After recently moving to the city of Split (more on that later), and having driven most of the Croatian coastline from Dubrovnik in the south to the Istrian Peninsula in the north, we have come to understand the kinds of elements that distinguish Zadar from the dozens of other Roman, Medieval, and Venetian cities that stand guard in the Eastern Adriatic. Apart from the hundreds of islands of northern Dalmatia and the matrix of modern, historic, and more ancient monuments, churches, and other buildings of old town Zadar, the seaward facing waterfront, or ‘Riva’, perhaps stands out the most.
The city itself has changed faces a number of times over the past 2000 years, with a well-established Roman colony surrounded by a city wall, and subsequent Medieval and later Venetian walls that testify to the city’s strategic and military role along the coast through time. The most imposing walls, built by the Venetians in the 16th century, surrounded the entire peninsula until the late 19th century, when the seaward facing walls were finally removed and the long boardwalk installed in its place.
While it may be the longest urban boardwalk along the Croatian coast (~800 meters), it is most noteworthy today for its 2005 installment at the northwestern tip—the sun salutation and sea organ, designed by Nikola Bašić. The sun salutation consists of a circular plate with solar panels that light up in various patterns at night, and it includes an alignment of small circular plates of differing sizes, symbolizing the eight planets of the solar system (sorry Pluto!). The sea organ lies nearby within a series of steps leading down to the water and includes a system of tubes through which air compresses by wave action, creating melodious, though somewhat whale-like, tunes.
Check out this great ~4 minute helicopter ride over Zadar—it provides a nice glimpse of the old town peninsula and a bit of its urban character, including the riva: