This post may contain affiliate links! I will receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you purchase something recommended here.
Resting on the coast of Croatia, between two bigger cities, Zadar and Split lies another beautiful town called Šibenik.
Part of Split-Dalmatia County, Šibenik, Croatia, is the oldest native Croatian city. Šibenik was originally founded by the Croats, and even served as the home of the Croatian king, before being occupied by the Venetians, Byzantines, and Hungarians.
Fun fact: Šibenik was the first city in the world to install street lamps powered by alternating electric currents.
Even though it’s the third-largest city in Dalmatia County, this beautiful city built of stone is an excellent alternative to larger cities in Croatia, like Split. It’s off the usual tourist routes through Croatia, so it offers a more local experience. When you’re thinking of things to do in Šibenik, you need to see a few of its most notable sites. It’s also a great home-base if you want to take day trips to see a number of the incredible waterfalls in Croatia.
When I visited Šibenik, I spent about two weeks exploring the town and its surroundings with lifelong residents. It was incredible to experience the city with them! Here are some of the best things to do in Šibenik, Croatia.
Walk around the Old Town of Šibenik
Walking through the Old Town truly feels like you’re transported to another time. There are enough staircases and twisting streets to rival Dubrovnik in the south. However, there are significantly fewer people to contend with as you lose yourself wandering through its historic streets.
The center of the city is called the Square of the Republic of Croatia. There are no cars allowed to drive through this space. This is also where many of the essential municipal buildings are still standing, built in the Baroque period.
If you want to learn more about your surroundings, think about taking a historic walking tour around Šibenik with a tour guide.
Cathedral of St. James
Standing by the center of town at the top of an impressive stairwell is St. James Church. This gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage site was built entirely with stone–nothing else. The limestone used in its construction was quarried and shipped in from the nearby island Brač. While it was initially planned as a simple church, it had far surpassed that plan by the time it was completed in 1536. It’s now considered Croatia’s architectural gem from the Renaissance period.
One of the many unique features of the cathedral is its outside. More than 70 heads wrap around the outside of the structure, each representing someone who lived in town at the time of its construction.
Stroll along the Riva
The coastline of Šibenik, called the Riva, is a beautiful area to take a walk. Gelato shops, coffee shops, and restaurants line the walkway across from the water’s edge.
However, the Riva truly comes alive at night. The sunset views are picture-perfect, and you might happen across residents sprawled out on the grass, listening to an evening coffeehouse performance.
Relax at the Beaches
Banj Beach is the small pebble beach in Šibenik, just a 15-minute walk from the center of Old Town. There’s also a lookout point where you can find a beautiful panoramic view of the city.
However, if you’re willing to venture off the mainland, there are absolutely incredible beaches on the islands off the coast and right outside the city center of Šibenik! I wrote a whole guide to find out all about the beautiful beaches in Šibenik here.
- The Most Famous Landmarks in Europe
- Remarkable Ancient Places in Europe
- Incredible Religious Places in Europe
- The Best Palaces in Europe to Visit
The first in our three Šibenik fortresses, Barone Fortress, was built in the 15th Century and played a large part in protecting the city from Ottoman forces during the Cretan War in 1647.
Since its restoration, Barone Fortress now offers some of the most interactive things to do in Šibenik. It features a museum on the history of the city, and you can even virtually watch this battle using Augmented Reality technology. There’s also a bistro and coffee shop where you can sample many of the region’s specialties.
St. Michael’s Fortress
Standing above the city on the opposite hill as Barone Fortress, St. Michael’s Fortress is a Medieval fort that dates back to the first mentions of Šibenik. Today, it’s a beautiful place to see the city from above. Since it was renovated and reopened in 2014, it also hosts many outdoor performances in the summer.
If you’re interested in visiting a few of the Šibenik fortresses, you can receive a discount if you combine your entrance fees for St. Michael’s Fortress and Barone Fortress.
St. Nicholas’s Fortress
For our final fortress, floating on an island just outside Šibenik’s harbor, St. Nicholas’s Fortress sits on an island that had initially been home to the Benedictine Monastery of St. Nicholas. It was built in the 16th Century by the Venetians to protect the city from invaders. Today, it’s considered one of the best relics of defense architecture in the county. Even though it was heavily fortified with more than 30 cannons, it was so imposing that no enemy ever attacked it.
After undergoing extensive renovations, St. Nicholas’s Fortress is finally reopened to visitors. You access the island by taking a guided boat tour from Šibenik.
For a total shift from the city’s history, Aquapark Dalmatia is one of the most fun things to do in Šibenik. It’s Croatia’s first themed water park and boasts a lazy river, slides, and waterfalls to enjoy in the warmer weather.
If you want a break from the attractions, they also have five different beaches along the coast where you can relax.
You can go for a day or stay overnight at one of the many hotels in the area, or stay at the Amadria Park Jakov on the park’s property.
Day Trips from Šibenik
If you want to stay in a city, but outside of a tourist center, Šibenik is a perfect place to serve as your home base. There are many guided tours and day trips from Šibenik you can take that leave right from the city center.
Beach Day trips from Šibenik:
- Jadrija Beach
- Rezaliste Beach
If you want to learn more about the beach at Jadrija or Rezaliste, as well as the islands of Zlarin and Žirje, you can find it all included in my guide to the best beaches in Šibenik.
Make sure you spend time exploring at least one of the national parks nearby! Krka National Park and Plitvice Lakes National Park are incredible day trips from Šibenik, featuring waterfalls, lakes, and trails.
- Split, Croatia
- Trogir, Croatia
- Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Since the city is relatively untouched by substantial tourism traffic, the area feels like a treasure just waiting to be uncovered. Which of the best things to do in Šibenik would you like to explore?