind, is mostly very weak in Zadar and its surroundings. There is hardly any rain, which is accompanied by a south easternly wind called jugo, which is wet but warm. There are 280 sunny days per year.
In the fertile plateau region of Ravni Kotari, which is situated north of the town, vegetables, wine, fruits and, for example, the Maraska cherries needed for the well-known Maraschino liqueur are grown.
The city is known not only for its good fish, which is caught fresh every morning and offered for sale by the fishermen, but also for its lamb, pork, olives and different sorts of cheese. The best speciality is “pršut”, the Dalmatian ham, which is incredibly delicious, especially with cheese, olives and fresh white bread.
For wine-lovers it is certainly interesting to know that more and more private people are turning to wine growing. There are a lot of little vineyards where wine is cultivated in the traditional way, which means, without a lot of expensive technical equipment. You can taste it and buy wine cheaply everywhere.
Zadar Cultural Heritage
The Zadar peninsula, now the town centre, is full of traces of various cultures that succeeded one another over the centuries. Since the arrival of the Croats in the early Middle Ages, Zadar considerably outgrew its original core, but the gridiron street plan of Roman Jadera is still visible today.
The remains of the ancient Forum, the church of Sveto Trojstvo (Holy Trinity), later renamed after a mediaeval Zadar bishop by the name of Donat, the Romanesque cathedral of Sv. Anastazija (St. Anastasia), other mediaeval churches, town walls, the unique collection of Zadar’s Gold and Silver, residential buildings from the 19th century – all that comprises a small-scale mosaic of the ancient urban feel of Zadar.
Once, one entered the town through a Renaissance town gate designed by Michele Sammicheli. The scent of Swiss chard and grilled fish fills the streets of Zadar, and a glass of red wine is usually accompanied by a song.
A Mediterranean melancholy pervades this town, especially on the waterfront in the evening when the sun sets behind the Zadar islands. The wild rocky scenery of the Zrmanja canyon in the hinterland of Zadar is a must-see.
The river runs in the area between the Karin and Novigrad Seas, where a Mediterranean atmosphere mixes with fierce karst. Zadar could not function without its hinterland, but it also cannot be imagined without its islands and the islanders who daily ferry to “town.”
The “island connection” provides Zadar with vitality and seafood. It is a very rewarding experience to sail around Zadar archipelago-from the remotest island of Silba, by Olib and Molat to the closer Sestrunj, Ugljan, Veli Iz and Mali Iz, Dugi otok, and Pasman.
Most boaters who sail here stay longer than planned, fascinated by the charming islands, their beautiful small towns, and sad half-empty fishing villages. The most spectacular part of Zadar archipelago are the Kornati islands, a group of 125 islands and reefs that form a wall of vertical cliffs facing the open sea, the highest of which is over a hundred meters.
Zadar was founded in the 9th century BC. Known as a settlement of the Liburnians (an Illyrian tribe) and was then called Jader. It later became a Roman colony and then occupied by the Byzantines.
From the 9th century, the city was gradually populated by Croatians. In 1105 it came under the rule of the Croatian-Hungarian rulers and later (1409-1797) in the hands of the Venetians. The period of Austrian rule followed, which was only briefly interrupted by the French (1805-1813). With the Rapallo Treaty (1920), Zadar and its surroundings fell to Italy and were only freed from it in 1944 and thus connected to Croatia.
Zadar first appeared in the history books when the people of Zadar were mentioned in Greece as the toughest opponent of the Greek settlers in the Adriatic.
The Romans later made Zadar a city. The Venetians determined the political situation for a very long time. Venice repeatedly managed to rule Zadar. Mostly only for short sections, because the Croatians rebelled against the authorities again and again.
In the 16th century, however, Zadar became a Venetian military and administrative city.
The first Croatian university was founded in Zadar in 1396, the first Croatian novel was written (early 16th century) and the first Croatian newspaper was printed (1806). An Austrian travel group is said to have visited Zadar as early as 1879.
In 1892 the “Society for Beautifying the City” was founded and in 1899 the oldest Croatian tourism company Liburnija. In 1902 the first hotel opened its doors, today’s Hotel Zagreb. The internationally important, permanent exhibition of sacred art and the traditional event “Music Festival in St. Donatus” are only part of the cultural offer of the city.