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Surprising Šibenik

Sibenik got its start, long ago, as a small port town and today still shines like a jewel of the Venetian empire. It should be a stop on any Croatian coast trip.

Sibenik got its start, long ago, as a small port town, with it’s long ago sailors, traders, and merchants plying their wares up and down the Adriatic coast. Eventually, the patricians of Venice turned their eager eyes along this coast and snapped up several key, successful trading ports. The transformation of this sleepy seaside village must have been amazing. For Sibenik today still shines like a jewel of the Venetian empire.

Sibenik cathedral.

Šibenik – Quaint Town, Awesome Cathedral

Many people, fellow travelers, tourists, what have you, will often complain bitterly about low cost airlines, like Ryanair, but if your expectations are low and you don’t want extra leg room, a free in-flight drink, snack, or entertainment then why not take advantage of their cheap prices and widespread coverage? If the timing is right they just can’t be beat.

Carved marble statue in church wall, Sibenik.

We recently took one of these flights to Croatia, flying from Frankfurt to Zadar for a weeklong driving trip. Of course, timing is rarely what you really want it to be with Ryanair so since our flight arrived 30 minutes past the closure time of the car rental agencies, we decided to spend the night near the airport and pickup our car the next morning. We were itching to hit the curvy, coastline roads of this beautiful country. But as the taxi pulled into our hotel, the heavens opened up and let fall a torrential downpour that lasted most of the night and early morning.

Front of Sibenik church from Venetian era.

Our night, however, was comfortable and dry and we easily returned to collect our car and were soon driving down stone walled lanes and through olive orchards and sheep pastures. Everything was a brilliant green, lush, and freshly cleaned by the previous night’s rainstorm. We continued on, meandering along route 8, heading south toward our first destination: Sibenik and the 15th century Saint Jacob’s church, which has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List for its blending of Gothic and Renaissance architecture.

Bronze statue in Sibenik town square.

In fact, driving into the town on that gorgeously sun-soaked day with everything sparkling clean, it was as if the marble was alive, glowing with an inner light of its own. We had a little bit of frustration parking near the southern gate, as a German RV was convinced they could squeeze their massive road warrior under the two meter height restricting gate.

It took some convincing from the Croatians who got out of their cars to provide assistance (oh yeah, he was blocking the main road through the town) and some careful driving, but the RV was soon out of the picture and we were able to park and take to the stone-flagged streets and alleyways.

Sibenik hasn’t gone quite as far on the tourist route as Split or Dubrovnik, so we kind of had a false sense of tourism in Croatia after exploring around some. Yes, there were a few other travelers, mostly hanging around the shining church square, playing ball, sipping coffee in one of the comfortable sun-drenched cafes in the small square next to the church. But we saw nothing like the hordes of tourists we’d encounter later on the trip in the large cruise ship towns.

We didn’t exactly have the pedestrian zone to ourselves, but we certainly experienced the sleepiness and quiet we had hoped for. We spent a couple of hours winding around, up and down, the back alleys, climbing the stairs up and around the cathedral quarter and peeking into flower-filled courtyards and marbled foyers of the townhomes opened up to catch the morning warmth.

Stained glass rose window in Sibenik church.

Practical details: Getting there is easy. You can fly Ryanair into Zadar and then take a short drive (about an hour) down the beautiful coastal road. Or take a bus along the same route. Buses leave regularly from the central bus station in Zadar. Either way you could make this an interesting interlude on a longer road trip (as we did) or a day trip out of Zadar.

Of course, there were a plethora of fine looking hostels, hotels, and bed and breakfasts that would make for a romantic overnight. The idea of having the cobbled streets and beautiful marble facades to yourselves after sunset is quite appealing. For food, there were some attractive cafes and restaurants around the cathedral square that looked enticing, but we had caught a glimpse of spit suckling pig being set up to roast over open wood fires in some small roadside restaurants. Those juicy, delicious piglets were all that was on our minds so we opted out of a relaxing cafe meal and hit the road out of Sibenik, heading south for further adventure and fire roasted pork!

Have you been to Šibenik?

Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.

rhonda albom

Sunday 12th of April 2015

What a beautiful town. I have yet to get to Croatia, but in our original RTW plan we were only going to Dubrovnik, which I can see would have been a mistake. As for Ryanair, so far we steer away. We have flown easyjet - for us it's just a matter of reading the rules and following them, then we have no problems.

Corinne Vail

Sunday 12th of April 2015

Rhonda, I use whatever airlines I can to get there the best way and as cheap as possible, so that I can spend my money on things that are more important to food! Dubrovnik is a great city, but over-touristy. Sibenik is such a nice contrast!


Saturday 11th of April 2015

Great to see this post because we are currently in Split and planning our excursions over the next 2 months. Sibernik and the nearby Krka waterfalls are on that list - so was nice to find something on this town. We'll definitely visit. Nice photos Corrine! Frank (bbqboy)

Corinne Vail

Sunday 12th of April 2015

Frank, Glad to hear it! Lots to explore in Croatia. I'm sure you'll be kept very busy!

Suze the Luxury Columnist

Friday 10th of April 2015

I love the contrast of the blue sky with the cathedral, stunning!

Corinne Vail

Sunday 12th of April 2015

Thanks Suze. It is a stunning cathedral!


Friday 10th of April 2015