Zagreb Christmas is much more than a holiday. It’s because we stretch the festive season throughout December. And because the awesome Zagreb Advent festival turns the city into a winter fairy tale.
Zagreb already has two awards as the best Christmas destination under its belt. So there is no doubt we really know how to throw a good party. Yes, there is glitter, excitement and fun. But what I love most about Advent in Zagreb is the diversity of events.
There is loud, mainstream, but also cultured and intimate Zagreb Christmas. In fact, I can list 40 reasons why visiting Zagreb in December will delight almost everyone.
Zagreb Advent welcomes a Xmas buff and a Xmas grouch
1| If a Christmas market town is your typical travel destination, you probably love all that comes with the end-of-year festivities. But what if you’re a Xmas grouch? And all that happy-go-lucky cheering and twinkling really gets on your nerves?
Zagreb has you covered. Advent festivities are so tastefully set up, you can easily turn down the festive volume and enjoy an intimate celebration at one of the less crowded locations.
2| Zagreb Christmas decorations are elegant and classy. The city looks peppy and joyful but you will never feel as if you’re trapped in a theme park.
3| You can pick and choose between the glamorous and bustling European Park and a subtle, but still festive street or a courtyard.
4| All Zagreb Advent events and locations are within an easy stroll. There’s an amazing variety of fun around the city but you’ll still feel everything is happening just around the corner.
5| People are out and about having fun: chatting, eating, sipping wine. Advent in Zagreb is more than a Christmas shopping frenzy.
6| There’s fun for everyone’s taste and for people of every age. It’s children, even babies friendly.
7| Events range from sport activities, art shows, workshops, education to outdoor music gigs and dancing.
8| The fun goes from morning till midnight. But still, as the night falls, the city is at its most magical.
9| Streets are full of people wearing smiles on their faces. It’s contagious.
10| There is a perfect buzz on the streets: they are busy enough to make the city alive, but breezy enough to never feel overcrowded.
Zagreb Advent Locations: festive but never over the top
11| For the urban Christmas vibe (think eating, drinking and swaying to music) nothing beats European Square. This is one of the main hubs of Zagreb Advent.
12| Zrinjevac Park is for the lovers of fairy-tale magic. Centuries old plane trees are decorated with delicate blue lights. Central music pavilion hosts traditional Christmas music and charming white huts sell artisan souvenirs.
More magic? Hop on a horse-drawn carriage for a ride around the Park.
13| Open-air ice rink on Tomislav Square is not only for skaters. Delicious grub and music will cheer anyone up. If you’re not brave enough to glide into the night, just watch the joyful faces of those who do. The young and the old, twirling on the glittering surface.
14| ‘Fooling around’ – a quirky take on Christmas festivities – started out in Tomićeva Street. Everyone loved it so much it had to spread out to more locations. This year – catch it at Strossmayer Square.
15| Grič Tunnel gives a super-modern 3D spin on Christmas. This year we’ll enjoy sleek light shows, ice formations and all kinds of winter wonders. Once you find your way in, you’ll never want to find the end of the tunnel!
16| Soak up the magical atmosphere in the Upper Town. During the winter chill, there is nothing like huddling to hear a great story. So head to Vranyczany Plateau by Lotrščak tower and join some fab storytelling presented by the Tales from Grič.
17| The popular Summer at Stross festival turns into equally cool Advent on Stross. Just find the funicular and head up to Zagreb’s best promenade. Get ready for serious urban buzz.
18| With Christmas concerts from Zagreb balconies, classical music reaches new heights. Don’t miss these graceful performances at three locations. Croatian National Theatre, Tkalčićeva Street 33 and the Stone Gate.
19| It may be cold but why not spend Christmas at the Pop-up Winter Garden? Especially when you can catch a ride to Tuškanac in an old-timer. Live music and films are on 8-24 December. And New Year’s party starts at noon!
20| Live Nativity Scene in front of the Cathedral is breath-taking. The scenography, the actors, the atmosphere, all will transport you back to Betlehem and sprinkle special stardust on your Christmas mood.
21| The perfect photo frame waits at Gradec Plateau. Snap a selfie with the Cathedral in the background and a non-stop snowfall. Then, check out great gigs and workshops inside the nearby Klovićevi Dvori Gallery.
22| Start the New Year by witnessing the most special change of guard ceremony. Get to St. Mark’s Square and catch the Cravat Regiment saddled up in their honorary ritual.
23| Traditional Christmas fair is stylishly spread out in the streets between the Ban Jelačić and the Flower Squares. You will simply love the pretty wooden huts offering all kinds of souvenirs and knick-knacks. All of them are made in the same white design, but each is unique in the range of things they sell.
Food and drinks variety
24| Sausage and mulled wine combination has been a Christmas classic for many years. Sausage continues to steal the limelight, but from this year a gastro variety impresses too.
25| When you’ve had enough of sausages in a bun, go for a more elaborate dish. Go for a lunch of sausage and sauerkraut – it’s one of the best winter warmers.
26| This year vegetarians won’t end up hungry. There is the classic dessert ‘fritule’ (a donut-like pastry with a variety of dressings), pancakes, and a new must-try addition: German-style germknoedel (sweet fluffy dumplings with jam, vanilla and poppy seeds). Also, don’t overlook the humble roasted chestnut at almost every street corner.
27| Last year the ‘Fooling around’ was all about sampling dishes from the cities around the world. I expect nothing less this time and can’t wait to munch on global street food again.
28| I myself don’t like mulled wine. So this year I’m especially enjoying the range of different punches, or the option to be alcohol-free with a cup of tea or hot chocolate.
29| With all the walking in the crisp winter weather, you can actually eat and drink more. This is not a small bonus with all the delicacies on offer.
Xmas grouch guide on how to do it all
30| Aimless strolling from one Advent location to the other will fill you with enough festive spirit. There is always something going on and if you get overwhelmed, just turn around the corner to a quieter street. Or climb to the Upper Town to enjoy charming dimly lit streets and beautiful city vistas.
31| Download the mobile application Zagreb Be There and let Mr. Alojz guide you through the best Advent locations. The trails include: Advent Zagreb, Christmas Heritage, Foodie Zagreb and Hidden Spots.
32| Book Zagreb Christmas Carol – an exciting storytelling tour that will reveal Zagreb Christmas traditions in a whole new light. Your guide Iva is one of the best authorities on Zagreb and its lesser known facts. She also wears intriguing costumes!
33| Pick up your free copy of Zagreb 4 You – the new funky guide to Zagreb. You can get the Advent edition (with the Advent map included) at the Main tourist office on Jelačić Square, or in museums and cafes around the city.
34| Climb up to the Zagreb Eye Observatory just off Jelačić Square and see the lit up city from a different perspective.
And my tips to spice it up even more
36| Go to the midnight mass on Christmas Eve in the Church of Sv. Blaž [St. Blaise] in Primorska Street and carry on celebrating in the nearby cafe Kinoteka.
37| Head to Backo Mini Express – museum with the biggest model railway in this part of Europe. It may be a kiddy thing, but this Christmas, they’re adding a brand new model train in the colours of Zagreb.
38| Hike to Sljeme mountain top. It’s what Zagreb locals do to enjoy nature, get exercise and get ready for more feasting.
39| Watch out for the first snow. On that day the pop-up poetry festival ‘50 Poems for Snow’ will do their traditional gig in the Tuškanac forest. Follow them on Facebook so you don’t miss the show.
40| If you haven’t booked your ticket for Advent in Zagreb in December, don’t worry. The program continues until 7 January so it’s still not too late to enjoy the atmosphere in the early days of 2018.
I hope you have a great and merry Christmas. My writing time is up now. Off I go to bake my Christmas cakes. Let me know how your Christmas goes. And if you’ve visited Advent in Zagreb – what do you think?
Make sure to explore other fabulous things to do in Zagreb. They are here all year round and you can find out about them in my ultimate guide.