The Adriatic coastline stretching down the Balkans peninsula is full of natural beauty spots and none more so than the Croatian coastline. Zadar ticks every box for a Balkans escape, with its charming old town, beautiful sunsets, and abundance of quirky islands.
This 3 days Zadar itinerary has got you covered, to ensure you make the most of this underrated spot in the Balkans.
I visited the small seaside city in September when the temperatures were still warm and the sun set earlier, which meant there were quieter crowds. However, Zadar is a city that can be enjoyed all year round.
This blog will give you some practical information about the different activities you can enjoy through the daytime and in the evening, as when the sun goes down in Zadar, there is a magical blanket that comes down over its historic Old Town.
- 3 Days Zadar Itinerary
- Day 1 – Explore Old Town
- Day 2 – Krka National Park Day Trip
- Day 3 – Enjoy the beaches in the island
- Is 3 Days Enough in Zadar?
3 Days Zadar Itinerary
Day 1 – Explore Old Town
On the first day of your trip, you will be getting your bearings together and figuring out the city. Therefore, spending the day around the Old Town is a great starting point.
My first thoughts on Zadar were palm trees, boats (plenty of boats!), and positive vibes. As I explored, and interacted with the locals, they all offered a smile and pleasantries. I found this to be the case in many places in Croatia.
The Old Town is reachable by foot from many of the popular accommodation spots, consequently, I would plan to walk throughout your first day.
Morning: Climb the Bell Tower in the Old Town
The highlight of the Old Town is the Bell Tower of St. Anastasia, which dates back to the 15th century. Its Baroque style tower is a symbol of the city and offers amazing panoramic views of the Old Town and the Adriatic Sea.
When I climbed the tower, it happened to be at the exact moment the bells chimed which scared the life out of me! But it was a unique moment seeing them in action. This was quite the experience!
The steps are very steep, so I would advise that you plan your visit accordingly. It definitely helps to visit in the morning before the midday crowds.
If you are visiting between the months of September and May you can enjoy the sunset from the top of the Tower, which is really cool!
- How to get there: The Bell Tower is centrally located in the Old Town so you can’t miss it.
- Bell Tower opening times: 9AM to 8PM Daily
- Bell Tower entrance cost: 15 Kunas (£1.75)
Afternoon: Have lunch in the Old Town and visit some historic sites
Zadar Old Town is home to many local restaurants, with some offering outdoor seating. This is an ideal location to enjoy the surroundings with a beautiful lunch.
There are more than 20 dining options in and around the Old Town. Therefore, you don’t need to plan in advance. You should just explore several of the options and then decide what suits your ambience.
After scouting out the area, we opted for lunch at Restaurant Malo Misto, as it offered seating in a courtyard with a pretty setting. The majority of options serve a mixture of Mediterranean and seafood dishes.
After your lunch, you can head to the Roman Forum at the edge of the Old Town to grab your dose of history.
Although there are only some minor ruins left for visitors to see nowadays, it was once the center of religious life in the city, after it was constructed as far back as the 1st century BC. You will find that there is still one intact Roman column remaining.
This is a great free activity and it is all open for visitors to walk through and examine the ruins up close.
Evening: Enjoy sunset at the Sea Organ
One of the highlights on any Zadar itinerary is the Sea Organ, a unique musical instrument located on the steps on the edge of the Old Town.
The musical feature plays music as the force of the waves crash against the steps. The melody was very clear and loud when I visited in September. However, the waves were choppy.
If you head down there half an hour before sunset, you will find a spot to sit down just in time for the magical experience.
It can get a little crowded, but this doesn’t take anything away from the beauty of the travel experience.
During my visit to the Sea Organ, I noticed many couples enjoying the sunset together, as it is a great spot if you are on a romantic getaway. I also witnessed a local wedding just inland from the sea organ. This was unexpected and involved loud music and crowds dancing.
- How to get there: The Sea Organ is located on a promenade close to the Old Town and Ferry Station. I had no problem finding it, but if you do, the locals are very approachable to help.
- Sea Organ opening times: All day, every day.
- Sea Organ entrance cost: Free.
Day 2 – Krka National Park Day Trip
Day 2 takes us away from Zadar for the day. However, the destination is bucket list worthy and a real treat for your camera.
Krka National Park has some of Croatia’s amazing natural beauty spots, and none more so than its waterfalls. There are 16 in total, along with a beautiful clear river, and many hiking trails.
Your starting point will be the small town of Skradin, which is around a 70-minute journey from Zadar, and it is here where you can either grab the ferry or start your walk/bike ride.
We opted to walk in the September sunshine, and the route is around 5 km each way. Combining the natural beauty of the area with sunshine and exercise really does set up your day perfectly.
You will have earned your ice cream when you arrive at the waterfalls!
The biggest waterfall is called Skradinski Buk, and it is epic. You can get fairly close to it on the bridge, or if you climb up some of the rocks on the side, you can get a bird’s eye view of it.
We had fun wandering off the beaten path and exploring some of the less touristy areas.
- How to get there: There are regular buses between Zadar and Skradin. Alternatively you can rent a car (we did this), or book a tour.
- Krka Waterfalls entrance fee: 300 Kunas (£35)
- Krka Waterfalls opening times: 8AM to 8PM in summer months
- Ferry cost: 200 Kunas (£25) return (25 minutes journey each way)
Day 3 – Enjoy the beaches in the island
An early start for coffee and sunrise started my final day in Zadar wonderfully, before a full afternoon of relaxation and a luxurious restaurant experience with harbor views.
Morning: Enjoy coffee in one of the hipster coffee shops
Zadar is home to many modern coffee shops that have a different vibe, depending on what you are looking for.
My personal favorite was Coffee & Cake, which is only a 5-minute walk away from the Cathedral of St. Anastasia. You should know the Old Town pretty well by now, so just head of the iconic Bell Tower.
Coffee & Cake offers a break from the Balkan heat in its beautiful design air conditioned premises. You can also browse it’s pretty cakes and maybe even indulge in one of them.
Some other coffee shops that I tried that offered a nice vibe are:
- Caffe Bar Forum: A coffee shop with a historical view.
- Vinyl Bar: Sunrise views on the coast.
- Cogito Coffee Zadar: Urban feels.
Afternoon: Head to Ugljan Island and visit its beautiful beaches
You can’t visit Zadar without a trip to one of the dreamy islands off the coast. In total there are over 300, all offering a unique experience. One of the most popular ones, and my favorite island is Ugljan, also known as “The Olive Island” due to its abundance of Olive Trees.
Ugljan Island is also home to some beautiful beaches and, uniquely, a historical fortress.
I opted to visit the Luka Beach, which is situated on the North West of the island in a cove, which offers some privacy and beautiful clear waters. If you want a break from the sunshine, there are some beautiful pine trees to grab some shade under. This is a great free activity that can keep you occupied for as long as you want!
If you want to feel the full charm of the island, then you should head to Preko, a small fishing village located centrally. I chatted to some locals and then explored the Monastery, which was an awesome end to my afternoon as an islander.
It really does feel like a Croatian paradise!
- How to get there: You can reach the island via a direct ferry. The total journey time is around 30 minutes, and it operates hourly. The main ferry port (Gaženica) is on the outskirts of Zadar approximately 5 km from the city center. We walked it to get some exercise and sunshine after our lunch. A taxi is another good option if you are short on time or want a more relaxing day.
- Ferry cost: 20 Kunas (£2.65)
Evening: Enjoy dinner by the harbor
There are some beautiful restaurants in Zadar, so you are spoiled for choice during your evening meal. For the last night of the itinerary, I would recommend a personal favorite that ticked every box during my visit.
Harbor Cookhouse & Club has a spectacular setting located on the banks of Zadar Harbor. For the perfect dinner, I would recommend you book an outside table, especially in summertime, as you are treated to harbor views and a breathtaking backdrop of the Old Town and Bell Tower.
Harbor has something for everyone with its offerings of seafood, steak, and other popular dishes.
It is also vegetarian friendly.
It is a great spot for a lively last evening in the quirky Croatian town, as the restaurant has live dj/live band gigs. Make sure your flight isn’t too early the next day!
This was my favorite restaurant on my trip to Zadar. I just loved the setting, watching boats come into the harbor.
Is 3 Days Enough in Zadar?
You could spend forever in Zadar and not get bored of its quirkiness and beautiful locals. Three days is only a short visit to the Croatian city, and by this point, you will have fallen in love with Zadar. It is enough time to explore the main attractions, Krka National Park and an island. A longer stay will mean you can do some more island hopping, and maybe head out into the Adriatic on a boat trip.
I felt fully satisfied at the end of my 3 day trip, but its charm has lured me into a future trip, one day soon!
Croatia is beautiful throughout, so the benefit of a shorter trip is that you can explore other great cities.
Zadar ticks every box for a sunny seaside break.
Its abundance of beautiful beaches offer the perfect place to relax with a cocktail or two. It also has some cultural and historical gems across its Old Town to keep you entertained.
I found its mix of historical charm and modern vibes offer a truly unique vibe in the city.
A 3 days Zadar itinerary consisting of exploring the city will give you an awesome experience, while leaving you longing for more.
Tom is a UK-based travel blogger from the North East of England who has a curiosity for all things travel, and has visited 40 countries. His lifetime goal is 100, and he plans to document all his travels through his growing blog.
His favorite country is Thailand and favorite city is Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina.