Zagreb Christmas Markets Guide

by Jul 16, 2020

Zagreb Christmas Markets

When we heard that Zagreb Christmas Markets had been voted the best in Europe three years in a row, we knew it was high time we saw them for ourselves.  We had both visited Zagreb in summertime years before, and was we were about to spend another Christmas in Europe, there was no way we were going to miss Zagreb Christmas Market.

Known locally as Zagreb Advent, the Christmas Market Zagreb lasts through the Christian Advent season and beyond into the New Year. We’ve always been enchanted by European Christmas Markets, and were more than intrigued to find out why so many people say they thought that Zagreb had the best Christmas Markets in Europe.

So just what is Zagreb’s secret? Read on to find out.

Why Are Zagreb’s Christmas Markets So Special?

Image of part of the Strossmayer Promenade Christmas MArket in Zagreb Croatia
Some of the restaurants and bars on the Strossmayer Promeanade Christmas Market

Firstly, it helps that the Croatian capital is a beautiful city. The oldest part is Gornji Grad, located on the hill above Ban Josip Jelacic Square, the main hub of the modern city. Much of this flatter area dates from the 19th century, and includes three parks, all of different character, which play host to some of the main markets over Christmas in Zagreb.

Image of the bandstand in Zrinjevac Park Christmas Market Zagreb
Zrinjevac Christmas Market

Zagreb is also one of the more underrated cities in Europe, so one of the best European Christmas markets of all has been honed and perfected without being swamped by mass tourism.  

Image of Zagreb Cathedral at night
Zagreb Cathedral dominates the Kaptol area of the city

As a result, Zagreb is still a very authentic city, one which hasn’t changed a great deal in the  twenty years since my previous fleeting visit. The Christmas Markets of Zagreb make beautiful use of the city, especially the enchanting Strossmayer Promenade that runs along the edge of Gornji Grad offering beautiful views of Zagreb.

Image of the Lotrscak Tower and Strossmayer Promenade Christmas lights Zagreb Croatia
The magical Strossmayer Promenade and Lotrscak lookout tower

Gornji Grad, sometimes referred to as Zagreb Old Town, is a gorgeous area, and without the crowds of Prague Christmas Markets or Vienna, it’s a very atmospheric area, especially in the long evenings of winter. The Zagreb Christmas Markets are like a coating of fairy dust, making the place just that little bit more magical.

The three of us loved it.    

When are the Zagreb Christmas Markets held?

Image of bars in the Fuliranje Christmas Market in Zagreb
Fuliranje bars are a great place to start the evening or indeed to finish it!

The Christmas Markets in Zagreb usually run from late November through to early January.

This year they run from 27th November 2020 to 3rd January 2021.

Where are the Christmas Markets Zagreb held?

Image of the ice rink in Zagreb Ice Park at Christmas
Zagreb Ice Park in King Tomislav Park

The main Zagreb Chjristmas area is between Ban Josip Jelacic Square and the main railway station – a series of three parks, These are Zrinjevac Park, Strossmayer Park and King Tomislav Park.

There are also markets on Ban Josip Jelacic Square and around the corner on Europe Square (Trg Europa). There is another Christmas market up the hill in Gornji Grad, next to the funicular terminus. This runs along Strossmayer Promenade, giving wonderful Zagreb views, including the Instagram spot with Zagreb Cathedral in the background.

What Is Zagreb Winter Weather Like?

Image of Christmas street lights in Zagreb
Zagreb can get pretty cold during winter – it certainly did when we were there

We visited for a week in late November and early December, and most days it was rather cold, with the temperature often just scraping above freezing (1°C or 34°F). Night-time temperatures were usually around -4°C (25°F).

Generally, the winter months (December to February) have similar weather. Zagreb weather in December tends to be slightly warmer than what we experienced, with an average of 5°C (41°F) in the daytime and 0°C (32°F) at night.

Strossmayer Promenade Christmas Market, Gornji Grad

Image of Christmas lights on trees on Strossmayer Promenade Zagreb Croatia
Tree lights and toys in Strossmartre

One of our favourite Zagreb Christmas markets is along the Strossmayer Promenade (Strossmayer setaliste) a walkway which runs along the hilltop overlooking the city. It can be accessed via the funicular, the Gric tunnel or by walking down through Gornji Grad.

Image of teddy bears at a food stall in Strossmayer Promenade Christmas market Zagreb
Teddy bears at a Strossmartre stall

It runs for around 500 metres along the Promenade, and has everything from stalls selling mulled wine and beer to spicy sausages and delicious roast chestnuts. There are also pop-up stalls selling Christmas and Croatian souvenirs along the way.

Image of the Lotrscak Tower in Zagreb at night
The Lotrscak lookout tower looks amazing in the Christmas lights

The more homespun and enchanting part of the market – nicknamed Strossmartre when we visited in 2019 – is at the funicular end, below the Lotrscak Tower. The mulled wine here had a nice spicy kick to it, and the food we tried was great and by European Christmas market standards, very reasonably priced – none of that 5 euro for a sausage in a stale brick of bread like you get at the Vienna Christmas Markets.

Image of Christmas market stalls on Strossmayer Promenade Zagreb Croatia
More Strossmartre stalls

Park Bele IV, up a set of wooden stairs from the Promenade and below the Lotrscak Tower, is a great hang-out for kids, with a little walking trail among the fairy lights.

Image of the Caffe de Matos sign in Zagreb Croatia
The Caffe de Matos is on Strossmayer Promenade

As you head east along the Promenade, you pass the Café de Matos, named after the Zagreb poet A G Matos, and musicians, eventually reaching the Vranyczany Plateau. This is very different in feel to the rest of the Strossmayer Promenade market, with a host of pop-up restaurants and bars. There’s also everyone’s favourite Instagram spot in Zagreb, with a great view from a platform to Zagreb Cathedral.

Christmas Tree, St Mark’s Square

Image of the Christmas tree and the tiled roof of St Mark's Church Zagreb
The Christmas tree in St Mark’s Square, with the church’s stunning tiled roof behind

St Mark’s Church is one of the most iconic things to see in Zagreb. It’s famous for its extraordinary colourful tiled roof, which includes the checkerboard coat of arms of Croatia. There is no Christmas market in the square, but its Christmas tree is the biggest in Gornji Grad, and it’s also close to some of the best Zagreb museums and cafes.

Ban Jelacic Square And Europa Square Christmas Markets

Image of bottles in a bar in Zagreb Christmas Market
One of the bars in Jelacic Square

Jelacic Square (Trg Bana Jelacica) is the focal point of Zagreb, and it’s also the official hub of the Zagreb Christmas Market. There are a few bars at the one end of the square, a large Christmas tree and snowman and the main stage where concerts are performed. The hourly Christmas tram, all decked in tinsel and lights, also leaves from here

A bar atJelacic Square Christmas Market

The Europe Square (Trg Europa) makret is just below the site of the daily Dolac market. There are mostly food stalls and pop-up bars alobng this short stretch.

Zagreb Cathedral Live Nativity Scene

Image of Zagreb Cathedral at night
Zagreb Cathedral from the viewpoint at the end of Strossmartre Christmas Market

This was the one element of the Christmas Markets in Zagreb that we had to miss, as we were there for the first week of the Market, and this started later. The Cathedral is one of the most popular things to see in Zagreb, and its soaring twin spires domin ate the old city skyline.

The story of the Nativity – the birth of Christ – is told with live actors, including his parents Mary and Joseph, the Three Kings and shepherds. It’s usually performed three times daily. Lovers of Christmas markets in Europe may also appreciate the life-size Nativity scene in Brno Christmas Market, which has over fifty carved wooden figures.

  
Zrinjevac Christmas Market

Image of the bandstand in Zrinjevac Park in Christmas lightsZagreb Croatia
The Zrinjevac Park bandstand in its Christmas glory

Zrinjevac market is a slice of winter wonderland, and it shows why Zagreb is one of the best Christmas cities in Europe in a nutshell.The centrepiece is the pavilion in the middle of the Park, and the four tree-lined pathways converge on it, with everything lit in tiny twinkling silvery lights.

Image of a Christmas craft stall at Zrinjevac PArk Zagreb Christmas Market
Our Little Man browsing the stalls at Zrinjevac

This is where you’ll find many of the Christmas craft stalls at the Zagreb markets, selling everything from Christmas decorations to clothing to glassware and lamps. We also came across some wonderful wooden Christmas toys.

Image of a Christmas menu at a Christmas Market in Zagreb Croatia
A typical Zagreb Christmas menu

There are also some bars and food stalls around Zrinjevac Park, and the Pavilion plays host to concerts and Christmas sing-alongs.  

Fuliranje Christmas Market, Strossmayer Park

Image of Fuliranje Christmas Market in Zagreb Croatia
Fuliranje Christmas Market

Fuliranje (‘Fooling Around’) is the middle market of the three between Jelacic Square and the railway station. It’s located in the Strossmayer Park, next to the Strossmayer Gallery of Old Masters.

Image of the Fuliranje Christams Market Zagreb Croatia
The busy bars of Fuliranje

There are plenty of other places around the Zagreb Xmas markets where you can eat and drink, but at Fuliranje that is all you can do. The food runs the range from traditional European sausages to Mexican to Italian to steak burgers, The drink runs the gamut from wine bars to cocktails to Karlovačko and Ožujsko, two of the best local Croatian beers.

Christmas Ice Rink In King Tomislav Park

Image of Zagreb Christmas Ice Park Ice Rink
Zagreb Ice Park rink and the stunning yellow Art Pavilion

The Zagreb Christmas Ice Rink is one of the highlights of this Croatian Christmas Market. It’s beautifully set out in King Tomislav Park, the first thing in Zagreb that you see if you arrive in the city by train. The ice rink fills up the whole park, all the way to the distinctive yellow Art Pavilion. 

Image of the ice park course and Zagreb railway station in. Croatia
The long skating course passes the front of Zagreb railway station

There is a small rectangular rink next to the Art Pavilion, but most of the skaters we saw spent their time on the ice track around the park, roughly following its perimeter to the station end before heading back towards the Art Pavilion.

Image of stalls and bars at Zagreb Ice Park
Zagreb Ice Park stalls in the shadow of the yellow Art Pavilion

There is also a bar overlooking the ice rink next to the Art Pavilion, and several small bars and food stalls. We didn’t skate, but found it a most convivial place to stop for a while.

 

image of David Angel, the photographer/writer/creator of the Europe travel blog Delve into Europe

Let Me Help You Discover The Best Of Europe

Hi, I’m David Angel and I love Europe.   I’ve been fortunate to have spent every spare moment of the past 25 years travelling and photographing this extraordinary continent.  This site shares my best advice, tips and travel secrets for Europe.   And I hope my photos will encourage you to delve deeper and discover some less visited gems of Europe.  You can find out more about me here.

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