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A plucky Dalmatian coast city with a vibrant cultural scene and a striking architectural mash-up of ancient and modern

At a glance

Welcome to Zadar, Europe’s “Best Destination” of 2016.

Having twice in the last century picked itself up, dusted itself off and started all over again (once after the Second World War, when 60% of the city was destroyed; then after a siege during the break-up of Yugoslavia), this plucky Dalmatian coast city is topping the charts for its vibrant social and cultural scene, its striking architectural mash-up of ancient and modern, and its laidback and welcoming locals.

The city’s surroundings, meanwhile, offer the best of Croatia in miniature: brilliant bays, lush forests, leonine crags, good food and wine, joyous nightlife, plays and concerts under the stars, scenic Italianate towns, rugged ramparts, and landscapes of silvered olive groves. Even a heart-shaped island. And all – as yet – without the crowds or the hiked-up prices of other, more established Adriatic tourist destinations. Or, indeed, the museum-town feel, when locals seem outnumbered by tourists trudging from site to site.

Zadar is a buzzing city, where people live, work, get coffee, shop, study, go on dates, bar-hop. Join them for morning coffee in the Old Town, stroll through the Forum, listen to the otherworldly harmonies of the “Sea Organ”, then take a balmy dip at Queen’s Beach before visiting the world’s smallest cathedral across the lagoon in Nin, or zip over to the desert-like island of Pag for sunset drinks at Rucica bay and dancing till dawn at the region’s party capital, Zrće beach.

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