Croatia felt like a long time coming. Time and time again I’d seen breathtaking pictures and heard about how beautiful it was and now finally I was able to experience it for myself. There are cheap, direct flights to the coastal city of Zadar from Ryanair and this is a fantastic place to start a Croatian adventure. It was easy to hop on the regular yellow airport bus (costing 25kn) even when landing late in the evening. The bus drops people off at both the main bus station and the Old Town so chances are your accommodation will be pretty close to either of these.
I stayed in Hostel 4 You situated in a large tower block. Even though it’s about a 20 minute walk from the Old Town, you can see its flashing neon light in the distance. Hostels in Croatia are generally more expensive than other Eastern European destinations (mine averaged around £13 a night) but you do get good quality for that price. Hostel 4 You was equipped with huge lockers, curtains/sockets on the bed and even a towel. It was really modern and clean. The location isn’t ideal if you want to pop back during the day but if you’re making a day of it in the Old Town (which you easily can) then it’s fine.
Zadar itself is a lovely, chilled out city. The main focal point is obviously the Old Town, joined up to the city via a pedestrian bridge. Despite its small size, you can spend a long time meandering the winding streets, stopping at one of the many cafes or bars and checking out the cool architecture. The promenade is lovely too, a perfect spot to check out the famous Zadar sunset which really is as good as they say. Also on the promenade was one of my favourite attractions – the Sea Organ. On the face of it, it just looks like a series of steps to sit on along the promenade. But underneath, pipes have been installed which play a melody when the water strikes them. The rhythm and ferocity of the waves determines what sort of tune you get. It’s a fantastic idea and I wiled away a few hours just sitting here and listening to the haunting sound.
Further afield from the Old Town, there is a nice coastal walk north which takes you along the harbour to Puntamika Beach. There’s not too much here other than the beach but the walk is nice (and includes passing a rather random Sphinx) and you get a view of the Old Town from afar. Be aware that the beach, like most round here, is stone not sand.
Croatia can pose a bit of a problem food wise for travellers on a budget. Certainly, be prepared to eat a LOT of pizza. There are tons of pizzerias around the Old Town but I found the best thing to do was to get one of the humongous pizza slices from a takeaway place and eat it on the promenade. The best pizza slice I found was Crazy Pizza which sold huge, delicious slices for 14kn each. It’s also legal to drink outside in Croatia so you can grab a beer from one of the shops and enjoy a picnic whilst admiring the sunset.
It seemed odd to start my long trip in such a chilled out place where the best thing to do is to do very little. That’s Zadar’s charm though and the fact it has maintained that charm despite the influx of tourism is a testament to how good it is. I think part of this was the time of year I visited – I’d highly recommend September as a time to go if you want beautiful weather and chilled vibes with fewer people. Regardless, this is how Old Towns should be done.