Sibenik, Croatia’s economic renaissance repurposes, renews & reconnects its heritage

If you’re a traveler, you’ve probably heard of popular tourist destinations like Zadar or Split on Croatia‘s Dalmatian coast. But the small seaside town of Sibenik is probably not in your travel plans. Yet.

Šibenik is on the rise, in a renaissance being driven by repurposing, renewing and reconnecting the town’s many historic structures. It’s a great example of the 3Re Strategy in action.

For instance: the old town historic Venetian palazzos have been given a new lease on life, repurposed into heritage hotels and restaurants.

Sibenik aerial photo courtesy of the Croatian National Tourist Board.

Sibenik was built around St. Michael’s Fortress, which dominates the old town and offers spectacular views of St. Anthony’s Channel to the Adriatic Sea. Fully restored and open to the public since 2014, the fortress’ best feature is its open air theatre.

Many other centuries-old buildings and infrastructure are being transformed into cultural venues, hotels and other businesses. A good example is the city’s four 15th century underground water cisterns. These red brick medieval structures have been transformed into an exhibition space and bar area with concerts.

Restoration efforts have now turned to the island fortress of St. Nicholas, which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site last year. Built in 1540, the fortress is strategically located at the entrance to St Anthony’s channel.

Currently, it can only be accessed by boat taxi, but there’s a project underway to make it accessible via the newly developed St Anthony’s walkway and cycle path that follows the adjacent coastline. Eventually the city’s four fortresses will be reconnected, including St. John’s Fortress, the next one to be restored and revitalized as a historical attraction.

The best way to experience Šibenik’s old town is to stay in one of the ancient stone buildings that have been repurposed as hotels.

And one of the newest and best ways to experience the food culture while helping to revitalize the local agriculture economy is at SHE Bistro – one of six local restaurants and eateries recognized in the 2018 Gault & Millau guide. “We want to promote a conscious business model on how to create a socially responsible business,” explains co-founder, academic and activist, Irena Ateljević.

The bistro is a way to work on raising ecological consciousness within the local community. Healthy and tasty food can have many levels of impact. We’re trying to raise local awareness and regenerate the local economy and society while also impacting on public health. The food served here is produced with no chemicals and the menu is vegetarian and vegan. We also aim to make a social and economic impact by supporting local seasonal suppliers through a platform we have created of local farmers. In this way we create the demand for their products by sourcing everything for the bistro locally,” she explained.

Their bistro is on the ground floor of a lovingly restored century-old building. The upper floor houses a studio and atelier where events are held to promote well-being through body work and yoga as well as lectures and films. And their rooftop bar has one of Sibenik’s grandest views.

Featured photo of St. Michael’s fortress in the historic section of Sibenik, Croatia via Adobe Stock.

See LivingIt article in EuroNews by Isabel Putinja.

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