Sightseeing in Sibenik is a wonderful experience – it is well worth making a stop here for an afternoon if you’re exploring Dalmatia. If you’re staying in Sibenik or nearby – even better! There are plenty of things in the town to keep you occupied: Sibenik is home to two amazing UNESCO World Heritage sites – the Cathedral of St James and St Nicholas Fortress – out of the eight such sites in total in the country. There are also many more excellent landmarks and activities in the town as well.
Here’s our guide to Sightseeing in Sibenik.
Cathedral of St James
One of the most important sights in Sibenik is the Cathedral of St. James (Katedrala sv. Jakova), which, as mentioned, is on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The cathedral was built between 1431 and 1536 from limestone and marble (from the island of Brac). The early stages of the cathedral were designed and built by Italian masters, but between 1444 and 1447 construction work was under the direction of the famous Croatian sculptor Juraj Dalmatinac.
There are many fine elements of the Cathedral that are worth noting when visiting; on the Cathedral’s exterior, you will find 74 heads around the apses. The construction techniques – where the stone was chiselled so pieces could fit together perfectly – mean that the exterior facade truly reflects the triple-aisled interior, which is a rarity.
Memorial to Juraj Dalmatinac
Opposite the entrance to the cathedral is a Memorial to Juraj Dalmatinac. This statue was created by the greatest Croatian sculptor of the 20th century, Ivan Mestrovic, and is of Dalmatinac, a sculptor and architect from Dalmatia.
Dalmatinac was the principal architect for the Cathedral of St James but also worked on the Rector’s Palace and Minceta Fortress in Dubrovnik and the town plan of Pag. Ivan Mestrovic, in turn, also has a connection to Sibenik – he grew up in the small village of Otavice which is about 40km inland from the town.
St Nicolas Fortress
St Nicholas Fortress is located on the islet of Ljuljevac at the entrance to the St Anthony’s Channel in the Adriatic. This fortress was built under Venetian rule in the 16th century as a defence for Sibenik’s port against attacks launched from the sea.
The Fortress is another UNESCO World Heritage site in Sibenik, and is listed as one of the “Venetian Works of Defence 16th and 17th Centuries”, which are defensive walls located at six different sites in Croatia, Italy, and Montenegro.
The Fortress gets its name as the islet was once home to the Benedictine Monastery of St Nicholas.
You can visit the Fortress via scheduled boats from Sibenik’s waterfront, and it is well worth a visit! As well as visiting the fortress itself, the short boat trip to the islet offers magnificent views of Sibenik as you leave and return. (Not to mention that it’s always nice being on the water!)
Tours of the fortress include a very knowledgeable guide as well as rather high-tech tablets which offer additional information at numerous points within the fortress; there are even augmented reality elements as characters on the screen “come to life”, as well as games to play.
Heading up onto the roof of the fortress is also a must, with excellent views all around. High recommended!
Just to the north of the Cathedral is the Loggia, the original of which was built in typical Italian style between 1533 and 1542; what is here today is a largely faithful reconstruction built the original was entirely destroyed by bombing during WWII. Part of it now houses a restaurant.
Several other churches are worth visiting, such as the 15th-century Church of St Barbara (Crkva sv Barbare) and the 17th-century, baroque-style Church of St Nicholas.
At the edge of the Old Town you will come to Poljana, a wide open space with some rather modern touches seemingly everywhere you look – the Water Clock for one, and the City Library in its glass building. (Not to mention the parking garage underneath the square!) In one corner, you will find a 4-metre-wide bronze model of Sibenik, which was unveiled in 2021. The Croatian National Theatre (mentioned below) is also located on one side of the square.
Croatian National Theatre
The Croatian National Theatre in Sibenik was founded in 1870. Local boy and now internationally famous actor Goran Visnjic started his career here.
Roberto de Visiani Park / Perivoj Roberta Visanija
On the eastern edge of Sibenik’s old town is a pleasant little park – Perivoj Roberta Visanija – that is a lovely place to have a rest amongst the greenery after a spot of sightseeing. (Roberto de Visiani was a 19th-century Italian botanist who was born in Sibenik.) The park is home to a statue of Peter Kresimir IV, King of Dalmatia and Croatia from 1059 to 1074. This park often hosts important events in Sibenik, such as advent celebrations at Christmastime.
St Michael’s Fortress
Up on the hill overlooking Sibenik’s Old Town at a height of 70m is St Michael’s Fortress, the origins of which stem from the 11th century although the fortress was added to in the 17th century. (An EU-funded revitalisation project also took place in the early 2010s.) Unsurprisingly, given its position, the Fortress offers stunning views out to sea and over Sibenik, with being able to look at St James’s Cathedral from above a particular highlight.
The Fortress can be visited year-round and an audio guide is included in the entry price. The Fortress is also home to a 1077-seater auditorium which has hosted some wonderful concerts over the last few years – if you get the opportunity to attend an event here, definitely go!
St John’s Fortress
Constructed in less than two months in 1646 to protect against advancing Turkish forces, St John’s Fortress is located slightly further inland and is at a height of 115m. Originally built as a star shape – typical for the time – the fortress was also added to over time. This fortress also underwent a revitalisation project and was reopened in 2022.
Open year-round, the fortress is free to visit from November to April.
Located right in the Old Town, Aquarium Sibenik is home to a wide variety of species from the Adriatic Sea, as well as freshwater fish from around the world, and reptiles in terrariums.
Sibenik City Museum was founded in 1925 and is housed in the Prince’s Palace, adjacent to St James’s Cathedral. The Museum offers a history of the city through its exhibits, including paintings, coins, sculptures and more.
More Sightseeing in Sibenik
If you’d like to undertake a ‘virtual’ tour of the town, take a look at our Photos of Sibenik gallery for glimpses of some of the above sights and plenty more besides.