Zadar Tourist Attractions
The major city of northern Dalmatia, Zadar is not promoted as much as other cities, but offers a wealth of attractions and has a very pleasant atmosphere. Marble pedestrian only streets make it easy to explore the historic city center. Zadar is known for its fine medieval churches and Roman ruins. In particular, the church of St Donat , built on the site of the former ancient Roman forum, is not to be missed. The promenade, which runs down Obala Kralja Petra Kresimira IV, is a perfect place to walk and soak up the surroundings. For sun seekers, Zadar also has some nice nearby beaches.
Paklenica National Park
Paklenica National Park (Nacionalni Park Paklenica) is located in the Velebit Massif offering a wealth of outdoor opportunities for hikers, climbers, and other sporting pursuits. Velebit is a UNESCO biological reserve, which protects plant species and bird colonies as well as the mountains themselves. The exposed chalky white rock on the seemingly barren mountain tops contrasts sharply with the green forests lower down. The Mala Paklenica (Small Paklenica) and the Velika Paklenica (Great Paklenica) Gorges, cut through the mountain range, producing high cliff walls. The park is home to a number of different bird species and apparently some wildlife like bears and wolves, but these are only rarely seen. The Paklenica National Park is at its best in the spring and fall. Summer is usually too hot for many activities and the park is particularly green and lush in the spring.The park office is at Starigrad (StariGrad-Paklenica) and the entrance to the park is at Marasovici, just north of Starigrad.
Church of St Donat
The Church of St Donat (SV Donat) was built in the 9th Century and is one of the largest examples of Byzantine architecture in Dalmatia. It was originally named the Church of the Holy Trinity but was later changed and named for Bishop Donat. St Donat is one of the main architectural highlights of Zadar. This circular church is flanked by three circular apses. It was built on top of the old Roman forum and incorporated some of the old structure. Two pillars from the form are built into the church and the floor of the church was removed to show the stone work of the forum on the ground below. Many of the stones used to build the church of St Donat, were taken from the Roman forum.
Cathedral of Anastasia
Zadar's Cathedral of Anastasia is a unique blend of architectural periods. The Cathedral was built in the 9th Century by the Byzantines but later rebuilt during the 12th and 13th Centuries in Romanesque style. Since then it has undergone a number of alterations. The Cathedral's façade has three entrances and a number of blind arches. There are two rose windows, the top window is Gothic, the lower window is Romanesque. The interior contains the remains of St Anastasia from the 9th Century. The altars are made of stone and there is an impressive wood carved choir. The bell tower dates to the 15th Century but the upper levels were not completed until the late 19th Century. It's possible to climb the bell tower for good views over Zadar.
The Zadar Archeological Museum (Arheoloski Muzej) is divided into three sections. The ground floor is devoted to finds from the 7th to 12th Centuries, with a notable glass collection. The first floor features displays related to Northern Dalmatia during the Roman period. Interesting in this section is the model of Zadar depicting this time frame. The second floor houses collections related to the Palaeolithic, Neolithic, Copper, Bronze, and Iron Age, including weapons, jewelry, pottery, and other artifacts. The Zadar Archeological Museum is a good place to start for those looking for information or an overview on the history of this area of Dalmatia.
Church of St Chrysogonus (Grisogonus)
Built by the Benedictines, the Romanesque Church and Monastery of St Chrysogonus were constructed on the site of a Roman Market in the late 12th Century. A church stood here prior to this time but was rebuilt during this time period. Unfortunately the monastery was destroyed during WWII but the church survived.The three aisled church of St Chrysogonus has a Baroque main altar, dating to the early 1700s. The apse contains 13th Century frescoes which are quite well preserved. Note the Romaneque crucifix. The exterior of the apse at the back of the church is beautiful, with a row of arches lining the top portion.
Walls and Gate
The city walls and Land Gate were built during different eras. The oldest section of the wall, built by the Romans, is near the footbridge, along the eastern wall. This is the only area of the wall still in existence from Roman times. The other walls were built primarily, by the Venetians.There are still four remaining city gates, which allowed entrance to Zadar. The most important and most impressive of these is the city gate, or land gate as it is also know. This gate was built in 1543 by the Venetians in a Renaissance style. The other gates are the Gate of St Rok, Port Gate, and at the Square of the Five Wells.
Church and Monastery of St Mary and the Museum of Sacred Art
The Church of St Mary was built in the 11th Century but has undergone a variety of renovations and alterations over the years. The current structure boasts a Renaissance façade. The bell tower, known as Koloman's Tower is a Romanesque structure dating to the 12th Century. Next to the Church of St Mary is the monastery, which is home to the Museum of Sacred Art. The museum houses a collection of gold pieces, paintings, and sculptures. The St Mary church and monastery sustained damage during WWII but were rebuilt in the 1970s
Church of St Simeon
The 17th Century Church of St Simeon in Zadar holds the remains of St Simeon, one of Zadar's four patron saints. They are kept in a sarcophagus designed by Francesco da Milano in the late 14th Century. On the cedar coffin are gold plated reliefs depicting the life of St Simeon and a copy of Capella dell'Arena from Padua, Italy. The casket is said to weigh 250kg. Also in the church is a decorated altar containing the "Virgin and Saints". The fine craftsmanship in these works is worth a visit to the Church of St Simeon.
The People's Square (Narodni Trg) has been the center of public life in Zadar since the 16th Century. The City Guardhouse (Gradska Straza), built in the mid 1500s, is hard to miss on the west side of the square due to the large 18th century clock tower. It now houses a small ethnographic museum. Across from the tower stands the Renaissance City Loggia (Gradska Loza), built in 1565. It was traditionally used as a place to make public announcements but today it functions as a gallery for exhibitions. Also on Narodni Trg is the City Hall, from the 1930s.
The Roman Forum in Zadar was constructed between the 1st Century BC and 3rd Century AD. It measured 90m / 295ft in length and 45m / 147ft in width. In the Zeleni trg square can be seen the remains of the Roman Forum which consists of the foundations of several public buildings, paving, and a Corinthian column. The pole of shame, as it was known, was used from the Middle ages to the 19th Century to chain up criminals for all the town's people to see. During the Roman times this area was a central market and public area. In modern Zadar, the forum is lit up at night.
Zadar's famous Sea Gate (Morska Vrata), also known as the Gate of St Chrysogonus (Vrata Sv Krsevana), was designed by Michele Sanmichele in 1560. Sanmichele used an existing Roman arch as his base, which he recreated into the gate that stands today. On the sea side of the gate is a relief of the emblem of Venice, the Lion of St Mark's, and a memorial to sailors who fought and perished in the Battle of Lepanto. On the opposite side, the land side, is a commemorative plaque paying tribute to Pope Alexander III's visit to Zadar.