We’ve been ringing in the holidays with European Christmas Markets! The Zagreb Christmas Market, in Croatia, was one of our favorites. It was voted “Best European Christmas Market” for 2016, 2017, 2018 and it lived up to its title. Enjoy our tour of Advent U Zagrebu in the video. (After winning three years in a row, Zagreb can’t compete anymore.)
Then scroll down for the details on planning your own trip to Advent Zagreb, one of the best Christmas markets in Europe. I’ll also share some Advent pictures.
Where is Zagreb Located?
Zagreb is the capital city of Croatia. The Zagreb population is 1.2 million if you count the larger Zagreb metropolitan area. Though it’s big—it is Croatia’s largest city—the old downtown is easily walkable and very inviting. Though the tram is free during Advent in Zagreb, we never needed it. It was easier to walk from place to place and get a tour of the city while we were at it.
Best European Christmas Market
Advent in Zagreb was voted Best European Christmas Market 2016, 2017, and 2018, so you know it’s good. The many programs and events are spread out over multiple locations throughout the city.
Every year they add new food, sites, decorations, and performances. One of the best parts is that it is all walkable. I recommend seeing the Zagreb sites during the day and enjoying the Christmas Market in the evening when the lights come on.
I find the official website a little hard to navigate, but you could use their map to plan your Christmas Market experience. We had a couple things we wanted to get to and then wandered around letting ourselves be surprised and delighted with what we found. Here are some of our favorite spots.
Ice Park on King Tomislav Square
It was nutty skating around with a whole lot of other people. Despite the various levels of ice skating abilities, it all worked out and we had a blast. There is a rectangular rink in front of the beautiful Art Pavilion and loop rink where you skate past a statue of Croatia’s first king, Tomislav. Every half an hour they clear the ice and send in the next group. You can rent skates there. Hours listed here.
This experience is one of the reasons we consider Zagreb to have one of the best Christmas Markets in Europe.
Advent in the Tunnel
This was crazy crowded and I wish we had seen it at a better time, but it was still pretty cool. Tunel Grič, a WWII bomb shelter and underground promenade, is decorated with 3D installations, moving lights, and music. It’s a trip.
In several places throughout the city, you’ll find little wooden houses selling handmade gifts, as well as food and drinks. This is a great place to buy holiday presents.
We didn’t do any shopping, other than mulled wine, hot chocolate, and crepes, but if you are going to buy a souvenir, it should be a Zagreb Heart, one of the iconic Croatian Christmas ornaments. Called Licitar Hearts, they are colorfully decorated biscuits made of sweet honey dough that are part of Croatia’s cultural heritage. They are a traditional symbol of the Croatian capital of Zagreb. These days they aren’t usually edible, but used as a Christmas tree ornament. You can even find jewelry and toys with the Zagreb Heart.
Find the Christmas houses here:
- Bogovićeva ulica
- Gajeva ulica
- Petrićeva ulica (trgovina)
- Varšavska ulica
Sidenote: For amusement, get the GPS lady in your phone to pronounce Croatian street names. We laughed so hard as she directed us through Zadar on the coast.
Ban Jelačić Square
The main square in Zagreb is filled with music from live performances, people gathered to chat and drink mulled wine, and a snowy village tucked to the side. The winter village felt like it was lifted straight out of Lapland with its snow-covered trees and lights. You’ll also find white, wooden Christmas houses selling food and beverages.
What To Do in Zagreb (Beyond Zagreb Christmas)
While there is a lot to do in Zagreb, we were focused on Zagreb Advent. When we visited in the summer, we did a lot more. Check that post out here. All of those activities are things to do in Zagreb in winter as well as summer. You’ll also find Zagreb photos in that post.
Christmas in Croatia
Christmas is a big deal in Croatia, as you would expect from a Christian country, and Croatian Christmas traditions are a big part of the celebration. While the Zagreb Christmas Market is the biggest and most elaborate, some of the best cities in Croatia have their own markets. From what we’ve seen, it seems like every small town has at least a few Christmas houses set out serving alcohol and food.
Learn more about Croatian Christmas traditions here.
You never can tell what the weather will be like anymore, but plan on Zagreb’s December high temperatures to be in the low 40s F, and lows in the high 30s F. Warm shoes, mittens, and a hat, along with a jacket, should be part of your outfit. It snowed/slushed a little while we were there, too.
Best Christmas Destinations in Europe
So, I can’t answer this from my own experience because we only visited two of the best Christmas destinations. Christmas in Croatia was magical. From the little booths on the Island of Hvar, to the hopping Christmas Market in Split, we had a great time.
We also loved the Christkindl Market in Salzburg. We had the best Christmas in Europe, in fact. Finn said it was because we sat inside and ate sweets and watched movies all day, but I think it was we were in two of the best European cities for Christmas and went to two of the best Christmas markets.
In Salzburg we drank mulled wine (that seems to be a common thread among Advent Markets), were scared by perchten and Krampus, listened to whip crackers, explored a fortress, ate sweets (another common denominator), and really got into the Christmas spirit. You can see that fun in the following video.
I hope you can see why we think it is one of the best European cities to visit at Christmas and one of the best destinations in Croatia.
Our favorite site for vacation rentals is VRBO and there are a bunch in Croatia.
First-time Airbnb users can get $35 off with this link.
Read About Our Time in Croatia
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