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Although Dubrovnik and Split, the unofficial capitals of Croatia, have faced challenges due to their popularity as top travel destinations, issues with overtourism, and reliance on cruise ship tourism, the city of Sibenik in the north has managed to maintain its original charm without being affected. Sibenik still has the authentic feel of a traditional Dalmatian coast town.
Sibenik’s grand fortresses, impressive cathedral, and charming Old Town give it a one-of-a-kind charm. Locals can be seen enjoying coffee and ice cream, relaxing on steps, and embracing the Dalmatian lifestyle of fjaka – the art of doing nothing. And let’s not forget the leisurely pace of life on the nearby islands surrounding Sibenik Bay and St Anthony Channel.
Rewritten: One could say that the fortified port city of Sibenik has accumulated energy over the years from its various rulers and conquerors, such as the Venetians, Greeks, Hungarians, and Ottomans. As a result, the city has now chosen to take a break and relax. It is worth noting that Sibenik was established by the Croats over one thousand years ago, making it the oldest Croatian town on the Adriatic coast. Therefore, it can be said that its inhabitants have earned the right to embrace “fjaka” more than others.
Explore Croatia’s beautiful destinations by reading more about travel in the country.
What to do
Explore the historical district of the city
Start your journey at the three-aisled Cathedral of St James, which showcases the cultural exchange of architectural concepts between Italy and Croatia in the 15th and 16th centuries. Sibenik stands out as the sole city in the nation with two Unesco wonders to boast about, and the cathedral is its foremost gem. It is not only a place of worship, but also an exhibit of art and sculptural mastery carved in stone.
In Croatian coastal cities, the best way to fully appreciate the grandeur of the architecture is by walking from well-maintained streets to sunny pedestrian squares. Starting from the cathedral, you can ascend past Gothic-Renaissance landmarks to wine bars with ocean views, and visit charming stone churches adorned with art, comparable to any other destination.
Visit one, two, three, or four forts
As you make your way up the narrow streets of the Old Town, you will encounter many noteworthy landmarks. One of these is the ancient St Michael’s Fortress, a towering white structure that appears to emerge from the water like a reborn Atlantis.
The outlook from the fortifications includes a stunning perspective of the Krka River and its narrow passage as it meets the Adriatic Sea. Similarly, the view from the opposite direction is equally breathtaking, with the magnificent St. John’s Fortress and Barone Fortress providing elevated vantage points to take in the city.
Another powerful defense lies even farther out in the ocean: St Nicholas’ Fortress, which is the second Unesco site in the city. This fortress is located in St Anthony Channel and has an arrowhead shape, making it an impressive defensive structure that was initially constructed to deter Ottoman invaders.
Sail Sibenik’s archipelago
Imagine Hvar or Vis, but a decade or so ago. That’s the easy sell of an island-hopping safari to the lesser-visited Sibenik Archipelago, a knot of 249 cove-nibbled islands, only six of which are inhabited.
Although it may be impossible to visit them all, consider taking a day trip to the less crowded harbors of Prvic and Zlarin, which boast a rich history and are often overlooked by tourists. If you have more time to spare, you could also include Krapanj, Kaprije, and Zirje in your multi-day travel plans.
To have a memorable meal, either disembark from the nearby ferry or anchor your own private boat at Zlarin. Enjoy expertly prepared tuna and calamari at the charming Konoba Aldura, a traditional taverna located near fishermen and their equipment.
Day trip to Krka National Park
Exploring Krka National Park, located inland in Croatia, is a worthwhile experience that should not be overlooked. Despite its popularity and influx of tourists during the summer, taking the time to hike through the park’s stunning aquamarine waterfalls, river islands, and canyons is well worth it. By arriving early, around 8am in the summer and 9am in the winter, visitors can avoid the crowds and truly appreciate the park’s beauty without feeling overwhelmed by coach tours.
Prioritize exploring the Old Town by taking a leisurely walk. Discover the Medieval Mediterranean Garden of St Lawrence Monastery, a secluded floral balcony that was forgotten for a century before being rediscovered in the late 2000s (it will surprise you). Then continue north along the Adriatic promenade, passing by yachts and restaurants until reaching Banj Beach (where you can enjoy a refreshing swim). This beach boasts a beautiful stretch of golden sand, along with traditional tavernas and bars. From here, you can also admire the charming chaos of Sibenik’s Old Town as it cascades into the water.
Where to stay
Below the ramparts on the waterfront, Amerun Heritage Hotels & Residences is for historical stone rooms with loggia views glimpsing the sardine-tight streets behind and shimmering blue out front. Hands down, it’s the most atmospheric boutique hotel in the Old Town, with two best-in-class restaurants (Buta and Bronzin) to try.
Rooms with two beds starting at £112, including breakfast; available at armerun.com.
Occasionally, a larger accommodation is necessary and a villa is the ideal choice, especially if it includes a pool. These villas blend into the natural landscapes with minimal impact, unlike the harsh, concrete resort hotels found between Split and Zadar. With countless options ranging from cozy retreats for couples to lavish, spacious homes for larger parties, there is no shortage of choices. Novasol presents a curated collection of villas throughout the Sibenik area, which are a superior option for extended stays compared to any traditional hotel.
Starting at £239 per person for a seven-night stay on novasol.com.
Pelegrini. The city’s first Michelin-starred restaurant is located on a cobblestoned stairway off Cathedral of St James square, and burrows into a series of historic buildings and unseen courtyards. The six-course tasting menu is mind-bending, with takes on veal and lamb, sea snails and urchins, but you might doubt your senses when looking at the price: it’s not cheap at €530 with wine pairings for two. Ask for a table overlooking the Cathedral.
Sibenik’s waterfront is chockablock with traditional restaurants, ice cream parlours and cocktail bars and it can be hard to know where to settle. All are reliable enough, though the consensus seems to be that for location, shoreline terrace, price and merry-go-round of fresh fish and shellfish, Peskarija consistently hits the mark.
At night, St Michael’s Fortress takes on a new appearance. It is kept in good condition for cultural events and transforms into an outdoor theater during the summer, hosting performances by orchestras and popular musicians such as Bryan Ferry, Roisin Murphy, and The National under the night sky.
Nuts and bolts
Which currency is required?
In what language do they communicate?
Should I tip?
A ten percent tip is acceptable in Croatia, but not required.
What is the time discrepancy?
What is the typical duration of a flight from the UK?
It takes approximately 2 and a half hours to travel from London to Split and 3 hours and 15 minutes from Edinburgh. Split is located 90 minutes away by car to the south. Zadar is another entry point with flights taking 2 hours and 25 minutes from London and 2 hours and 20 minutes from Birmingham.
What is the best mode of transportation to use?
What is the optimal perspective?
When climbing the stairs and steep alleys to the ramparts of St Michael’s Fortress, all the shops, cafes, bars, and streets disappear.
Once again, ice cream is being offered in the Adriatic region. Despite its unappealing name, the nationwide chain aRoma gelato experience has a highly respected scoop shop (notice the long lines on hot days), and offers a fantastic variety of toppings for cones. Some delightful flavors include almond with honey, sesame and fig, and mascarpone with date and walnut.
To learn more about Sibenik and traveling to Croatia, please visit croatia.hr and sibenik-tourism.hr.
Explore more top-rated hotels in Croatia by reading our finest hotel reviews.
The source is independent.co.uk.