Zadar – a blend of history and future
The region around Zadar is very rich with natural heritage sites, for there are 5 national parks nearby
By Igor Jurišič,

Zadar is among the cities that were a eastern Adriatic port since the times of the Roman Empire. Known as Jader, or sometimes Diadore (according to Konstantinu Porphyrogenitusu) it was a Roman colony that kept its independence even after the fall of the empire and the destruction of Salona (the Roman name for Dalmatian centre – not far away – Split). It even became the centre of the Byzantine Dalmatia and remained a center of the region up until the end of the World War One. Zadar kept changing ownership and became part of the territory of the Croatian king Peter Krešimir IV, after a treaty with Byzantium, only to fall under the rule of the Hungaro-Croatian king Kolomana in 1105. The later part of middle ages were also very unstable and right until the last war of the 20 century Zadar had not been spared.

During WWII the city was part of Fascistic Italy and was a target of heavy allied bombardments, with 80% of the city destroyed. After a prosperous period between 1045 and 1991 the city was again a target of constant attacks in 1993 and up until 1995 during the wars that were sparked by the collapse of Yugoslavia.

The city gate to the east was built in 1543. The city is world famous for their Romanic churches such as: St. Anastasia, St. Krizigonia, the belfry of St. Mary… which originate from the 12th and 13th century. The city centre is a real treat for all who love strolling through history. I’d especially like to point out the biggest attraction of the city, the church of St. Donat. Apart from the history, we can feel at every step, Zadar has an archaeological museum dating back to 1830s, where there are over 80.000 artefacts from the stone age up to the middle ages, national museum with a gallery of fine arts and a science department, the museum of seamanship showing the development of sea fare in Dalmatia and a permanent exhibition of church art with about 1000 treasures displayed, named “the gold and silver of Zadar.”

Beside the history Zadar is also known for its vegetable and fish market in the old town on the peninsula. Zadar is always alive and charming. Visiting Zadar we should not leave out a stroll down the main street – Kalelargi and drink a cup of Java in one of the many cafes. 

Also, you should visit the unique sea water powered pipe organ! It’s designed as a series of pipes under the large marble stairs, where sea currents create air pressure that produces random, yet somewhat harmonious sounds. It’ something you can only find in Zadar and nowhere else in the world. They were designed by Nikola Bašić, the architect who restored the old coastal promenade (riva) and were presented to the public on the 15th of April 2005.

The region around Zadar is very rich with natural heritage sites, for there are 5 national parks nearby: the islands of Kornati, the lakes of Plitvička jezera, Paklenica, the waterfalls of the river Krka and northern Velebit mountain. All national parks are only an hour or two by car from Zadar – except for the islands of Kornati, which are at the hand’s length. And in the opinion of Orson Wells there’s the most beautiful sunset ever to be found.

In the vicinity of Zadar there’s not only nature, but also the birthplace of one of the most brilliant minds in human history – Nikola Tesla. He was born on the 10th of July 1856 in a small village of Smiljan near Gospič (only a few minut’s drive from the A1 motorway). Most of his inventions were way ahead of his time, but we cannot imagine our daily lives without them. The electrical transformator, alternating electrical current, a turbine… are just a part of his technical legacy. And even the currency for measuring the magnetic field is named after him. Maybe you didn’t know Tesla made a public presentation of a remote transfer of energy, where he steered a model boat by power created on shore – back in 1898. Unfortunately the idea remained in his head, so nobody since him was able to recreate this transfer of energy by air, which could mean vehicles that don’t cause pollution. Most of his inventions can be seen in Smiljan.

So to sum up, the natural beauty, the cultural heritage, numerous bays and beaches and not to forget excellent cuisine, are the reasons to visit Zadar, which is with the broader city area one of the best tourist locations of Croatia.

Apart from everything already mentioned, Zadar also has a rich cultural life. Traditionally the “musical evenings” in Donat, the festival of the new theatre, the theatre summer and many artist exhibitions are part of the life in Zadar.

I hope we’ve created enough interest for you to visit Zadar and order a Hostelling International membership card and also to book a room at Youth Hostel Zadar, where we expect you with almost 300 beds in a refurbished building with its own beach, just a few metres away and a bed and breakfast for less than 15 € a night.

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