Looking for an alternative destination in Croatia without the crowds? Enter Šibenik, a small coastal city with stunning architecture, history, culture, and great beaches. Find out all the things to do in Sibenik and beyond.
There’s no secret that Croatia now joins Italy, France, and Spain when it comes to the most popular European summer destinations and that means it can get pretty crowded. If you’re looking to experience Croatia’s more underrated, crowd-free destinations, the small city of Sibenik might be the perfect place for you.
Similar to Dubrovnik in many ways-just without the city wall, Sibenik is full of narrow, cobblestone alleys, grand churches, ancient fortresses, and incredible sea views almost everywhere you go. It’s a town to get lost in and fall under the spell of its charm.
In this curated guide you’ll find all the worthwhile things to do in Sibenik as well as other day trips and things to do nearby. Find all my restaurants and hotel recommendations below too.
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Best Time to Visit Sibenik
The best time to visit Sibenik really depends on what you want to do there. Having said that, and given that Croatia is a very hot summer destination, the shoulder season is the best time to visit.
May and early June as well as September and October are the best months to visit Sibenik and Croatia in general. At this time you’ll find warm yet manageable temperatures and fewer crowds. It’s most likely warm enough to swim and relax on the beach but you won’t have to share a beach with the crowds either.
It’s worthwhile noting however that Sibenik is a bit of a hidden gem, so if you are visiting in July and August and you find the crowds in Split and Dubrovnik to be overwhelming, Sibenik might be a great alternative.
In winter or from late October until April, many restaurants and businesses shut down so make sure to plan ahead if you’re visiting in the winter and early spring.
Getting to Sibenik and Around
Sibenik is a small, coastal city located between Zadar and Split in Croatia’s Dalmatian region. It’s well-connected by road and by public transportation routes so you don’t need to rent a car to get there.
The best way to reach Sibenik is by rental car and bus. If you’re planning a much larger Croatia itinerary, then it might be worthwhile renting a car. If you want to do more day trips from Sibenik, to visit the nearby National Parks and beaches for example, then it does help to have a car.
I used Discover Cars to rent a car for my Croatia trip. I generally compare deals on both Rental Cars and Discover Cars and book the best one I find. Discover Cars seem to have the better car rental deals for Croatia.
Sibenik is also easily reached by bus. You can take a bus from Zadar bus station or Split bus station and buses between the two cities normally stop in Sibenik anyway. A bus ticket to Sibenik from Zadar or Split costs just a few euros.
Once you arrive in Sibenik you’ll find that the city is quite small and compact. For the most part, it’s very walkable, especially the historic old town. For most of the beaches and some other sights, it helps to have a car.
Top Things to Do in Sibenik
Explore the Old Town
Immerse yourself in the rich history and charm of Sibenik by exploring its Old Town.
The Old Town is a labyrinth of narrow cobblestone streets, steep staircases, medieval fortresses, picturesque squares, and quaint cafés. There’s always something new around every corner and it’s the kind of place you can walk around in for a while without really knowing what you’ll stumble upon next.
Take a moment to admire the well-preserved architecture and stop by the Town Hall, a beautiful Renaissance building dating back to the 16th century and opposite it, the unmissable Sibenik Cathedral.
The Old Town is also home to numerous shops and boutiques where you can find unique souvenirs to take home.
If you don’t want to walk around alone or fancy the help of a guide to take you around, make sure to check out this Private Sibenik Walking Tour.
Visit St Michael’s Fortress
Sitting on top of a hill is St. Michael’s Fortress, a medieval fortification overlooking the city and the azure waters below.
The fortress offers a perfect blend of history and modernity and since its renovation in 2014, it now serves as a stunning open-air venue for concerts, theater performances, and cultural events. Catching a show on the open-air stage against the backdrop of a mesmerizing Adriatic sunset is an experience you won’t soon forget.
While St. Michael’s Fortress is the closest to the city center, you can also visit St John’s Fortress and Barone Fortress both located a little further above the Old Town.
Walk the Riva at Sunset
One of the best things to do at sunset, as the sun casts its golden glow on the whole city is to go for a walk along the seafront, the Riva. The palm-lined waterfront offers breathtaking views of the shimmering sea, bobbing sailboats, and the picturesque old town.
As the locals come out after the heat of the day, walking down the Riva really has a magical atmosphere. You can pause for a coffee or grab a gelato as you walk and enjoy the sea views as well as the super yachts.
The Riva stretches from Sibenik train station all the way up to Banj Beach so there’s plenty of space to enjoy an evening stroll.
Admire the Architecture of the Cathedral of St. James…
It’s pretty difficult to visit Šibenik and miss the iconic St. James Cathedral. You’ll no doubt see this fascinating Cathedral as you explore the old town.
The Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a masterpiece of Renaissance and Gothic architecture. As you wander through the intricately carved stone walls and gaze at the stunning rose window, you’ll be transported back in time.
The Cathedral of St James was built in stone and it took an entire century to do so. What’s pretty unique about it is the 70 or so faces that line the outside of the facade. They are thought to be 15th Century residents of Sibenik which definitely give an eerie air to the building.
…and the City Hall
Just opposite the Cathedral of St. James, you’ll find the town hall building tucked away in the historic heart. The Old Town is an architectural masterpiece that showcases the city’s rich history and cultural heritage.
Originally built in the 16th Century (and later rebuilt after the Second World War) this Renaissance building is characterized by a mix of columns and arches as well as balustrades and a picturesque balcony that overlooks the main square.
Inside you’ll find an adorned Venetian-style loggia and a beautiful courtyard. A local cafe occupies the ground floor of the building – a lovely spot for a mid-morning coffee while exploring.
Relax on Sibenik’s Beaches
For those looking to spend some time relaxing and making the most of Croatia’s stunning coastline, you’ll be pleased to know Sibenik does have some beautiful beaches. They are also easy to reach so for the most part, but you do need a car or taxi to access many of them.
Here are some of my favorite beaches to put on your list for Sibenik.
–Banj Beach – Located just north of the old town, this small beach is a nice strip of sand with clear blue waters to relax on and take a dip. The beach also has lovely views of the Old Town. A great option for those without a car.
Jadrija– A small little settlement on the forested peninsula close to Sibenik. You’ll find many different spots of sand and coves in this village. It’s a great place to spend the whole day but you’ll need a car to get here.
White Beach at the Solaris Beach Resort– a long stretch of sandy coastline, ideal for sunbathing and relaxing. The shallow waters make it suitable for families with children. The resort offers various facilities, including beach bars, restaurants, and water sports activities, ensuring a fun-filled day by the sea.
Žaborić Beach– Further down the coast near Žaborić you’ll find a lovely pebble beach with pristine, turquoise water amid a gorgeous setting. It’s a lovely beach for those wanting to escape the crowds and get a little further out of Sibenik.
Take a Boat to Kornati National Park
One of Croatia’s gems, located off the coast of Croatia between Zadar and Sibenik is Kornati National Park. This national park archipelago consists of about 140 small uninhabited islands with beautiful little coves and a plethora of different wildlife, both on the islands and in the water around them.
On an organized tour, you can spend the day sailing to many of the islands and uncovering the best swim and snorkeling spots around. Visiting the Kornati National Park is one of the best things to do in Šibenik.
For the best small group boat trip, check out this Kornati Experience Boat Tour.
Things to do in Sibenik: Discover the Local Foods
Croatia has a rich gastronomic history influenced by its history and diverse regional influences. On the Dalmatian Coast and in Sibenik, seafood takes center stage with freshly caught fish, shellfish, and octopus gracing the menus of charming seaside restaurants.
Some of the most popular dishes are plates of grilled squid, fried seafood baskets, black risotto, and brudet (fish stew) simmered with local herbs and spices. You’ll also see many influences from Italy as breads, pasta, and grilled meat are also very popular.
Sibenik has some really great restaurants to visit to sample the local flavors. For the full list of where to eat in Sibenik check out the section below.
Visit St. Nicholas Fortress
Standing tall on an island in the middle of St. Anthony’s Channel is the mighty St. Nicholas Fortress. It’s a must-see attraction in Sibenik which dates back to the 16th century. The fortress is a testament to Sibenik’s rich maritime history.
Upon entering you’ll be able to explore the labyrinthine passages, climb up the stone staircases, and marvel at the breathtaking views of the Adriatic Sea. The fortress also houses an exhibition that showcases its history and significance.
While the fortress is on an island, access is via a walkway bridge from the mainland but you will need a car to reach it.
Hike the St. Anthony’s Canal Hiking Trail
On the peninsula leading to St Nicholas Fortress, you’ll find a gorgeous coastline full of pristine coves, azure water, and shaded pine forest. If you fancy getting out of Sibenik and experiencing some outdoor activities for the afternoon, the St. Anthony’s Hiking Trail is a fantastic way to enjoy the outdoors and discover some pristine spots.
The footpath starts here from where you’ll be able to hike or even bike the whole coastal path all the way to St. Nicholas Fortress. Make sure to bring plenty of water if hiking in the summer as the path is quite exposed.
Unwind in the Gardens of St Lawrence Monastery
On the same path that leads up to St. Michael’s Fortress, you’ll find a small, hidden medieval Mediterranean garden. A garden like this is a rare find in Croatia and it was actually abandoned for 100 years before being fully restored into what you can see today.
Walking around you’ll find a small fountain in the center, surrounded by shrubs, flowers, and medicinal herbs. It’s a very serene place to be. There’s a small cafe here too in case you want to hang around for a little longer.
Visit Sibenik City Museum
For those more geared toward history and culture, the Sibenik Museum is a great museum to learn more about local history.
Located just around the corner from St. James Cathedral, the city museum is housed in a renovated palace. It contains many exhibits full of artifacts that range from pre-historic times until recent history. You’ll learn all about the prominent leaders and figures who were influential in the area and the events that sculpted the city that we see today.
Go Island Hopping
Sibenik is ideally situated for exploring the nearby islands of the Adriatic Sea. There’s just so many to see it’s impossible not to. Hop on a ferry, sign up for a tour, or hire a private boat and set off on an island-hopping adventure.
One must-visit island is Krapanj, known for its tranquil atmosphere, charming village, and the unique Museum of Sponge Collecting.
Zlarin is another gem, famous for its vibrant coral jewelry and pristine beaches. Each island has its own distinct character and offers a chance to escape the crowds and bask in the serenity of the Adriatic.
Do some Watersports
As you might expect, there are many great spots for water sports on the Croatian coast and Sibenik is one of those. One of the best things to do in Sibenik is to take to the water and have some fun.
Two of the most popular options are SUP and kayaking where you can explore the Sibenik area from the water. You’ll be able to rent a kayak at Kayaking Sibenik located at the marina, just south of town.
Alternatively, this Sibenik kayaking guided tour will take you to the gorgeous island of Prvić nearby. The tour does depart from Vodice, just north of Sibenik.
Best Things to Do Near Sibenik
For those basing themselves in Sibenik and wanting to do more day tours, this section is for you.
Given its strategic location on the Croatian coast, you can easily get from Sibenik to many other sights in Croatia for just the day including Primosten, Trogir, Split, Krka National Park, Plitvice National Park, Zadar, and even some off-the-beaten-path islands.
It does help to have a rental car but you can also take private tours or opt for public transport to many of the following places.
Take a Trip to Zadar
Just a little over an hour away from Sibenik is the historic city of Zadar. If this charming city isn’t already on your Croatia itinerary, you might want to take a day to visit it.
Zadar is very much like a larger Sibenik and I found the charming atmosphere to be quite similar in both cities. Make sure to start your day in Zadar by exploring the Old Town- there are so many intriguing narrow alleys to explore. You’ll find many ancient Roman ruins intertwining with medieval churches and charming squares.
Make sure to also visit the impressive St. Donatus Church and take a quick peek into St. Anastasia Cathedral. Don’t miss a meal or two in Zadar too, the city has so many great restaurants to choose from.
For sunset, head to the Sea Organ, a unique art installation that harnesses the power of the sea to create enchanting melodies.
One of my favorite little towns in Croatia, Primošten is simply magical. If there’s only one day trip you decide to do from Sibenik, make it this one.
Just a short drive down the coast from Sibenik, Primosten has an old town located on a circular peninsula jutting out into the sea. Wherever you look there’s glistening water and around the old town, you’ll also find some fantastic beaches to relax on.