A bustling café life and bar scene
The St Donat’s Church
A seafront as an art installation

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Discovering ancient Dalmatia

On your Mediterranean cruises to Croatia, the ancient capital of Dalmatia, Zadar is one of the runaway success stories of the Croatian Adriatic, combining ancient and medieval heritage with a bustling café life, a vibrant bar scene and the kind of go-ahead architectural projects (such as the Sea Organ) that give the seafront the appearance of a contemporary art installation.

On an MSC Mediterranean cruise excursion you can discover that the collective name for a series of interlocking squares that forms Zadar’s centre, the Forum is the site of the original Roman marketplace – although little original now remains. Much of the original stone from the Forum found its way into the ninth-century St Donat’s Church, a hulking cylinder of stone built – according to tradition – by St Donat himself, an Irishman who was bishop here for a time. It’s an impressive example of Byzantine architecture.

The twelfth- and-thirteenth-century Cathedral of St Anastasia is a perfect example of the late Romanesque style instead, with an arcaded west front reminiscent of the churches of Tuscany. West of the cathedral, alleys emerge out onto the seafront boulevard of Obala kralja Petra Krešimira IV, where there’s a fine view across the water to the hilly island of Ugljan.
On your Mediterranean cruise to Zadar you will appreciate the palm-lined seafront path too. Most holiday visitors ultimately gravitate towards the so-called Sea Organ on the peninsula’s southwestern shoulder.

Designed by local architect Nikola Bašić and completed in 2005, the organ consists of a broad stone stairway descending towards the sea. Wave action pushes air through a series of underwater pipes and up through niches cut into the steps, producing a selection of mellow musical notes.

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    Nature and glamour
    Nature and glamour

    A Mediterranean cruise to Croatia shows you a country blessed with a wealth of natural riches, boasting almost 2000km of rocky, indented shore and more than a thousand islands, many blanketed in luxuriant vegetation.

    An holiday to Croatia offers a lot of urbane glamour too with yacht-filled harbours and cocktail bars aplenty – especially in à-la-mode destinations such as Dubrovnik and Hvar. At the northern end of Croatia’s lengthy stretch of coastline, the peninsula of Istria contains many of the country’s most developed resorts, along with old Venetian towns like Poreč and Rovinj, and the raffish port of Pula, home to some impressive Roman remains. The island-scattered Kvarner Gulf, immediately south of Istria, is presided over by the city of Rijeka, a hard-edged port city with an energetic cultural life.

    Beyond the Kvarner Gulf lies Dalmatia, a dramatic, mountain-fringed stretch of coastline studded with islands. Northern Dalmatia’s main city is Zadar, whose busy central alleys are crammed with medieval churches. Croatia’s second city, Split, is southern Dalmatia’s main town, a vibrant and chaotic port with an ancient centre moulded around the palace of the Roman emperor, Diocletian.