Being a city popularly known for its historical relevance and symbols, there are a great number of things to be admired about Šibenik –proximity to the Adriatic Sea, St. James Cathedral (Šibenik’s Central church), the National Parks, the Kornati archipelago to mention a few – but none of them is as impressive as Šibenik four fortresses. Šibenik was one of the well-fortified cities on the Adriatic coastline. Fortresses account for the seaside and inland protection of the city during military invasions. The fortresses and their surrounding environments enchant and appeal to the hearts of tourists and visitors alike with unmatched beauty and lush history. Each of Šibenik’s four fortresses offers a peculiar view of the city and surrounding seas and islands.
If you plan to visit Šibenik for tourism or business, you might not want to miss out on the overwhelming experience of visiting these fortresses at a minimal expense.
St. Michael’s Fortress (Tvrđava Sv. Mihovila)
St. Michael’s is the oldest fortress in Šibenik dating as far back as the 11th century during the rule of King Petar Kresimir IV who was also the founder of Šibenik. The building of the fortress marked the beginning of the city’s expansion. Towering at a 60m altitude, it watches over the Šibenik bay entrance as well as the Kirk river canyon. It is just 10 minutes’ walk from the afamed St. James Cathedral which is a UNESCO World Heritage site; it is quite easy to locate if you follow the road signs. Although the fortress has been destroyed and reconstructed many times in the past, its current structure was retained from the 18th century and has been renovated to modern standards in 2014 adding to its attraction, a massive 1,000+-seater outdoor auditorium complex now utilized for theatrical and musical performances. A 50 Kuna entrance fee for adults is required to enjoy this experience which seems to be on the high side until you realize that the ticket also covers entrance to Barone fortress. Tickets cost 30 Kuna for Children aged 5-18 as well as students, 110 Kuna for Family ticket and free for members of professional society and children less than 5 years. Ticket use is valid for 7 days.
St. John’s Fortress (Tvrđava Sv. Ivana)
It is located at the hilltop of the city’s historical center towering at an altitude of 115m. It derives its name from the medieval church named after John the Baptist. Often said to have been built in less than 2 months during the Cretan war as a protection against the invasions of the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century, it star-shaped structure was drawn-up in 1646 by the Venetian military architect, Antonio Leni while most of the construction work was carried out by the citizens. It served its immediate purpose as less than a year after the construction was completed the Turk Invaders were defeated and pushed away from the city. In modern times, it serves historical and tourist purposes and is increasingly becoming popular around the world. In 2014, Game of Thrones, one of the world’s most popular TV shows used it as a historical backdrop in some scenes.
The tourist experience of St. John’s fortress is both adventurous and humbling and is bound to improve soon as massive excavations and renovations are currently ongoing on the marvelous historical site. It is linked through a tunnel to Barone Fortress.
Barone Fortress (Tvrđava Šubićevac)
The Barone fortress was constructed in 1646 at the same time with St. John’s fortress and is distant only by a 10-15 minutes’ walk including a short hike on a very steep hill. It was also designed by the same architect, Antonio Leni, towering an 80meter altitude on Vidakuša. Named after the war’s main defender, Baron Christoph von Degenfeld, the fortress retains the position of one of the city’s top tourist locations. It played an important role alongside the other fortresses in Šibenik during the Ottoman invasion that lasted between 1645 and 1647. The Barone fortress is the second highest among fortresses that exist in Šibenik with St. John’s coming first. It also appears to be one of the most equipped tourist locations in Šibenik by modern standards. Although constructed in haste, the fortress was fashioned after modern military architecture. With the shape of a star, it solidly stood the heavy artillery attacks. The fortress even contained barracks and magazines.
Having undergone a massive renovation and was opened to the public use in2016, it has been made wheelchair-accessible. The fortress encompasses a technologically-advanced museum that offers the guests a peek into Šibenik as it existed hundreds of years ago as well as the Turkish war. This is made possible by use AR- Augmented Reality, a new technology that augments available images of objects and event in order to create an animated 3D recreation of them. Visitors get the opportunity to relive the dangerous historical sieges and attacks without the danger. The Barone fortress houses coffee bar, where visitors can simultaneously take in savory drinks and a panoramic view of the city; there is also the gastro-cultural center where local and historical cuisines are prepared and visitors also have the opportunity to learn how to prepare them. Drinks are sold at relatively affordable rates. There are also newly-built and properly-maintained restrooms and playground for kids.
St. Nicholas Fortress (Tvrđava Sv. Nikole)
This is the only fortress in Šibenik situated in a sea, the others are on land. It was recently added to UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list naming it to be part of the Venetian works of military defense from 15th to 17th century. It is the smallest of Šibenik’s grand fortification system.
It was built on at entrance of St. Anthony Channel, on the island called Ljuljevac, connected to land only by a narrow walkway. Its name was derived from Benedictine Monastery of St. Nicholas. It was built at the behest of Šibenik citizens in order to prevent Turkish encroachment of the city’s ports. St. Nicholas fortress was designed by a famous Venetian architect, Hyeronimus di San Michaela. Although it was equipped with huge amounts of cannons, it was its dominating size and appearance that threatened potential invaders. Its military capabilities were never put to test.
Although it was never really put to use in war, the Croatian military kept maintaining it for the purpose of arms development until 1979 they abandoned and has only recently started undergoing renovation. As a result, tourists and visitors are not allowed into the interior; they can only explore its exterior and surrounding environment.
How to get there?
You can visit the fortress only by the official boats departing from Šibenik. A two-hour visit will include an attractive boat ride through the Šibenik channel and tour of the fort, accompanied by expert staff and the use of a multimedia guide. Tickets are available at https://www.kanal-svetog-ante.com/en/ticket-purchasing.
Sibenik’s fortress are of high and increasing tourist value. Whatever your purpose in Šibenik is – business or pleasure – a few hours spent visiting one or all of the fortresses in Šibenik won’t hurt. But it will definitely please. And an after-knowledge of how much you missed because you failed to visit these historical marvels is sure to hurt, not a little bit. So, try to make your visit fun by experiencing Sibenik’s four fortresses.
On an overall basis, everyone who is thinking of visiting the fortresses should be prepared to have a great time out because the experience is one that is mind-blowing. In order to spice up your visit, there are the tourist officials on-site who are fully equipped with the knowledge to make your experience excellent. The wonderful history lessons that are usually given, are told with a sense of awe and it sometimes makes you feel like you are in the center of the experience. That is the power of good storytelling and that is the exact goodies that you would be getting from the tour guides. All throughout the history of the four fortresses, there have been very little accounts of security challenges as the personnel there are very prompt in response to any security challenge. Intending visitors with kids should get ready to be hit with a lot of innocent questions as the sights would stimulate the children to ask questions. Nevertheless, every parent and guardian would be efficiently prepared with the guidebook which you can use to satisfy the curiosity of the child.
Getting gifts for loved ones that were left behind is a usual aspect of touring and that is why there are wonderful gift shops that sell great stuff that are intriguing. The food is definitely another mind-blowing feature that you should look forward to during your stay. The local food is tasty and super delicious and you get to share the experience with locals that are around the area. A trip to these fortresses is something that one should look forward to, with much gusto because it contains the full package that makes up for any great trip.
If you are planing on visiting Šibenik any time soon, book your accommodation HERE.