Zadar: Land of cheap gin and picturesque photo-ops
Way back in January, long before I knew I’d be unemployed and skint this month, I booked a holiday to Zadar with two girlfriends. Although when it came around the timing seemed awful, because all I wanted to do was self-flagellate and sit at my laptop applying to jobs, it actually turned out to be pretty good timing. What I wanted was to wallow in self pity, but what I needed was to have a chilled out, low-key break.
Zadar is the lesser known bit of Croatia, at least to British travellers - most people head for Split and Dubrovnik, and having had my appetite whetted, I’d really like to go back to those places. Not least to nerdily spot Game of Thrones locations. This isn't a brag, by the way, about going somewhere off the beaten track. Our choice was inspired 100% by the £40 return flights available from Manchester.
We stayed in a beautiful AirBnB which was less than 20 minutes on foot from old town Zadar, the historical centre which is on a small peninsula jutting off the mainland, accessible by bridge. It was a really quiet residential neighbourhood and there was a Lidl just round the corner, which was ideal for picking up bits and bobs that we needed and £4 bottles of gin.
We spent our first day exploring the old town, which is just a maze of narrow, picturesque streets. Although it has its fair share of touristy tat, it’s nowhere near as tacky as lots of similar towns elsewhere on the Adriatic & Mediterranean. It’s well worth climbing the old clock tower to get your bearings, and just in front are the remains of the old Roman Forum - Zadar is an ancient town and there are signs of it everywhere.
On day two we made the decision to drive out to Krka National Park - the friend I was travelling with had been to the bigger waterfalls at Plitvice National Park before, so we wanted to do something a bit different. It was absolutely stunning - I’m a sucker for a good waterfall and some mountainous scenery! The waterfalls themselves are very carefully managed - there’s a wooden walkway the whole way around so there’s not a lot of opportunity for spontaneity and you can’t swim. I totally understand why it’s done - to protect the park - but I was a teeny bit disappointed by how sanitised it was in places.
The best restaurant in Zadar that we found was called Bon Appetit - although we generally found Croatian food nice and very cheap, it got a bit salty and garlickey after four days, so Bon Appetit was a nice change. It has a very fresh, modern menu and the interior design is a bit more up-to-date than many of the places in the old town. I can highly recommend the fish carpaccio and the steak, and prices were extremely reasonable, even for wine.
After another day of chilling out, reading books and doing some low-key exploring (including the Museum of Ancient Glass), we decided to head for the nearby town of Nin on our fourth and final day. It’s very small but perfectly formed, and the second nicest meal we had was here at Konoba Branimir - the pizzas were excellent and the portion of mussels was enormous!
In all, we spent four nights in Zadar which felt like just the right amount - I could happily have stayed for much longer but we managed to see everything we wanted to, and more, in that time. The decision to hire a car and explore the surrounding area was one we were very happy with - we used Sixt and even with additional insurance it only came to about £60 for four days.
If your idea of a getaway involves a lot of relaxation interspersed with plenty of eating and a bit of culture, I can highly recommend Zadar - I’m already excited to go back to Croatia in the next few years.