This unique Croatian experience definitely proved the value of staying with a local. We learned about the Boatmen of Zadar (Barkajoli Zadarski) from our Airbnb host and little did we know we were in for an amazing ride! We were glad we stayed with her because otherwise we wouldn’t have guessed this method of transportation even existed.

We stayed in a more modern and residential area of Zadar, farther away from the Old Town which is located on a peninsula. In order to see the various historical sights of Zadar, we had to cross a narrow body of water.

How to get to the Old Town of Zadar

To cross the channel and get to the Old Town of Zadar, we had 2 options:

  1. Walk across a pedestrian bridge, called City Bridge (Gradski Most) OR

  2. Take a boat ride with the Boatmen of Zadar (Barkajoli Zadarski)

Fortunately for you, we had a chance to do both!

View of the channel in Zadar towards the Gradski Most bridge.
You can see the bridge in the background, behind the ships.

City Bridge (Gradski Most) – FREE

The City Bridge, itself, is 152m (~500ft) long walk to get to the other side. It isn’t a long trek to get across the bridge however it also depends upon where you’re located in the city. Depending on where you’re staying, either could be a shorter walk for you.

From the bridge, you’ll be able to walk straight into the city.

At night, taking the bridge is the best option since the boats will stop running after dark. The view from the bridge is also much more picturesque at night.

Zadar from the Gradski Most Bridge at night
This shot was taken from the Gradski Most Bridge towards the eastern side.

Where is the Bridge?

On mainland Zadar side (east)
Obala Kneza Branimira & Ulica Stjepana Radića

On the Old Town of Zadar peninsula (west)
Liburnska Obala & Ulica Nova Vrata/Ulica Jurja Barakovića

Check out the map at the end of the post for specific locations.

Boatmen of Zadar pulling into the boat dock.

Boatmen of Zadar (Barkajoli Zadarski) – 5HRK

Due to the distance, this was the quickest way to get from our Airbnb to the Old Town. For us, it was also the best way to get to the Old Town of Zadar.

This was also, by far, one of our favorite experiences in Zadar, and maybe even in all of Croatia. Let me tell you why!

For only a few kuna, the Boatmen of Zadar (Barkajoli Zadarski) take riders on a roughly 2-minute ride from the modern side of Zadar to the Old Town. The distance between the two boat docks is only about 71m (232ft), the ride is super quick, make sure you enjoy the unique experience! The boatmen use a 2 oars to sail the small rowboats across the harbor.

On a boat ride with the Boatmen of Zadar.

The boats are small, they are only able to hold 10 people at a time. Fortunately for us, we didn’t see any capacity issues since we were traveling in the off season. But the ride is short, less than 5 minutes long (we didn’t time it), and the boat leaves immediately as passengers arrive so we can’t see the wait being too lengthy. Keep in mind that might not be the case during peak season, but I’ve also seen photos online of 2 boats running at the same time. 

Fun Fact: The Boatmen of Zadar (Barkajoli Zadaski) an 800-year-old tradition passed on from father to son for centuries, taking passengers on their way regardless of the weather.

We noticed that the guy who took us to the Old Town earlier in the morning was a different person than the boatman who brought us back to the new side in the afternoon. We’re glad they run on a shift system since it is a very laborious job.

It’s a really cool service though, and the boatmen are super friendly. They’ll hold their arm out to help you get on and off the boat.

Fun Fact: The boats are only 10m (~32.8ft) long and 1.75m (~5.74ft) wide.

Note that this is a super no-frills, off the beaten path mode of transportation, don’t be expecting Venetian gondoliers here, there’s no singing or entertainment on these rowboats. Honestly it’s probably more similar to a shuttle service. It just offers an easy way to get from point A to point B (Old Town of Zadar) with a lot less walking, so you can save your energy for exploring the old city!

Cost:

5HRK (Croatian Kuna)/83¢ US one way (as of Nov 2017) – cash only. Coins or small bills are probably preferred as it didn’t look like they had much change. 

PRO TIP: You’ll pay for the ride at the end, when you get disembark the boat.

Boatmen of Zadar pier on the eastern side.
If you see this lighthouse column, you’re in the right place! This is the dock on the eastern side of the channel.

Where Do I Find the Boatmen?

On mainland Zadar side (east)
Walk down Ulica Ivana Meštrovića to Obala Kneza Trpimira, follow the signs to the Boatmen of Zadar “Zadarski Barkajoli” and down the pier to the striped column/lighthouse. At the very end of the pier is where you will be boarding the small boat. 

Boatmen of Zadar dock on the western side.

On the Old Town of Zadar peninsula (west)
Liburnska Obala by the benches (see above), there is a set of stairs leading down to the dock across from the benches (not shown in photo above). There is also a sign that says “Boatmen of Zadar (Barkajoli Zadarski)”

Best entrance to the Old Town of Zadar from the boat dock.
Recommended (and best) entrance to the Old Town of Zadar from the dock on the western side.

Safety Tip: There is another gate, called the Chain Gate (at Liburnska Obala and Ulica Lančana Vrata), however that gate is not a pedestrian gate. There are a steady stream of cars driving through that gate. Instead, I recommend walking a bit further south on Liburnska Obala, past the parking lot, to the pedestrian entrance at Poljana Natka Nodila to get into the city.

The 5 kuna is well worth the money for the boat ride and it’s definitely worth the experience! Save walking the bridge for nighttime after the boatmen have retired from their shifts for the day.

Map of the Locations

We sincerely hope that this unique tradition is able to survive modernization and continue for generations to come!

Loved this post on the Boatmen of Zadar? Pin it for later!

Best Kept Local Secrets of Zadar: Ride a Shuttle Boat by the Boatmen of Zadar (Barkajoli Zadarski) to get to the Old Town of Zadar | The Old Town of Zadar is located on a peninsula and this is one of the best (and most convenient) ways to get to the old town if you're staying on the mainland part of Zadar. This is one of our favorite travel experiences in Croatia. #zadar #offthebeatenpath #croatia #travelCroatia #boat

8 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Julia Dent Reply

    This looks like so much fun! I love getting to experience local traditions when I travel!

    • Constance Panda
      Constance Panda Reply

      Us too! It definitely provides a more memorable travel experience!

  2. Avatar

    I love reading about local traditions. How cool that it’s been going on for 800 years! I’d definitely love to do this when I visit someday.

    • Constance Panda
      Constance Panda Reply

      You should! Even though it’s a quick ride, it’s cool to be a part of the tradition.

  3. Avatar

    Such a good tip! I’ve been to quite a few spots in Croatia but somehow still haven’t made it to Zadar. I’d love to do this boat ride (even though it’s so short haha). I mean for a few kunas, how could you go wrong?

    • Constance Panda
      Constance Panda Reply

      Thank you! I’m happy you enjoyed my post. I loved Zadar a lot and this experience definitely made it more memorable!

  4. Avatar

    What a fab tip provided by your Airbnb host. This is definitely a unique way to get to the sights in Zadar. Wow the boatmen must be super strong to row the boat across the water. Can you use the boatmen during off peak season? I would probably walk the free bridge and take the boat ride. The views at night are so pretty whilst enjoying a lovely stroll to walk off the food. The boat ride is super affordable though … 5 kuna! I really need to head to Zadar soon!

    • Constance Panda
      Constance Panda Reply

      Locals are the best hosts! We went to Zadar in the shoulder season and their services are definitely available, but I think they have different hours during peak season. We noticed they stopped rowing around sunset because they were gone by the time it got dark. You definitely need to go to Zadar! 🙂

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