Sibenik is a lovely city on the Croatian seaside, and definitely worth a stop on a trip down the Dalmatian coast. It is home to no less than 4 fortresses and a beautiful old town called Civitas Sacra. But since it’s not that small a city, it can be difficult to decide which sights you can’t skip – and that’s where I come in.
I will tell you about the most breathtaking little areas in this town, which you have to go and see for yourself. Prepare yourself to do a lot of walking, because the Old Town has a total of 2851 stone steps. And some of them will lead you to a hilltop fortress overlooking the city.
And I will throw in a few places that you can see while you visit Sibenik – great if you’re staying in town for more than a couple of days and have the time to explore the area.
If you’re staying in town only for a couple of days, then your time will be best spent exploring Sibenik and the city center. I think you could visit most of these attractions in two days, and all of them in three – the fortresses are a bit tricky to fit into a single day.
One way to see everything of interest is through walking tours. It is always great to go with a local guide who not only can show you the best of Sibenik, but also some hidden gems you might otherwise miss (like Banj Beach).
The Cathedral of St James is a massive church in Sibenik Civitas Sacra (old town). It is also known just as Sibenik Cathedral, and it’s one of the sights you can’t miss in this city.
It is included in UNESCO World Heritage List, as it is considered one of the most important examples of Renaissance architecture in the entire country. It is entirely built out of stone, and it features three apses and a 32-meter high dome.
The northern gate of this church is another fascinating thing about it. It is also called the lion gate, and it features Adam and Even standing on two lions.
While you are in the area you can also pop into the Sibenik City Museum which is right near here.
These statues are the work of Venetian sculptor Giorgio da Sebenico – or Juraj Dalmatinac, which is what he is known as in Croatia. In fact, he was the chief architect of this church, and it is considered his most beautiful work.
The square in front of this cathedral is also very large, and you can actually go up a flight of stairs to try and get a good photo of the church.
From there, you can either venture further into the historic old town and try to navigate your way through the narrow stone alleys, or you can go down the staircase past the west gate of the cathedral.
The stairs lead you to a seaside promenade that features a couple of other landmarks (like the waterfront cannons), as well as a row of cafes and restaurants.
The Town Hall is actually conveniently located right opposite the Cathedral of St James. So, while you are on the main square you can take a look at this stunning building as well. It is a two-storey Venetian building with unique detailing on the outside.
It was built in the 16th Century and is now a popular cafe called Gradska Vijecnica.
The garden of St. Lawrence monastery is another hidden gem in this town. It is a bit hidden away, so pay attention to the signs on the stone buildings and you will be able to find it easily. This is the only monastery garden of its kind in Croatia, so it’s definitely something that should be at the top of your Sibenik itinerary.
But 15 years ago, it would not have been possible for you to visit this lovely place. It was neglected and abandoned for nearly a century and restored to its original glory only in 2007.
While you can’t actually enter the monastery, you can go and enjoy the garden. It is fairly small but full of all kinds of flowers and trees. In the middle of the garden in a sort of a crossroads with a fountain, which divides it into four separate plots.
There’s also a cafe here, and you can sit down for a cup of coffee while you admire the views. But you don’t have to – you are free to walk around the garden and sit down on one of the benches, should you need a short break.
St. Michael’s Fortress is the only one located in Sibenik Old Town, so you can easily get to it during your exploration of this area. Just follow the signs posted throughout the town, and continue moving uphill and climbing steps – you will get there eventually.
This medieval fortress is of huge importance to the city’s history – for one thing, it has a strategically excellent location, which was occupied almost continuously since the Iron Age. This is verified by several archaeological findings, and you can read more about it when you tour this fortress.
It is also considered that this fortress is the actual birthplace of this Croatian city. In 1066, monarch Petar Krešimir IV signed a charter on Christmas day. The city of Sibenik was mentioned for the first time in this charter, and you can find loads of local souvenirs (including local craft beer) that bear those numbers on them.
The fortress features an open-air stage where concerts are held, and that’s pretty cool. But what’s more important is that it offers stunning views of the town, the sea and St. Anthony channel, as well as views of St. John’s and Barone fortresses.
A useful thing to know is that you can get a combined entry ticket for this and the Barone fortress. If you plan to visit both, this is a cool way to save some money.
The Barone fortress lies upon a hill and overlooks the city of Sibenik. And it is actually pretty close to the St. Michael’s Fortress – it will take you about 15-20 minutes to get to Barone from Sibenik Civitas Sacra. Just bear in mind that you will be walking uphill most of the time, and be prepared to feel the burn in your calves. But the views along the view will take your mind off the pain.
The Barone fortress was originally built in 1646, in the wake of the Ottoman attack. The construction of this fortress was organised by Baron von Degenfeld, who also commandeered the victory against the Ottomans.
As a sign of appreciation, the people of Sibenik decided to name the fortress after him. That is actually what the AR tour of the fortress focuses on – it guides you through several checkpoints and allows you to relive Sibenik during the Ottoman attack.
There is a high-tech museum on this fortress, as well as a very modern cafe/bar. And with stools next to the fortress walls, you can sit down for a drink and enjoy breathtaking views of the city below you. Which you will probably need to do, after that exhausting uphill hike.
You will also have a really great view of St. Michael’s Fortress from here, as well as St. Anthony channel that leads into the open sea. And you can try out some craft beers, which are made locally and delicious – I recommend 1066.
This fortress is the most unique one in Sibenik. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is located on a tiny island, and it can only be reached by foot or by boat. In fact, there are only two more fortresses like this in the Mediterranean sea – one of them is in Venice, and the other in Malta. If you decide to walk to the fortress, be prepared to get your shoes wet – a part of the path leads over rocks in the sea. And definitely wear shoes that are appropriate for rocky and muddy terrain.
One thing to note is that the location of the fortress is not properly marked on the Google Map of Sibenik. The fortress is actually quite far away from the town, and you can usually reach it on a boat tour, through St. Anthony’s canal. You can see the correct location of this fortress on the map at the beginning of this post.
The fortress is massive, so there are plenty of things to do and see there. You can walk around inside the fortress and explore the stone passages, and spend hours on its grounds.
St. Nicholas Fortress is actually one of the best examples of Dalmatian defense architecture. Its exterior is mostly made from brick, due to the fact that brick is most resistant to cannonballs. And it was actually very useful in protecting the town from sea-bound attacks.
Perivoj Roberta Visianija is a small park close to the city center. If you go down the stairs next to the Cathedral of St. James and then follow the seaside promenade, you can reach the park in some 5-10 minutes.
Just before the entrance into the park, you will see the statue of King Petar Krešimir IV – the monarch who first mentioned Sibenik in a charter, in year 1066.
The park features a fountain, several benches and loads of trees and flowers. It’s a rather peaceful area in the middle of the busy city, but there’s really not much to do here, other than taking photos and sit down on a bench.
Juraj Dalmatinac gallery is a small souvenir shop/art gallery in Sibenik old town. The storefront is charming and eye-catching, so you’re very likely to stop and go inside when you’re passing by. It is a great place to shop some local memorabilia and even buy some amazing paintings.
If you have more time in Sibenik, then you should make a few day trips. Several stunning cities are close by, as well as an amazing national park that is totally worth your time. Why limit yourself to one city, when Croatia has so much more to offer?
If you have enough time, Krka National Park should be your top priority. It is an amazing place, and it consists of several different areas, which can take several days to explore. I only had the opportunity the visit Roški Slap (waterfalls), and it took us several hours to explore that properly!
Therefore, be mindful which tickets you are going to buy. There are three types of tickets – all accessible areas (the most expensive ones), Roški Slap (waterfalls) and Kistanje, Burnum, Poljane (Eco campus and Krka monastery).
The waterfalls are the most popular tourist attraction, so expect a large crowd of people at the entrance. By the way, there are several entrances into the park, so choose one depending on what you want to see.
Lozovac is the main entrance, and it is closest to Roški Slap. After you buy your tickets, you can choose whether you want to hike to the entrance into this area (about 20-30 minutes) or go on a bus ride. The bus takes a very scenic route, and the ride is only some 5-10 minutes long.
There is a pedestrian walkway that you should follow, and which will take you around the entire area. There are also several places where you can get off the path along the way, which include viewpoints, cafes, resting areas and souvenir shops.
And of course, you can usually just jump down from the walkway, as long there is dry land below your feet. Stop to take photos as often as you like – just don’t be one of those people that stops dead in their tracks in the middle of the path and prevents everyone else from moving.
Visovac monastery is located in the Brištane area, and it as another popular tourist attraction. It is actually fairly close to Roški Slap but you can’t reach it by foot – the monastery is located on a tiny island, which can only be reached by boat. Of course, you need to pay additional money for the boat ride.
There is also the Krka Monastery, which is in the Kistinje area. This one is pretty far away from the waterfalls, and you need a different entrance ticket for it. But if you have the opportunity, definitely go visit – the monastery is surrounded by untouched nature, and it is stunning both inside and out.
Zadar is very close to Sibenik, and you should definitely visit it if you have the time. The city is best known for its two seaside landmarks, the Monument to the Sun and the Sea Organ. Both of them were designed by Croatian architect Nikola Basic, and represent an attempt to communicate with nature.
The Sea Organ features steps that descend into the sea, behind which hide polyurethane tubes. The movement of the wind and the sea creates music in these tubes, which is supposed to represent communication with nature with sound.
The Monument to the Sun, on the other hand, is a huge light installation, in an attempt to communicate with nature with light. The huge round circle represents the sun, and is surrounded by several smaller circles that represent planets in the solar system.
Another remarkable sight in Zadar is the Church of St. Donatus. It is a massive Catholic church that is unique due to its circular shape, and it’s something you definitely don’t want to miss in Zadar. Oh and you can also go see the Sphinx – venture outside the old town and into a seaside sculpture garden. You will find a small sculpture of the sphinx there, and you can also relax a bit in the shade of the trees.
Zadar is also known for its many museums. The Museum of Illusions is one of the most popular destinations, both with locals and with tourists, so it’s something you should check out.
There is also the Museum of Ancient Glass, where you can observe the process of blowing glass and buy all kinds of souvenirs, as well as the Zadar Archaeological Museum. The latter features artefacts from the prehistoric era and all kinds of diverse exhibits, and it should definitely be on your list.
Split and Trogir are two cities that are very close to each other, and about an hour away from Šibenik. You can explore both of them in a day if you limit yourself only to the most interesting sights in them.
In Split, those are going to be the seaside promenade (Splitska Riva) and the Diocletian’s Palace. The promenade is an iconic part of the town, lined with cafes, restaurants and palm trees. It is going to be one of the best walks in your life, with the smell of the sea in the air and gorgeous views wherever you look.
The Diocletian’s Palace is the reason why this Croatian city is famous worldwide. In recent years, several scenes for Game of Thrones were filmed here. And before that, the Palace was popular because of its uniqueness – it encompasses the better part of the old town, with tall stone walls and numerous landmarks inside it.
Trogir is a lot smaller than Split but just as beautiful. This city features an old town situated on a tiny island, which is connected to the mainland with bridges. And it also has a vast seaside promenade, where you can admire views of other parts of the city, boats, bridges and sit down for a drink in one of the many cafes, bars and restaurants.
One of the most popular sights in this town is the Trogir Cathedral. The 13th-century basilica is a marvelous example of Romanesque and Gothic architecture, and it features a gorgeous bell tower.
There is also the Kamerlengo Tower, which is a small fortress that offers amazing scenic views from the top. These two landmarks are on two opposite sides of the old town, and travelling from one to the other is the perfect opportunity to explore the narrow stone alleys of this charming city.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.