After a long period of playing second fiddle to more glamorous neighbours Split and Zadar, Šibenik is swiftly turning into Dalmatia’s surprise package. Like Zadar, Šibenik suffered a hammering in the 1991-95 war and is still recovering but change is evident. The industrial suburbs, a reminder of its past and significance as a port, camouflage a delightful Old Town. Alleyways and stone steps threaten to lead nowhere but are full of surprises; historic churches and atmospheric squares are tucked around almost every corner, and the golden globe atop the unmissable Cathedral of St James pops up in the distance when least expected.
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After a long period of playing second fiddle to more glamorous neighbours Split and Zadar, Šibenik is swiftly turning into central Dalmatia’s surprise package. The decision to re-locate the Garden Festival (formerly at Petrčane) to Tisno, only 20km outside Šibenik, has only added to the city’s new-found appeal. Like Zadar, Šibenik suffered a hammering in the 1991-95 war and is still recovering, but change is evident. The sprawling industrial suburbs, a reminder of its past and significance as a port, camouflage a delightful Old Town. Alleyways and stone steps threaten to lead nowhere but are full of surprises – historic churches and atmospheric squares are tucked around almost every corner, and the golden globe atop the unmissable Cathedral of St James pops up in the distance, over the rooftops, when you least expect it. The busy seafront Riva lined with bars and restaurants thrives in summer, overlooked by the ancient network of crumbling fortresses atop the city, guarding the entrance to the Krka estuary that leads to the town from the open sea. Šibenik is also a convenient base from which to explore the Krka National Park; Etnoland discovery park; the Dubrava Sokolarski Centar for falconry – and the key nightspots in Vodice and in Primošten.
Great things to do in Šibenik
First mentioned in 1066 by King Petar Krešimir IV, Šibenik is one of few coastal towns with a Croatian rather than Greco-Roman heritage. However it was the long period of Venetian rule (1412-1797) that left the deepest imprint, and most buildings in the centre, including the Cathedral of St James, date from this era. Across the square from the Cathedral, the newly restored Bunari, a medieval water cistern, was initially redeveloped as a private museum project; its future is currently uncertain. Down an alley by the Cathedral is the recently refurbished City Museum occupying what was the Duke’s Palace, covering the history of Šibenik from prehistoric times to the present day. Much of the large permanent collection is in storage, although there are regular temporary exhibitions accessed from the museum’s entrance on the Riva. South of the Cathedral and main square, the 15th-century Gothic St Barbara’s church hosts the Museum of Sacred Art. It’s a modest collection spanning the 14th to 17th centuries, with religious paintings, polyptychs, ancient manuscripts, and wood engravings. After three further churches on Zagrebačka, the steeply-stepped street emerges at St Mihovil’s Fortress (open dawn-sunset; 10kn). Built during Venetian rule as protection from the Ottomans, this now decrepit structure rises on the site of an earlier stronghold. Nothing impresses so much as the rooftop and the view across the estuary to the surrounding islands.
Restaurants in Sibenik
Hands down the nicest place to eat in central Šibenik, Pelegrini has benefitted from a recent change of culinary approach. Diners may now opt for the 400kn degustation menu that features, as an appetiser, a smoked aubergine and yoghurt dip, moving onto truffle and prosciutto pappardelle with sheeps’ cheese and fresh parsley, smoked oxtail in tempura with salsa, and braised meat with tomato salsa and carrot purée. Chocolate and coffee finish things off nicely. Each dish is accompanied by a specially chosen wine (200kn). Alternatively, there’s an à la carte choice of mains, monkfish tripe with polenta or beef fillet with baked misni cheese, and 150kn lunch option. Outside, the view could hardly be bettered, with tables on the stone steps overlooking the cathedral and a lovely terrace on the roof of the Bunari, the medieval water cistern building, complete with carved well-heads.
Bars and clubs in Sibenik
Šibenik nightlife guide
Bars fill on the seafront promenade Obala Prvoboraca before clubbers drive off for the main destination nightspots of Vodice or Primošten – or make for the Inside Club nearer town. The recently renovated Solaris compex, 6km away, also has beach bars that are pulling the crowds. Southeast in Vidici, there’s the Majstor & Margarita cafe, inspired by Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel, for a themed evening with a literary twist.