Posted by: viewfromtheriva | March 22, 2019

Nin, a legendary town that has it all

The historic core of Nin, surrounded by the sea and beautiful sandy beaches

To many Croatians, Nin is respected and admired as where Croatia began–their country’s oldest royal town, the seat of famous dukes and even kings, like Tomislav, Petar Krešimir IV. and Zvonimir.  And Catholics know the town not only for being a diocese more than 1000 years ago, but for its most famous bishop, Grgur of Nin, whose statues are here, in Varazdin (another royal town) as well as in Split. 

One of the many artifacts in the town’s splendid indoor and outdoor archeological museum

But except for sun and beach worshipers who come here to enjoy the country’s longest sandy beach, Nin’s 3,000 year old history and culture is still waiting to be discovered by most tourists.  The problem is that Dalmatia has so many treasures–magical cities, towns, national parks, islands, more–that even Nin has a tough time being a “must” when most tourists only have a few days.  So, maybe after reading this, when you come to Croatia, Nin will be on your must list!

Queens Beach, more than 3km long and all sand!

The story of Nin begins in the 9thC BC when it was founded by an Ilyrian tribe of Liburnians. Despite its tiny size (today Nin only has 3000 residents), complete with a charming medieval old town on its own island connected by stone causeways to the mainland, Nin has witnessed so much glorious history and so much destruction (ransacked and burned in 1646 to save Zadar), its story really is the stuff of legend.

It was so important during the Roman era (its name was Aenona) that in the second half of the lstC AD, the Emperor Vespasian commissioned not only a monumental forum, but also the largest Roman temple on the Adriatic coast–whose foundation stones are still here today, along with a spectacular column 17 meters high!

The temple is really enormous, but without scale it’s hard to really appreciate just how enormous it is. Just look at the house near it and the cars. The column is 17 meters high! The outside circumference of the temple was 33 meters in length and 23.5 meters in width. The shrine inside was divided into three areas, separated one from the other by two columns on each side.

The town’s splendid museum, indoors and out, is located on the island.  It’s beautifully arranged and filled with marvelous artifacts, jewelry, glass, marble and even two restored 11thC Croatian wooden boats!  A chunk of a Roman era vessel, whose wooden beam, frame and planks were held together by an intricate system of ropes, like the ancient Egyptians used, is also here.  

boat 2

At the top of the photo you can see conservators working on pieces of the boat that are kept for later use during the restoration process. 

Just a short walk from the museum is the 9thC Church of the Holy Cross which is open so you can enjoy the now empty, but restored interior.

9thC Church of the Holy Cross

The streets in and around the old town are nicely paved and easy to walk around and enjoy.  We had a spectacular lunch at Stara Kuzina (the old kitchen), one of several places to sit inside or out and enjoy the handsome surroundings.

In addition to its history and culture, the town is famous for its saltworks and you can even tour a salt museum.  Salt was like gold in ancient times and although many of the pans now use commercial machines, some are harvested by hand using similar tools that have been around since Roman times.

Almost as well known as the town’s famous sandy beaches is its medicinal mud.  Blue black in color, you can see lots of folks slathering it on all over to enjoy the benefits.

The town suffered some tremendous damage last year due to violent wind storms and has spent a lot of time, money and energy cleaning up the mess and making what’s here even better.  One of the causeways has been completely rebuilt and should be open by June.

And the town received the coveted European Destination of Excellence (EDEN) award which should also help bring more folks to enjoy its many attractions.

From Split, it’s less than 2 hours to get here and well worth the toll road fee of $10.  You can take the more leisurely coastal road, of course.  The closest big city is Zadar, well worth a visit before or after.  But if you love the beach as well as history and culture and great cuisine, renting a flat for a week or just for a few days and making Nin your headquarters will surely be a great treat!



  1. I made a point of jumping on a local bus from Zadar to visit Nin. I wanted to see the church of the Holy cross and just outside the village, the church of St. Nicholas. Both are spectacular – and so tiny!
    I also did a circuit of the ‘island’ and saw my first ever black-winged stilts foraging on the salt pans. That made my day, too.
    I rubbed Grgur’s toe and got a great pic of Branimir, near the main causeway. Glad I went!

  2. Great article!!! We are from Greece, Athens and we have write an article about Varazdin! If you want read it here and if you like it follow us, we will follow back! 🙂♥️🙏

    • Great piece and a wonderful program, wish you all the success!!

      • Thank you very much, wish you all the best! 🙂🙏

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