Zadar is a beautiful coastal city on the Adriatic Sea that also happens to be a pretty popular cruise stop. The main tourist area is quite small, and certainly an area where you may notice that the prices are a little higher than they would be in other areas for things like lodging and food. Coming directly from Zagreb, the sticker shock on restaurants was a little overwhelming. That all being said, it still possible to see Zadar on a budget, while also not skipping out on the big things that make the city so beautiful and interesting.
I also have a post on things to do in Zadar, so when you’re done reading this quick post on the how I did it, pop over here to see what I did!
Zadar on a budget
Things to note:
- The hotel prices are higher than a budget-minded traveler may like, so keep an eye out for hostels. I stayed in a really nice hostel (more on that below).
- Have cash. During my time in Croatia, I could rarely predict when a place would be cash-only. Tt will always be the safe option to have a little cash on-hand.
- Food is certainly “tourist prices.” Unless you’ve set up your travel budget with some extra padding for Zadar prices, consider skipping the restaurants.
Where I stayed in Zadar
I stayed at Downtown Boutique Hostel and the location was fantastic. It was about a 20 minute walk from the bus terminal and was less than a 10 minute walk to basically anywhere I wanted to go.
The facilities were nice and new (as of November 2018). The lockers in the room were huge and each bed had a nice setup with a reading light, power outlets and a privacy curtain. The top bunks all had steps leading up instead of ladders, which was a really nice touch. There is no kitchen, but they do have a fridge for food storage.
I had a fantastic stay right up until I needed to leave and stow my bag. I had checked with reception about how they manage storage and they noted that its in a “common room,” which I interpreted as a shared storage room. When I came downstairs and asked to stow my bag, they pointed me into the common room and told me I could leave it anywhere.
I had clearly misunderstood what they had told me. When I looked surprised and was like “uh I can’t leave my bag there” (think: computer and extra camera lens were in my bag). They seemed annoyed that I was upset and it didn’t seem to register that I wasn’t simply being difficult and that their description of the storage situation perhaps wasn’t accurate (and I say that as someone who both works in hospitality and has a ton of experience working through language barriers).
Overall, 10/10 for facilities and 7/10 for staff (figuring in that I had an ok check-in and that the lady at check-out didn’t intend to deceive or upset me, but was just rather harsh).
How I saw Zadar
I had a full 24 hours in Zadar and was happy with the amount of stuff I did/saw. My best recommendation is to arrive and depart midday. This allows you to both catch a sunset and get some pre-crowd exploration in the morning.
First, I wandered the northern part of the little peninsula, checking out the little alleys and streets, with a trajectory of being to the sea organ to catch the sunset. I passed the Roman Forum, St. Dominus Church, and lots of cafes with outside seating. I passed through the Land and Sea gates on the eastern side of the peninsula and walked along the water from the gates to the organ.
After a spectacular sunset, I continued my walk south. Eventually the path ended and I was forced to turn and walk inland, I passed a cute little marina. It was a narrow path and I’m a little bit of a weenie, so I got nervous every time someone needed to pass me because I was worried I would fall into the water.
I passed through 5 Well Square, though I wish it had been during the daylight. With hunger setting in, I grabbed some pizza at Crazy Pizza, stopped into a small mart to get some food for breakfast, and then went to bed early.
I got up early and the morning was spent wandering and getting some pictures (I had the dream team of a tripod and camera timer) before the crowds showed up. After checking-out of the hostel, I found a way to climb up onto the city wall, which conveniently put me right in front of my final stop in Zadar, the Museum of Ancient Glass.
Now, recall that I was unable to stow my bag at the hostel. So I was walking around with an additional 20lbs (9kg) on my back and was notsosure that would let me into a glass museum with the big bag. Luckily, the Museum of Ancient Glass had a really great storage spot, so it worked out really well. The bus station was only about a 15 minute walk from the museum.
What about food?!
I made the choice to have a “real” meal every other day because some of the tourist areas in the Balkans can be quite expensive. Being able to see Zadar on a budget meant every other refueling was fruits and yogurt from a grocery store and some kind of bread product (Mlinar saved my wallet).
- I had a small baguette and an apple when I arrived in the afternoon.
- I got a slice at Crazy Pizza for dinner.
- Right near Crazy Pizza was a small mart where I got a banana and a yogurt for my breakfast (also got an apple for the bus ride to Sibenik). I also picked up a cherry pastry from Mlinar in the morning.
- I also stopped into Coffee&Cake for an espresso
In total, I spent about $25-30usd in Zadar between the hostel, small food items, and the museum entry. Not too bad, eh?
Did I miss anything?
Someone who had read my post about things to do in Zadar made a great point that I had missed out on the local bar and cafe scene. I had thought about taking myself out to dinner at one of the restaurants that I had seen in blog articles, but ultimately decided against it. First, given my tight budget going out for an “expensive” dinner that I wasn’t able to share with someone, paired with it all seeming to be non-Croatian food, I just couldn’t bring myself to spend on that (I was hell-bent on seeing Zadar on a budget). I do plan to go back in the next few years, and will be a little more liberal with my spending to experience those things next time!
For a full run-down of what I did, check out my post about about Things to do in Zadar!
- What things do you cut out/minimize while travelling when you’re on a tight budget?
- Do you have any tips for seeing Zadar on a budget?
- What is the least expensive city you’ve visited?