Šibenik : dalmatia coast : croatia

Šibenik : dalmatia coast : croatia

Although we’ve now lived in Croatia (Istria, to be exact) over six years, and we’ve done lots of exploring, we are still yet to discover the hotspots of Split and Dubrovnik and the more southerly islands. It’s not out of lack of interest or for want of trying, but we’re still finding so much to still discover closer to home. And especially now that Croatia has joined the Schengen Zone, living very close to the Slovenian border, we find that heading north or over into Italy, is so easy. But, we’ve not neglected the more southerly parts of Croatia, having visited Zadar two or three times, Murter Island and the beautiful city of Šibenik. About four hours down the Adriatic highway, this is a real gem of a city – especially if you love your history, as it is steeped in it.

It’s the perfect city for wandering, as its centre is compact and you can just lose yourself along the winding, cobbled streets. You’ll never get lost as you can always head back down to the sea to get your bearings, or just keep the imposing UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Sibenik Cathedral of St. James, as your marker, as it dominates the skyline of the old town. Built over 105 years (1431-1536) in Gothic and Renaissance styles, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is considered one of the best examples of medieval architecture. There are a few unique features to this Cathedral such as its walls which were built entirely of stone with no mortar or other binding material. On the outside of the walls are 71 sculpted human heads of some of Sibenik’s residents during the period of the Cathedral’s construction – and this was quite something at the time, as ordinary people were given recognition for an important development in the city.

The town hall is located across from the Cathedral of St James, on the city’s main medieval square, the Square of the Republic of Croatia. It’s a Venetian-styled building, resplendent with elaborate carvings. Although the Town Hall was rebuilt after it was damaged during World War II, it still resembles the original one which was built in the middle of the 16th century. The cafe style restaurant is a perfect vantage point for viewing the Cathedral and doing a spot of people watching.

The Old Town’s streets, paved with now shiny white marble, are filled with beautiful old stone buildings and pretty squares full of small boutiques, souvenir shops, modern cafes, restaurants, laid-back bars, museums, old churches and monasteries. Sibenik is a walking-friendly city because it’s mostly pedestrianised. The lack of cars, whizzing around, is a real bonus, and the city feels tranquil and peaceful as noise is really reduced. The promenade fringes the edges of the Old Town, so it’s very easy to be in the beating heart of the city one minute and sitting by the sea, the next.

We stayed for three nights (all paid, no freebies etc etc) at the absolutely stunning Life Palace Hotel, located right in the centre of the old town, on Ulica Kralja Tomislava. Right outside the 15th-century Marenci Palace, is a beautiful little piazza, which was the perfect place for an evening drink, and breakfast in the morning. With only seventeen rooms, this hotel could really be described as boutique, with its very sympathetic restoration, combining the heritage of the building and some luxurious modern touches, including a little roof top spa.

With a history as rich as Dubrovnik’s, although definitely more tranquil, Šibenik is perfect for a mini city break on its own, or as stopover if you are exploring the nearby Kornati islands. Whatever you do, though, don’t overlook it. You won’t regret it.

restoran no 4 : sibenik : dalmatia

restoran no 4 : sibenik : dalmatia

Šibenik is an absolutely delightful city, on the dalmatian coast of Croatia. We’re up in northern Istria, so it is quite far away from us – just over 400kms – but as the drive is largely along the E65, the Adriatic Highway, it’s a pleasure to do. The road literally hugs the sea, for miles and miles and miles and sweeps around the most dramatic bays, with plunging cliffs and turquoise waters. Think the Amalfi Coast, without the tourist buses and log-jams. For a lot of the way, it was just us and the views. The islands of Krk, Rab and Pag also run parallel to the road. With all of the towns on the western sides of these islands, the landscape of each, facing the E65, is almost lunar-like. The islands look like sleeping elephants rising out of The Adriatic – just stunning.

And so to Šibenik, more of which in a separate blog, as the city itself, and the boutique hotel we found, are deserving of their own write-up. This blog is all about an amazing restaurant we found, deep in the heart of the old city – Restoran No 4. It doesn’t appear to have a website and its Insta account hasn’t been used on a regular basis. Unsurprising, as the waiter told us that they don’t really advertise themselves, as they don’t really need to. It’s situated off one of the many higgeldy-piggedly white marble paved streets up in the old town. A carved wooden sign, stating “Restoran No 4 Fish & Steak” points up a narrow alleyway, with the menu underneath. We were sold on the menu immediately, for me especially the white fish fillet dish with leeks, courgettes and carrots, and decided that we’d book an outdoor table for the evening.

The little alleyway was set up for evening dinners – a row of tables for two, with candles in wallholders already in evidence. A result even before we sat down. What we didn’t notice however, was the internal courtyard beyond, where we were lucky enough to secure a table. When we arrived for our 8pm table, the restaurant was full – although tables still placed apart to adhere to Covid regulations – so we were delighted to have a reservation in this courtyard.

I say courtyard, but in reality this space would have been a communal area, for the people who lived in apartments up and around the square, and businesses who operated from it. On one side, an artist lived and had his studio here, right up until he died. It hasn’t been taken over and so has a feeling of faded grandeur and elegance. The old bakery, long since closed, is still in evidence, with the faded ghost sign above the door. On one side of the square, sits a beautiful church, the ancient facade being a backdrop to the restaurant. To the side of the church, an ancient Venetian style stone staircase leads up to an apartment. And, unlike the other buildings, these apartments are still lived in, evidenced by people coming and going, between the tables, returning home or leaving for an evening out. Amazing.

So, the food. Wow. For a really moderately priced restaurant – given its setting and location – the food was outstanding. So good in fact, we decided to eat there again, the following evening. A very unusual thing for us to do. Not realising quite how filling the portions were, we opted for a mixed platter starter on the first visit – Dalmatian proscuitto and cheese, with walnuts, peppers, chilli jam and whipped cheese. And the most delicious sourdough bread. Mains were the fish that I spotted earlier on the menu in the afternoon – a fillet of the most succulent Dorado fish, baked in paper with leeks, carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, olives and white wine, and a chicken breast, filled with cheese and olives, wrapped in proscuitto and served with polenta slabs and pesto. Although these would have been sufficient, with hindsight, we just could not resist the roasted potatoes with rosemary and bacon pieces. Potatoes will never be the same again, thanks to Restoran No 4…

On night two, I opted for the chicken dish and the other choice was Linguine with Tuna. and, those potatoes…

There were only three desserts on the menu – Panna Cotta, Almond Cake and Cheesecake – and on both nights, we were determined to at least share one, having seen all three being delivered to various diners. However, we were so satiated on both nights, that we’ll need to revisit, and maybe leave sufficient room for said desserts. We were also introduced to a new Dalmatian white wine – Debit. Although nowadays considered to be an indigenous white variety from the region of North Dalmatia, it is actually thiught that it originated in Italy, in the vicinity of Bari. In Croatia, it is mostly grown in Dalmatia, where it is one of the predominant white grape varieties, and is considered a perfect accompaniment for white fish and chicken dishes. Another spot on recommendation from our waiter…

This is not a sponsored post and we were not paid, in any way, to write about and recommend Restoran No 4, and we paid in full, both nights, for our food and drink. We just thought that the restaurant was pretty amazing, and if anyone is thinking of visiting Šibenik, you won’t go far wrong if you dine here.