Zagreb for Christmas

European Christmas markets have been an anticipated holiday tradition for hundreds of years. Cottages selling Christmas inspired products, foods, drinks and artisan apparel are a staple of European culture across the continent. Sipping mulled wine, or spiced teas while sampling local foods and buying Christmas décor is part of the charm of walking through a Christmas market. In Zagreb, it’s done the Croatian way which includes lots of parties with plenty of food and drink late into the night.

Zagreb began their Advent celebration in 2016, joining the Christmas Advent countdown celebration shared throughout Europe, while competing for recognition as ‘European Best Christmas Market’ in this annual competition. Zagreb won, making the list in 2016, 2017 and first place in 2018 and has determined to one up itself every year. This small city is covered in Christmas; every space of the delightful city is covered in Christmas décor with lights as well as interactive and three-dimensional scenes throughout the city. You can find more details about European Best Christmas Markets on their site.

There are activities in every area of Zagreb, including multiple bar areas, ice skating on one of the largest outdoor skating rinks in Europe, or on the small hideaway rink above the city in Gradec for children. There is plenty to do and explore in Zagreb during the holiday season for all ages.

This year 2020 for the first time Zagreb will include a virtual experience; events will be shared from 11/28/2020 until 1/1/2021 in an augmented reality expedition. The Zagreb Advent site has lots to share for the 2020 Christmas Season.

When coming to Zagreb Advent be sure to explore all the areas of the celebration. The city is alive with festivities. Some twenty locations within the city including parks, the tunnel, squares and streets are decorated for the festive event.  

Some areas to see are:

Maksimir Park has colorful stalls selling hot food and tasty treats. The archway entry is decorated for visitors to take pictures on their way inside and there are several fun areas including a treat for children in the zoo.

Sljeme Mountain for a lovely Nativity scene, delicious restaurants and the ski mountain.

The Sunday market a Britanski Trg (British Square) is extended beyond what I’ve ever seen there. So many beautiful goodies to find. Artisans and sellers of antiques gather under the famous Zagreb umbrellas. The weather in 2019 was perfect for taking pictures of their treasures.

The Tunnel Grič is fantastically decorated! It’s my favorite part.

Walk through the tunnel and find yourself at the top of the hill where a quick walk leads to Saint Marks Church and the decorated large Christmas tree which rivals the Rockefeller Christmas Tree- I say it’s beat it due to the lovely Saint Marks as a backdrop.

The Upper Town Gradec area has several Christmas celebrations happening at the same time. Rows of outside bars and restaurants serving hot sausages and all sorts of other foods. In the center of them is a large wooden addition for dancing while overlooking the city. It’s a lovely area with lots of fun. There is also a hideaway where in 2019 Hendrick’s Gin hosted a garden bar next to a ski rink perfect for small children. On the other side where one enters by steps, or cable car there are more rows of bars and restaurants outside and another area for dancing. The views of the city are phenomenal.

The Manduševac area has Christmas shops selling cookies and artisan goods on one side and a hideaway of cute cabins housing restaurants and bars on the other. There are also some more dancing areas and even a stage for where live music is performed. Across the street there is even more along the pedestrian streets. My favorite Christmas cookies in Zagreb are the marzipan and spiced Zimtsterne Cinnamon cookies, so good, link here for recipe.

Zrinjevac Park has dozens of artisans in white cottages along the path. In the pavilion there is more live music and around it more restaurants and bars with enough space for dancing. Continue walking across the street to another super fun area, Garden Brewery hosted a party in this area during 2019 Advent with a live DJ surrounded by amazing food and drinks, a dance area and on the other side lots of seating on benches, or pop up restaurant areas. Hendrick’s also had a garden set up here too. Thanks to Sara at Garden Brewery I was able to make some connections who helped me write my Zagreb Craft Beer post earlier in 2020.

The Zagreb Art Pavilion park has an open ice-skating rink surrounded by a Christmas market, hot chocolate and delicious warm drinks.

 Thousands of lights and hundreds of buildings are used to brighten the cold winter days. If you’re in Zagreb for a week, every day could be used to explore a different area of the city, if you have more time there is more time to explore. I love this city and find it to be one of the most child and dog friendly cities in Europe. Onawa my dog is allowed in every area and there are sections for her where dog bakeries have rented cabins for the dogs. I have a post coming on December 15th for the Dog Blog.

Onawa having a snack at a dog bakery