The Croatian port of Zadar continues to grow in popularity and so you may well find it listed on the itinerary of your next Mediterranean cruise. With a quirky atmosphere, a mixture of Roman ruins and relics from other civilisations throughout history, and great connections to the nearby islands, it’s easy to see why so many ships now stop here.
If you arrive in Zadar and don’t fancy any of the shore excursions on offer, there’s always the opportunity to explore on your own. If you do, here are some interesting attractions that won’t cost you a penny.
Nature’s Sights And Sounds
Two of the more quirky attractions in Zadar, and the most must-see, are the Sun Salutation and the Sea Organ. Both of these are ‘powered’ by nature and can be found on the tip of peninsula that sticks out near the harbour area.
The Sea Organ is exactly as it sounds – an organ that is played by the crashing waves of the sea as they lap upon a series of steps. This art installation was created by drilling holes into the marble and inserting organ pipes into them. Now, whenever the surf washes over the stone, an enchanting and entirely random tune is played.
Just along the coast you will also find the Sun Salutation. This interesting installation sprang out of the mind of the same man responsible for the Sea Organ, Nikola Bašić. Acting like a giant solar panel, a circle of photovoltaic cells silently collect the sun’s rays during the day. Then, in the evening, the light is reflected back in the form of a colourful dance floor.
Needless to say, these two are both popular places to watch the sun go down.
Stroll Through Venetian Gates
Zadar has an interesting history when it comes to the various groups of people that have conquered the region. Along with the Romans, the Turks, the French and the Franks, the Venetians have ruled this part of the world twice in the past – having once taking it by force and once had it sold to them by King Ladislaus I.
Like other settlers, the Venetians have left their mark and this can be seen in the form of a number of unassuming gates around the city. These were built in an attempt to fortify Zadar and are now left for visitors to wander through and consider the millions of others that have walked through before.
The Land Gate, in the neighbourhood known as Foša, is arguably the most ornate surviving example. It features the Venetian coat of arms and allows access into the part of town where many of the Roman ruins are located. The smaller Sea Gate is embellished with the Venetian Lion and was erected in celebration of defeating the Ottomans in the Battle of Lepanto.
Admire The Roman Forum
If you haven’t had your fill when it comes to reminders of past eras, head to the centre of the old town to find the Roman Forum. With the impressive St. Donatus Church in the background (the largest Byzantine building in Croatia), the Forum includes ruins of temples and columns that would have once been at the heart of society in Zadar.
One of the pillars still remains and the story goes that this was a shame post. Guilty parties would have be chained here, punished and left to be humiliated by passers-by. Also in the area, you can see evidence of altars that were used for blood sacrifices.
Just as the Roman Forum seems to appear out of nowhere, a walk around the rest of the Old Town will reveal a number of other treasures that seem to pop up without a word of warning.
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