12 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Sibenik
Less touristy than many of the neighboring cities on Croatia's popular Dalmatian Coast, which fronts the Adriatic Sea, and equally as charming, medieval Sibenik is the gateway to the Kornati Islands and is well worth a stop on its own merit. If the scenery looks familiar, and you are a fan of Game of Thrones, you'll be pleased to know that the city appeared as a film location in three episodes of Season 5.
Television series aside, the history here is compelling, dating back to the 11th century, and you'll find numerous things to do. The beautifully preserved Old Town is great for wandering and filled with wonderful 15th- and 16th-century architecture. And with a location right on the Adriatic Sea, the weather in Sibenik is wonderful year-round, with mild winters and warm summers. Plan your trip with our list of the top attractions in Sibenik.
See also: Where to Stay in Sibenik
1. Sibenik Cathedral
Sibenik's Cathedral of St. James (Katedrala Sv Jakova), now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the Dalmatian Coast's architectural highlights. Started in the early 15th-century, this grand cathedral took more than 100 years to complete under the initial direction of Venetian architect Antonio Dalle, a responsibility later passed to sculptor Jurac Dalmatinac and then to Nikola Firentinac.
During the course of construction, a variety of styles were incorporated, including the Gothic lower level and the Renaissance upper level. One of the most noteworthy features is the exquisite frieze on the outside of the apse with its more than 70 unique faces representing ordinary townsfolk from the 15th-century.
Address: 22000, Sibenik
2. The Old Town Hall
The splendid old two-story Sibenik Town Hall (Gradska vijecnica), just across the square from the cathedral, is well worth a visit. Famous for its beautiful large columns, arches, and balustrade, this superb example of Renaissance architecture dates from the middle of the 16th century and was built by well-known architect Michele Sanmicheli. Although largely destroyed during an Allied air raid on Sibenik during WWII, the building was completely rebuilt following the original plans after the war.
Address: Trg Republike Hrvatske 3, 22000, Sibenik
3. St. John's Fortress
During the 16th century, Sibenik was one of Europe's best protected cities with no less than five fortresses protecting it. St. John's Fortress is the city's highest fortress, perched atop a hill some 115 meters above the city center. It takes about 10 minutes of huffing and puffing uphill to reach from the old town.
The fortress dates to 1646, when it was constructed to protect Sibenik from Turkish attacks. City residents were so terrified of these invasions that they assisted in the building of the fortress, which was completed in a record six weeks. The views from the top are also stunning.
4. St. Michael's Fortress
St. Michael's Fortress is another of the five fortresses in Sibenik and the one from which the city was born. Constructed during the Middle Ages, it sits atop a hill in the middle of the old town. From the top, you have fantastic panoramic views across the city and out to the Adriatic Sea. There is also an open-air stage that hosts concerts and other events throughout the year. If you can time your visit with a performance, it is a unique experience.
5. The Church of St. Barbara
Just behind Sibenik Cathedral stands the pretty little Church of St. Barbara (Sv. Barbara), home to a small but noteworthy collection of sculptures and paintings dating from the 14th to 18th centuries. Built in the mid-1600s on the site of an earlier building, this single nave church is notable for its unique façade, with its irregular shaped openings, and a 15th-century statue of St. Nicholas by Bonino of Milan. The interior boasts two unique altars: one from the original church, and one that was built later but designed to compliment the first.
6. The Count's Palace (Civic Museum)
Another one of the top things to do in town is pay a visit to the Count's Palace, which is just a short stroll from Sibenik Cathedral. The late Renaissance-era Rector's Palace was originally built to serve as the governor's residence during the 16th-century time of Venetian rule.
Today, the palace houses the city's Civic Museum (Muzej Grada Sibenika), with its many local archeological artifacts dating from Neolithic to Roman times, including sculptures (some from the 7th century), a coin collection, and other miscellaneous items from the surrounding region.
Address: Gradska Vrata 3
7. The Dalmatian Ethno Village
One of the newer attractions in Croatia, the Dalmatian Ethno Village provides a first-rate insight into the lives of the area's local people through the centuries. Part of the Solaris Beach Resort complex, just a few kilometers south of Sibenik, it offers the chance to watch and learn about how traditional foods and baked goods are prepared, and then sample them afterwards as you wander the narrow cobbled streets.
Other highlights of a visit include checking out a 100-year-old watermill, craft fairs, weaving workshops, and an original olive press. You can also visit one of the pretty stone and pebble beaches at the resort while on-site.
Address: Hoteli Solaris 86, HR-22 000 Sibenik, Hrvatska
8. Aquapark Solaris
For something fun to do during the warmer months, check out Aquapark Solaris, Croatia's first water park. It offers a variety of water features in numerous pools, which are family focused, including waterslides, sprinklers, waterfalls, and a lazy river. There is also a special kids' zone with a fairy-tale cave, which creates a fantasy world for little ones. Refreshments, including homemade ice-cream, are also sold on-site.
Official site: http://www.aquapark-dalmatia.com/how-to-reach-us/
9. St. Nicholas Fortress
Built in the 16th century to defend the port of Sibenik from Turkish attack by sea, St. Nicholas Fortress (Tvrdava Sv. Nikole) is another of the five fortresses in the town and one of only three such forts still in existence in the Mediterranean (the others are in Venice and Malta). The fortress resembles an arrowhead and was built on the site of a former monastery, on a small island off the mainland. It was designed by the leading Venetian architect Hyeronimus di San Michaela and once boasted an impressive arsenal of 32 cannons.
Now more than 500 years old, this brick and stone fortress remains relatively well-preserved despite its years and can best be seen as part of an organized tour of the city or by private charter.
10. Krka National Park
Established in 1985, the Krka National Park (Nacionalni Park Krka) protects the ecologically important area around the middle and lower sections of the River Krka. As the river flows down from the upper reaches, it meets a series of lakes and rapids, as well as the beautiful Roski Slap and Skradinski Buk waterfalls. At the center of the park is Lake Visovac, just below the Roski Slap waterfalls, and from here, the Krka River joins up with the River Cikola before flowing over Skradinski Buk and out to sea.
A popular destination for bird-watchers, the park is home to some 200 different bird species, including herons and egrets. It also boasts a number of important cultural attractions including the Orthodox Krka Monastery (Arandjelovac), dating from the early 15th century, as well as Samostan Visovac, the island monastery on Lake Visova. Easily accessed from Lozovac and Miljevci, the waterfalls can also be reached by boat from Skradin for a particularly fun outing.
Address: Trg Ivana Pavla II. br.5, 22000 Sibenik, Hrvatska
11. Drnis and Ivan Mestrovic's Burial Place
Just 30 kilometers inland from Sibenik is the delightful small town of Drnis, once famous for its 15th-century fort, built as a defense against invasion. The fort was eventually captured, and Drnis fell to the Turks, who built a number of important structures, including a mosque and Turkish baths. While much of these were later destroyed during fighting in the 16th century, some elements of the occupation can still be seen, including in the church of St. Anthony, built from the remains of the old mosque.
Also of interest is the nearby village of Otavice, where sculptor Ivan Mestrovic built a simple, stone-domed mausoleum for himself and his family where he was ultimately laid to rest.
12. The Church of St. Francis
As with many of the fine old buildings found in Sibenik, the Church of St. Francis (Sv. Frane) has been rebuilt and altered numerous times over the centuries. Originally founded in 1229, the church was largely destroyed the following century, although parts of the original cloisters survived and were incorporated into rebuilding that took place in the 16th century.
In the 18th century, the church took on yet another look after being completely rebuilt in Baroque style, and the interior decorated with paintings. Of particular interest inside is a superbly preserved organ built by Petar Nakic in 1760s.
Address: Trg Nikole Tomaszea 1, Sibenik
Where to Stay in Sibenik for Sightseeing
In Sibenik, you'll find the majority of things to see and do clustered around the historic old town, and you'll find a number of hotel options in all budgets that are within walking distance of top sights like the Sibenik Cathedral. There are also plenty of accommodation options on the beachfront around the city, and this may be the better choice if you are visiting in summer and wish to stay near the clear blue waters of the Adriatic Sea. Here are some top rated hotels in Sibenik to check out:
- Luxury & Mid-Range Hotels: The posh D Resort, located behind the super-yacht marina, is where to come for luxe pampering with modern rooms and suites and an on-site spa. Another wonderful option is the historic luxe Heritage Hotel Life Palace inside a 15th-century palace in the heart of the old town. It comes complete with frescoes, a wellness area with a hot tub and sauna, and a coffee shop. For a more affordable sleep, right on the beach, try the mid-range Amadria Park Ivan. The property is just a short drive from town and has a lovely pool area and spa treatments.
- Budget Hotels: Hostel Mare is a budget hostel in a great location, just steps to the old town. It boasts friendly owners and clean rooms and attracts plenty of repeat guests. Another budget choice is the Pansion Sibenik, which is also in the center of the old city and can only be reached by foot.
Day Trips from Sibenik
Island Adventures: Primosten
About 20 kilometers southeast of Sibenik is the beautiful little town of Primosten, a picturesque and utterly unique community that spills over from its original island hub onto the mainland, which it's connected to by a causeway. Seen from a distance, the island itself is so full of splendid old architecture that its buildings seem to consume every available inch of land, which only heightens the pleasure of exploring its wonderful old medieval streets.
Highlights of this fun day trip include visiting the historic town center; enjoying the views from the rocky shoreline over the Adriatic and the mainland; relaxing on its pebble beaches; and visiting the 15th-century Church of St. George, notable for its old graveyard and fine views.
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Croatia's Dalmatian Coast: The most popular town on the Dalmatian Coast is Dubrovnik, which is about a three-hour drive to the south. For ideas on what to see here, review our article on the Top Tourist Attractions in Dubrovnik. Another popular tourist destination on the coast is Split, about an hour south of Sibenik and Croatia's second largest city. You can also check out our article on the attractions and things to do in Croatia for the country's highlights.