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A Guide to Zagreb’s Christmas Markets

September 15, 2019
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Kirstie Hall

Zagreb was voted Europe’s Best Christmas Market in 2016, 2017, and again in 2018. It’s highly possible the Croatian capital could have snagged another win this year… (that is, if holding the title four years in a row weren’t against the competition’s rules)!

Zagreb may have passed the 2019 torch to Tallinn, but don’t write off this holiday hotspot just yet. After all, you don’t get voted the Best European Christmas Market three years in a row for nothing.

 

Twinkly lights and all things nice

Christmas lights in Zagreb
Christmas lights adorn Croatia's beautiful capital throughout December | Photo credit: Zagreb Urban Adventures

Every year, at the end of November, Zagreb lights up (literally). Upon arriving in the city, you’ll find yourself feeling a bit like you’ve stepped into a movie set.

The streets are draped with twinkly lights, the squares fill with Christmas trees, and, everywhere you look, you’ll find holiday decor and festive photo ops. Even the tram gets a jolly Advent makeover… and I’m not just talking about the icicle lights around the windows or its giant Santa hat.

On Zagreb’s Merry Christmas tram, you’ll find some very special holiday guests – Fairies, elves, Mrs. Clause, and even Old Saint Nick himself. Well, two Saint Nicks actually… One behind the wheel, and one delivering high fives to the crowd as the tram makes its way around the city.

Holiday lights and decorations aren’t the only thing you’ll find an abundance of during Advent in Zagreb. You’ll also find people… LOTS of people… because, as you can imagine, their three year winning streak brought a lot of attention (and a lot of out of towners) to the city’s Christmas festivities.

You’d think the crowds would be unbearable, but, surprisingly, that isn’t the case in Zagreb.

Unlike the Christmas Markets in some European cities, Advent in Zagreb isn’t solely limited to a few main squares. There are over 25 markets throughout the city, each with its own unique theme and atmosphere, and, in some areas, you’ll find a different market, concert, or festive celebration happening on every block!

Basically, the entire city IS the Christmas Market…

6 spots in particular you won’t want to miss

Chestnuts roasting at Zagreb Christmas market
Roast chestnut sellers can be found all over the city, spreading the uniquely festive aroma through the wintry streets... | Photo Credit: Zagreb Urban Adventures

Ban Jelačić Square

Smack dab in the city center you’ll find the unmissable Advent at Ban Jelačić Square. During the 2018 Christmas season, this square was filled with a number of decorated wooden huts serving up foods and drinks, two performance stages, and several huts selling handicrafts and souvenirs. This was the starting point for our Advent Adventure tour with Zagreb UA, but it was far from the only festive thing we experienced.

King Tomislav Square

Another one of Zagreb’s most popular advent celebrations takes place over at King Tomislav Square. This square is home to the city’s famous holiday IcePark, one of the biggest open air skating rinks in this region of Europe.

Lace up your skates and warm up your insides with a few laps around the rink… or grab a mulled wine and enjoy the free entertainment from the sidelines instead.

Zrinjevac

At the Advent celebration in Zrinjevac Park you’ll find more live music, more food, more drinks, and lots of handmade crafts and gifts for sale.

You’ll also be bombarded with twinkly lights galore. An astounding 200 trees covered in lights line both sides of the main path, and transform this park into a magical, winter wonderland.

Fuliranje

You might be noticing a theme here, so far. No matter where you go, there are lots of foods and drinks to choose from… However, if you’re looking for the biggest variety and the tastiest selections, Fuliranje is your go to spot.

At Fuliranje top chefs from some of Croatia’s best restaurants serve up local favorites, international flavors, treats to satisfy your sweet tooth, and even vegetarian friendly options.

As you can imagine, this market gets PACKED, but, if you’re willing to brave the lines, your taste buds will thank you for it later… especially if you’re eating Sarma (traditional cabbage rolls) or Fritule (Croatia’s play on donut holes).

Tunnel Grič

For a truly unique Christmas market experience, head to Tunnel Grič.

Once a WWII bomb shelter, this underground pedestrian tunnel is now a tourist attraction and the site of several holiday exhibitions during the Advent period and throughout the year.

Though this tunnel is one of many in an underground network running beneath the upper town, it is the only one open to the public.

It makes for a really interesting Christmas Market setting, but, if you’re claustrophobic, you might want to go ahead and count this one out.

Strossmayer Promenade

In beautiful Medieval Uppertown (and high above ground) on the promenade, you’ll find a string of advent celebrations with the best city views, and (in my opinion) the best atmosphere.

One of the four markets on last year’s promenade was decorated with a retro living room theme. They spared no attention to detail and included all the homey touches like vintage lamps, plush chairs, and funky, patterned wallpaper. If you’re a fan of comfy couches, live jazz music, and insta-worthy set-ups, this is the market for you.

 

Photo ops and magnets

For more photo opportunities, head a bit further up the hill to Gradec Plateau. At this jingle mingle, there were lots of cutesy photo ops set up for people to capture those festive shots for the gram… and some pretty lengthy lineups of people waiting their turn.

There’s no shame here! Everyone else is doing it (for the gram)! Grab a mulled wine or a bite to eat while you wait to capture the perfect holiday photo (sans crowds) of your own!

With so much going on around Zagreb during the holidays, it can be hard to decide where to go and when. Thankfully, on our Advent Adventure with Zagreb UA, we didn’t have to. Our local guide Max showed us all around the city’s Christmas Markets, main attractions, and even solved our holiday souvenir dilemma with the perfect (easily packable) gingerbread magnet memento.

Max explained the symbolic meaning behind the unique heart shaped Licitar cookies we’d be seeing in magnet (and edible) form all over town, and then took us to a place where we had some personalized for ourselves!

Now these magnets live on our fridge, where they’ll forever remind me of the holiday magic we experienced in Zagreb (and also that my name is impossible to spell).

Since we visited Zagreb on a tight schedule, our Advent Adventure with UA was the perfect way to experience all of the sights and Advent celebrations in Zagreb, while learning all about local Christmas traditions and trying tasty holiday foods.

After wandering the festive streets (and having my fill of holiday eats), it was easy to see what all the hype is about, and why Zagreb remains such a favored holiday destination among Croatians and visitors alike.

Don’t take my word for it… Come see what all the hype is about for yourself! This year’s Christmas Market runs from the November 30th 2019 to January 6th 2020.

 

Zagreb Advent Adventure Tour