I am incredibly bummed that my visit to Šibenik, Croatia was so short. It is a wonderful city and really deserved more time than I gave it. Šibenik was merely a stop for us to rest on our way to Novalja & Pula. Big mistake. Šibenik should have been a destination on its own. I'm already planning my trip back for next year.
If you've never heard of Šibenik, here's what you need to know.
Šibenik is about 50 miles away from Split (one of the reasons we chose it as a midway point in our travels) on the Croatian coast. Unlike Dubrovnik & Split (which have become all the rage since Game of Thrones, Šibenik is still a bit less unknown, but no less beautiful. It also served as the location for Braavos, so if you're a fan of Arya Stark, you'll definitely want to come here.
I found Šibenik to have a great mix of locals and tourists. If you head to the old city during the day, you don't have to fight through crowds of tourists to see the sites. Tourists, mostly Croatian & Italian come out at night to enjoy dinner, coffee and drinks.
The old city has great shopping, tons of tiny little Konobas, live music at night (mostly free or donation based), and stunning architecture.
Things to See in Šibenik, Croatia
Churches...lots and lots of churches. There are 24 churches in Šibenik. If you're into churches like I am, you're going to love this city.
You can't go wrong with UNESCO sites, especially this one. The cathedral was built in 1434 and it's an icon of the Dalmatian Renaissance. Perhaps what stands out most is that the building is a monument of white among the red tiled roofs of the city. It's made of lime stone and limestone that was sourced from the island of Brac. The masterminds behind the project were Juraj Dalmatinac and Nikola Firentinac. The building is simply gorgeous. When I first saw it it reminded me of Saint Mark in Venice...and it turns out they are connected by architectural designs. There's also a very curious feature. There are tons of little heads that you will see on the outside of the church...these little heads are all portraits of people (adults and children) who lived in Šibenik at the time.
One of the many great things about going to Šibenik is that you can experience Venetian art (without Venetian prices and hordes of tourists. St. Francis' 14th Century Church and monastery is loaded with frescoes and Venetian paintings. After you're done soaking these in...look up. The painted ceilings are a jewel. If you know someone (and if you do - you need to introduce me) you may be able to get a peek at their collection of incunabula and hand-written codices. Did I mention the “Šibenik Prayer”? That's there too. It's one of the oldest Croatian tributes written in Latin script circa 1375. Am I geeking out too much already?
What a find this place was. A tiny entrance leads to a gorgeous Medieval garden with a nice attached cafe (you don't have to purchase anything to walk the gardens, but it is quite inexpensive - so go ahead). It's a great respite from the Summer heat and a great place to rest your feet (since you have to climb up the hill to get here). It was the monastery of St. Lawrence which had been forgotten for almost a century, and thankfully for us, reopened in 2007. We have Dragutin Kiš (a landscape architect) to thank for its renewal. There's a super charming fountain in the middle, a rocky pathway and gorgeous plants of all kinds, medicinal, edible, and decorative ones too. In the garden you can find thyme, capers, basil, and much more.
The Public Art:
There are tons of pieces of public art in Sibenik, and lucky for you Ivan Meštrović created some gorgeous ones for the city. Take the Petar Kresimir Statue. He was the King of Croatia in the 11th century. It is said the region peaked under his rule. You can see how much respect Meštrović had for this ruler in the sculpture that sits at Roberta Visanija park. Another gorgeous piece by Meštrović is the sculpture in honor of Juraj Dalmatinac, the architect who is held responsible for Šibenik's gorgeous Cathedral.
This is Šibenik's main street. You will find everything from cafes, shops, restaurants, street vendors. This is where most of Šibenik's commerce and fun take place. Just be careful, the street can be a little slippery.
You will be rewarded with the most astonishing views if you make it up to this fortress. Not as impressive as the Castelo S. Jorge in Lisbon, but still freakin' impressive. While there are 4 fortresses in the city, this one certainly stands out. It's shaped almost like a rectangle and has tons of towers. The views there are spectacular, and since it has been turned into a music venue, there is even a great little cafe for you to refresh before making your way down the hill.
If anything because it's darn cute. This tiny fountain is outside Sibenik’s old city walls, and is located in front of the Church of Our Lady. Moss covered rocks serve as a home to tons of tiny little turtles. One of the most charming details of the town.
The Loggia And Republic Square Sibenik Croatia:
A gorgeous square where you can grab a meal and people watch. From here you can enjoy the view of St. Jacob, the sculpture of Giorgio da Sebeniko by Ivan Mestroivc (who has become one of my favorite sculptors), and then easily reach any of the sites on the hill. Besides, if you're on team Arya (like I am), you can relive her adventures in the Free City of Braavos.
Things to do in Šibenik
Islands, Parks, & Beaches...Island hopping is a great activity to do if you're spending time in Šibenik. There are 250 island on the Šibenik archipelago. On top of that, only 6 of them are populated...so if you want to find a quiet beach, nature, and breathtaking beauty, you can find it here.
Like most of Croatia's beaches, this is a lovely pebbled beach that is easily reached from Šibenik's center. From there you can enjoy a view of the old city while you work on your tan. It is said that Banj beach is one of the cleanest in the world. It was awarded the international Blue Flag award. Best part - it's a public beach, so everyone can enjoy it. There are tons of things to do here besides tan & swim. You can play beach volleyball, basketball, and go wall climbing. There are also chair and umbrella rentals so you don't have to lug your own equipment. Lovely beach.
Perhaps one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world (at least out of what I've experienced). The downside is that they are incredibly popular and buses from Split and Zadar bring tourists from those areas to the lakes...so...if you get there early you can enjoy them, but if you go later, it will be
a bit ridiculously overcrowded. Why is it so damn popular? Imagine a 45 mile long river coming from the foothills of the Dinara mountains. Then imagine seven ridiculously gorgeous waterfalls and then imagine yourself swimming in their crystal clear waters. Sometimes it's totally worth it to get up early (or to deal with tourists).
89 gorgeous islands that look like mars. There is barely any vegetation here and you go there for the amazing beaches. Once they were green and lush, but this came to an end when sheep were introduced. They destroyed the landscape (hungry little buggers) and made these islands into what they are today. The islands were once the home of royalty, then they became the homes of the peasants of Murter, and now their descendants remain. The islands are known to be a hot spot for those who love to yacht, and for those who love to eat seafood. And scuba too! Great sealife is easily found here.
This is said to be a hiker's paradise. I didn't get to go, but it is so on my list for my next visit. If you have been, please let me know...because I can certainly see myself going for a hike.
Vransko Jezero Park: a huge lake which is a sanctuary for birds and is excellent as fishing location. This is about an hour car ride away from Šibenik.
Tips for your Šibenik Visit
1. Rent a car: Although you will not need a car in the city, you will need one if you plan to visit any of the national parks. Sure, there are buses, but it is just a pain.
2. Comfy Shoes: You will need comfy non-slip shoes unless you want to bust your ass on stone steps. Does not feel good, I promise.
3. Fly into Split or Zadar: Both are great cities and your drive will be much shorter than if you drive from Zagreb or Dubrovnik.
Split - Šibenik - 1 hour
Zadar - Šibenik - 1 hour
Zagreb - Šibenik - 3+ hours
Dubrovnik - Šibenik - 3-4 hours
4. Food: You can pay as little as $1 USD for a filling snack to $20 USD for a main course at the city's best restaurant (quite lovely may I add), but your average dinner for two should cost you around $3o USD (you won't leave hungry).
5. Phone: I got a SIM card for 11€ that gave me unlimited internet for a week. Bought 4 of these and was incredibly happy at the investment. Best part, when I got to my Šibenik Airbnb (which said it had internet - but it barely worked) I was able to connect my computer to my phone - best internet deal in Europe so far. We purchased from Orange, so ask them about these deals when you can.
5. Where to Stay: As usual, we did an Airbnb. It was very nice, but before you book an airbnb in Sibenik, make sure to ask your host if there is AC in every room and if the internet is solid. Hers only had AC in one room, and the internet was incredibly spotty (not an issue for most people, but if you work daily while you travel...) A nice apartment should cost you between $50-$100 USD depending on what you want.
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