Day trip to Sibenik from Zadar: 6 sights to see

Day trip to Sibenik from Zadar: 6 sights to see

During our research for our day trip to Krka National Park, the city of Sibenik gained our attention. The seaside city is located just 11 miles from Skradin, the main entrance to the park, and we had read that a stop in Sibenik may be required. With an hour (or longer) bus connection we could add a quick tour of Sibenik – a city boasting forts and historic churches – to our day trip itinerary, which was an appealing option. In the end, we rode a direct bus from Zadar to Skradin, eliminating the stop. However, it did not diffuse our desire to see the town so we planned a specific day trip to Sibenik from Zadar to take in the city’s sights.

Trg Republike Hrvatske in Sibenik, Croatia was quiet during our day trip to sibenik

The main square in Sibenik, beside the St. James Cathedral

Sibenik History

The area was first settled by Croats in the 7th century. Two centuries later, a protective fort had been constructed as the town’s importance increased due to its strategic port. In the years that followed, the city fell under various control – Hungarian, Venetian, Ottoman, Austrian, French (under Napoleon) and Yugoslavian – and was expanded, destroyed by war and by fire and rebuilt. The result is a charming, yet compact, hillside community with an astonishing number of churches and remnants of fortifications.

Throughout the old town in Sibenik, we found remains of the past

Throughout the old town in Sibenik, we found remains of the past.

6 Sights to see on a day trip to Sibenik

Cathedral

After walking from the bus station along the water’s edge, we entered the town at the steps that led to the Cathedral of St. James. Probably more impressive if the enormous dome hadn’t been under restoration, the exterior of the church was still intriguing. The intricate main façade loomed overhead.

The towering facade of St. James Cathedral in Sibenik

The towering facade of St. James Cathedral.

But it was the north portico, facing the square, that I liked best for its almost humorous statues of Adam and Eve using their hands to cover themselves. Another somewhat odd and unique feature were the series of stone-carved heads protruding from the rear of the church.

The north portico of St. James Cathedral, featuring statues of Adam and Eve, in Sibenik, Croatia

The north portico of St. James Cathedral, featuring statues of Adam and Eve.

Larger than life, stone-carved heads protrude from the rear of St. James Cathedral in Sibenik, Croatia

Larger than life, stone-carved heads protrude from the rear of St. James Cathedral

Fortresses

Of the four remaining fortresses – three of which are hilltop, one on the sea – St. Michael’s was the first to be restored and only recently completed in 2014. Sitting above the town like a wedding cake topper, it is easily accessible by taking any lane that leads up. Inside is a 1,000-plus seat outdoor concert venue and amazing views – or so we are told. Tickets for a walk around the interior are a bit high – and combined with an unpleasant encounter with a ticket seller, we opted to pass on the visit.

St. Michael's Fort can be visited during a day trip to Sibenik, Croatia

St. Michael’s Fort

St. Ana Cemetery

Fortunately, there are plenty of quaint streets to explore and lesser-known attractions around town. Next to the fortress is the St. Ana Cemetery. The elevated gravesites are crammed into the limited space, barely leaving room to walk between them. We could see St. John’s Fortress to the north and, to the south, was a partially obstructed panoramic of the Adriatic Sea and the off-shore islands.

In Sibenik, St. Ana's compact cemetery offers a view of the sea

St. Ana’s compact cemetery offers a view of the sea.

In Sibenik, Croatia, from St. Ana's Cemetery, there are views of St. John's Fort to the north

To the north of St. Ana’s Cemetery is St. John’s Fort.

Monastery Gardens

Another retreat from the narrow, old town lanes is the Medieval Monastery Mediterranean Garden of St. Lawrence. The church of St. Lawrence was built in the 17th century and the crumbling bell tower remains. The colorful and fragrant garden was opened to the public in 2007 and replicates the type of garden that the monks would have planted.

St. Lawrence Medieval Mediterranean Garden in Sibenik, Croatia

The Monastery garden

The tower of St. Lawrence Church in Sibenik, Croatia

The tower of St. Lawrence Church.

Churches

We walked the jumble of old town lanes from east to west, never walking very far before stumbling onto yet another church. The tourist map identifies 17 churches, 14 of which are located within the old town. Using the free In Your Pocket guidebook from the Tourist Information Center, we were able to learn some of the history of the churches. On our Saturday afternoon visit, most had their doors closed – and we learned that many aren’t ever open to the public.

We stumbled on many bell towers and churches as we walked through the old town lanes during our day trip to Sibenik, Croatia

We stumbled on many bell towers and churches as we walked through the old town lanes.

One church, the Gothic-redone-in-Baroque St. Francis’ Church, had its doors open and we gladly took a look inside. But, honestly, we were just as content with the street view and, quite possibly, more enamored by the streets that led to hidden cafes, tucked away playgrounds and fascinating display of historic architecture.

St. Francis Church in Sibenik, Croatia

St. Francis Church

Sunlight from an open side door fell on a statue in a side altar in the St. Francis Church in Sibenik, Croatia

Sunlight from an open side door fell on a statue in a side altar in the St. Francis Church.

Narrow streets and narrow buildings in Sibenik, Croatia

Narrow streets and narrow buildings.

Sibenik Marina and Waterfront

To complete our day trip to Sibenik, we left the confines of the cobblestone streets and walked the length of the town along the water. On the west end, the marina houses fishing boats, while the east end is cluttered with water facing cafes. After a few hours of exploring Sibenik on foot, relaxing on a bench that faced the sea was an ideal end to our day trip.

The relaxing waterfront in Sibenik, Croatia

Sibenik’s relaxing waterfront.

We want to know: Have you made a a day trip to Sibenik? What were the town highlights for you? Tell us about it in the comments!

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