Dubrovnik is overrun with tourists and Zadar is home to the music festivals, but Croatia goes way beyond these well-known tourist hubs. In the central region of Dalmatia, the city of Šibenik is genuinely charming and abounds with history. The nearby river Krka flows to the Adriatic sea; so you can expect beautiful blue waters and stunning beaches galore. And just a 45-minute drive from Split – which is a two-hour flight from Gatwick – Šibenik makes the perfect weekend break.
Šibenik Day One
No visit to a new city should escape a tour, and we recommend booking one through Šibenik’s Tourist Board. You’ll walk through ancient, narrow cobbled streets dating back to the 11th and 12th century, with both Gothic and Renaissance influences seen throughout, reflecting how the city has progressed over the centuries.
Šibenik is known as ‘The Kings City’ as it was home to the court of Croatian King Kreŝimir the 4th in the 11th century. The city is protected by four fortresses on each side: the Fortress of St Nicholas, St. Michael, St. John and the Šubićevac Fortress – so it’s no wonder it provided the perfect backdrop for filming of Game of Thrones. Along with Split and Dubrovnik, much of the TV series was filmed in Croatia with Šibenik one of the most popular locations. On the UNESCO World Heritage list, Šibenik’s central church is the Cathedral of St James, so be sure your tour guide gets you there.
Behind the cathedral sits the stunning City Museum, which was once the 17th century Rector’s Palace. Exhibited artifacts are divided into four periods: Prehistory, Antiquity, Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, providing a fascinating insight into the culture and history of the city. You’ll also find dozens of local archaeological finds, historical exhibitions and lectures to commemorate the 91 years since the Palace became the museum.
All that walking is sure to help you build up an appetite. Opposite Šibenik’s 15th-century cathedral, you’ll find Pelegrini Restaurant – holding too many awards to name, it’s regarded as one of Dalmatia’s best eateries. Pelegrini prides itself on recreating traditional Dalmatian dishes and using only local ingredients; even the wines are locally made -and truly delicious. Obviously, we’d advise trying out the restaurant’s ten-course tasting menu. They’ll bring you a different wine for each course and you’ll feast upon delights such as snail in truffle oil, ox’s cheek, pasta and oysters. Just remember to leave a little space to finish your meal with Pelegrini’s delicious éclairs.
While in Šibenik, classical music fans will love the city’s summer concerts program. Organised by the Croatian National Theatre, Musica Appassionata is Šibenik’s celebrated classical music festival, featuring both local and international musicians. The festival takes place in various spots around the city, during July and August.
Thirsty? Head for Obala Prvoboraca, a stretch of seafront watering holes including Point, a trendy hub for the city’s cool kids, or Vino & Ino, a chic but convivial wine bar packed to the rafters with local tipples. And if you fancy dancing until the small hours, we hear Inside Club is especially good for late-night revellers.
Šibenik Day Two
Located along the course of the Krka River just a few kilometres northeast of Šibenik, Krka National Park is a must-see for anyone visiting the area. The short drive follows the coast and winds through luscious green mountains into the national park, named after the river Krka that it encloses. Spend a leisurely couple of hours walking through the forest, taking in the breathtaking sights of the many vast, cascading waterfalls and drinking in the fresh air.
The current is too strong to go swimming in most of the areas, but there are spots to be found if you ask a guide nicely. There are said to be over 200 species of bird in the park, not to mention wildcats and myriad forms of fish, flora and fauna. Make sure to take a boat ride down the river when you’re there, too. If Krka looks familiar to Game of Thrones fans, that’s because it’s another one of the show’s spectacular locations.
Croatia’s very own international movie marathon, Dalmatia Film Festival launches in August, taking place in three cities: Pirovac, Omiš and Šibenik. Including full-length features and documentaries, the films being considered for the free festival are selected by the five-member jury from works between 2015 and 2016. In addition to the film screenings, the open air festival includes lectures, film workshops, panel discussions and various exhibitions.
While staying in Šibenik, dinner in a typical Dalmatian konoba is essential, and you won’t get more authentic than Roca. 20-minutes drive from city, the restaurant is located within a farm, olive grove and vineyard. In the summer, you can sit outside on huge stone tables overlooking the vineyard and vast green hills while flowers trail up the brick walls around you. If it’s nippy you’ll eat inside; a low-ceilinged tavern with roaring fires, brick walls with framed paintings and homely cupboards filled with antiques. You’ll be served fresh salad, just-baked bread and a mouthwatering traditional chicken dish. It’s all washed down with homemade wine served in tumblers and followed by freshly-made crepes and cherry liquor (be warned – at 30% alcohol you’ll be dizzy after one shot).
As for accommodation,you won’t find chain hotels aplenty here – thankfully – and chic D-Resort Šibenik is the perfect balance between premium and boutique. With sleek, modern interiors and a bold, architectural style, D-Resort Šibenik’s spacious rooms come with sprawling balconies and tranquil views of the sparkling sea. The hotel’s Art Restaurant overlooks these views from its top floor – the ideal spot to enjoy a local wine at sunset, buffet breakfast first thing or a gourmet three-course dinner. There’s also a spa with indulgent massages and luxe Erno Laszlo facials should you want a spot of pampering over your break (and why wouldn’t you?) and a rather lovely pool – perfect for a little relaxation in between all that culture, food, cocktails and sightseeing!
Classic Collection Holidays offers 7 nights at D-Resort Šibenik from £876 per person, based on two adults sharing a superior sea view room on a bed and breakfast basis and includes return flights from London Gatwick (other UK departure airports available) and private transfers.