Dreaming of a Croatia vacation? Sibenik Croatia is a coastal town with charming streets and waterfall swimming at nearby Krka National Park.
A few months ago Alex, me and our toddler Larson ventured out on a 3 week vacation to Europe. Most of the trip was on the Mediterranean coast, but we made a brief stop to the Adriatic coast in Sibenik Croatia. Why a Croatia vacation? Croatia is blowing up as a vacation destination for its charming Medieval cities and sparkling blue waters. And have you heard of the Croatia waterfalls? The more time we went in Sibenik, the more I grew to love this beautiful region. Should Sibenik, Croatia be on your travel bucket list? Absolutely. Keep reading to learn why.
Where is Sibenik Croatia?
Croatia has become a hot spot for tourists lately. Sibenik is a lesser known Croatia destination, but it’s absolutely worth visiting (it’s pronounced Shib-en-ik). We decided to visit Sibenik partially because of geography: this portion of our trip was a weekend getaway with our friends who live in Vienna. We flew from Rome to their apartment in Vienna, then the five of us (two couples and a toddler!) drove 7 hours to Sibenik. It was a bit of a hike to get there since we were driving, but absolutely worth it.
Sibenik sits in the middle of the country right on the Adriatic Sea. It’s a Medieval town that’s incredibly charming, dating back to 1066. It actually used to be part of Venice for most of history, so it has an Italian vibe. One of Sibenik’s recent claims to fame is that an episode of Game of Thrones was filmed there. If you visit there, you’ll see why — I don’t know anything about the show, but even I could tell the backdrop is perfect for a medieval fantasy storyline. The rough stone buildings and winding streets become more and more magical the more time you spend in Sibenik.
Things to do in Sibenik
Most of what we did in Sibenik wander around the picturesque streets, eat food, and go to the beach. Pretty much the perfect Croatia vacation, if you ask us! Our Airbnb was near the beach, so every morning we would walk to the beach. (Though it was further from the town, we enjoyed staying in the area near the beach; more below on where to stay.) Here is the view of Sibenik from the beach. Pretty ideal, right?
Long strolls in the historic town center are a must. In the center of town is the St. James Cathedral, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Completed in the 1400s, it’s mysteriously beautiful. (And yes, this was where one of the Game of Thrones scenes was filmed.) I’ve seen lots of European Cathedrals, and this one has become one of my favorites. There’s something about it that’s eerily intriguing. We also wandered around and got lost in the maze of tiny narrow streets of Sibenik.
Aside from the town center, you can also walk along the waterfront near the sailboats and yachts, and get ice cream. There’s also a little playground for kiddos in that area (and a trampoline, which Larson would have loved if he were older).
Of course, some of our favorite memories were eating…and swimming in waterfalls! Keep reading.
Croatia waterfalls: Krka National Park
Have you heard of the Croatia waterfalls? There are two major national parks in Croatia with pristine waterfalls: Plitvice and Krka National Parks. The Krka waterfalls are a bit smaller and not as well known as Plitvice, which is partly why we chose Sibenik as our destination. Krka National Park is under a 1 hour drive from Sibenik. We hoped the Krka waterfalls would not be crowded, but there were more people than we expected (we visited in July)! So, we’d recommend if you go to go as early in the day as possible.
In the midst of a rather dry landscape, Krka National Park is an oasis, full of blue green streams and lovely falls. One of our favorite parts was the hike down to the waterfalls. Wooden paths take you right over the impossibly green water with tangled trees overhead that feel like a Cypress grove. But of course the falls were just magical. The water was crystal clear and I carefully waded in with Larson. It felt like the most surreal experience to actually get to be in the water: and of course Larson was completely delighted! I hope that these falls will be treated gently enough that humans will continue to be able to swim in them. It was a total highlight of our trip!
Where to eat in Sibenik Croatia
Another highlight of Sibenik was the food. We didn’t run into the most traditional Croatian food at the restaurants we ended up at, they were delicious nonetheless. One restaurant we enjoyed was Bounty, a small, family owned restaurant right on the water. The food had quite a bit of British influence (think fish and chips), but we had two more traditional dishes: octopus stew over polenta and my risotto with zucchini and broad beans. The Croatian dry white wine was fantastic.
One of our favorite restaurants was called SHE Bio Bistro, which had more of a hippie California vibe crossed with Croatian food. The highlight of this meal was the Dalmatian potato salad (Sibenik is on the Dalmatian Coast). It was so simple, but intensely flavorful with tangy potatoes, olive oil, salt, red onions, capers, and a sprinkle of parsley. One of the other standouts was an orange & almond polenta cake, with the texture of cheesecake but made with polenta, ground almonds, eggs, yogurt, and rum. This one was Italian inspired, and we noticed a lot of Italian influence in the food of this region (like lots of truffle pasta, etc). After all, Sibenik was a part of Venice until almost the 1800’s.
We also stopped at the farmers market and got some delicious pastries, including this spinach and cheese filled filo pastry called burek! It was fantastic and if you go, you must keep an eye out. We did a little research and found that many countries in Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, Balkans and Western Asia serve burek. Traditionally the burek in Serbia, Macedonia, Croatia, Montenegro and Slovenia is round and filled with meat or cheese.
Where to stay in Sibenik Croatia
In Sibenik we stayed in this Airbnb. While it wasn’t quite our decor style, it had a lovely view of the water and was a 5 minute walk from the beach. It was also about a 15 minute walk into the historic center of town. For me, an ideal vacation is steps from the beach and a short walk to town, so this was the perfect locale. (We picked the same type of location in Tellaro, Italy.) Our Airbnb owner was the kindest, most charming couple who had big gardens and even dropped off some produce they had grown so we could cook it for dinner! As nice as it is to stay in hotels, we love renting houses especially when traveling with kids: having access to a kitchen and having the ability to meet locals are two huge perks.
A fun surprise: World Cup finals
When we picked the dates for our trip, we had no idea that one of the days we’d be there would be the World Cup final. As the weeks approached and the Croatian team kept winning, we crossed our fingers they’d be in the final game. Somehow, Croatia was in the World Cup final and the game took place the last day we were in Sibenik! We got Larson a Croatia jersey and staked out a spot in a local bar. The crowd was incredibly tense as they watched the players in the most important game of their lives.
Sadly, Croatia ended up losing the game. However, the amount of celebration after the game was just as much as if they had won! People were all over the streets in their red and white garb, honking horns, crying, singing, hugging, and shooting off fireworks. When we asked our Airbnb host if he was sad, he said “No! It’s a huge honor to be second. As Croatia we are a small country. We are so proud!”
This, of course, endeared us to the country even more. We had an incredible time in Sibenik and would love to go back someday (especially to Krka National Park!). Are you interested in Croatia as a travel destination? Have you been? Let us know in the comments below!
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