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The Venetian Land Gate This is the main entrance to the old town, a triumphal arch that illustrates that this was a major city-fortress in the Venetian republic.Built in 1543, it is decorated with reliefs of Zadar's main patron saint, St Chrysogonus, as well as the shield of the Venetian patron St Mark, and a rather threatening frieze of sculpted ox skulls.

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You can see the extent of the complex, although the only standing column has had a chequered past as the "pole of shame", where criminals from the Middle Ages to the 19th century were chained up.

St Donat's Church Some of the Forum's stones were used to build this church, a handsome and simple vaulted edifice that dates back to the ninth century, when it was supposedly built by St Donat, a visiting Irish bishop.

It stopped being a church in 1797 and these days it is used as a summer venue for classical music concerts (donat-festival.com).

Since Ryanair started flying to this Croatian city last year, it has become a bit of a hub: a place from where to explore the Dalmatian coast and its islands.

But it's worth delaying for a few days to explore the place itself.

While Split is the biggest Dalmatian city, Zadar, with 3,000 years of history, can claim to be the original capital of Dalmatia – plus it's also the site of the first Croatian university, and was home to the 16th-century writer, Petar Zoranic, who wrote the first Croatian novel, Planine.Zadar's old town is packed on to a peninsula and you can stroll around it in about an hour.Ascend to the tower of the Cathedral of St Anastasia for views over the pantiles to the sea and islands in one direction and the Velebit mountains in the other.But this isn't really a monument town – it's a place to hang out.Go shopping in the little alleys of the Varos area, eat squid and drink Malvasia wine in the various konobas (taverns), leap off the quayside to swim, and finally, relax on the huge Dalmatian stones.You'll be following the example of the film director Alfred Hitchcock, who said that Zadar quay offered the most beautiful sunset in the world.

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