The festive period and the magical season of Christmas markets is already behind us, but why not bring back all the nice memories and be absolutely prepared for Christmas adventures vol. 2017.?
Kuhano vino (mulled wine) or medica (schnapps)? Fritule (donuts) or Germknödel? Roasted chestnuts? You name it! Large or small, each market reflects the culture and tradition of the region – food, drink, music and more.
Zagreb, the capital of Croatia has been voted “European Best Christmas Market“ two years in a row! The capital of Croatia is for sure the best destination to celebrate Christmas in Europe. So, you want to know where to spend your 2017 Christmas holidays? Try visiting Zagreb, Croatia and experiencing its Christmas magic!
Since I am a real-life Grinch, I needed to see that for myself and be the judge of it! So, a few days ago, I’ve checked out that famous and iconic ”Advent in Zagreb” thoroughly, and I can tell you – even this Grinch got caught up in the wheel of Christmas joy and charm! Just a bit, of course! 😉
Keep reading to find out why and to get some more inside tips about how to warm yourself up, where to stop and grab a bite, where to take the best Christmas photos and so much more.
Fuliranje & Vincek Pastry
So-called Fuliranje (fooling around) is one of the first and most original Zagreb Christmas traditions. It is being held in so-called Chef Street (Tomićeva), right beyond the iconic city funicular. In Chef Street, you can taste the best of the world cuisine in just a few steps! If you go a bit further to Kurelčeva Street, you’ll find yourself in so-called Disco Street where you can burn all the extra calories you’ve gained in Chef Street! Convenient, right?!
You’ll need some calories burning after visiting Vincek pastry, too! Vincek Family Pastry is a definite Zagreb must-see and can’t-miss! In more than 30 years, the family-owned company Vincek changed the cake and pastry image of Croatia. Vincek really feels like a promised land or a warm oasis after a long day on a cold – cakes, ice cream, sweets, friendly murmuring about the past, present and future, and a good company wherever you look. Friendly advice (read: learn from my mistakes): try not to eat too much cake, otherwise, you won’t be able to explore the rest of the city that day! 😛
Zrinjevac is the most beautiful park in Zagreb where it all started. Concerts on Zrinjevac are being held daily from 18:00 pm. and sometimes even in the morning from 11 am. The music there along with the overall atmosphere of the place is extremely romantic (like 9/10, the only thing missing to achieve 10 is an actual Frank Sinatra there, hehe), so if you’re visiting solo – grab yourself a first Croatian girl/boy next to you for a dance or drink, to warm yourselves up. Or, simply squeeze around one of the outdoor heaters and enjoy the music!
Also, you can’t miss tasting traditional dishes like pasta with cabbage (krpice sa zeljem), stuffed cabbage (sarma), goulash and štrukli. Try checking out handicrafts offered on the nearby market – there is some pretty unique stuff like wooden Christmas toys, nutcrackers, colorful lollipops and sweets, all worth seeing/buying.
Ice Park (Tomislavac)
Ice skating rink at Tomislavac is certainly one of the most magical sights you can experience in the center of Zagreb. It is open daily from 10:00 to 23:00 and even when you’re not sliding (or you’re not very fond of ice skating in general), you can enjoy the lookout located above and all around the rink and relax with a glass of mulled wine, champagne or a punch and take a look at the sliders’ pirouettes or falls.
Rich gastronomic offer includes everything from all sorts of sausages (kobasice) and pancakes, through local and german dumplings (germknödel – fluffy dumplings with jam, vanilla, chocolate and poppy seeds) and donuts (fritule), to the Turkish baklava, the Middle East falafel, British Punch, Italian panettone, French champagne.
In the atrium of the Klovićevi courtyards, children and all who love the winter sports can witness an unseen ice sliding rink built completely without ice but from a special eco-friendly material.
Photo-taking tip (!) – for the most beautiful Advent photo overlooking the Zagreb Cathedral and Zagreb’s old roofs, there’s a special place on the Plateau with a beautiful frame to take your pictures. Size the opportunity and don’t let yourself get annoyed with the long waiting line – just dance while waiting for your selfie! If you ask my opinion, I received the best holiday feelings and listened to the best holiday music standing in that line simply absorbing the good atmosphere and vibes of the place and people there!
Stross (Strossmayer Promenade)
Talking about romantic atmosphere… Stross with its rich daily program is a place where all generations can find something for themselves. Everyone who set foot on one of the most romantic parts of Zagreb’s Upper Town will certainly spend hours there because they will be welcomed with eight fairytale cottages decorated with a variety of gastronomy and a great selection of craft beers, teas, wine other delicacies. There are also three huge heated domes that are constructed as the social salons where visitors can enjoy the sounds of Croatian musicians and DJ’s.
When you get down from the Upper Town (Gradec and Stross) you’ll encounter another Advent fairytale, this time situated inside the Grič Tunnel, designed as a multi-media event with art installations, ice sculptures, lighting and 3D projections on the concrete walls that transform this simple tunnel into a magical and mystic icy forest.
For all of you nature, hiking, skiing and snowboarding lovers out there – while spending some time in Zagreb for Advent events, don’t be lazy to mark one day for visiting Sljeme peak on Medvednica mountain right above Zagreb city center. There are numerous chalets on the way where you can stop to invigorate yourself, refresh, warm up and grab a tasteful bite of some homemade Croatian peace of heaven!
If you choose to spend your New Years’ Eve in Zagreb too, maybe you should consider staying an extra few days to experience the World Ski Cup race on Sljeme – the famous Snow Queen Trophy race, traditionally being held right after 1st of January. These races are special in many aspects: Zagreb is the only capital city hosting World Cup races; only at the Sljeme races are the winners crowned Snow Queen and King, and the atmosphere surrounding the races is absolutely crazy since the entire Zagreb empties for the race and moves out to Sljeme!
Socializing before shopping!
But, guys, don’t get fooled! Advent in Zagreb is so much more than just a Christmas shopping spree and holiday materialistic madness! Advent in Zagreb is all about the people going out, walking around the city and having fun together: eating, chatting, smiling, dancing and sipping hot beverages! There’s an amazing variety of fun on numerous points around the city, but you will still feel like everything is happening just around the corner. Also, that same fun goes from morning until late into the night.
One final piece of advice – don’t miss a single Advent location because each and every is worth seeing and experiencing! And if you’ve already visited Advent in Zagreb – what do you think? What did you do? What did you eat? Eager to hear your experiences!