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Zadar, Croatia with Kids

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I never would have thought of Croatia as a family destination, but after our visit I can absolutely say it is one of the best places to vacation with children. On the western coast of Croatia lies the extraordinary city of Zadar. This Mediterranean city has been through a lot in its nearly 3,000 years of existence and as a result offers more than just sea and gelato. There is world-renowned nature-inspired art and there are layers of history woven into the buildings and ruins that remain standing after several wars. Within an hour driving distance of Zadar there are national parks, waterfalls, and opportunities for river rafting. Here’s what to do, what to eat and where to stay in Zadar with kids.

Greetings of the Sun in Zadar, Croatia

“Greetings to the Sun” light show in Zadar, Croatia

Things to Do in Zadar

My family was in awe of the beautiful architecture influenced from Renaissance, Baroque and Medieval times in Zadar’s Old Town. One of the most impressive buildings is the Church of St. Donat from the 9th Century.

After sight-seeing and shopping there is no better way to end the day than by sitting by the Sea Organ watching one of the world’s most beautiful sunsets. Created by Croatian architect Nikola Bašić, the Sea Organ is a set of concrete steps with organ pipes embedded underneath. When waves crash into the steps they fill the pipes and create a beautiful harmonic sound.

Located behind the Sea Organ is the Greetings to the Sun, another nature-meets-art installation engineered by Bašić. The 77-foot diameter circle is set in the ground and made up of several solar panels. At night the energy absorbed from the panels is used to create a phenomenal light show. Kids of all ages love chasing the bouncing lights.

Visiting Preko on the island of Ugljan was one of my family’s favorite experiences during our Croatian travels. Many of the shops and restaurants were closed because we visited Preko during off-season. Still we enjoyed the laidback vibe of this island town. Near the sea was a playground and small pebbly beach perfect for kiddos to play and for parents to sit and enjoy the Mediterranean atmosphere. Preko is just a 20-minute ferry ride from Zadar; kids ride for free while the cost for adults is minimal.

Dalmatian Cuisine in Croatia

Traditional Dalmatian Cuisine of octopus and tuna

Mediterranean and Dalmatian Cuisine

Food is one of the main things that defines a culture, so we make it a point to always sample the local cuisine, no matter how exotic it may seem compared to our usual fare. Our cabbie had recommend Nico’s as the best restaurant in Zadar, so we took his advice and splurged for lunch one day. We sampled sardines, octopus, tuna tartar, and salmon risotto. To our surprise our daughter actually loved the octopus!

Luckily we didn’t have to be too adventurous with every meal since there are also plenty of pizza and pasta eateries in Croatia. Our favorite restaurant ended up being an Italian joint right by the sea called Bruschetta. The shrimp fettuccine pasta in a garlic cream sauce was simply to die for! 

Greetings of the Sun in Zadar, Croatia

Church of St. Donat in Zadar’s Old Town

Where to Stay in Zadar

I like to use when searching for places to stay in Europe. The site offers plenty of reviews of various types of accommodations (hotels, apartments or bed & breakfasts), many which cater to families with small children. Be sure to check the proximity to Old Town by foot or bus before booking. The bus is very easy to use and super cheap too. Most hotels can help you with the schedule. I also cross-reference places to stay on tripadvisor to read reviews from a variety of travelers, many of whom post photos so you really know what you’re paying for. We stayed at Villa Triana and I would highly recommend this vacation apartment rental to any family.

Zadar Croatia Boardwalk

The boardwalk outside of Zadar’s Old Town

Getting to Zadar

Located on the western coast of Croatia — Zadar was our first Ryanair destination. I wrote a post about our amazing experience flying with the discount European airline and can’t believe we didn’t use them sooner! Train and car are also suitable transportation options, depending on your situation and travel schedule. I’ve read several travelers suggest renting a car from Dubrovnik or Split and heading up the coast to Zadar.

Rebecca Wright is an avid traveller, foodie, and lover of all things crafty. She currently lives in western Germany with her husband and two young children, ages four and one. She writes about her day-to-day life as an expat, her travels through Europe, and her creative endeavors on her blog, Living Wright Home.

About Rebecca Wright, Travel Mamas Guest Blogger
  1. Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

    Rebecca – I’ve heard wonderful things about Croatia & I’m glad to know there’s so much for kids to do there. The Greetings to the Sun looks awesome! Thank you for writing a guest post for Travel Mamas!

  2. Riad Novak says

    Traveling to zadar is an amazing experience especially with family and children. i have Visited Zadar several of times but my last trip was full of joys and entertainment!

  3. Tonka Mestrovic says

    Zadar is city that you should not definitely miss. Zadar, which is 3000 years old, is a real treasure trove of archaeological treasures and monuments from ancient, medieval and Renaissance times.

  4. A fun thing to do in Zadar is to take the little rowboat ferry across from the Old Town, where the rowing is done standing up. There are plenty of boat trips to the islands in the Zadar Archipelago which are priced at around $50 including lunch. The threeislands closest to Zadar are Osljak, Pasman and Ugljan.

  5. Mama Munchkin says

    This looks like a splendid addition as we are thinking of visiting Croatia soon with our kids. I have been researching Dubrovnik and Split but hadn’t heard of Zadar.

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