The 8 most magical Christmas destinations in Croatia
What does Christmas in Croatia look like? If you thought of Christmas light decorations, little cabins packed with holiday souvenirs and the scent of mulled wine you’re on the right track. Christmas markets have long been a tradition in many Croatian cities, as well as an excuse for hanging out with friends after work in the open, despite the cold weather. In addition to Christmas markets, there are lots of other Christmas attractions and events in Croatia. Find out which ones you should visit.
Advent in Zagreb
Dubbed the best European Christmas market, Advent in Zagreb takes place in dozen or so locations across the city. To explore each and every one of them, you’ll need at least a couple of days. We suggest you start at Zagreb’s central landmark, Ban Jelačić square, where you can casually hang around, listening to musicians on a big stage, and enjoying your sausage and mulled wine. When you’ve had enough (of loud music), take a walk to Zrinjevac, probably the most beautiful Zagreb park during Christmas and, perhaps, buy a souvenir. If you take the walk further, you’ll encounter Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Rudolf was very hard-working this Christmas and has set up several children workshops at Strossmayer square. Children and adults alike will surely be ecstatic about big open skating rink at Tomislav square. If skating is not your cup of tea, you can always sit at the nearby lookout, treat yourself with champagne and panettone, and laugh at novice skaters. Another route you can take from Ban Jelačić square will take you to the more traditional Christmas fair setting. Gajeva, Bogovićeva, Petrićeva and Varšavska street are full of interesting knick-knacks (food, souvenirs, even clothes) with Christmas motifs.
Advent on Zrinjevac, Source: Shutterstock
Neighbouring streets conceal a more modern approach to Christmas. European square has a stage for young, unproven bands, Tomićeva street is reserved for gourmets, while Kurelčeva street will transform into an open-air disco street. Square of the Victims of Fascism hosts ArtOmat, the market for unconventional art items, where you can truly buy a unique gift for your loved ones. On the other hand, if you want to make them a Christmas gift, head to Martićeva street, home of the Design District area and Croatian Design Superstore. Fashionistas should visit temporary runway in Oktogon.
Various creative workshops will take place during Advent in Zagreb, Source: Shutterstock
Oktogon will also be hosting a stage for a classical ensemble Strauss, playing their waltz, polka, parlour, and Christmas repertoire. Meanwhile, on balconies in Tkalčićeva street and the Croatian National Theatre, brass ensemble Ad Gloriam Brass will be performing classical pieces (Bach, Händel, Purcell), Croatian music, and various arrangements of movie and jazz themes. If you’re searching for a sacral, religious atmosphere, you should visit Kaptol, where you can find living nativity scene.
Mulled wine, Source: Shutterstock
You’ll experience a unique Christmas setting in Gradec. Special lighting and art installation will be set up in newly renovated Grič tunnel. Jazz music will be playing at Vranyczany plateau, where you can taste more exquisite Christmas food. If you have sweet tooth, better stroll along the Strossmayer promenade, which sprinkled with honey and pepper cookies (similar to gingerbread) motifs. Stross, popularly called by locals, is a place to be if you’re searching for a typical mix of food, drinks, music and crowds in Gradec. On the other hand, you’ll find a bit quieter, romantic setting at Courtyards. Meanwhile, Klovićevi dvori will offer a haven for music and culture lovers, and a nice skating rink without ice.
Honey cookies, Source: Shutterstock
Zagreb Fair in Novi Zagreb (or “New Zagreb”, if you prefer literal translation) was once a home to Advent events but now it’s “just” a Santa Claus’ castle with an iglu park and a skating rink. Novi Zagreb hosts another Advent happening, right in front of Museum of Contemporary Art. Called New Advent – New Zagreb, this “exhibition” will feature music stage, food, drinks and souvenir stands, and Christmas tree market.
Christmas candies, Source: Shutterstock
If you still haven’t heard, public bus and tram transport systems will be completely free (in Zone 1) on weekends (from Friday noon to Sunday midnight) until January 8th.
When: from November 26th till January 8th, 2017. You can find all the information and timetable of various events on Advent in Zagreb official page.
Once an unusual hobby, today a winter wonderland attraction, SalajLand is an extraordinary Christmas park located in Grabovnica near Čazma. Santa Claus and the reindeer, smurfs, nativity scene, snowmen, penguins, bears… You’ll find all of them in this 15-acre fairy tale park, that magically lights up at night with a help of over two million Christmas lights. Statues, trees, bridges – almost everything is covered with lights. To add to the magical atmosphere, there are fireworks every night. When you’re done with sightseeing, relax with a hot cup of mulled wine or tea and take a bite of traditional ham or pork rind.
When: from December 2nd until January 15th, 2017, every day from 4PM to 9 PM
Dubrovnik Winter Festival
Dubrovnik is not your typical Mediterranean town. While most of the other coastline towns are “asleep” during winter, Dubrovnik remains festive. Dubrovnik Winter Festival is a proof to that statement. It’s by far the longest Croatian winter festival. It starts a week before Advent, continues into Festival of St Blaise and Valentine’s Day, and ends with the Dubrovnik Carnival. During Advent period, the Old Town is decorated with Christmas lights, trees and small cabins, where you can buy drinks, food, and souvenirs. Or you can go to various concerts, art exhibitions, and/or theatre. At the same time, but another place (Gruž), Dubrovnik hosts a children winter festival – Orlandino – with a skating rink and an amusement.
Christmastime in Osijek
Wine, fish stew and watching Santa Clauses on motorbikes town parade – that’s the way citizens of Osijek celebrate Christmas. Advent in Osijek is held at multiple locations, but the old town’s fulcrum Tvrđa is the central one. In Tvrđa, you’ll find Christmas trees, cabins, and baroque-styled carousels. Museum near Tvrđa will organize a multitude of workshops, exhibitions, and concerts. On top of that, there will be held an International Christmas tree festival, a competition in decorating a Christmas tree. To get around the town take a Christmas decorated tram or learn how to drive it through a VR device.
Advent in Zadar
This year Zadar was proclaimed the best European destination. However, it’s still missing out on the best European Christmas market title, currently held by Zagreb. Will Zadar succeed the capital? We’re not sure but Zadar has certainly made an effort. Advent in Zadar will be held in the Old Town, at five different locations: Narodni square, Forum, Varoš, Kalelarga, and Petar Zoranić square. You’ll have plenty of space to enjoy in Christmas decor and gastronomy, watching Santa Clauses race on December 20th. Zadar is organizing not one, but five different concerts during New Year’s Eve. One other thing worth mentioning is “Đir po gradu” manifestation, active from November 24th until January 15th, 2017. Its main goal is to bring as many citizens and tourists to the peninsula. Every object that has “Đir po gradu” sticker offers some kind of discount. Restaurants are offering daily menus at a special price until 6PM, cafes are organizing happy hours, stores are vending items at discount prices, while museums are selling cheaper tickets and souvenirs.
Adventura in Šibenik is the only plastic-free Advent event in Croatia. Every single thing (food or drinks packaging, souvenirs) you buy there will be biodegradable. Located in Robert Visiani park, Adventura will be separated into three parts. In the first part, you’ll find concert stage with food and drinks cabins. Souvenir cabins will be placed in the second area, while the third one, with Santa Claus workshops and cartoon theater, is aimed at children. You’ll find an ice rink near the park. The sweetest thing about Šibenik’s Adventura is Freetulada, a competition in making fritule dish (mini donuts), which will be held on December 17th.
Fritule a.k.a. Croatian mini donuts are locals’ favourite Christmas treat, Source: Shutterstock
Advent in Varaždin
With its old baroque architecture, Varaždin is the perfect place for Christmas decorations. Christmas lights, the smell of cookies, the sound of carols and a big skating rink create an atmosphere you’ll easily immerse yourself in. There are a couple of reasons Varaždin is so festive during this time of the year. One them is Christmas and the second one is the official City Day, which falls on December 6th. Needless to say, Varaždin will solemnize it with a multitude of events. A week later, on December 14th, the most famous Christmas truck will visit Varaždin. But don’t get high on soda and cookies if you want to celebrate New Year’s Eve with the locals. You see, the midnight marks the start of the traditional, two kilometers New Year’s Race. If you’re going to Varaždin this Christmas, be sure not to miss Kapucinski square and Korzo.
Book Fair(y) in Istria
And now for something (almost) completely different… Every December, Pula is the meeting place of book lovers, authors, and publishers. Even St Nicholas, a popular patron of children in Croatia, takes the time to visit Book Fair(y) in Istria. On St Nicholas Day (December 6th), you’ll be able to buy children literature at a discount price and then give them to St Nicholas, who will personally hand those books to your children. Or you can just come to buy some books and talk with your favourite authors. Festival will be opened by Adonis, the greatest living Arabic poet.
Christmastime – the perfect time to engage in reading or talking to favourite authors, Source: Shutterstock