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.
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.
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.
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.
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 complement the first.
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.