Sibenik Croatia: The Ultimate Guide
Last updated on November 1st, 2022 at 07:07 pm
Sibenik is the Venetian gem of the Croatian coast. This (generally bypassed town) offers incredible history, architecture, views, and the perfect proximity to a plethora of adventurous opportunities. Sibenik is home to 46,000 permanent residents, which creates more of a small-town vibe than its neighboring cities but still offers plenty of entertainment for tourists.
This small city is quite the celebrity, however, and acted as the city of “Braavos” on the popular HBO show, Game of Thrones. This has made Sibenik a popular destination for fans of the show to see some of the locations and attractions that were used for filming, such as St. James Cathedral and St. Nicholas’ Fortress.
This 11th-century city is uniquely beautiful and differs in architecture from the neighboring cities of Zadar and Split. Sibenik was passed back and forth a bit between the Venetians and the Ottoman empire but was generally under Venetian control until the 19th and 20th centuries, when it was under the control of various European countries and different monarchies. It wasn’t until the 1940s that it became part of Yugoslavia, which would disassemble a few decades later, and Sibenik would eventually become 100% Croatian.
Sibenik is the perfect destination to beat the tourist hot spots and enjoy more of the local leisures. Most people will flock to the likes of Zadar, Split, and Dubrovnik, but few will take the time to slow down and experience Sibenik. So why not bypass the crowds and have this seaside city to yourself?!
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The Ultimate Guide to Sibenik Croatia
Where is Sibenik, Croatia?
Sibenik is located almost exactly halfway between Zadar and Split on the Dalmatian coast. Sibenik actually beats Dubrovnik in population size (just by a couple thousand) as the 3rd largest city in Dalmatia, behind Split and Zadar.
Sibenik is along the coast but is actually at the mouth of the meandering Krka river, where the famous Krka waterfalls flow into. This river meets the Adriatic in Sibenik in a beautiful harbor-like basin where ferries, sailing boats, and fishermen congregate.
Like most of the Dalmatian coastline, you’ll find dozens of islands, inhabited and uninhabited, off the coast of Sibenik. This archipelago of Islands offers incredible blue-green bays and rocky coastline, perfect for day trips from Sibenik, which we’ll explore in this guide in detail.
Traveling to Sibenik
Sibenik is conveniently located smack dab in the middle between Zadar and Split and is easy to get to by car, bus, or plane.
How to Get to Sibenik by Car
You can get to Sibenik easily if you are renting a car in Croatia or if you have your own vehicle. Sibenik is located just off the E65 Motorway, which extends down the entire length of the Dalmatian coast. So whether you are coming from Dubrovnik or Zadar, you can eventually reach Sibenik by following the E65.
If you prefer a scenic route, you can take the D8 highway, which extends all the way from the Slovenian border and ends in Montenegro. This highway, “Jadranska Magistrala,” passes through every major Dalmatian coastal town and will offer plenty of beautiful views along the way. Although this road is a bit smaller than the major motorways, it offers plenty of opportunities to explore seaside villages and stop for photo ops if you’re happy to travel at a slower pace.
From both Zadar and Split, it takes one hour to reach Sibenik by car.
How to Get to Sibenik by Bus
Bus links are widely available in Croatia. In Dalmatia, buses are pretty popular for locals and tourists to travel between cities. Hence, it’s a good idea to buy tickets in advance online from Flixbus or from the major bus stations if you are anticipating a bus trip.
From Split, you can travel to Sibenik by bus in 1 hour and 30 minutes by Flixbus, or in approximately 2 hours through the local buses. Flixbus offers three direct routes to Sibenik daily from Split, in which you will not have to get off and change buses. If you travel by local bus, you will likely have a stopover in Perkovic, where you change buses.
From Zadar, there are a few more frequent services to Sibenik, with Flixbus offering five daily direct trips to Sibenik and frequent journeys by local operators. When traveling from Zadar, you will generally not have to change buses, and it takes approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes to get to Sibenik.
How to Get to Sibenik by Plane
Sibenik does not have an airport but is easily accessible from both Split airport and Zadar Airport. That being said, it’s actually a bit better to reach Sibenik from Split airport. Resnik Airport (Split’s International airport) offers more options for international flights and hosts a larger variety of budget airlines such as Easyjet, Jet2, and Norwegian Airlines.
Split’s airport is actually closer to Sibenik, as the airport is located on the north side of Split.
The most direct route to Sibenik is to fly into Split, pick up your rental car from the split airport, and be on your way!
Where to Stay in Sibenik
Sibenik has a vast variety of accommodations available to visitors. From luxury hotels to boutique rooms, there are all kinds of hotels suited to all types of travelers.
The Best Luxury Hotel in Sibenik
If you’re looking for premium accommodation with some of the best views, design, and service Sibenik can offer, then D-Resort is your place. This 4-star resort lives on the end of the peninsula across the harbor from the Old Town and is essentially a city on its own. D-Resort offers a fine dining experience on the top floor of the hotel as well as 4 bars and lounges, a full-service spa, a gym, and two swimming pools with incredible sea views. This hotel is only open to the public from the end of April each year through the summer season, but the sea view villas are available in the winter months.
The Best Midrange Hotel in Sibenik
Medulic Palace Rooms and Apartments is an elegant accommodation located in the heart of Old Town and makes for the ultimate midrange accommodation in Sibenik. This hotel is quaint, quirky, and one of the most booked hotels in Sibenik. This is partly due to its prime location, comfortable pricing, and charming interior/exterior. Medulic Palace includes the city’s traditional stone walls in the design of their rooms and common areas, which is a vibe on its own. They also incorporate the famous Dalmatian Lavender scent and colors throughout, which really says “welcome to Croatia.”.
The Best Budget Accommodation in Sibenik
Elegance meets budget at Hostel Splendido. Hostels are almost always the best option for travelers looking to stay on a budget and meet fellow travelers, and Hostel Splendido is no exception. This hostel offers an incredible location near the beaches and just 200 meters from the center of the Old Town. If you are looking to relax, there is a beautiful shady outdoor terrace furnished with armchairs and tables and an on-site bar where you can relax with a refreshing beverage or mingle with other residents. The Hostel offers both dorm-style rooms and private rooms.
The Best Apartment Accommodation in Sibenik
If you prefer to sink into your own space at the end of a long day of exploring, then you will love staying in your own private apartment at The XY Suites – Boutique Apartments in Sibenik. These luxury apartments bring the best of Sibenik indoors with their stone-walled interior, cozy corners, and Venetian-styled furniture. Each apartment suite has a living room with a flat-screen TV, dining area, full kitchen, washer and dryer, 2 or 3 bedrooms, and private bathrooms. The establishment has communal outdoor garden and terrace areas, and some apartments have a private terrace. The XY Suites are also a 6-minute walk to the beach and a stone’s throw away from Old Town.
Pro Tip: Booking is the most common platform for finding accommodation in Croatia.
What to Do in Sibenik
Sibenik is filled with cultural activities, architectural beauty, and nearby incredible national parks and scenery. There are endless activities to partake in when you visit Sibenik, but these are the ten best things to do in Sibenik.
Wander the Old Town
Some of the structures in this old town date back 1000 years, so to wander aimlessly through these streets is an adventure on its own. Almost entirely built out of stone, you’ll enjoy the serene atmosphere of mounted flower pots along the walls of narrow alleyways, colorful doors leading into boutique shops, and lively restaurant terraces filled with locals and visitors alike laughing and mingling over a shared meal. You can spend an entire day just wandering, shopping, and bar/restaurant hopping.
Visit St. James Cathedral
No trip to Sibenik would be complete without a visit to the Cathedral of St. James. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was constructed between 1431 and 1535 and uniquely was designed with Northern Italian, Dalmatian, and Tuscan influences. Three different architects oversaw the design of this Cathedral during its construction. The cathedral is known to be uniquely decorated with the sculptures of 71 faces of men, women, and children, reminiscent of the structure’s gothic and renaissance influences. The Cathedral of St. James was also used as a set in Game of Thrones and is a popular site for fans of the show.
Check Out the Four Fortresses
Sibenik is unique in that there are four different fortresses located across the city. St. Michael’s Fortress, Barone Fortress, St. Nicholas’ Fortress, and St. John’s Fortress. Each structure has a unique history and was constructed between the 15th and 17th centuries. Geographically, the fortresses create a diamond shape around the old town city, as they were used as a point of defence to protect the city. When you visit each fortress, you may notice St. John’s is considerably smaller than the rest. The Venetian council could not afford to allocate the funds to build a new fortress to defend against the Ottomans, but the council allowed the citizens of the city to build it themselves, which they did in a rapid 58 days. Building an entire fortress whose remains still stand today in just 58 days, shows the pride and drive behind the people of Sibenik; an aura that is still reflected in its citizens today.
Relax On the Beaches
Sibenik is widely known for its jaw-dropping beaches. Beaches in Sibenik, Croatia, have incredible clear turquoise waters, sand or pebbled white shores, and ideal proximity to the city center. Each beach around Sibenik has its own individual qualities, and there will be a beach somewhere in the Sibenik area fit for each kind of beach-goer. Whether you’re looking for watersports at Rezaliste Beach, sipping on cocktails at the beach bar at Banj Beach in the Old Town center, or enjoying the aquamarine serenity of Velika Raduca Beach a bit outside of the central city area, there is something for everyone.
Stroll On the Riva
Split is not the only Dalmatian city with an impressive waterfront promenade. The Riva (promenade) in Sibenik is a stunning spot for an afternoon stroll. Gaze at the incredible yachts docked and hop between the restaurants that line this seaside walkway. The Riva hosts impressive Palms and is a great place to sit for a while and watch the world go by. On the Riva, you’ll have impressive views over the harbor and will enjoy watching the boats come and go as the sun sets.
Game of Thrones Kayaking & Walking Tour
Does Sibenik Croatia look familiar to you? You might recognize the city from the hit HBO show Game of Thrones. Braavos is actually Sibenik Croatia in Game of Thrones. Most visitors to Croatia will flock to Dubrovnik to feel the atmosphere of Westeros, but you can embrace a similar feeling in Sibenik. You can look up the filming locations to scout out while visiting, including St. James Cathedral, which acts as the Iron Bank in the show, and St. John’s Fortress. However, it’s best to get the proper experience and go on an organized tour to see the sites and hear about which buildings played different parts in the series. Find out more about the tour here.
If the likes of Hvar, Korcula, and Vis are out of reach on your trip to Croatia, try doing a bit of island hopping around the Sibenik archipelago. You can choose to travel by car and hop on a car ferry across to two of the islands that support vehicles which are Kaprije and Zirje, or board a passenger ferry to the other Islands that don’t allow cars but always support traveling by foot.
Each island offers unique activities and villages. For example, Zirje Island is known for awe-inspiring beaches that are great for snorkeling and predominant fish restaurants serving up the local catch. Kaprije Island is a fantastic place to explore wine from local vineyards, Zlarin Island for water-sports, and Prvic Island for quaint villages and cozy restaurants. Since the islands are between 30 minutes and 1.5 hours from Sibenik, you can spend several days visiting each island or try to fit multiple Islands into one long day trip.
Ziplining in Cikola Canyon
Looking for an adrenaline rush during your trip to Sibenik? Why not try ziplining in the Cikola Canyon. This canyon is 130 meters deep (yikes). When you zipline here, you may start at heights of around 120 meters. You can choose courses with lengths of 200, 500, and 650 meters in length and zip through the air at 70 kilometers per hour. This is not for the faint-hearted, but the views will surely make this ride worth it.
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Day trip to Krka National Park
Sibenik is the closest large city to Krka National Park and the Krka Waterfalls. This famous park is known for its cascading falls spilling blue-green water into pools below. You can visit the national park by means of your own car or through an organized tour that departs from Sibenik.
On this day trip, pack a picnic lunch, some sunblock, sunglasses, a hat, and good slip-resistant shoes to wear while you’re hiking around the falls. It’s important to take note however, that the park no longer allows visitors to swim in the waterfalls. But you can still enjoy the incredible views of the falls and revel in the natural scenery.
Kornati National Park
Kornati National Park is actually made up of a series of 89 islands (YES, 89!) and is commonly known as a sailor’s paradise. On a day trip to this National Park, you will sail with a tour around the islands and admire the incredible blue bays. There are over 22 different tour operators running tours at different prices with different services included. Most of the tours will include the cost of the national park admission ticket in the price of your tour. Make sure to check with your tour operator if there will be snorkeling opportunities and if snorkel gear is provided or if you need to bring your own.
Final Thoughts on Sibenik Croatia
Sibenik offers incredible opportunities for exploring and sightseeing. Whatever activities and tours you choose to embark on, you’ll surely be eager to plan your next trip back.
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