- Since we live in this world, we have to do our best for this world. Aung San Suu Kyi
Visit Zadar, Croatia
Boasting a historic old town of Roman ruins, medieval churches, cosmopolitan cafes and quality museums set on a small peninsula, Zadar is an intriguing city. It’s not too crowded, it’s not overrun with tourists and its two unique attractions – the sound-and-light spectacle of the Sea Organ and the Sun Salutation – need to be seen and heard to be believed.
While it’s not a picture-postcard kind of place, the mix of ancient relics, Habsburg elegance, coastal setting and unsightly tower blocks is what gives Zadar so much character. It's no Dubrovnik, but it's not a museum town either – this is a living, vibrant city, enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.
Tourist Attractions in Zadar
Zadar Cathedral - the Cathedral of St. Anastasia - is a unique blend of architectural periods. Originally constructed in the ninth century by the Byzantines, it was later rebuilt during the 12th and 13th centuries in Romanesque style, with further alterations being undertaken since. Of particular interest is the cathedral's fine façade with its three entrances and numerous blind arches, as well two beautiful rose windows; the top in Gothic style, while the lower one is Romanesque. Interior highlights include the ninth-century remains of St. Anastasia, the stone altars, and the impressive wood carved choir. Be sure to check out the lovely bell tower dating from the 15th century with the upper levels being completed in the late 19th century (it's possible to climb the bell tower for good views over Zadar).
Art for Fun's Sake: The Sea Organ and Greeting to the Sun
Installed along Zadar's seafront in 2005 and now one of Croatia's most popular art installations, the fun Sea Organ (Morske Orgulje) is well worth a visit. In essence a giant musical instrument that's played by the action of the waves, this fascinating device - one of a number of similar installations found in places like San Francisco - consists of a series of underwater tubes beneath the marble steps that descend into the sea. Each tube creates a different tone and together they form a fascinating, if somewhat surreal soundtrack to the whole experience. Also worth seeing is the nearby Greeting to the Sun, a spectacular circular installation consisting of 300 multi-layered glass plates and solar cells that, come nightfall, light up and provide a breathtaking visual accompaniment to the Sea Organ.
Kornati National Park
Kornati National Park (Nacionalni Park Kornati), just off the coast of Zadar, is made up of 147 islands in the Zadar Archipelago. Established in 1980 to protect marine life and preserve natural habitats, these mostly uninhabited islands include Kornat Island, the largest at 25 kilometers long and two-and-a-half kilometers wide. Rugged and riddled with caves, cracks, and cliffs, these once lush islands used to be home to many Roman villas and farms, but a lack of fresh water and exploitation under Venetian rule left them desolate.
The Church of St. Chrysogonus
Built by the Benedictines, the Romanesque Church of St. Chrysogonus (Crkva sv Krševana) - part of a monastery that was destroyed in WWII - was constructed on the site of an old Roman market in the late 12th century. The interior of this splendid old three-aisled church includes a Baroque main altar dating from the early 1700s, as well as an apse containing a number of well-preserved 13th-century frescoes (check out the Romanesque crucifix). Of particular note is the beautiful exterior of the apse at the back of the church with its row of arches lining the top portion.
City Walls and Gates
No visit to Zadar is complete without exploring its magnificent old city walls and gates. The oldest section was built by the Romans and is near the footbridge along the eastern wall, while the remaining sections were built primarily by the Venetians. The city's four remaining gates are relatively well preserved, the most important and most impressive being the Land Gate. Built in 1543 by the Venetians in Renaissance style, this splendid structure still provides the best access point when exploring the old part of the city (the other gates are the Gate of St. Rok and Port Gate, as well as one in the Square of the Five Wells).
The People's Square
The People's Square (Narodni Trg) has been the center of public life in Zadar since its construction in the 16th century. Important highlights include the old City Guardhouse (Gradska Straza), built in the mid 1500s and hard to miss on the west side of the square due to its large clock tower added in the 18th century (it's worth a visit for its small ethnographic museum). Across from the tower stands the Renaissance City Loggia (Gradska Loza), built in 1565 and traditionally used as a place to make important public announcements and proclamations. These days, this splendid old building functions as a public gallery for art and other exhibitions. Also of interest in the People's Square is the City Hall built in the 1930s.