2021 Best Christmas Markets in Zagreb + Fun Advent Celebrations

December is one of the best times of the year to visit Zagreb for holiday cheer. This is because the weeks leading up to Christmas (Advent) turn Zagreb into a winter wonderland of Christmas markets, events, lights, and festivities. In fact, our Christmas markets have been voted the best city for Christmas markets in Europe three years in a row now! Here is a full guide to ALL the best Christmas markets in Zagreb and events/festivities you can’t miss.

In 2021, the grand opening of Zagreb’s Christmas festivities begins on Saturday of 27th of November with the lighting of Christmas lights in Zrinjevac Park. Events for Advent/Christmas in Zagreb will last until January 7, 2022.

Advent in Croatia: A Quick Summary About Croatian Christmas Celebrations

What is Advent and How is it Different From Christmas?

Advent is Latin for “coming”. In the Catholic religion, this is the time of preparation for Christmas and waiting for Jesus. It usually starts four weeks before Christmas with the lighting of the first candle on an Advent wreath (pictured above) as the symbol of Advent. Every week approaching Christmas one of the candles gets lit. For that reason, these street celebrations and events during this time prior to Christmas are also called Advent in Croatia. They are only a bit longer – mostly till the 7th of January.

Christmas on the other hand is what we all know as the 25th of December and a celebration for the day when Jesus was born

Croatian Advent Traditions 

  • On the 13th of December, many Croatians will plant wheat as a symbol of life and fertility.
  • It is important to go on a mass on Christmas Eve (December 24) for the Midnight Mass. And if you want your kids to get married, you need to leave the house last on the way to church on Christmas Eve. Getting married is very important to Croatian parents!
  • Our Christmas trees are traditionally decorated with oranges, apples, plumps, walnuts and candles.
  • As a kid, I remember we also used cotton balls becuase it looks like snow.
  • Drinking mulled wine and eating sausages while enjoying shimmering lights and Christmas music. 

Croatian Christmas / Advent Dishes  

Food is very important to a Croatian. Especially during this holiday period. So you will probably find many food stalls in the Christmas markets all over the town. Here are some Christmas dishes to look out for:

  • Codfish is a delicacy usually reserved for Christmas Eve (December 24) because on this day we do not eat meat day.
  • Turkey with potatoes and mlinci. Mlinci are flat pastry sheets typical in Northern Croatia and Slovenia. On Christmas Day (December 25), there are little to no homes that don’t smell of this!
  • Sarme: Minced meat rolled in sour cabbage leaves; typical food in all Balkan, not only in Croatia
  • Fritule: These traditional Croatian sweets are popular during the holidays. They are a fried dough often dipped in nutella or powdered sugar. A must try!

Christmas in Zagreb: A Long Running Tradition of Festivities

Zagreb’s Advent celebrations as we know them today are not new. Festivities during Christmas time in Zagreb became a thing back in the 1920s with hip parties in places like Hotel Esplanade and Jagerhorn, which continue today (see below). Before that, Advent in Zagreb was more about live nativity scenes.

Best Christmas Markets in Zagreb

This year’s Advent in Zagreb will be largely focused on Christmas markets, toy displays, festive lights, holiday music, and other fun cultural events. Here is the main list of several Christmas in Zagreb programs and locations. 

Christmas Markets in Zagreb’s Lower Town

1. Park Zrinjevac

One of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Zagreb is in Park Zrinjevac. This romantic park is home to 100-year-old trees which are decorated with Christmas lights. It is where the opening of Advent takes place with lighting the Christmas trees.

Last year, there were stalls full of souvenirs and local traditional food. This changes every year, and this year seems like the attention will be mainly on music and the lights. Zagreb tourist board has prepared rich musical program from opera to jazz concerts named Music of Advent and Zrinjevac will be one of the music locations. Therefore throughout the 5 weeks of Advent, different concerts will take place in its music pavilion. To check the concerts schedule click here.

2. King Tomislav Square OR Tomislavac

Another Advent spot is King Tomislav Square. Last year there was a beautiful large ice skating rink. This year, due to the change of government, they have decided to make some budget cuts, so you will only be able to find some cute surprises this year like ice-skater silhouettes and over-dimensioned toys recreating those made in Zagreb in no longer existing factory Biserka 75 years ago. (see section #15 below).

3. Octogon Passage

This newly renovated Octogon Passage will be decorated with a unique Christmas art installation for 2021: A pine tree symbolizing technology and modern civilization from the outside. On the inside, there will be traditional toys and ornaments. This spot will also be a place for different live Christmas music performances. To check out the schedule click here.

4. Ban Josip Jelačić Square

In this square, you can find one of the most popular Christmas markets in Zagreb. It is iconically home to a tall Christmas tree and a stage from where many children & adult’s folklore ensembles will perform. Here, you can also pop into the different food stalls and from that corner, it’s a quick walk to the next market below.

5. European Square

At European Square, you will also find many small wooden stalls offering food and many other cute things. Next to the stalls, tall figurines of Christmas nutcrackers decorate the space; making it a perfect spot for photos. Christmas nutcrackers are the theme of this year’s Christmas in Zagreb.

What are Christmas nutcrackers? They are decorative nutcracker figurines/toys most commonly made to resemble a toy soldier. They are popularized by the ballet The Nutcracker by Pyotr Tchaikovsky. Also in German folklore, there is a belief that nutcrackers bring luck and protection to families. So these toys are cute presents for kids and are used to help make Christmas pastries of walnut.

Christmas Markets in Zagreb’s Upper Town

6. Strossmayer Promenade

Another iconic Advent spot is popularly known Štros. This beautiful promenade overlooks all of Zagreb every year. Charming Christmas food and drink stalls, beautiful decorations, and views of illuminated Zagreb make this place one of the most romantic spots for Advent in Zagreb. There is also a stage different bands are performing starting at 8 PM every weekend night (Friday-Sunday).

7. Bela IV Park

Another beautiful park of Zagreb where you can enjoy magical views of the town while sitting on cute benches. During Advent, this place becomes even more enchanting. And this year, there is a Magical Moon exhibit that symbolizes a moon coming down from the sky and it is making a perfect place to take a photo with Zagreb’s panoramic view as a background.

8. Gradec Plateau (Older Location)

One of the most fun Christmas Advent spots is Gradec Plateau. You can find the Advent nightlife here, where everyday DJs perform. Walking past the food stalls you can taste all of the bites they offer here both modern and traditional Croatian tastes.

Don’t forget to try the Germknedle here. It is a dumpling filled with plum jam, vanilla sauce, and poppy seeds. MOUTH-WATERING! Also, this spot is one of the most instagrammable in Zagreb. So be sure to bring your camera for wonderful Christmas scenography with beautiful views of Zagreb’s cathedral.

9. Katarina’s Square (NEW 2021)

This cute square is home to a beautiful baroque church. And this year, it is also the NEW hip location replacing Gradec Plateau. There will be live music on Thursdays and Saturdays, as well as DJs on other nights. Brokenship Bistro will be in charge of the food and desserts made by the iconic Croatian patissier Petra Jelenić so this place will be great for delicious culinary specialties.

Katarina Square is also next to one of the most interesting museums in Zagreb: The Museum of Broken Relationships. They will also have a Christmas exhibition!

10. Academy’s Christmas Garden (2021 NEW FAVORITE)

This Christmas Garden is located in the garden of the Academy of Fine Arts. In recent years, this space has hosted art exhibitions, concerts, and cultural performances. And during Advent, it will also be home to Christmas stalls, art exhibitions, and food workshops.

This year it will be decorated with illuminated trees and art sculptures of the most famous Croatian artists. Also, the centerpiece of this garden is going to be transparent cupolas which are awe-inspiring when decorating with Christmas lights. Support local artists (students of the Academy) and buy your loved one a piece of local Croatian art here in one of the cupolas!

Christmas Markets in the New Zagreb Area

This year Advent in Zagreb has expanded outside of the city center with new Christmas market locations.

11. Museum Katran

Well-known and loved event by tourists and locals, Cafe de Matoš, this year will take place outside of the city center. Its new location is the winter garden of one of the coolest places for socializing and going out. Cafe de Matoš is popular for Zagrebians. It consists of different stalls with local gastro offers, DJs with live music performances, different cute decorations which make perfect photo points and the perfect place to socialize.

12. Garden Brewery

If you are a craft beer fan don’t miss going to Garden brewery, the most famous and coolest brewery in Zagreb. This year they are preparing the event Winter Tale, holiday mood event where many DJs and Live music performances will take place every day starting from 5 PM. They will also have an amazing street food on their menu by Marko Palfi, one of the most famous names on the modern gastronomic scene of Zagreb and amazing burgers of restaurant Submarine Burgers that go perfectly with Garden’s craft beers.  

13. DoubleTree by Hilton

Also check out an event Winter Garden Advent organized by the hotel Doubletree by Hilton with the huge open-aired ice skating rink. They will also have few stalls with holiday gastronomic delicacies. It’s in a business part of the Zagreb so it will be a perfect spot to socializing after work for locals and those on business trip in Croatia.

Other Fun Zagreb Advent Celebrations for Christmas & Things to Do

15. Toys Made in Zagreb

The centerpiece of Advent Celebrations in Zagreb this year will be toys decor, reminding Zagrebians of their childhood since the toys are recreation of those made in Zagreb’s factory Biserka 75 years ago. All over Zagreb, you will be greeted by these over-dimensioned special toys. Also, you will find many stalls with hand-made toys from the Croatian region of Zagorje especially as a part of Craft Advent (see below); constructed the traditional way from locally-sourced wood. Be sure to admire the craftsmanship which has been named UNESCO’s intangible world cultural heritage.  

Bonus tip: There are plenty of Croatian modern toy designers in town, whom you can buy art from. Such as Art Designs by artdesignbytamara.

16. The Light of Advent

The name of this year’s Advent/Christmas in Zagreb is “Feel the Light”. That means, this year the lights won’t be just a simple decoration but will tell stories. You’ll be able to see these lights from afar since they’ll be set on the windows of major buildings, institutions, and residential homes of Upper Town.

May those lights warm you up as they tell warm tales of Zagreb’s history.

17. Advent Under Lanterns

One of the musical events you can’t miss this year is Advent Under Lanterns. Here, you’ll see different choirs perform walking under beautiful lanterns. The starting point is Lotrščak Tower and then it’ll go to Park Bela IV and finish at Grič Park. Every Wednesday in December (except December 8). To see the whole schedule click here. In that link you can also see schedule of all musical events during this Advent, as also cultural events and events for kids.

18. Zagreb Jingle Mingle (NEW FOR 2021)

Jingle Mingle is when many local business owners in Zagreb decide to join in the holiday festivities to serve Christmas delicacies such as sarma in a sandwich, germknedle, fritule and so on. Also, we cannot imagine Advent without mulled wine so expect that too and many other variations of hot alcoholic drinks. Toys and other decorations on the terraces will be a sign of a restaurant/cafe participating in Jingle Mingle. Click here to get the full list of restaurants, bars, bistros, and pastry shops that are participating in Jingle Mingle. 

19. Craft Advent 

Local Zagreb artisans are creating magical places for little ones. Many have decorated the patio called The Croatian Chamber of Trades and Crafts (Address: Ilica 49) with more than 200 hand-made traditional wooden toys resembling the house of Mrs. Claus!

In the kitchen, fritule will be offered. And in the living room, there will be a space for reading. They’ll also host workshops for kids to learn how to make gingerbread houses and decorations for their Christmas tree. This place is also a perfect spot to also buy beautiful unique wooden toys for kids. To me, nothing compares to a wooden toy! It’s more durable, high-quality, unique, and more importantly– it’s environmently friendly. 

20. Q’ART Project Ilica (Hidden Gem)

On December 19, the traffic will stop on Zagreb’s main street: Ilica. And many creative minds will use the street as a platform to showcase their talents and creativity. Many pop-up exhibitions of handmade works and arts will take over Ilica, organic food, and live music will swing. This is one of the best places to get the most unique present for your loved ones. 

21. Zagreb’s Digital Nomad Jolly Wrap up 

Beginning this year, Croatia is officially offering temporary residence to digital nomads! This has opened opportunities for many remote workers to come live in Croatia for a year. The city of Zagreb has been profiled as one of the best destinations for digital nomads. As such, an event for digital nomads to celebrate Christmas is taking place!

Zagreb’s Digital Nomad Jolly Wrap Up will take place from December 9 to 12. = During this period digital nomads will be taken around to explore Zagreb. They will also be immersed in the local lifestyle during the most wonderful time of the year: Christmas in Zagreb. For more information click here

22. Zagreb Advent Run 2021

This goodwill marathon of 5 and 10 kilometers will take place during the Advent/Christmas holidays. All the proceeds of this race will go to the association ‘’We are not alone – Nismo same’’ –  supporting women suffering from cancer. The meeting point is the Westin Zagreb Hotel (December 12 at 12 PM). For more information click here

23. Zagreb Holiday Photoshoot

If you want to have the perfect memories from your magical trip to Zagreb during Christmas, then consider a photo tour! Hire a professional private photographer to take high-quality photographs of you in Zagreb during the holidays. Book this local photographer + photography experience by clicking here.

24. Croatian National Theater

The Croatian National Theatre usually has some beautiful picturesque holiday displays. But also, you may be able to catch a holiday-themed show here. Check their website for seasonal programming.


Special Christmas Hotels: Where to Stay in Zagreb for Advent

This year some of the best hotels in Zagreb are opening their doors to all those that want to feel their Christmas magic decorating their interiors and exteriors and they creating their own private Advents. Except decorations, special attention will be on gastro offer too and many other surprises. Also, we welcome you to pick some of them as your temporary home while in Zagreb. I have compiled a list of those that drove my attention the most but there are other participating too. 

Hotel Esplanade 

Hotel Esplanade, without a doubt, is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city center and it is a center of Zagreb social life since it opened in the 20th century, it’s where gentlemen and ladies of Zagreb were mingling. On their well-known terrace Oleandar during this year’s Advent from 2nd of December till 31st of December the most famous event, fuliranje, will take place. Amazing food and drinks will be made by famous Croatian chefs and some of the great restaurants from Zagreb will have their stalls too. Besides all that rich gastro offer many DJs will try to make the best atmosphere. Seems like Esplanade this year is gonna be one of the most interesting and fun locations.

Fuliranje? Meaning: the act of seducing, acting, to be full of yourself, pretend to be something that you are not. It’s a colloquial word from Zagreb.

Hotel Jägerhorn

Why not stay in the oldest hotel in Zagreb renovated a decade ago. This beautiful hotel is in the center of Zagreb giving at the same time a peaceful Christmas atmosphere to its visitors and jazz nights twice a week.

DoubleTree by Hilton, Canopy by Hilton & Hilton Garden Inn hotels 

On the 2nd of December Hilton’s Winter Garden Advent is opening with a rich program. If you are missing the ice skating rink from King Tomislav Square from the last year’s DoubleTree by Hilton in Radnička street has you covered. Also, if you still don’t know how to ice skate, no worries they are also organizing an ice skating school. 

If you decide to stay in one of the Hilton’s hotels, you will be doing some good deed since the DoubleTree by Hilton, Canopy by Hilton & Hilton Garden Inn hotels have a special humanitarian program for UNUO association to raise public’s awareness on the problem people with disabilities face.

Amadria Park Hotel Capital

Breathtaking hotel in the center of Zagreb close to all the attractions. Their offer is so rich from breakfast with Santa Claus, local specialties, concerts, animations for kids and believe it or not, chocolate day since Amadria Park has its own chocolate brand making hand-made chocolate. 

Other Christmas/Advent Destinations in Croatia 

If you still catch time to travel more through Croatia during December I have compiled a list of other best Advents worth visiting. 

Advent in Varaždin 

Just an hour from Zagreb by car you can find a charming baroque town Varaždin. It would be worth visiting Varaždin during any period of the year but in December it’s even more magical. It’s all that you expect from Advent: no crowd, lot of fun, beautiful decorations and great gastro offer. On the main square Bijeli Korzo each Saturday there is a concert and on Sundays there are acoustic musical performances on Stančić square and if you are missing ice skating rink in Zagreb, Varaždin will fulfill that need of yours too. 

Advent in Opatija 

If you want to enjoy the Adriatic Sea while in Croatia and at the same time have that Christmas market atmosphere head to the south. Just two hours driving from Zagreb you will reach a beautiful town called Opatija. Last year they had an incredibly successful virtual walking tour (due to the pandemic) but this year you can finally enjoy it live. From November 26 to January 9, Advent In Opatija will take place in many different locations like St Jacob Park, Angelina Park, Market place, boardwalk from Savoy do Ville Madonna hotel reaching the terraces of hotel Continental, Millennium and Imperial. Also in kavana Strauss. Go check out why is it considered The most beautiful Advent at the seaside.

Advent in Fužine 

Just an hour and a half driving from Zagreb and 40 minutes from Opatija there is another breathtaking Christmas destination – Fužine. A small little place surrounded by beautiful nature and with amazing gastro offer of organic products from local farms. There are going to be spectacular concerts that will take place in a Cave Vrelo; a great spot to celebrate New Year’s Eve in a unique way at noon.   

Advent in Split

If you want to go a little further go to Split, the second biggest city in Croatia which is also at the seaside. The city that locals proudly call ”najlipši grad na svitu” (”the most beautiful city in the world”). Let them believe that and just smile and enjoy what Split offers, and it offers a lot – beautiful architecture, rich history, great food and lot of fun. What I love the most about Split is its gastro offer and this Advent’s gastro offer will be rich. In four locations you will find food stalls: Mural Corner, Perivoj, Mertojak, and Imaginarium Advent Zvončac. The entrance will be free, only after 7:00 PM visitors will have to show their Covid-19 certificates or make a rapid test on the spot for 50 kunas (7 USD). For more information on Advent in Split click here.

About the Author: Melita Smolic

Melita Smolic is a multi-passionate travel and food enthusiast with a love for Latin America. Growing up in Southern Croatia, Melita spent much of her childhood by the sea dreaming about world travel. She lived and studied in Zagreb. Today, she’s known as the person to call if you want to know about all the hidden gems of the coastal part of Croatia and Zagreb. 

Having a Master’s Degree in Political Sciences and International Relations, Melita also infuses her work with awareness, understanding, and sensitivity. Today, she leads Croatia tours in English, Spanish and Italian.

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