If you’re visiting the lovely town of Sibenik, you’re in for a real treat! This smart town has it all – great accommodation options, good food, and some amazing sights. There are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sibenik; no other location in Croatia has two such sites in the same place! Here, we will explain how to visit the impressive St Nicholas’ Fortress and review whether it is worth it.
St Nicholas’ Fortress – a bit of history
To expand on what we’ve said above – St Nicholas’ Fortress is indeed a UNESCO World Heritage site but under the title of “Venetian Works of Defence between the 16th and 17th Centuries”. These works of defence include six different sites; three in Italy, one in Kotor in Montenegro and the Old Town walls in Zadar.
Located in St Anthony’s Channel, out to sea from Sibenik, the fortress sits on a tiny island named Ljuljevac. Bult between 1540 and 1547 by Venetian architect Giangirolamo Sanmicheli, the fortress was indeed constructed to act as a sea defence against Ottoman boats and to protect the town of Sibenik. The Fortress obviously did its job – Sibenik was never attacked from the sea, and no naval battles in this area were ever recorded.
St Nicholas’ Fortress gets its name from the Benedictine Monastery of St Nicholas which was located on the same island but was demolished to make way for the fortress.
The fortress was opened to visitors in 2019, so it’s only been a short few years that travellers to Croatia have been able to visit the place.
How to visit St Nicholas’ Fortress
St Nicholas’ Fortress can only be visited on an official boat tour. You cannot visit using a private boat or via an unofficial tour boat.
Boats depart Sibenik’s waterfront, close to Perivoj Robert Visanija and the Hotel Bellevue. Tickets for the tour can be purchased in a little office just opposite the boat – ask the guide or captain on board the boat to point it out to you if you can’t spot it. Alternatively, you can also purchase tickets ahead of time online on the St Anthony’s Channel website.
Tickets cost €22 for adults and €16 for children aged 7 to 18 years old. Children under the age of 7 go free.
Boats run several times a day (four times a day in peak season, July and August; two or three times a day outside of these months) from the end of April to mid-October.
What you see and do on the St Nicholas’ Fortress Tour
Upon boarding the boat, you are given a tablet – with headphones – that’s loaded with an interactive tour of the fortress. Its a quirky addition to the tour that feels a little unusual at first, but makes sense once you actually step foot inside St Nicholas’ Fortress.
It’s a 30-minute boat ride over to Ljuljevac island on the comfortable boat; make sure you take in your surroundings and get your camera out as there are plenty of photo-worthy scenes. As you sail through St Anthony’s Channel, you’ll notice lush greenery on both sides; on the left, you might notice a path through the trees (and eventually a small beach) that you might want to return to another day. There’s also an intriguing tunnel set in the cliff walls – this was built by the Germans in WWII and continued to be used in the days of Yugoslavia. (It is no longer used, of course!)
When you arrive at the Fortress and disembark on the pier, make sure you take some photos of the grand main entrance. It really is an impressive first experience of the Fortress, and when you arrive you truly understand the amazing way the structure has been built on this islet, right up to the water’s edge.
Once inside the Fortress, the guided tour begins. Our tour guide was a lively lady who spoke excellent English and was perfect at explaining the different elements of the complex. As mentioned, however, all visitors are also given a tablet with an interactive tour. There are different numbers displayed on walls throughout the Fortress at which you are supposed to play some additional audio or video on your tablet.
The same tablet also allows for some neat augmented reality elements – suddenly, some “guards” may appear right before your eyes! Walking through what would have been the ammunition storage room, you are also guided to play a game on the tablet, shooting cannonballs at attacking ships.
Whilst the different interior components of the Fortress are interesting, once you get on the roof you can really get a sense for how well placed St Nicholas’ Fortress would have been to protect the town of Sibenik. These days, you can rest easy with some gorgeous views out to see, and the only boats to remark on are the numerous speedboats taking holidaymakers somewhere fun.
Is it worth visiting St Nicholas’ Fortress?
Absolutely, yes! All in all, this is a very interesting, informative and highly pleasant little trip.
We visited the fortress in the mid-afternoon in the peak summer season – late July – and although the trip was busy with a good number of visitors, it wasn’t overly crowded. I believe the full capacity of the boats/tour is 94 people, and we were probably not even a third of that number.
The boat trip over to the fortress was a very enjoyable start and end to the trip – a lovely way of experiencing St Anthony’s Channel and an opportunity to snap some gorgeous shots of Sibenik from the sea.
You can find out more about visiting St Nicholas’ Fortress on the official St Anthony’s Channel website.