The Sounds of the Sea in Zadar

Thrifty Travel Mama | Kids in Croatia - The Sounds of the Sea in ZadarThe city of Zadar sits at the edge of the sea, charming and unpretentious, welcoming travelers like you and me to the beautiful country of Croatia. Though not as famous as its southern sisters Split and Dubronik, Zadar also boasts Roman ruins, ancient churches, a ferry port, and two very awesome modern attractions.

We started our holiday in Zadar for two reasons: the first and most obvious, our flight from Germany landed here and second, we wanted to spend a morning toddling around the old city with SJ from Chasing the Donkey. We love meeting other traveling families, travel bloggers, expats, and making friends on the road.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Kids in Croatia - The Sounds of the Sea in Zadar

Welcome to Zadar!

From the taxi driver we hired at the airport to the owner of the apartment we rented to my new friend and her family, everyone in Zadar treated us so well and made us feel incredibly welcome.

In many parts of Europe, most places of business are shut for Easter Monday as well as for the main holiday itself. Unfortunately, the water in April is still too cold for swimming, so SJ and I made a plan to indulge in the unofficial national pastime – meet up do the Croatian hang-out-and-drink-coffee thing.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Kids in Croatia - The Sounds of the Sea in Zadar

Too cold to swim..

A little bit late and more than a little bit sweaty from being the only weirdos to walk 35 minutes to the old town, we spotted SJ and family near Zadar’s most famous church, St. Donatus. After handshakes and hugs, SJ showed us around. Up and down the ancient streets we went, passing markets, monuments, and a multitude of cafes.

Mate, her Croatian husband, picked one and ordered for us (bonus: no awkward sorry-I-only-speak-English-is-that-ok moment). While we waited for our white coffees, men and women in traditional dress poured out from under the clock tower and started singing and dancing right in front of us!

Thrifty Travel Mama | Kids in Croatia - The Sounds of the Sea in Zadar

Croatian singing and dancing!

Sipping, singing, serendipity. Sigh.

Next, SJ steered us toward some bakeries where we picked up some burek and pizza for a picnic lunch. We headed out to the water, but the closer we got, the harder the wind blew. The gusts had a screaming fit with our things – hats flying, blankets airborne, smallish children nearly whisked away.Thrifty Travel Mama | Kids in Croatia - The Sounds of the Sea in Zadar

At least the annoying wind had one very important benefit: it made the sea organ sing.

The Zadar Sea Organ doesn’t seem like much, just ordinary stone steps. But, if you look a bit closer, you’ll see small, rectangular openings in the vertical faces of the steps. It’s from these holes that the sound escapes from the organ, a musical instrument powered solely by the wind and the waves. Thrifty Travel Mama | Kids in Croatia - The Sounds of the Sea in Zadar

Yeah – wow.

Next to the musical steps lies the Sun Salutation; both were designed by Nikola Bašić in an effort to renovate the damaged city of Zadar. Both are fascinating, but the Sun Salutation takes the nerdy travel appeal up another notch.

At first glance, all one sees is a gigantic, smooth glass circle. But underneath the surface are zillions of solar cells and LED lights. Throughout the day, the cells collect energy and convert it to electricity. Once the sun sets, the lights flash on and dance about in various colors. The pattern and the length of the show depends on how much energy was absorbed that particular day.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Kids in Croatia - The Sounds of the Sea in Zadar

Sitting on the Sun Salutation.

Yeah – double wow. Understandably, the Sun Salutation is very popular, so expect it to be crowded in season.

One of our favorite corners of Zadar’s old city was what’s known as the Five Wells. In centuries past, residents came here to draw fresh water. The place had an ancient yet familiar feel. It was easy to imagine the women, the water.. the chatter!

Thrifty Travel Mama | Kids in Croatia - The Sounds of the Sea in Zadar

One of the five wells.

We strolled back to our first meeting point, the church of St. Donatus. SJ pointed out that pieces of the Roman ruins had been used to build the church. You can literally see chunks of stone columns that were cobbled together to form the church’s foundation. It’s possible to climb the church’s tower.. just not on Easter Monday, of course.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Kids in Croatia - The Sounds of the Sea in Zadar

Roman foundation.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Kids in Croatia - The Sounds of the Sea in Zadar

Ancient flogging post in downtown Zadar.

After a scrumptious round of ice cream cones at the city’s best gelateria (Donut), we bid our new friends farewell. I think we still would have enjoyed easygoing Zadar had we not met them, but having locals show us around just knocked it out of the park for us.Thrifty Travel Mama | Kids in Croatia - The Sounds of the Sea in Zadar

From the stone ruins to the ferocious waves to the sea organ’s melody to the warm-hearted Croats, we couldn’t have asked for a better day, nor a more fitting welcome to our first day in Croatia.

Tell me, have you been to Zadar? If not, what would be your first stop in the city?

Signature Thrifty Travel MamaThis post is part of Our Croatian Family Adventure: Ten Days on the Dalmatian Coast series.  Click on the link to view our bucket list and recaps of each excursion!

19 thoughts on “The Sounds of the Sea in Zadar

  1. Oooh! I want to hear the stone
    Step organ! That looks so cool! Was it very cold in April? I know it’s a real summer destination, but chad and I prefer to go to places a bit more off season.

    • Well, define “very cold.” From living in Thailand, I would say yes. But to someone from Finland, no :). The water was too cold to swim, and it was rainy and chilly some of the time. But I think I am going to do a post on the pluses and minuses of the shoulder season because there’s something to be said there. We’re the same as you are in that we’d rather go when there aren’t hordes of people in high tourist season. But there are some things that are good to know before you decide when to visit.

  2. You took some lovely photos! I cannot wait to take my daughter here to see where her grandparents come from. I forgot just how nice zadar is. I havent been since the installation of the sea organ.

      • next year is our aim, bubs will be 3 then. i am a bit worried flying all that way from australia, but we’ll give it a crack i think! did you hire a car in croatia, or catch buses? i will be following all your posts carefully and taking notes! thanks

      • Ahh if you are flying from Australia, you definitely need to connect with SJ!

        We hired a car. I think that is the best way with kids, unless you are just staying in one place. The other option would be to island hop using ferries (without a car) but that takes more planning, especially in the off season. SJ knows more about buses than I do. We looked into it, but when you have five people like we do, it ended up being cheaper to just rent a car.

      • I think hiring a car will be our choice too. And I will be reading up on sj’s blog too! Cheers!

  3. I am so glad that the first post I read on your blog in YONKs reminds me of us meeting. I wish that weather had been nicer – and the city bigger, but alas Zadar is a sweet old town. Hope we can meet again one day xx

  4. It’s always nice hearing of two bloggers you know online meeting up. It’s like – they exist! Or at least they have colluded with each other to give us that impression (instead of just emanating forth from the screen all on their own).

    But where was I?

    Yes – wow. Double wow. Sea organs and sun salutations. I had no idea.

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  8. We spent four days in Zadar, in an an apartment owned by the very hospitable, Josip.
    Zadar is an interesting place.
    Right near the great round chapel of St Donatus, we spent an afternoon or two watching the World Cup Football.
    We saw the 5 wells, even the three wells, in another part of town.
    We ate at the loveliest restaurants, had the most sumptuous breakfasts, saw the Welcome to the Sun and the Sea Organ. We even went on a day trip to the Plltvice Lakes.
    Unfortunately, we didn’t get to meet the very helpful SJ, but, nevertheless, Zadar proved to be the place not to miss.
    You gotta do it.

  9. Great piece! I flew to Zadar earlier this year as I’d visited the north and far south of Croatia – but not Dalmatia at all. I was totally charmed by the place, hard to put a finger on exactly why, but Sea Organ and Sun Salutation helped. Just picked up on such a good feeling and vibe and really didn’t want to leave 😦
    Had arranged to meet SJ for coffee(s) in nearby historic town of Nin, but ‘bura’ blew long and hard and her little boy was ill, but hey ho, maybe next time!

    Read your piece on #Kotor fortress, too. That is some climb!! But the sense of achievement – and the photos make it so worth while. Looking forward to more of your blogs, as I have subscribed today. Živjeli !!

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