Croatia / Europe / Traveling

Šibenik: My Favorite Not So Hidden Gem in Croatia

Along the coast in the Dalmatia region of Croatia sits a town called Šibenik (pronounced shi-beh-nick). With 42,000 inhabitants, it’s about the same size as Dubrovnik but much less popular. Being the big city that it is and the oldest native Croatian city on the Adriatic Sea, you would think it would be more well-known. It was even the first city in Croatia to have electricity!

We stopped here on our way back from Krka National Park, and since I knew very little about Šibenik, Croatia to begin with I wasn’t expecting much. Little did I know it would turn out to be one of my favorite Croatian cities.

When you first arrive it may seem just like any other city, but once you get inside the heart of Šibenik you’ll start to fall for its history and architecture. Even though this was only a short stop along my Croatian journey, here are a few reasons why Šibenik is my favorite not so hidden Croatian gem.

A Church By the People, For the People

Right in the center of town you can find St. James Church, a UNESCO world heritage site. Built between 1431 and 1536, it’s the only cathedral in Europe that has been built entirely from stone — no mortar was used in its construction.

St. James Church Šibenik Croatia

St. James Church in Šibenik, Croatia

The building was uniquely decorated along the sides with 71 human faces and 3 lion heads representing the people who lived in the city when the church was built. When the sculpture was created it was a big deal because it was the first time “normal” people were recognized in Šibenik.

Faces on St. James Church Šibenik

Šibenik Croatia St. James Church Faces

The Streets are Made to Wander

The center of town is known as the Square of the Republic of Croatia. This medieval square is where the city’s most important buildings are located. It’s also free of cars, making it a great place to wander around and enjoy a beautiful day.

Square of the Republic of Croatia Šibenik

Šibenik’s Square of the Republic of Croatia

Stone is Everywhere

Literally. Šibenik is nearly entirely built of stone — it’s not just St. James Church. The stairs, arches, cobbled streets, buildings, and more are made of stone, and the city itself is built on the rocky coast protected by stone walls.

Marissa Sutera in Šibenik Croatia - City Built of Stone

Exhibits like Croatia From Above

I had the pleasure of observing the Croatia From Above National Geographic exhibit while it was in Šibenik. The project was launched by photographer Davor Rostuhar to highlight the people and customs of Croatia and the natural beauty of the country. To capture the photos from above, Rostuhar flew over Croatia in different types of aircrafts over the course of seven years. The project resulted in more than 200 incredible photos from all around the country and is the is the biggest Croatian photo project ever attempted.

Croatia From Above Šibenik - National Geographic

One photo from the Croatia From Above National Geographic exhibit, depicting St. James Church in Šibenik.

Šibenik’s Inviting Coastline

Breathtaking views are abundant in just about any city along the coast of the Adriatic Sea in Croatia, and Šibenik is no exception. It’s a breath of fresh air visiting Šibenik after being in the more popular Croatian cities and taking a leisurely stroll along the coast without other hoards of tourists walking around.

Visit Šibenik - Croatian Coastal Town

Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Technically, this should be a perk of all of Croatia. Sweets are readily available just about anywhere in the country, and Šibenik lived up to Croatia’s sweet reputation. Maybe it was the long morning of walking and swimming at Krka National Park, but I remember the gelato in Šibenik being some of the best I had during the entire trip. Plus they also had a classic Fritule (fresh and tasty mini donuts) stand if the gelato wasn’t enough!

Gelato Šibenik Croatia

Fritule - Visit Šibenik Croatia

The lesser known (and less touristy) city of Šibenik won me over, and I know I’d like to spend more time there during my next trip to Croatia. When you visit Šibenik, Croatia you’ll find that it’s not just any other city. It’s a welcoming historical center that speaks proudly to Croatian heritage and culture in a way that will leave you eager to return.

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Šibenik - My Favorite Not So Hidden Gem in Croatia


  • Natascha
    July 12, 2016 at 1:32 am

    Looks really cute. I did not know that Croatia has such tempting ice cream!

  • Monica
    June 26, 2016 at 3:08 pm

    Just got back from Šibenik last week, and I can really say your photos capture the spirit of the place! Such a rich blue sea and sky, and charming town that seems carved from stone. Your post was part of the reason we ended up in Šibenik and not another coastal Croatian town — really glad about it!

    • Marissa Sutera
      June 26, 2016 at 8:52 pm

      Thank you Monica, I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed Šibenik! 🙂

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