We had a three days to spend in Croatia so went to Zadar, Plitvice Lakes National Park and Zagreb. And it was AMAZING!
Where to stay in Zadar
We found our accommodation on Airbnb. Our apartment was lovely, with a sea view, and good value at just £33 per night. Easy to reach as well.
You can get a bus from the central train station or a taxi.
As they have their own currency, the Croatian Kuna (1HRK = 0.11p), everything is cheap.
So a taxi ride from the train station to the beach can cost around 100 HRK.
One way bus tickets are 10 Kuna and 16Kuna for a return. Cheap as chips.
All exciting so far. We’d had a morning flight, so as soon as we’d unpacked we decided to head down to the beach to top up our tans.
A day on the beach in Zadar
The beach, I’m sorry to report, was a disappointing experience. It’s entirely made up of stones with no sand anywhere in sight, so there’s nowhere comfortable to sit if like us, all you have to sit on is a beach towel. You have to rent a chaise longue.
We tried to make the best of it, but our discomfort was only added to by the heat.
I know I must sound British here, I am an adopted Mancunian after all, but it was summer. Like a proper summer with 35 degrees.
We were expecting hot weather, but honestly, I’ve never experienced anything so intense.
I decided a swim in the sea might cool me off a little. Sadly, this proved uncomfortable too.
Because the sea bed is full of stones you need special shoes to actually swim. Otherwise it’s painful. All the locals had a pair. Not us.
After a couple of hours we gave it all up and headed back to the apartment.
Delicious food in the Old Town
Our meal that evening was the first glimpse I had that Zadar might not have been such a bad choice.
We ate at Restaurant Bruschetta, a lovely little place on the seafront. They serve an excellent selection of bruschetta for starters, with Mediterranean dishes as the main course.
A lot of the dishes feature seafood, which I love, and it was beautiful. Definitely try the traditional veal with gnocchi. A hearty and finger licking meal. Nom.
The service was excellent, as was the value for money, and after a couple of glasses of wine I’d started to unwind and look forward to the next day.
Sightseeing in Zadar
The next day we dedicated to sightseeing.
Zadar is an amazing combination of the ancient and the modern, with all periods of history standing side by side.
We began with a visit to the Sun Salutation, a circular glass structure set into the pavement next to the sea front.
22 metres wide, it’s formed from 300 plates of glass, and has a dual purpose – firstly to harness solar energy, and secondly to produce an amazing light show that changes with the position of the sun.
Next to this, designed by the same architect Nikola Basic, is the Sea Organ.
It looks like a stone staircase leading into the sea, but within the steps are pipes and whistles that make sounds as the sea ebbs and flows. The two structures combined offer an amazing sensory experience besides harnessing natural energy.
And it made me wonder why there isn’t more collaboration between art and science in the world. The benefits could be huge!
Following this, we went for a complete contrast by visiting the Roman Forum. It was built sometime between the 1st century B.C. and the 3rd century A.D., and is still a social hub to this day.
Next to it stands St Donatus’ Church, built in the 9th century in the Byzantine style. The two columns and the paving slabs inside the church were originally from the Forum.
Seeing them gave a real impression of what the area must have looked like 2,000 years ago. It made me wonder what the people then would think of the ways in which the world has changed since.
That night we ate at Pet Bunara, a traditional Croatian restaurant close to the medieval City Walls. Their tree-lined terrace is a pretty place to eat, and their menu is extensive, although seafood once again featured prominently.
Much as I love seafood, I thought the octopus stew might be a little too intense. Opted for the less exotic turkey this time.
Although, combined with fig jam and almonds it was a new and enjoyable dining experience!
We thought we should sample the local nightlife while we were here, so we opted for Garden, an outdoor nightclub close by, on top of the City Walls.
Based on some of the coolest bars in Ibiza, the vibe is similar.
What can you expect for Garden? As any self respecting club there’s dance music and amazing cocktails. Not to mention the views overlooking the harbour and day beds for those who want a more relaxing experience!
We danced long into the night, and got chatting to some lovely locals. A great time was had by everyone.
On our third day in Croatia, we went on a day trip to the Plitvice Lakes National Park. This beautiful reserve of forestry and waterfalls warrants an article of its own.
But it is one of the most stunning places I have ever seen, and will stay in my mind forever.
My friend and I both really enjoyed Zadar in the end. I don’t recommend it if you’re after a beach holiday, but those who love history and architecture will not be disappointed.