A Winter Wonderland: Advent in Zagreb
If you’re looking for Christmas spirit, the capital of Croatia is the place to be in December. The scent of gingerbread, mulled wine, and the sound of jingle bells will follow you every step of the way. But why is it so special? What sets Zagreb’s Christmas market apart from the rest of Europe? The answer lies in its sheer size and the wealth of events and things to do. Get cozy and grab yourself some eggnog while we discover this Croatian winter wonderland.
Advent Kick-off in Zrinjevac
Everything starts in Zrinjevac with the Christmas light ceremony, which signals the start of Advent in Zagreb. Zrinjevac, the park that runs south from the main square in the direction of the main train station is heart and soul of Advent. Zrinjevac has become a major meeting point for locals during December. It’s a very hip place to meet your friends and catch up with cup of mulled wine to warm your hands. It’s also the place where people browse for out-of-the-ordinary gifts. There are over 40 small white houses that offer, besides great food and drinks, authentic hand-made souvenirs and ornaments.
Zrinjevac is one of the first locations where the market began. Now, Advent is held in dozens of locations across the city, each with its own story. One of the most popular is “Fuliranje,” roughly translated as “goofing around.” Stalls offering wine, gourmet burgers, sausages, and other local specialties are found here. It also has the best selection of rakijas, a fruit brandy popular in Croatia. The alcohol content of rakia is normally 40%, but homemade versions can be stronger.
Skating in Tomislavov trg
On Tomislavov trg, the city sets up a beautiful skating rink surrounded by trees with Zagreb’s famous fountain in the center. The festive display sits in front of the main train station, backed by the Art Pavilion. You can go skating, enjoy the music, and stop for some street food afterwards. They also host numerous cultural events for kids and adults.
Here are some other locations that shouldn’t be missed during Advent in Zagreb
- Zagreb Christmas Tale at Central Ban Jelacic Square. A small winter forest to bring you true Winter Magic. Try the mulled wine and sausages!
- Advent in the Tunnel at Grič Tunnel. A showcase of imaginative light displays and Christmas decorations.
- Advent at Strossmayer Promenade. Zagreb’s most romantic spot gets extra special during December. You’ll find amazing views of entire city and the best photo stage for selfies. They also offer free concerts, choir performances, and treats.
- Advent in Tkalca. Filled with artisan workshops and their traditional crafts.
- Christmas Fair at Gajeva and Bogoviceva Street. This is where shopaholics can spend all their money on Christmas decorations and gifts for their loved ones.
- Advent on European Square. A favorite meeting place for locals located in a pedestrian zone featuring concerts, attractions, and exhibitions.
- Live Nativity Scene at Zagreb Cathedral. Live actors and animals all appear to bring this beautiful story to life. There are 2 or 3 shows per day so you have options.
Time Out Croatia also has a guide with detailed overviews of the events and offerings during Advent in Zagreb. Helpful, as most of the event websites aren’t available in English. The Croatia Tourism Board’s site has a map on their site marking all the event locations. They also have a really nice video highlighting the previous year’s Advent festivities.
Something for the Kids: Santa at the Zoo
Of course, it’s impossible hit all these locations in a day. Especially if you want to visit the latest Advent event held in Zagreb’s zoo. This one is aimed at kids and offers variety of workshops, educational classes about animals, and a meeting with Santa. You’ll find jolly old St. Nick next to the lemurs, ready to meet and greet his faithful fans throughout December.
Zagreb’s Advent expands bit by bit every year. It’s safe to say by next year, this list of events will continue to grow. If you’re planning to visit Croatia off-season (and you totally should), be sure to include Zagreb in your itinerary. We can combine it with other must-see Croatian destinations in most elegant way possible. Give us a call, or submit a trip request to get started!
Have you experienced Zagreb’s Advent events and Christmas markets? Let us know in the comments below!