Although the Croatian city of Šibenik dates back to the 11th century, much of its preserved old town was built in the 15th and 16th centuries. While not often seen as one of Croatia’s main tourist destinations, this medieval city with its many historical attractions is well worth your itinerary and is an ideal base for exploring nearby areas such as the Krka and Kornati National Parks. Sights of particular interest within the city include its superb 16th-century Renaissance cathedral, many ancient churches, and two ancient forts.
Šibenik’s Cathedral of St. James (Katedrala Sv Jakova), now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the architectural highlights of the Dalmatian coast. Construction of this magnificent cathedral began in the early 15th century and was completed over 100 years under the initial direction of the Venetian architect Antonio Dalle, who was later passed on to the sculptor Jurac Dalmatinac and then to Nikola Firentinac. During construction, a variety of styles were combined, including a Gothic lower floor and a Renaissance upper floor. One of the most notable features is the exquisite frieze outside the apse, which features more than 70 unique faces representing ordinary citizens in the 15th century. Also of interest are the old manuscripts of Bishop Šižgorić ‘s Gift of the Wise Men by the portals of Ricciardi and Lion and the fine figures of Adam and Eve by Dalmatina and Bonino Milano.
St Anne’s Fortress
Saint Anne’s Fortress is the oldest defensive structure in Šibenik, dating back to the Middle Ages. Although the original structure was largely destroyed after a devastating fire in the ammunition storage room following a lightning strike, it was rebuilt in the late 16th century. While the fortress is largely in ruins today, it is worth visiting its crumbling old city walls for its spectacular views of the city and the Adriatic Sea. The winding, narrow streets of the old medieval town of Gradina are reached by steep walking paths, a place especially worth visiting at sunset.
The imposing two-storey Šibenik Town Hall (Gradskavijećnica) just across the Cathedral Square is well worth a visit. Famous for its beautiful large columns, arches and balustrades, this fine example of Renaissance architecture dates back to the mid-16th century and was built by renowned architect Michele Sanmicheli. Although largely destroyed during the Allied air raids in Sibenik during World War II, the building was completely rebuilt after the original plan after the war.
St. Nicholas Fortress
The fortress of St. Nicholas (Tvrđava Sv. Nikole), built in the 16th century to defend the port of Šibenik from Turkish maritime attacks, is one of only three such fortresses to exist in the Mediterranean (the others are in Venice and Malta). The fort resembles an arrowhead and was built on the site of a former monastery on an island on the mainland. Designed by the famous Venetian architect Hyeronimus di San Michaela, it once had an impressive 32 cannons. This masonry fortress is over 500 years old, and although it has remained relatively well preserved over the years, it is best viewed as part of an organized city tour or private charter.
Krka National Park
Krka National Park (Nacionalni Park Krka) was established in 1985 to protect ecologically important areas around the middle and lower reaches of the Krka River. As the river flows down from upstream, it encounters a series of lakes and rapids, as well as the beautiful river Roski Slap and Skradinski Buk waterfalls . In the center of the park is Lake Visovac, just below the Roski Slap waterfall, and from here the Krka River joins the Cikola River before flowing over Skradinski Buk and out to sea. The park is a popular destination for bird watchers and is home to about 200 different bird species, including herons and egrets. It also has many important cultural attractions, including the orthodox Krka Monastery (Arandjelovac), which dates back to the early 15th century, and Samostan Visovac , an island monastery on Lake Visovac. The waterfalls are easily accessible from Lozovac and Miljevci, and you can also arrive by boat from Skradin for a particularly interesting outing.