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Reasons to visit Sibenik: The unbeatable charm of the city

Updated: May 20

Sibenik is a well-known tourist destination in Croatia, but its reputation doesn't do it justice compared to Split and Dubrovnik which are all the rave. Sibenik is as authentic as it gets, offering a glimpse into the local life, rich history, and wine production. We were hoping you could give it a chance and include this special place in your travel itinerary. We promise you will be absolutely stunned!

What makes Sibenik a special destination

The tranquil vibe and sustainable tourism

One thing Sibenik advanced compared to the southern cities is the gradual and responsibly developed tourism model that stopped mass tourism and overexploitation in its tracks.

The lack of instantaneous overexposure benefited the quality of its residents' lives long term, aided the planned development of accommodation units, and limited the produce sourcing to the region, stimulating farmers and fishermen from the area.

When you enter Sibenik, you get these contrasting first impressions all within the first ten minutes or so. The quaint fisherman's waterfront, the Cathedral and the grandeur of the Renaissance noble families' homes, the breathtaking view of the bay, and the winding alleys harboring cozy cafes, boutiques, and heritage hotels. In Sibenik, visitors co-exist with the local folks who proudly nurture the culture, history, and culinary heritage tied to its islands and fertile land of the county. We do love to see a successful tourism story in Croatia and this is certainly one of them!

The wonderfully preserved Sibenik Old Town

Sibenik was an important Renaissance hub in Croatia during the 15th and 16th centuries. Many buildings, including the imposing St.James Cathedral, were erected during this period. The triple-nave UNESCO-protected cathedral is particularly stunning as it was built from limestone and white marble originating from the island of Brac. Šibenik was the birthplace and residence of numerous scholars, writers, painters, and sculptors whose residences are impeccably maintained. Strolling the alleys will transport you back to the times when the city flourished under Venetian rule.

Sibenik was built around St.Michael's fort which is celebrated as the patron saint to this day. Another UNESCO heritage site, the St.Nicholas fortress served as protection from military threats coming from the sea. Visit the Medieval St.Lawrence Monastery with its cloistered walkable gardens. Other attractions include the Duke's Palace, and the Loggia or Town Hall featuring grand pillars with arches, a balustrade terrace, and a full-window front facade. With two more walkable fortresses, St.John's and Barone, you can have a fulfilling day of soaking in history.

View of the St. James cathedral in Sibenik, Croatia
The Cathedral of St.James, regarded as the the most important architectural monument of the Renaissance in the country

Cultural events

With no less than four fortresses, Sibenik transformed the historical monuments into an events sanctuary for the city. Enjoy all kinds of happenings; classical and jazz concerts, folk performances, plays, open-air cinema, exhibitions, workshops, and conferences. The al fresco setting under the stars paired with a stunning view certainly adds to the experience.

Sibenik old town near the cathedral
Monument to Juraj Dalmatinac, a sculptor and architecture from the 14th century

The incredible Sibenik archipelago

Just like all of Croatia's coast, the archipelago of Sibenik has numerous islands and islets. This piece of heaven on earth strikes you with yet another type of charm that is hard to resist. The islands of central Dalmatia are quaint and special, with harbors, houses, and churches bearing memorabilia from the lives of the countless sailors and fishermen that the islands birthed. With their reefs, Zlarin, Prvic, and Krapanj are natural wonders, and the crystal clear waters are perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving.

Zlarin abounds with protected red corals that draw scuba enthusiasts from around the world.

Then there is Kornati, a cluster of just over 300 islands that are a protected National Park.

One simply must visit to experience the beauty and uniqueness of this place which calls for you to unplug and become one with nature. The entire archipelago of Sibenik is perfect for an unforgettable sailing trip. Several marinas are available in the area, offering a variety of modern sailing yachts and sailing catamarans. This is definitely a boating paradise waiting to be explored, and one of the top reasons to visit Sibenik!

Areal view of sailboats in Kornati islands Croatia
Lojena beach on Kornati islands

The city's culinary scene

First and foremost, we simply must mention the Michelin-awarded Pelegrini restaurant, located in the namesake 700-year-old palace, also proclaimed the best restaurant in Croatia. The two terraces will add to the magical experience, one overlooking the St.James Cathedral, while the second one, only discovered once you get in, is a spacious courtyard full of greenery and surrounded by palace walls. Let's not forget about the food, meticulously prepared and aesthetically perfected, a feast for all your senses. Having a curated, Pelegrini branded wine selection, the restaurant offers a five-course wine-pairing menu for those celebrating a special occasion or willing to splurge a bit more.

Another restaurant worth the mention is Bronzin, adjacent to the Armerun Boutique Hotel on the Riva promenade. Bronzin is perfect for casual fine dining and trying out hearty Croatian meals with a contemporary twist. Bava Dining & More is a quirky place with a bistro menu offering Mediterranean staples such as grilled octopus, rack of lamb, or gourmet burgers, and a selection of local craft beers to accompany the meal. Lastly, a place we love for the traditional fare is Tinel, perfect for hiding in the shade of its romantic green patio just across from St. Chrysogonus’s Church. Bon appetite!

Winery in Sibenik area, croatia. Great views, tapas and wine
Terrace at Baraka Winery, one of the scenic places to try local wine varietis

Krka waterfalls and exquisite wineries

Reserve a day to explore what is hiding beyond the old city. The predominantly karst terrain surrounding Sibenik is home to the incredible complex of waterfalls and lakes known as Krka National Park. Only a short ride from the city, you will find yourself in a completely different setting with freshwater, and lush forests with wooden pathways to take you through the jaw-dropping landscape.

Wine enthusiasts know that limestone terroir produces some of the best wines in the world thanks to the natural drainage of the porous rocks and soil, keeping the grapevine roots dry in the cold season and providing the right amount of moisture during the dry summer season.

Moreover, the soil will impart mineral notes on the indigenous grape varieties such as Babić, Lasina, Debit, or Maraština that are sometimes blended with Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and other known varieties. Indulge in a wine-pairing meal at the exclusive Bibich winery, then head to boutique wineries such as Testament, Rak winery, Sladic, and Prgin for more tasting with gourmet bites including local smoked meets, sheep cheese, marinated anchovies, truffle olives, and more. The area abounds with places offering delicious shellfish that strive in the brackish waters, especially around the historical town of Skradin.

Stop for lunch with a view of the impressive bridge spanning over the estuary.

Oysters, wine, and hiking in nature sounds like the perfect day trip, don't you agree?

Waterfalls in Krka national park, Croatia
Detail from the Krka Waterfalls National Park

More reasons to visit Sibenik

Emerging Boutique hotels

The hotel scene used to be dominated by large, family hotels located by the coast outside of the city. These hotels were and still are meant for families and other visitors who prefer a resort-like experience near the sea. Lately, we've been pleased to witness the introduction of boutique heritage hotels within the old town of Sibenik that cater to a more curious traveler.

The most charming boutique hotels in Sibenik according to Anchor & Wine:

  • Hotel Life Palace, tastefully adapted with only seventeen rooms, classic decor and charm

  • King Kresimir Heritage Hotel, adults-only, counting not more than seven rooms and one suite. Make sure you inquire early enough!

  • Armerun Hotel & Suites, the waterfront-facing heritage hotel offers rooms, residences, and a villa, where traditional structures meet contemporary, "Instagrammable" design.

  • Hotel Bellevue, branding itself as a "superior city hotel", Bellevue offers modern amenities with harbor views, only steps from the city center.

The choice ultimately depends on personal preferences, however, we encourage staying in the old town for a more authentic experience but the options are plentiful!

Sibenik port, boutique hotel Armerun, Croatia
Boutique Hotel Armerun offering views of the waterfront

Sports activities in the Sibenik area

Besides history, wine, and culinary indulgence, there are plenty of options for your athletic self.

Strategically located Sibenik is a great starting point for having an adventure-filled vacation.

Opt for rafting in the nearby river Cetina or kayaking in the freshwater. Hike and discover excellent spots for rock climbing. Activities oriented towards the nearby islands include sailing, swimming, scuba diving, and sea kayaking.

Cetina river for rafting, kayaking, nature watching
Cetina river spring, "Eye of the Earth"

Sibenik is close to major airports

Traveling to Sibenik is easy. Surrounded by international airports, it will take you an hour from both Split and Zadar airports, and about three and a half hours from Dubrovnik or Zagreb airports.

Arrive in Šibenik by ferry, car, plane, or bus. There is simply no excuse for you not to visit!


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