Šibenik fell on hard times after the 1991 war, and the former industrial port town is still suffering from the economic fallout. However, as coastal towns go, Šibenik offers a change of pace from Dalmatia’s strong Italianate influences since its origins are pure Croatian rather than Roman.
Situated on a broad bay at the mouth of the Krka River, Šibenik’s footprint is sometimes likened to that of an amphitheater as it hugs the slopes that emanate from St. Anne’s Fortress, a sprawl that began shortly after the city first was mentioned in Croatian historical writings in 1066. Today, much of Šibenik’s charm comes from the warren of steep, winding streets and passages, the many sets of stone steps leading up to the center, and the ruins of city fortifications that fan out from St. Anne’s to the water. Above the harbor, Šibenik’s center is crowded with churches, monasteries, and stone dwellings, clustered on narrow, covered streets that open to a series of interior town squares.
Šibenik’s most prominent attraction is the Cathedral of St. James, which made the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000. St. James is a must-see for anyone who comes to town, even the upscale tourists who berth their yachts overnight in Šibenik’s harbor. Indeed, the city is a favorite port of call for yachts touring the eastern Adriatic and Kornati National Park. It also is within easy access of Krka National Park, a region in the Dinaric Alps with karst and waterfalls similar to those of Plitvice, though at Krka you can also swim, which is not allowed at Plitvice.
Immediately offshore, Šibenik has an archipelago of its own, a group of small islands with picturesque coves, blue Croatian sea, idyllic beaches, and few inhabitants. Two of them, Zlarin and Prvić, once were summer havens for Croatian writers, who retreated there to find their muses. The islands are linked to Šibenik by Jadrolinija ferries on regular runs to the Vodice resort area north of town.