Here’s a complete guide to Christmas Markets in Zagreb, including what Christmas Markets are must-see, what specialty food you should try, and what else you can discover in the city during the Christmas period.
Zagreb has a unique blend of ancient Cathedrals, medieval towers, and 19th-century Palaces, made even more impressive when decorated so beautifully during the advent season. It feels like the whole city of Zagreb covers itself in twinkly lights and embraces the Christmas festivities. In fact, it’s rated one of the best Christmas markets in Europe.
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If you are interested in celebrating Christmas in Europe, Zagreb is an economical destination filled with holiday cheer. The Zagreb Christmas market has a more local feel than many of the other Christmas markets in Europe such as Germany or France.
Zagreb is a great city to experience Advent Markets, as the downtown area is easily walkable.
What is a Christmas Market?
Christmas Markets originated in Germany, dating back as far as the late Middle Ages and they have become a staple for many Cities throughout Europe during Advent.
You will find festive wooden stalls with mulled wine and bratwurst aplenty, as well as traditional festive toys and woolen scarves and hats. European Christmas Markets are often accompanied by festive live music and dancing, as well as stunning decorations and huge Christmas trees.
European Christmas markets are a great place to celebrate the holiday season and because they tend to run for about 6 weeks, there is plenty of time to plan a trip.
Christmas Markets in Zagreb
A relative newcomer to the Christmas Market scene (10 years ago it didn’t have any Christmas Markets!), Advent in Zagreb has taken Europe by storm, winning the award for Best European Christmas Market for 3 consecutive years in a row (and you’re not allowed to win it 4 times, otherwise it probably would have!)
It is easy to see why it is rated so highly. The city itself lends itself perfectly to a festive market, with its attractive historic old town and pretty squares, you only need to look on the City’s social media to see how delightfully festive the Christmas Markets are.
However, be sure to wrap up warm as Zagreb can get very cold, with a maximum high of 2c in December, and be prepared to get those steps in as you explore the Croatian Capital and all it has to offer. If you do get chilly or your feet get too weary, you won’t be short of places to buy a hot punch or mulled wine to revive you.
2022 Dates for Zagreb Christmas Markets
The Christmas Markets in Zagreb, which are called ‘Advent Zagreb’, start on November 27, 2022 and end on January 2, 2023, so there is plenty of time to get there and explore, which is good as there are so many festive attractions to visit. Opening times vary depending on the market so check out the official Zagreb Advent site here for up-to-date information.
In 2021 there were over 25 markets dotted around the city so hopefully this year it can be expected to be near, or over, that number again. Because of this, despite it being a very popular destination for Christmas Markets (it did win those awards after all!) the crowds don’t feel unmanageable. Some of the main Markets are detailed below.
Ban Jelacic Square (Ban Jelačić Square)
The main Christmas Market in Zagreb is in Trg Ban Jelačić, also called Ban Josip Jelačić Square, which is the city center and main square in Zagreb. Surrounding the square are stunning buildings, in a variety of colors and styles and it fits perfectly with the winter wonderland feel.
During Advent, Ban Josip Jelačić Square is the heart of Zagreb and is decorated with a large Christmas tree, and twinkling Christmas lights. You’ll find mouthwatering food stalls, mulled wine, and music playing all the Christmas classics as well as waltzes and jazz.
You will also find some cultural events to do in the square during this time, including crafts, woodwork or even meeting Santa himself.
The stalls sell a huge assortment of goods, from wooden toys to authentic Croatian woodwork crafted by local carpenters. It is the perfect place to soak up the Christmas spirit.
Another well-regarded location during Zagreb’s advent is the Upper Town (Gornji Grad). This is where you will find the Strossmayer Promenade Christmas Market. The atmosphere in the Upper Town is less frantic than in the lower town with its winding streets and beautiful buildings.
The area is filled with fun and quirky decorations, sometimes retro and sometimes funky.
Of course, there are plenty of kiosks fo mulled wine and other beverages as well as many food vendors.
The rich history of this area of the City of Zagreb makes it a must-do when visiting the City at Christmas time. Plato Gradec offers a great view of the city, which makes it a perfect photo stop.
Fuliranje is based in front of Hotel Esplanade, which is an exquisite, luxurious hotel in the city center.
This is the market to head to if you are after gastronomic delights. Some of the top restaurants have stalls here, and DJs play music late into the night.
It’s also the location of the ice rink. Ice Park is open daily from 10am to 11pm, with musical entertainment every day from 19h. The entrance fee is just 15 kunas (about 2 euros).
Near Ban Josip Jelacic Square is European Square where you will find the theme for this year’s Advent in Zagreb, which is Christmas Nutcrackers. Always amazing for a photo opportunity, these tall wooden figures are must-see.
There is also a very popular Christmas Market in Zrinjevac Park, with its 100-year-old trees decorated with thousands of sparkling lights, lots of stalls full of local delicacies, plenty of music, and festive cheer. This is where the opening of Advent occurs on the 27th of November with the lighting of the trees.
The most unique of the Advent markets is 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. It’s not every day you get to go into a WWII bomb shelter so it’s one not to miss.
Visiting the Advent Markets During the Day Vs. Night
It’s fun to visit the markets both during the day and at night. Daytime is a great time to shop and enjoy warmer weather.
The markets have more of a party atmosphere at night with the added bonus of spectacular twinkle lights and lit Christmas trees.
Specialty Food during Advent in Zagreb
Does anything say Christmas more than the scent of roasted chestnuts? You will find sellers scattered all over the city. If you can’t see them, then just follow your nose. If savory is more to your taste, then Sarma (traditional cabbage rolls) are worth a try.
Popular throughout Europe during Advent, are sausage (Kobasica) and pork hock (Buncek). You’ll find many vendors selling this delicious and traditional food.
Another delicious Croatian treat you should try is Soparnik. It is a savory pizza-like dish with a filling of Swiss chard (blitva in Croatia), garlic and olive oil.
During your time exploring this beautiful city, you will no doubt also get very familiar with the Licitar cookie, a lovely red Croatian honey bread cookie that is extravagantly decorated and made as Christmas ornaments and keepsakes for loved ones.
Souvenirs from the Zagreb Advent Markets
Beyond the adorable Christmas ornaments and decorations; there are plenty of artisans selling beautiful wood items, handmade candles, pottery, jewelry, and traditional toys.
There are also some fun Zagreb and Croatia themed souvenirs that are fun to bring home.
What else is there to do there at Christmas Time in Zagreb?
Fancy something a little different from a Christmas Market? Then why not hop on the Festive Tram that travels around the city… you might even recognize the driver as St Nick himself!
In King Tomislav Square you will be able to find some cute surprises this year like ice-skater silhouettes and over-dimensioned toys which will excite and delight children and adults alike.
One of the musical events you can’t miss is Advent Under Lanterns. At this event, different choirs perform walking under gorgeous lanterns. The starting point is Lotrščak Tower and then it’ll go to Park Bela IV and conclude at Grič Park. This will happen every Wednesday in December (except December 8). Click here to see the whole schedule.
There is truly something for everyone during Advent in Zagreb. From the Live Nativity scene in front of the City Cathedral to the excellent traditional food on offer and the spectacular Christmas lights that seem to light up the whole City. It feels like the Christmas Markets will just continue to get bigger and better as each year passes.
Useful Croatian Phrases for Christmas Markets
Croatian has no q, w, x, or y sounds, and it also has no silent letters. Every letter in every word should be clearly pronounced. So, don’t worry too much about speed. Speak slowly and clearly, and you’ll be okay.
The letter j doubles as a ‘y’ sound, like it does in many European languages. If you see it written anywhere, remember it’s a y, not a j.
You’ll also see ‘Dž’ and ‘Ž’ a lot. The first is a sort of hard j sound, like in ‘budge’. The latter is a soft j or z sound, just like in ‘measure’.
Finally, the letter c by itself is a ‘ts’ sound, not a ‘k’ sound. Remember these pronunciation rules and you’ll be fine!
- Hello – Bok
- Yes – Da
- No – Ne
- Do you speak English – Govorite li engleski?
- Where can I find the toilets? – Gdjeje zahod?
- How much is this? – Koliko je to?
- I want to buy this – Żelim platiti
- How do I get to the…? – Kako ču doci do…?
- Could you tell me where … is? – Możete li mi reci gdje je …?
- Happy/Merry Christmas – Sretan Božić
- Happy New Year – Sretna Nova godina
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