Summer time means one thing – time in the sun with my favourite people.
Once again we had no fixed ideas about where we wanted to go and instead started by looking for some cheap (or cheaper) flights. I’ve come to see that there’s definitely a thrill to be had from travelling to unexpected places – it’s something about discovering the unknown. This approach to booking our holiday led us to Zadar, Croatia – home to a historic old town of Roman ruins, medieval churches, cosmopolitan cafes and truly stunning sunsets, set on a small peninsula. Zadar proved to be an intriguing city and one I’d love to return to.
As always, we settled on an Airbnb – this time a lovely 2 bedroom apartment with a large, shared pool on the outskirts of the city (accommodation with a pool proved hard to find but it was a must for our two!). Our host (Peter) was super helpful and arranged a transfer from the airport to the apartment and despite a slightly delayed flight was on hand to settle us in. The apartment itself was in a quiet, residential suburb around 20 minutes (and an easy Uber ride) from the centre. The apartment had a wonderful shared pool (but we didn’t really see anyone else using it!) and was only a short stroll from the nearest beach – a small pebbly beach with a little café/bar, a supermarket, a bakery and a water sports shop.
The apartment itself had a much needed, covered, pleasantly breezy, balcony (perfect for meals and an afternoon snooze), air-conditioning (hugely helpful in the summer heat!) and a well equipped kitchen. It was more than adequate for our stay.
As you would expect, days were spent at either the pool and/or the beach. The weather was glorious for our entire stay and the children loved having the freedom to splash around and play (it was the first week of their school holiday so some R and R was much needed!). It’s worth packing your own pool toys if you do a holiday like this – you can’t guarantee that there will be any available and it seems silly to keep buying new lilo’s etc! Croatia’s beaches are nearly always pebbly so it might be worth investing in some sea shoes (very unattractive!) that allow you all to get in and out of the water much more elegantly! The week was spent relaxing (I even managed to read two whole books – practically unheard of since having little people!) and spending some much needed time together. We did hire a pedalo equipped with a slide one morning. The children found the whole thing highly amusing…it’s harder than you think climbing up a ladder to a slide on an unstable boat!
Come early evening we’d head into Zadar, a town full of wonderful bars and restaurants (you won’t struggle to find somewhere to eat or drink but do head over to something like TripAdvisor for current reviews because there are also several very touristy and pretty awful restaurants in the centre!). The Old Town is surrounded by the sea on three sides, so you can either walk in over the pedestrian bridge or for a more unique mode of transport opt for a ride in the Barkajoli Zadarski, traditional wooden boats that make the short journey across the strip of water between the new town and the old town (it’s really cheap and great fun for the whole family!).
So here are our favourite things to see and do in Zadar.
So, arriving in style (via the traditional wooden boats), head to the Garden Lounge, a stunning cocktail lounge perched on the old city walls (and very close to the arrival point for the boats!). The children loved lying on the day beds admiring the yachts returning to harbour after a day at sea. We enjoyed the pre-dinner cocktails! After your drink (or two) stroll along the walls into the Old Town for dinner (we loved Butler Gourmet and Cocktails and Restaurant Bruschetta).
Head to the sea-organ in the early evening. One of Zadar’s most popular tourist attractions is not very old, and it lies along the seafront just behind the Old Town. The Sea Organ (Morske orgulje in Croatian) is an ingenious underground system of tubes that harnesses the wind and the waves to play lovely deep musical notes. Head down here in the early evening to enjoy the music whilst watching the sun-set. Covering the pipes is a series of marble steps, perfect for sitting down to enjoy the performance. For the best harmonies, visit when the wind is up and the waves are high. Passing boats can also trigger the music, because of the waves left in their wake. In the evenings, the steps are generally crowded, so if you wish to relax in relative quiet, pick another time of day. But evenings are a fun time to visit if you enjoy people watching or wish to enjoy the sunset over the water (Alfred Hitchcock once said that Zadar had the most beautiful sunsets in the world and we agree!). There is also a large, tree covered, play park along the walk way so add this to the itinerary if the little people get restless!
Visit the Roman Forum in the centre of the old town. It’s unusual to find somewhere where children can freely explore the ruins – playing and hiding in amongst the columns. We found an incredible pancake house near to the ruins (it even had swings you could sit on!)!
We didn’t fully explore all that Zadar had to offer (this holiday was definitely about relaxing!) but there were several boat companies offering trips from the main harbour and also several kiosks in the town where trips to nearby national parks and waterfalls could be arranged.
We loved our time in Zadar and would recommend it to anyone looking for a fun and relaxed holiday destination slightly off the beaten track!
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