We all enjoy a little luxury and if we can enjoy it without breaking the bank, then all the better. So, if youre looking for all the charm of Florence with equally excellent food, wine and café culture but with a much lower price tag then the place for you to go this year is Zadar, Crioatia. Zadar is a medieval walled town jutting out from the northern Dalmation coast. Majestic and beautiful with natural parks, Roman ruins, a pretty harbour, ice cream parlours and the aroma of hot pizza as you walk along the pristine pedestrianised streets. So, what can you do in long weekend in Zadar? Location is key on a city break and never more so than when on a short break. For that reason, I would recommend staying at the Hotel Bastion. This elegant four star hotel is perfectly situated for all the main attractions and has a grand and opulent air. This is where the stars stay and its easy to see why. The breakfast buffet is complimented by a menu proffering pancakes or eggs cooked in a variety of ways and breakfast dining is in the stylish restaurant on the ground floor. For lunchtime and evening dining, there is also an alfresco dining option on the terrace. The hotel boasts excellent spa facilities with a Turkish and Finnish sauna, Jacuzzi, steam room and relaxation area. The main attractions in Zadar are the two amazing pieces of public art: Sea Organ and The Greeting to the Sun. As the name suggests, Sea Organ is a musical instrument reliant on the rhythm of the waves. With organ pipes situated underneath the steps which go down to the sea, this is a focal point for visitors who can be seen gathering on the steps at all times of the day. When the sea is calm, the music sounds eerie and a little like the sound made when you blow across the top of a bottle. In rougher seas, it sounds more like a powerful church organ. It has a mesmerising effect on listeners to the extent that visitors will stand in the rain, under their brollies, being buffeted by the wind, just to experience it. The Greeting to the Sun is a visual sculpture communicating through light complimenting Sea Organs communication through sound. Both pieces are by artist/architect, Nikola Baić. Solar panels are used to store energy throughout the day so that at night, the energy can be used to create a visual display with an array of colours pulsing in rhythm with the waves. Visitors can sit, walk and even lie on the light sculpture and are actively encouraged to do so. This public art is to be shared, experienced and enjoyed by young and old, visitors and locals and it really is a must see. Never has public art been so engaging and accessible. Another great visitor attraction is the Museum of Ancient Glass, housed in the 19th Century Cosmacendi Palace, overlooking the Jazine harbour. This is a captivating museum and well worth a visit if youre interested in art, culture, crafts or history or even if you are just looking for a stunning gift or souvenir. The museum itself is a fabulous space but even that is outshone by the amazing exhibits, which make up one of the premier collections of Roman glassware outside of Italy. Watching the video of one of the archaeological digs, where one of the pieces was uncovered, gives a fascinating insight into how the glass was used to store ashes and how the glass burial containers were stored inside clay pots which explains why they are in such pristine condition. In addition to the burial pots, there is an array of other colourful and decorative items such as perfume bottles, bracelets, necklaces, bowls, plates and jugs. The museum also has a workshop where there are demonstrations of glass-blowing and the craftsman shows how casts are used to produce different shaped containers. In the heart of the old town, lies The Forum: the Roman ruins of the former main square which was built from the 1st Century BC to the 3rd Century AD. Behind The Forum lies the church of Saint Donat and the Archbishop’s Palace. The church of St Donat is the symbol of the city of Zadar. It is a round pre-Romanesque church which today is used for musical performances. The building, impressive by day, looks even more stunning illuminated at night. On Saturdays, there is a colourful fruit, vegetable and flower market in the heart of the old town. Growers and producers sell their local produce of mushrooms, honey, almonds and locally grown fruit and vegetables. In May, you will also see the delicious wild asparagus on sale, which also features heavily on restaurant menus for the short season. Stall holders may also sell fresh eggs and locally made cheese and most are eager to share their wares and let you taste before you buy. Almost all the stall holders speak excellent English so visitors need not feel shy about shopping here. It is lively, friendly and welcoming and is a must visit for anyone staying in a self-catering apartment. Another must do for wine lovers is to drink the local wine. Croatian wine is generally good but the white wine from the area around Zadar is exceptional. Any house white served in Zadar will be of a high standard and many waiters are more than happy to share their recommendations. This is not to say that the red wines arent good: they are but, the white wines are simply stunning. For gourmet dishes in stylish surroundings, try Kalelarga.
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