Strolling Through Šibenik, Croatia

A bit of a diamond in the rough, Šibenik is a city that quietly invited us to stroll in a pleasantly-aimless fashion. Situated near Croatia’s stunning Dalmatian Coast and Krka National Park, we didn’t find an abundance of things to do in Šibenik, but that just added to its charm. Instead, our afternoon was filled mingling with locals and a friendly feline, and people-watching moments from the window of a cozy café. Children skipped by with a red balloon in hand, or played on the centuries-old lions that guard the town’s famous cathedral which acted as the backdrop for the action. Šibenik is the oldest Croatian town on the eastern side of the Adriatic Sea, whereas other cities along the coast were founded by the Romans, Greeks and Illyrians.

The Cathedral of St. James is Šibenik’s crown jewel, and is considered to be one of the most important Renaissance monuments in all of Croatia. Built entirely from stone, the church also possesses quirky characteristics – most notably the more than 70 faces of adults and children from centuries past. The cathedral was built between 1431 and 1535 marrying both Gothic and Renaissance elements and it demonstrates the exchange of ideas that took place between Northern Italy, Tuscany, and Croatia’s Dalmatia region in the 15th and 16th centuries. It was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2000.

The town has four fortresses including the seaside St. Nicholas Fortress (Tvrđava Sv. Nikole), as well as the Tvrđava Sv. Mihovila (St. Michael’s), Tvrđava Sv. Ivana, and Tvrđava Šubićevac. We ascended the hill to St. Michael’s Fortress, only to find that it was undergoing construction. This allowed us to mingle with a pregnant cat in the neighboring cemetery, while taking in the area’s magnificent views of the sparkling water below.

Šibenik Cathedral Croatia architecture
The St. James Cathedral was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2000. It is unique in that it was built entirely from stone.
Šibenik Cathedral Details Faces
Approximately 71 faces of men, women, and children adorn the cathedral.
Šibenik Cathedral Croatia Details Faces
The frieze dotted with faces from centuries past.
Sibenik Cathedral Katedrala sv. Jakova

Cathedral St James Šibenik

Sibenik Cathedral Croatia Children Playing lions
Children struggle to hang on to the church walls, while stone lions look on.
Sibenik Cathedral Lions Detail Croatia

Sibenik Cathdral Croatia Sv. Jakova

Sibenik Cathedral Architecture

Sibenik St. Michael on Cathedral

Sibenik Croatia Tourism
Church bells on Crkva Sv.Barbary pop on a blue-sky backdrop, while wedding cake-like flourishes protrude from the St. James Cathedral.
Sibenik Croatia history

Sibenik Croatia Homes

Šibenik sailing Croatia

Sibenik Croatia Swan

Sibenik Swans Croatia

Sibenik Croatia Doors

Sibenik Details Croatia

Sibenik Croatia Architectural Details Croatia

Petar Kresimir Sibenik Croatia
Šibenik was once was the seat of Croatian King Krešimir IV, depicted in the statue on the left, so it is also known as Krešimirov Grad (Krešimir’s city).
Sibenik Croatia architecture

sibenik Croatia street scenes

Sibenik Croatia Toka Filigree Jewelry
A storefront adorned with traditional Dalmatian silver filigree jewelry, something that a master jeweler would later show us how to make.
Sibenik Trg Republike Main Square

Sibenik Cafe Trg Republike

Sibenik Croatia Cafe Bill Kuna

Sibenik Croatia architecture tourism visit

Sibenik Church Detail

Sibenik Croatia Architecture

Sibenik Croatia Cemetery Skyline

Sibenik Croatia Cemetery headstone 2

Sibenik Croatia Cemetery headstone

Sibenik Cemetery and Church

Sibenik Croatia Cemetery

Sibenik Swans Sunset
Swans gracefully glide on the water at sunset.

Where in the World?

Planning Pointers:

  • Šibenik is located about 85 km (50 miles) from Split and 50 km (30 miles) from Trogir. We took the bus from Trogir to Šibenik for a day trip and the journey lasted about one hour each way. We had hoped to visit Krka National Park at the same time, but since it was the wintertime Krka’s boat schedule was limited and we wouldn’t have been able to make it there within the park’s opening hours.
  • Shawn and I have spent two winters in Split, finding accommodation in apartments that would be packed during the summer months, but are practically empty during winter. During our first 2.5 months there, we stayed at the lovely Kaleta Apartments (affiliate link), which are located within Diocletian’s Palace. Our studio apartment (called the ‘Diocletian’s Suite’) featured much character, including Roman brickwork embedded into our wall, and overhead views of Split’s Old Town streets. Owners Novica and Negri were thoughtful citizen ambassadors too. Two years later, we returned to Split, staying in the charming Varoš neighborhood, which is known for its quirky stone homes sporting hunter-green shutters and flower boxes. For those 2 months, we stayed in quaint studio apartments at the Guesthouse F (affiliate link). We especially enjoyed our tiny terrace and the kindness of our hosts, Anja and Miro. One of Guesthouse F’s apartments was originally a horseshoe maker’s workshop, which previously belonged to Anja’s grandfather. Shawn and I dubbed it the ‘horseshoe cottage’.
  • Need more planning inspiration? This link contains an index of all my posts from Croatia.

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

40 thoughts on “Strolling Through Šibenik, Croatia

    1. Ron, you seem to have also grasped Croatia’s photogenic character. :) Zagreb’s a great city that I haven’t been to since 2007 – would love to see how it’s changed in the last years.

      1. Tricia, Zagreb may lack the signature attractions of Paris and Rome, but for me it is target rich with city life and color.

      2. Agreed, Ron. Places like Paris and Rome have become popular for a reason, but I agree that the underdogs have much to offer. I visited Zagreb in the winter months, nearly 7 years ago, and I remember thinking that it had had similar characteristics as Prague, at least architecturally. It felt very much like a diamond just waiting to be polished. :)

        For how long were you in Zagreb? We’ve just recently returned from spending about 3 months on the Dalmatian Coast – last year we lived in Trogir, this year in Split.

    1. Ina, glad you enjoyed the series of images! As you can tell, we greatly enjoyed Šibenik. With its unique architecture, pretty setting, and proximity to Krka National Park, it has so much potential. I’m curious to see how it’ll change in the coming years. Thanks also for re-blogging the post. :)

    1. Sylvia,
      Šibenik, and Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast for that matter, are studded with fine details like that, resulting in my camera seeing a great deal of action. :) Do you have plans to visit Croatia sometime soon? Thanks for stopping by and taking time to comment.

    1. Hi Andrew, in some respects it’s fun leaving a few stones unturned so that you have more to explore next time. :) We were glad to have gotten there before it becomes a visitor’s hot spot, though. The cathedral’s intricate details alone – especially all those faces – made it a worthwhile day-trip. Do you have any excursions in the works for this summer?

      1. Sounds like a fun set of destinations. Will this be your first time to Turkey, Andrew? We enjoyed Istanbul about 10 years ago, but would love to return to visit the quieter places.

      2. I have been to Turkey before to Bodrum and to the coast. This time I want to go to Istanbul but want to be certain that it is safe! If not I will stick to the ancient historical sites.

        What travel plans do you have?

      3. Andrew, understandable. When we were there 10 years ago, there was tension in the world, but the locals welcomed us heartily, and thanked us for coming – particularly since tourism numbers had dropped significantly. At that time, was like any big city, as far as the caution we had to exercise, and the Blue Mosque, and Hagia Sophia were of course fantastic! Now, I’d love to see some of those ancient historical sites.

        As for us, we know for sure that we’re headed to Spain (Rioja, Bilbao) and Bordeaux. Likely also going to Serbia, and perhaps Bosnia-Herzegovina too.

      4. Good travel choices. I have been to Bosnia but remain undecided about Serbia. This year I hope for a day trip to Albania from Corfu. Rioja remains on my to-do list in Spain. I haven’t been to Bordeaux but rather like the idea of going to Marseilles.

        Wherever you go, have happy travels!

      5. Thanks for the travel-well wishes, Andrew. I’ve previously been to Mostar & Sarajevo, and I’m curious if you have any other destinations there that you would recommend?

        I’ll be curious to hear what your day trip to Albania is like. We only saw Shkoder, and a bit of Tirana, but I’d like to return to see the coastline and some of the World Heritage spots.

  1. Each photo has a wow effect, Tricia and paired with your historical background and importance of Šibenik, it makes it all the more interesting. Isn’t it nice to find a place that you can take time to enjoy only because it has fewer places of interest? The cathedral is a beauty and those faces are interesting. I’m sure the towns people at the time thought so too.

    1. Lynne, as they’d say in Croatia, hvala lijepa – thank you so much!

      As we admired the cathedral, I couldn’t help but wonder how the subjects were chosen to be memorialized in stone, if in fact each face is modeled after a real individual. Were they acquaintances of the artist, or perhaps did they make a donation to the cathedral’s building fund. Fascinating either way.

  2. Great series of photos again…sometimes it is the great quiet and silence of a city or town that makes me fall in love with it. I like your comment of mingling with locals and finding a place to look out the window of a cozy café and just watch the city as an observer. From the incredible photos you have here, it is clear to see what an incredible place this is ~ and this post should be used as their ad to bring people in. Amazing stuff :-)

    1. Randall, I certainly hope our word-of-mouth accolades and those of others will drive more visitors to Šibenik. At the same time, though, I’d hate to see it become too overly touristic. That’s the curse of tourism, I suppose. One wants a place and its residents to benefit economically from tourism, but not lose its soul.

      1. So true, great places tend to suffer a bit when the popularity they deserve ends up bringing the ‘touristic-feel’ that often is inevitable.

      1. I’m actually going to try and see Dubrovnik and some of the coast as part of larger Europe trip – working my way down (whistle-stop due to leave constraints unfortunately!) from northern Europe – Latvia perhaps :)

      2. Rachel, both are neat spots. We saw a bit of Riga about 9 years ago – am curious how it’s changed during that time. Wish you safe travels, and lots of sunshine along the Dalmatian Coast in particular!

  3. Very interesting to see these images of the land my (deceased) Canadian – Croatian painter friend Dubravko Budic would have seen growing up. Very moving to see the shapes and colours that would have been in his subconscious mind. Thank you.

    1. Steven, I am happy to learn that this post provided imagery to help you better imagine your late friend’s beautiful homeland. Do you know which city Dubravko grew up in? Did he depict Croatian scenes in his paintings?

      1. Tricia I found a business card attached to a letter Dubravko wrote to me in 2006. Dragovanscak 51. Not sure he grew up there before he went off to art school. I recall emailing was an issue but we had several New Years Day telephone conversations.

      2. Steven, here’s hoping you’ll get the chance to explore Dubravko’s hometown someday. Your story reminds me a bit of what it was like for us back in 2000, going to visit my first piano teacher’s home in Prague. She’d lived there in the 1930s, and we were extremely curious to see where she’d lived prior to moving to the United States.

Join the conversation.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: